This is the conclusion of my post on Crowsnest River fishing holes. I’ll continue from Highway 507, upstream to Crowsnest Lake. At the bottom of the page, there is a link where you can download this article in its entirety.
Highway 507 Bridge to East Hillcrest Bridge
Home Run (a.k.a. John’s Run)
Located a short distance upstream of the Hwy. 507 Bridge. The run was named by Bruce Johnson. When I queried Bruce about the name, he replied: “It was always a good place to stop and fish for a few minutes, while on my way home from fishing.”
This piece of water is also affectionately known as John’s Run by anglers like Clive Schaupmeyer of Coaldale. It was a spot Clive’s friend, John Tunstall, used to love to fish. Whenever Clive or any others were there with John, they would let him have it to himself. According to Clive, “John could stand there for two hours and be in heaven.”
Dog Run (a.k.a. Gerry’s Lawn Pool)
A run adjacent to the Nestle Inn Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by Penny & Gerry Nichol.
Pink Bridge (a.k.a. Green’s Bridge)
A popular access point to the river.
A lovely stretch of water named by Clive Schaupmeyer.
Burmis Lake (a.k.a. Burmis T.U. Lease)
The day-use area at Burmis Lake provides easy walk-in access to the Burmis Trout Unlimited Lease. Since 2002, the Oldman Chapter of Trout Unlimited has maintained 2 kilometers of river frontage in this reach. Over the years, lease workdays have been organized to clean up old fencing and trash, and pull noxious weeds on the property. Kudos to people like Richard Burke, Mike Lamb, Clive Schaupmeyer, Malcolm Bennett, and other T.U. members, for their effort in obtaining and maintaining the conservation lease property. Their work has made it possible for anglers like myself and others to enjoy this spectacular stretch of water.
Block’s Bridge (a.k.a. Silver Bridge)
A popular access point to the river. Named for Laverne & Sigrid Block, former owners of property along this stretch of river. Upon purchasing the land in the late 1970s or early 80s, they erected this bridge and constructed a 2.5 kilometer (1.5 mile) road to their ranch house.
This run is located just upstream of Block’s ranch house. The name was coined by Kelly Oikawa of Lethbridge around 1984. It’s here where Kelly and I first experienced fishing for big Crowsnest River rainbows sipping selectively on small mayflies and caddis. Laverne Block used to come down to the water and provide advice on how to catch these wily fish.
Leitch Collieries (a.k.a. The Collieries)
Refers to a section of the river across from the Leitch Collieries Historic Site. Accessible via the Nature Conservancy property on the south side of Hwy. 3, or by walking from the Burmis Trout Unlimited Lease parking lot. Don Anderson, Bill Clendon, and others, who frequented this part of the river in the early 1980s, had a couple of stretches they called First Loop and Second Loop – otherwise known as The Loops.
Checkers Hole (a.k.a. Checkerboard Hole, Five-Star Pool)
According to Richard Burke of Lethbridge, it’s named this from the railway sign where the tracks downstream of the East Hillcrest Bridge come into view of the river.
The Five-Star Pool label came from fisheries biologists in the early 1990s. While conducting a fish population survey on the river, the biologists were impressed by the large numbers of trout inhabiting the deep corner pool. On a scale of one to five, it received a Five-Star rating.
East Hillcrest Bridge (a.k.a. Passburg Bridge)
A popular access point to the river. Byron Creek enters the Crowsnest River here.
East Hillcrest Bridge to Frank
This pool is located 5-6 bends upstream of the East Hillcrest Bridge. It was named one autumn afternoon in 1989, after a brief rain shower passed through, leaving a colorful rainbow arching over the river.
This long stretch of water flows past the old ruins of the Hillcrest-Mohawk Mine tipple. It can be accessed via the Hillcrest Trout Unlimited Conservation Lease parking lot, or by or walking upstream from the East Hillcrest Bridge.
This half-kilometer stretch of fast pocket water flows along a steep rock wall. The bank on the north side of the river was once covered in waste coal slag, more than 10 meters (30 feet) in height. The land was cleaned up and reclaimed by the provincial government in the late 1980s. Currently, the Oldman Chapter of Trout Unlimited maintains 2 kilometers of river frontage in this reach. It’s walk-in access only into the Hillcrest Conservation Lease and can be accessed from the parking lot in Bellevue’s Riverbottom.
Richard Burke believes some of the oldtimers in the area like Jerry Aveledo, of Jerry’s Sport Shop in Bellevue, Edo Scodellaro, also of Bellevue, and Joe Coccioloni of Pincher Creek were likely the ones who came up with the names for the Tipple Run, The Wall, and several other places such as The Ridge and DePerio’s. Mike Lamb knew these anglers and interviewed them for As the Crow Flies, a Crowsnest River fly-fishing map he and Richard Burke published in 1994. During the 1980s, Mike was living along the Crow near Burmis Lake, while working as a reporter for the Lethbridge Herald, Pass Bureau. Mike was an ardent fly-fisher and wrote numerous articles for the Herald about fly-fishing in Crowsnest Pass and of some of the anglers living here.
There are several municipal sewage aeration lagoons located on the south side of the river, just upstream of The Wall. It’s here, where the river makes a sharp turn at the rock escarpment, forming a deep, swirling pool, dubbed the Toilet Bowl. Despite its malodorous-sounding name, it’s a pleasant place to fish.
A deep pool named after a family who once lived in a house beside the river.
