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Home » Lakes of the Atlas » South Saskatchewan Region » Red Deer River Basin » Crawling Valley Reservoir

Crawling Valley Reservoir

    2.Drainage Basin Characteristics
    3.Reservoir Characteristics
    4.Water Quality
    5.Biological Characteristics

1. Introduction

Map Sheets:82I/16
Location:Tp22, 23 R17, 18 W4
Lat/Long:50°56'N 112°21'W

Crawling Valley Reservoir is a large, newly created offstream storage reservoir in the Eastern Irrigation District and the County of Newell. The reservoir is almost 18-km long; the best access to the reservoir is at a recreation area on the west shore at the south end, near the main dam. To reach the south end of the reservoir from the city of Calgary, take Highway 1 east until you are just north of the town of Bassano, then turn off Highway 1 and continue travelling east for 5 km, then north for 3 km and east for 2 km (Fig. 1). The campground and day-use area were built by a group of local citizens, the Crawling Valley Recreation Society, who were assisted by Alberta Environment, Alberta Recreation and Parks, the Eastern Irrigation District and the County of Newell. Facilities include 60 campsites in 1988 and 60 more campsites slated for completion in 1989, and a day-use area with picnic tables, tap water, a telephone and a boat launch. A 1.6 ha subimpoundment of the reservoir was built at the recreation area to provide stable water levels for swimming and sand was brought in for a beach. There are no boating restrictions specific to Crawling Valley Reservoir, but general federal regulations are in effect (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988).

The recent history of the Crawling Valley area goes back to the 1870s when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built its trans-Canada railway line across the prairies. The Canadian government gave the CPR alternate sections of land along the right-of-way. In southern Alberta, the CPR exchanged the alternate sections for two large blocks of land, one near the town of Brooks and one near the town of Strathmore. In 1910, the CPR built the Bassano Dam on the Bow River southwest of Brooks to supply irrigation water to the area around the locality of Gem. To get the water from the Bow River to where it was needed, the North Branch Canal was built, but water had to cross 20-m-deep Crawling Valley. To do this, a trestled wood-stave flume was built in 1912 and water was flowing through the system by 1914. In 1926, the flume needed to be replaced and the use of Crawling Valley as a storage site was first considered. However, the flume was replaced in 1929 with a semicircular woodstave flume and the idea of a reservoir was dropped; the same flume provided reliable service until 1985, when Crawling Valley Reservoir was built and took over the flume's function.

Settlement of the area accelerated after the irrigation system became operational in 1914, but World War I soon followed, then an agricultural recession, then the depression and drought of the "Dirty Thirties". Farmers who had bought land from the CPR could not make enough profit to meet their payments. Meanwhile, the CPR was suffering heavy operating losses and saw little hope for recovery of its investment in the irrigation project. When the farmers offered to assume responsibility for the irrigation works, the CPR welcomed the suggestion. On 1 May 1935, the CPR transferred the irrigation works, the existing land contracts, all unsold lands and $300,000 to the farmer's organization, and the Eastern Irrigation District was formed (Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985). The block of land near Strathmore followed suit; in 1944 it became the Western Irrigation District.

In 1942, Ducks Unlimited (Canada) saw the potential for waterfowl production in the area. They built a low dam north of the Crawling Valley flume, and from 1943 until 1985 a volume of up to one million cubic metres of water was diverted annually from the canal near the flume to create Barkenhouse Lake. Crawling Valley Reservoir now includes this area.

In 1954, in response to the increased demand for irrigation water along the North Branch Canal, the Eastern Irrigation District requested that Agriculture Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration investigate the feasibility of building Crawling Valley Reservoir. Plans for a dam 300 m north of the existing flume were drawn up, but due to lack of funds, the dam was not built. From 1975 to 1977, the Planning Division of Alberta Environment investigated potential storage sites in the Eastern Irrigation District and identified Crawling Valley as one that would help meet demands. In 1980, funds for the project were allocated under the Alberta Environment Irrigation Headworks and Main Irrigation Systems Improvement Program, funded by the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Engineering expertise was provided by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. Construction began in 1983 and water first entered the reservoir in the fall of 1984 (Alta. Envir. 1984; Gross and Nicoll Kramer 1985). The reservoir is owned and operated by the Eastern Irrigation District. It now provides adequate water to the existing irrigation development, which covers 8,700 ha, and will allow future expansion for irrigation of a total of 22,000 ha (Alta. Envir. 1984).

Crawling Valley Reservoir has been stocked with rainbow, brook and brown trout, and in 1988, it provided an outstanding sport fishery. Angling is not permitted within 100 m of the inlet to the reservoir, and because trout spawn in the inlet canal, fishing is prohibited in the Eastern Irrigation District North Branch Canal between its origin near the Bow River and Crawling Valley Reservoir (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1989). Concentrations of algae in the reservoir are moderate and the reservoir has good potential for recreational use.

Physical Information
Area (km2)25.1
Max. Depth (m)16
Mean Depth (m)5.2
Dr. Basin Area (km2)802
Dam, WeirDam
Drainage BasinRed Deer River Basin

Recreational Information
Camp GroundPresent
Boat LaunchPresent
Sport FishRainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Northern Pike, Brown Trout

Water Quality Information
Trophic StatusMesotrophic
TP x (µg/L)57
CHLORO x (µg/L)12.2
TDS x (mg/L)238

2.Drainage Basin Characteristics »

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