Ever see a river in the sky?
Brooks has that. And it basically brought modern agriculture to the area.
In the early days of the Brooks region, access to water was crucial. After all, we pretty much live in a desert here in southeast Alberta! The aqueduct - completed in 1914 - had engineers and ranchers giddy with excitement. Getting water became much easier, which enticed people dreaming of that Western lifestyle to settle here.
Of course, technology moves ever forward, and the Eastern Irrigation District now has an impressive canal system to meet the needs of landowners (the main canal actually runs alongside the aqueduct!), but this monument to yesteryear remains as a tribute to those early pioneers and their ingenuity.
Getting to the aqueduct is quite simple, it's just a short (perhaps 4km) drive outside the City of Brooks on the "Old Number One" as locals call it. Access to this initial version of the TransCanada Highway can be found by driving to Highway 873, then turning east just before the railway crossing. Travelling west, the highway takes a slight curve before coming to an intersection leading north to the current TransCanada Highway or south to the aqueduct (heads up - this becomes a gravel road). Cross the tracks again, and turn right.
Now if you're expecting an interpretive experience this season, it's just not in the cards. While there is a visitor information centre at the aqueduct, the site is once again a self-guided adventure for 2019. However, there is decent parking, and nice, modern playground for the kids. There's also a road that runs parallel to the aqueduct, leading to a nice pond area that is quite tranquil. There is a short walk from the road to the pond, but it's well-maintained and allows for excellent viewing of local plants and wildlife.
Five aqueduct tips:
Hit the loo before you go - While there are restrooms at the aqueduct, they're locked this year. My recommendation is to grab a coffee in Brooks, answer nature's call, then hit the road. This "closed bathroom" thing is a pet peeve of mine, the City of Brooks pulls the same silliness with some of their public restrooms (usually when you have a young child that 'really has to go').
Pack the bug dope - While those pesky biting insects haven't become a problem yet, the recipe is right in this area. Given the large amount of water and tall grass, it's always wise to bring some bug spray along just in case.
Look both ways - The gravel road that brings you to the aqueduct continues on and bisects the structure. This means that a section was actually removed to allow for the road. However, since the road rises higher than the aqueduct, there is a roadside turnout with a great view. The main area is situated to the west of the road, but on the east side lies the siphon - certainly a device worthy of a glance.
Keep an eye on the time - since this is a self-guided experience, gates do close at certain times to disallow vehicular traffic. Signage informs that the gates are open between 10 a.m and 5 p.m., but even if you arrive outside that timeframe, the aqueduct can be enjoyed. You just might have to walk a little further than anticipated.
Something in the way - For the photographers in the crowd, here's an annoying fact about the aqueduct for you: it's fenced in! Yup. An ugly chainlink fence surrounds the ancient structure, so capturing some appealing images might require a little work. Luckily, with some clever angles, this is easily overcome.
While you're here, check out:
The Tillebrook Campground is just east of the aqueduct along the Old Number One. Not only do people rave about the tranquility of this particular place, but it's a key stop for birdwatchers.