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The Heart of our Community
Written by Nathalie Olson
You are standing in the Stoney Creek Valley – a small prairie-fed watershed starting north of Camrose, collecting water, and flowing south to the Battle River.
The Stoney Creek weaves through Camrose from Victoria Park through the golf course, into Mirror Lake downtown, through Jubilee Park, and into this park valley. From here the creek continues south past the Landfill and Wastewater lagoons, Happy Valley and Ferlow Junction, where it flows into the Battle River.
Stoney Creek is a treasure of Camrose and is one of the reasons this city exists today. In the early settler times, the creek was used to power steam trains, generate electricity, and provide water for the city. At that time, Camrose residents joked that their drinking water was “pasteurized” because it flowed through many livestock pastures upstream(1). Imagine the flavor!
Today, Camrose gets our drinking water from Driedmeat Lake(part of the Battle River). But we still rely on the Stoney Creek as the receiving body for our wastewater. Twice a year, when the Wastewater Treatment plant has finished cleaning it, the water is released into Stoney Creek to continue its journey downstream. There is no new water on earth. All water that we use must be cleaned and reused.
Historical Stoney Creek through Camrose
When the water is high, some people take their canoes and kayaks on the Stoney. However, there are lots of bridges and fences and sometimes beaver dams crossing the creek and only experienced paddlers should attempt this route.
Find out more on Paddling the Stoney and other areas of the Battle River Watershed on the BRWA website: battleriverwatershed.ca/get-involved/paddle/
The Hvenegaards Paddle on Stoney Creek
Stoney Creek Flowing past the Camrose Wastewater Lagoons
The Cree name for Stoney Creek is ᐊᓯᓂᐢᑲᐤ ᓯᐱᓯᐢ (Asiniskaw sipisis).
Asiniskaw means lots of stones, and sipisis means a little river, or creek. (2)
Indigenous culture and beliefs often center around a deep understanding of and appreciation for the interconnections of all life. Every single being on earth relies on water. Indigenous people of this land in Treaty 6 see water as a sacred gift and use water in ceremonies as well as everyday life. Do you see water as a gift worth protecting?
Stoney Creek is somewhat protected against major flooding events by having a lot of wetlands upstream of Camrose. Those intact wetlands, protected by the farmers and landowners who keep them, absorb water as the spring snow melts. A 2019 Ducks Unlimited study proved that by maintaining these wetlands, we are better protected from floods and droughts, and that the water stays cleaner (4).
Too much of a good thing
Even a small creek like the Stoney can flood and cause big problems. The Stoney Creek watershed works like a funnel, collecting water from across the land into the creek. The amount of water in the creek depends on how much snow and rain we get. Some water also enters the creek via groundwater springs. The highest water level is usually in April or May, after the snow melts and during spring rains. If it is a wet year, the water levels will be very high.
In 2021, the Government of Alberta conducted a flood study on Stoney Creek. These flood maps show us where the waters would rise the most, and what buildings, bridges, or roads might be at risk (3). These maps can also help our community plan where we should and shouldn’t build. A river or creeks flood plain is an important part of the river’s natural cycle.
Map of Flood Study. With permission of the Government of Alberta
The Green zone
The transition zone between the land and the water is called the riparian area. Filled with water-loving plants like willows, cattails, and long sedge grasses, this area keeps the water clean and cool. That is why the City of Camrose has maintained the natural riparian area, not mowing the grass down to the watershed edge. Having a healthy riparian area can also filter out any pollution which may otherwise runoff into the water. However, even with healthy riparian areas, we all need to do our part to prevent pollution like litter, dog feces, or road salts from entering the waterway.
Did you know about 80% of wildlife species rely on a riparian area at some point in their life? The Stoney Creek and its valley is also a wildlife corridor – providing shelter, food, and a transportation route to many animals. We often see deer, muskrats, fox, and weasels, but even big cats like a cougar may pass through!
Stoney Creek Riparian Area
When asked what they love most about Camrose, many residents and visitors will answer Stoney Creek, Mirror Lake, or the Valley(5). These areas give us space to get outside and appreciate nature in all seasons. No matter if you walk, bike, ski, or enjoy a view from the benches, the many access points and trails are a unique feature of our city. We are lucky to have a place to watch great blue herons catch fish or porcupines climb trees.
These trails also give us routes for active transportation across town, and help us stay healthy.
Please enjoy the Stoney Creek, giving thanks to all it has done for us; from recreational opportunities, to wildlife habitat, to receiving our wastewater effluent and stormwater, this little creek makes a big difference for our little city.
Dennis and Shirley Johnson have supported Rotary and the community for many years. Dennis is past-president (1989/90) of the Rotary Club of Camrose.