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Four-season outdoor adventures in Edmonton’s River Valley

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By Suzanne Leonard
Weather Broadcaster
@SuzanneTWN
Thursday, August 21, 2014, 8:51 AM

The largest stretch of urban parkland in North America is found in Edmonton’s river valley, a beautiful natural setting with a huge variety of outdoor activities for all seasons.

The first time I visited Edmonton, my girlfriend Carolyn insisted we start off with a walk through the river valley. No matter that on this February afternoon the temperature was about -15C, not counting the windchill! Edmontonians are justifiably proud of this gorgeous area, at 7400 hectares it's the largest of its kind in North America and has plenty for both first-time visitors and local residents to enjoy.

From my album: February afternoon in the Edmonton river valley, Alberta

From my album: February afternoon in the Edmonton river valley, Alberta

The North Saskatchewan River and adjacent river valley cut right through the city meaning you can easily access it from many neighbourhoods. It’s home to the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and outdoor activities range from golf to geocaching, see a list of things to do here.

There are 20 major parks and over 160 km of maintained pathways which means there are many places to play in all seasons. Margeaux Morin was reporting from Louise McKinney Riverfront Park in the video clip above, which is essentially the ‘front door’ to parks along the river valley. There are many trails for walkers, runners and cyclists. Margeaux’s an avid runner and says “there’s an impressive amount of staircases for people to incorporate in their run” - sounds like a great workout. For hikers there’s a link to the Trans Canada Trail. There’s easy river access for canoes and private boats via the public dock – and a riverfront promenade for a stroll above the river bank with fantastic views. There are more picturesque views and great atmosphere if you catch a ride on the Edmonton Queen Riverboat. In season it cruises rain or shine, with leisure, family and dinner cruises – lots of fun options for your next visit.

Sunny summer day in the river valley, Edmonton, Alberta

Sunny summer day in the river valley, Edmonton, Alberta

What if you've got the gang all ready to go but don’t have the outdoor gear you need, or find yourself in Edmonton but didn't bring your own stuff along? No worries, River Valley Adventure Co. can rent you everything from a soccer ball or football, to croquet and bocce sets, to badminton and volleyball equipment, to bikes and Segways. A what? You know, a Segway – one of those two-wheeled electric gizmos you stand on (with balance) and glide effortlessly along pathways. Riding a Segway is a big hit for city visitors so why not try it yourself, it could turn out to be the highlight of your family visit or a memorable date night. The River Valley Adventure Co. offers training and guided tours year-round to get you started.

While the river valley is a glorious place in summer it’s a year-round treasure with each season offering a particular beauty. Ending as we started, in winter you can walk or run the trails and you can also rent snowshoes. Just like with the Segways, guided tours are available to help you explore the park. Some of the concrete paths double as cross country ski trails and for downhill skiing and snowboarding there are no less than three ski hills located in the river valley: Snow Valley Ski Club, Sunridge Ski Club and the Edmonton Ski Club. In short, in Alberta’s capital there’s something for all outdoor lovers - in all seasons. Here’s the Edmonton forecast before you head out, and check the bug report too.


OUTDOOR REPORT: Famous creatures and fragrant flowers


From the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America to your own green space now, August is a good time to check if perhaps your garden is looking a little “too green.”

In my garden: Rose of Sharon

In my garden: Rose of Sharon

In other words, make sure you have enough colourful blooms that will take you through late summer and into fall. Consider planting these low-maintenance perennials: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Chrysanthemum ‘Clara Curtis,’ Phlox, Asters, Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan,) Echinacea and Perovskia (Russian Sage.) Another perennial that will bloom into September is Beebalm (Monarda,) also known as Bergamot. The shaggy flower heads attract bees and butterflies to your garden. The mint-like foliage has a pleasing scent and is also edible. I have both Marshall’s Delight (pink) and Jacob Cline (red) in my garden - and on my dinner table, scattering their edible petals on salads or appetizer plates makes an eye-catching garnish.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”
Henry David Thoreau

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