West Hillcrest Bridge (a.k.a. Hillcrest Bridge)
A popular access point to the river.
A scenic run, just upstream of the West Hillcrest Bridge. Named after a family who once lived in a house next to the river.
1923 Bridge Pool (a.k.a. The Trestle)
A pool along the concrete remains of an old railway bridge, constructed in 1923. A CPR spur line crossed the river here, leading to the coal mine in Hillcrest.
Rodeo Grounds (a.k.a. Gymkhana Grounds, Swimming Hole)
This is where a small outdoor riding arena is situated along the river. The Old Slide Road provides easy access. Local kids from the Pass used to come swimming here, as far back as the 1920s or 30s.
As a six-year-old boy, Ernie Brazzoni of Bellevue fished here with his older brother, Marcel, and his father, Olindo. There were many times where Olindo carried Ernie across the river, in order to reach some of their favorite fishing spots on the opposite side. Some seventy years later, Ernie continues to visit these waters.
Frank Lake (a.k.a. The Slide)
It’s not really a lake, but a widening in the river at the base of Turtle Mountain. Much of Frank Lake has become filled in with sediment over the past couple of decades and it’s not as deep as it once was. A defined river channel is forming along the east and west end. In order to fish here, you have to scramble over massive rocks and boulders to get down to the water. It can be a bit unnerving fishing here, as loose rocks sometimes become dislodged from the mountain face, only to be heard tumbling down the steep slope.
The river at the outlet of Frank Lake is another favorite spot among anglers.
During the 1980s, I would occasionally bump into a local oldtimer, Elias “Eli” Hurtak, along this stretch of water. Eli lived in a small house along the Old Slide Road. He knew these waters intimately and probably fished along here more than anyone. In August, 1983, Eli caught a five-pound, six-ounce rainbow trout at Frank Lake. The fish went for a wet fly and took 20 minutes to land. Eli’s catch earned him first place for best rainbow trout caught in a stream at the Willow Valley Trophy Competition that year. It was the seventh time in as many years Eli walked away with the same prize.
Located just upstream of Frank Lake, it’s a popular swimming hole with local kids during the summer months. It fishes best once school starts in early September. Gold Creek enters the river a short distance upstream.
Frank to Crowsnest Lake
There does not appear to be many named fishing holes upstream of Frank. I spoke with a number of longtime Crowsnest River anglers and they could only recall one or two such places. At one time, there may have been other holes between Frank and Crowsnest Lake with names. If there were, they have been lost to the ages.
In the past, low-lying areas along the river in Blairmore, and upstream through Bushtown in east Coleman, were prone to flooding during spring runoff. In an attempt to prevent flooding in these towns, sections of the river were dredged and channelized many decades ago. Aside from this, other parts of the river were altered by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Coal-mining companies also changed the river’s course, in order to make way for their operations.
Lost Lemon Campground
This popular campground is located along the Crowsnest River at the west end of Blairmore. York Creek enters the river here.
Bushtown (a.k.a. East Coleman)
A historic part of Coleman, dating to the early 1900s.
At the end of Willow Drive in west Coleman, the river valley widens and becomes almost meadow-like in appearance. It’s a beautiful area, with spectacular views of the High Rock and Flathead Mountain Ranges. Wildlife, including deer, elk, moose, bears, and mountain sheep inhabit the area.
Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor
In October, 2018, The Nature Conservancy of Canada announced a campaign to protect a critical wildlife corridor between Coleman and Crowsnest Lake. The upper reaches of the Crowsnest River are located within this corridor. The corridor is to be named in honor of the late Alberta Premier, Jim Prentice.
Mr. Prentice spent his formative years in Crowsnest Pass, and it’s where he developed a love and respect for nature. He spent seven summers working in the coal mines of Crowsnest Pass, to pay his way through university and law school. When Jim Prentice wasn’t working in the mines or studying, he was fly-fishing the Crow and other trout streams in the area.
Situated near the Alberta – British Columbia border, it’s the main source of water for the Crowsnest River.
Anyone who fishes the Crow regularly likely has a favorite spot or two on the river they have named. Sometimes, we keep these names and places to ourselves, and that’s okay. Sometimes, we’ll share them with other anglers and friends. Only then, do the names of these fishing holes and their stories have a chance to be passed on to the next generation of Crowsnest River anglers.
You can download a pdf copy of this article in its entirety here or by clicking the image below.
Article References & Credits
TUC Currents Newsletter – Summer, 2008:
Life and Times of the Oldman Chapter by Clive Schaupmeyer
Crowsnest River Fly-Fishing Map:
As the Crow Flies – by Mike Lamb & Richard Burke
Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives:
Runaway Train Damage Set At $2 Million by Michael Lamb (June 28, 1982)
Tanker Cars Blown Up Deliberately by Michael Lamb (June 29, 1982)
Human Mistake Works Out Well by Garry Allison (December 1, 1982)
Fine Trout at Willow Valley by Michael Lamb (January 17, 1984)
Bill and Shirley Sara (Bedside Manor) – 1978 house move photographs
Special thanks to all the people listed below, who contributed to this article by providing information on various fishing holes and for sharing their stories and experiences on the Crowsnest River with me.
Don Anderson, Ernie Brazzoni, Richard Burke, Bill Clendon, Bob Costa, Bruce Johnson, Kelly Oikawa, Dan Paskuski, Bill and Shirley Sara, Clive Schaupmeyer, Don Townsend, Terry Venables, Herb and Linda Vitale.