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History of Prince’s Island Park

  • February 12, 2014
  • By Cody Battershill

The History of Our Beloved Prince’s Island Park

Calgary has long been known for its abundance of green spaces found all over the city ranging from small community playgrounds to extensive river parks.

One of the latter that is well known to many locals and perhaps may be the most visited of them all is no other than Prince’s Island Park.

Prince's Island Park Calgary Alberta Downtown History

Located on the Bow River, this urban oasis is only a few hundred feet from the downtown business core and is easily accessible via Calgary’s well maintained river pathways.

But wait, there’s more to the story of Prince’s Island Park other than the beautiful landscaping and spectacles of cultural activities seen there today.

Prince's Island Park in downtown CalgaryNot Always an Island

In 1886, a man named Peter Anthony Prince relocated from Quebec to Calgary and founded the Bow River Lumber Company and the Eau Claire Lumber Company. Together, these companies held lumber rights to approximately 258 square kilometres (or 100 square miles) of land along the Spray and Bow rivers.

Prince and The Eau Claire Lumber Company then constructed a saw mill on the Bow River embankment and figured out that digging a channel would help them transport logs floating downstream closer to the saw mill. This channel (or lagoon) eventually separated an entire piece of land from the main land and formed into what we know today as Prince’s Island Park.

As time passed, the mill area became known as Eau Claire and the nearby island was named after Peter Anthony Prince.

Electric Streetlights

In 1889, Peter Prince founded another company named the Calgary Water Power Company which used steam generators powered by sawdust to supply electricity to the town’s streetlights.

Then, in 1893, Prince managed to build the first hydro-electric power plant located on the eastern end of the lagoon which took over for the steam generators.

This man was an instrumental figure in Calgary`s early days and will be forever remembered through the island named after his legacy.

Calgary Tourist Attractions Princes Island ParkCity Takes Charge

After Prince’s death in 1925, his lumber company operated until 1944 and a few years later, in 1947, Prince’s Island Park was acquired by the City of Calgary for development of a new park. Ever since, the island has experienced multiple renovations.

1999 was one of the first major renovations which added wetlands and restored native plants and shrubbery.

Learning Pathway

To follow was the ChevronTexaco Learning Pathway found on the eastern side of the island. It meanders around a natural wetland designed to treat storm water before it re-enters the Bow River.

Several informative signs found on the pathway describe how this works and also talks about its habitat, wildlife, and water quality while connecting locals and tourists alike with its natural setting in a fascinating way.

Features, Activities and EventsCalgary Tourist Attractions Princes Island Park

Today, Prince’s Island is a 20 hectare park well known as one of Calgary’s most popular outdoor places for cultural activities and events, especially during the warmer spring and summer months. Features include:

  • Playground
  • Picnic areas
  • Open fields and flower gardens
  • Paved pathways
  • Canoe access
  • Amphitheatre
  • Seasonal washrooms and water fountains
  • Seasonal cross-country skiing and outdoor skating

Needless to say, A Day at the Bow River Parks and Pathways is a day well spent!

River CaféBest Calgary Patios River Cafe

Also found at the park is The River Café, an exceptional restaurant with a full menu of delicious meals and an award winning list of wines. They use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible and deliver a truly Canadian dining experience.

Apart from the top notch food, this quaint riverside restaurant is host to one of the best Calgary patios great during the summer heat. In the winter, its cabin-like look makes you feel like you’re in a winter fairy-tale somewhere in the countryside – it is quite the unique experience and is also a very romantic setting any time of the year!

Learn more at the Best Calgary Tourist Attractions - River Cafe and Patio today.

FestivalsDowntown Calgary Princes Island Park

Prince’s Island Park is also host to some of Calgary’s finest celebrations and festivals including Heritage Day and Canada Day celebrations, as well as the Calgary Folk Island Music Festival that sees more than 100,000 visitors on average every year.

Learn more at the Best Calgary Tourist Attractions – Prince’s Island Park today.

I love CalgaryMore Calgary History

Want to know more about the history of Canada’s energy hub? See it at the History of Calgary - Then and Now today.

Also, be sure to check out the History of the Calgary Skyline, complete with visual infographics projecting how the skyline will look in the future.

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Category: Blog, Calgary