Local swimming options over the years

Since time immemorial, whenever hot weather hits in the summer months, people’s attention turns to taking a cooling dip in a nearby body of water.

In the Central Alberta area, people often head to one of the beautiful lakes in the region – places such as Sylvan, Gull, Pigeon and Pine Lakes.

However, for those in Red Deer itself, in the early years, people had to look to Waskasoo Creek or the Red Deer River as places to go swimming.

There are always dangers to going for a swim in a river where cold water and currents can cause unexpected problems.

Hence, many people chose to go swimming near the mouth of Waskasoo Creek, where the water is deeper and the current is not quite a strong.

Another popular spot was near the traffic and railway bridges across the river.

Again, the water is somewhat deeper at those spots, and the bridge piers provided some protection from the currents.

There are always those who like a challenge and a bit of danger.

Hence, older boys would often try swimming near the rapids by the Red Deer Golf Course. There were accidents, but fortunately, there is no record of any of those brave souls drowning at that spot.

Waskasoo Creek does not have much current and was, therefore, a much safer alternative to the Red Deer River. However, in the summertime, the creek can turn brown in colour and develop a less than pleasant odor.

When the Parkvale subdivision was first developed in the early part of the last century, the developers, Michener and Carscallen, decided to build a dam across the creek and create a small lake.

For a while, the spot was a place to go for a swim or go canoeing. However, the little lake soon developed such a bad smell that the dam was removed and the creek returned to its natural state.

Swimming in the creek sometimes became a matter of controversy in the community. In the summer of 1908, J.R. Cowell, the former editor of the Red Deer Advocate and the first clerk of the Alberta legislature, complained about young boys swimming in the creek near his residence.

As it turned out, Cowell’s main objection was that the young swimmers almost never had bathing suits on.

He asked that Town council consider passing a by-law, “Making the wearing of bathing clothes compulsory within the Town.”

The councilors thanked Mr. Cowell for his concerns, but declined to pass such a bylaw.

By the time of the First World War, City council began to consider the construction of a public swimming pool.

In 1919, there was a serious proposal to construct a recreation centre, including an auditorium, gymnasium and a small swimming pool as a memorial to those who had lost their lives in the War.

However, the post-War years were times of economic hardship.

The citizens of Red Deer did build the Cenotaph, but the idea of the memorial recreation centre was dropped.

During the hot, dry years of the 1930s, swimming in the river became so popular that public safety became a concern.

Consequently, a lifeguard was hired for the summer months using funds donated by the Rotary Club.

The lifeguard’s post was on the bridge abutment on the north side of the river.

An alternative to using the river was an old lumber mill pond in North Red Deer (now partially restored as Bower Ponds).

The water was fairly deep, clean and safe, particularly after the new Card sawmill put in a small dam in the 1930s.

Hence, the site became popular, particularly for younger children.

Finally, in 1949, Red Deer finally constructed its first formal pool on 49 St. a bit east of 48 Ave. It was an outdoor facility. Many of the users found that swimming in it was often a bracing experience.

Nevertheless, swimming in the river and Waskasoo Creek became rare as the public preferred to use a formal pool.

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