Scene 10: Swift River

The Swift River Scenic View is the section of the South Saskatchewan River that runs through the City of Medicine Hat. This view starts at the boat launch at Echo Dale Regional Park and ends downstream north of Police Point Park, for a total length of about 29 km. Swift River is named in honour of the Indigenous people who lived along the South Saskatchewan River for thousands of years. The water really is swift and on average it flows at 234 cubic meters/second, depending on the upstream dams, drought, and flood events.

The South Saskatchewan River influences plants, animals and landforms in and along its banks. There are numerous recreation, economic, and social uses and benefits. Birds that live along the Swift River include the American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, and King Fisher. Moose, Mule Deer, White-tail Deer, and Cottontails use the river banks and flood plains. The river supports Lake Sturgeon, Northern Pike, Walleye, Gold Eye, Yellow Perch, and many other species of fish. Many of the larger trees found growing along the river are the Prairie Cottonwoods. These cottonwood forests depend on periodic flood events for their regeneration and survival. At Police Point Park you will find Heritage cottonwoods that are 200 to 300 years old, and closer to the river some new cottonwood saplings that were established from the 2013 flood.

People of all ages come to the river to relax and enjoy boating, fishing and exploring the trails while walking, biking, birding, sketching, photographing, and more!

Swift River – West to East

Swift River – South to North

Bird’s Eye View of the River, Mr. Burnside and Redcliff – Photo by Jay Hitchen

A. Love those Saskatchewan Rough Riders

Boating is a popular recreation activity on the river, whether you are just out for a drive, or to experience some fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, or floating. The labels A on the two maps above indicated the six main access launch and exit locations on the river.

Cruising the River

Sturgeon Catch – Photo by Karen Hepfner

Strathcona Island Park Launch

Echo Dale Park Launch

B. Have You Seen Bob Around?

Female Common Mergansers pictured here have rusty cinnamon coloured heads and greyish bodies. Males have green heads and white bodies. These wetland birds dive underwater to catch fish, and also eat frogs and leeches.

Common Merganser

Common Mergansers

C. Community Conversations

Strathcona Island Park

D. The Eternal Tree

Prairie Cottonwoods provide habitat, food, and cover for many wildlife species including birds of prey, nesting and cavity birds, porcupines, rodents and insects. Fallen trees also provide wildlife homes and escape cover. These trees slowly decompose and add new organic matter to the soil. “As long-lived beings, trees serve as rooted witnesses to the shifting landscapes around them” (Jori Lewis 2022).

Heritage Cottonwood

Fallen Trees Continue to Provide Wildlife and Soil Value

Cottonwood in Police Point Park

E. “hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo”

Birding is a popular recreation activity along the river and throughout the city; especially when one can see and hear Great Horned Owls.

Spotting Birds
Great Horned Owl – Photo by Dan Schiebelbein

Credits

  • All photos by Len Moser except where indicated otherwise under photo.

See Summary of Swift River Key Features

Useful Links