Vacay to Saskatchewan 2014: Day 4 (July 4)
Brooks and the wonder of aqueducts
So, July 4th (an American Day of import, I am told, and the day before the wedding which prompted this whole trip) was spent with our friends, Darren and Dallas, in Brooks, Alberta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks,_Alberta, http://www.brooks.ca/). They are optometrists – Kevin went to school with them – with 3 boys (4, 2, and 3 months – I don’t know HOW they do it!) I should say, 3, at first very shy, and then very active and not shy at all, boys.
We slept in a bit, then began a relaxing day of no commitments. After a nice lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with our friends, Darren took the afternoon off to drive us around Brooks to see the sights. Now, Brooks is an interesting town. My sister-in-law says whenever they (her and Kevin and their parents) drove through Brooks, they were told to close their noses, Brooks being famous (infamous?) for its meat-packing industry. It is also part of a big farming community, not surprising given its location, and yet at the same time actually a bit surprising given its location in one of the driest areas of Alberta.
Anyway, for a variety of job-related reasons, Brooks is home to immigrants from all over the world, including the Philippines and many parts of Africa. So it’s actually quite diverse, although I do wonder how all these folks survive the winters there (this last one was especially brutal and long). The diversity has definitely become a strong part of the Brooks community as a whole, however, as we heard stories of community events, one for example, where everyone got together for a “food fair” where people just brought food from their own countries, made in their own kitchens, to sell. Not something that would probably pass health inspector muster in larger centres, but it did sound like it was a really fun event!
Another interesting aspect of Brooks that I was unaware of until this day, is that there are aqueducts. Yes – aqueducts which have been designated an official Provincial Historic Site, and which are definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. Who knew Brooks had aqueducts? I should note that they are not used now, but they were from about 1912 until the 1970s (1979 according to the website). And they have quite the story behind them.
Here are some websites giving some basic information about these cool aqueducts.
There is, however, a lot more to tell about the aqueducts than one can find at these websites. We heard the following anecdotes from the student guide who manned the station at the aqueducts. I’m glad Parks Canada is still hiring summer students!
Anyway, built around 1912 to move water from the Bow River, the aqueducts (which were 3 kilometers long) were necessary so that people could farm in the area, given that Brooks is pretty much a desert. They were built with Portland cement, but without consideration for the salt content in the soil in the area. So, by the end of the first year, the cement was beginning to degrade from the salt in the soil and the supports needed to be reinforced. After a few years, they also realized that the slope of the aqueducts was not sufficient to keep the water moving through at a rate that would keep it fresh, so as water sat, things began to grow in the water, slowing it down. I can’t imagine the work that would have been involved trying to keep those 3 kilometers of aqueducts clear. Apparently the aqueducts were also great places to fish back in the day. I wish I could have seen a picture of people sitting on the sides of the aqueducts, fishing poles in the water.
After 60+ years of late-found mistakes and overwhelming maintenance, the aqueducts were abandoned in favour of ground-level canals which you can see right next to the old aqueducts.
After our tour of the aqueducts, we took a quick drive around the man-made lake outside of Brooks, Lake Newell (http://www.visitnewell.com/). A surprising, and huge, oasis on a very hot day!
Then back for a relaxing dinner and a short walk around downtown Brooks and the park.
Don’t know what the story is here…
Dallas said she didn’t think there was still a bum living there, but it was interesting that someone thought it was good to point it out:
And here are a couple of hotels in Brooks, across the street from each other, where you might think twice about staying…
The next day would be a short (4 hours) drive to the wedding!