Museum Exhibit Musings -- Lethbridge's Canoeing Past

Maybe it’s the nice weather (supposed to be 28 today and 30 tomorrow), but last night I thought, why not look more deeply into Henderson Lake.

Henderson, after all, was built between 1911 and 1912 to provide recreation for the rapidly growing community and as a showcase for the Dryland Farming Congress (1912). The park was the jewel in the city Parks department. In 1911, the Exhibition moved just east of Henderson Lake and started a brisk building campaign – including a grandstand, race track and other facilities. At Henderson Lake, the city damned Slaughterhouse Slough (yes, you read it correctly), built a footbridge near the west end and enlarged, levelled and, eventually, concreted some of the shore lines. To encourage swimmers, the Rotary Club built an artificial beach while the city put up changing rooms.

When I typed in Henderson Lake, I found the article below.

Bruce Ridpath, the peerless canoe performer, who has already been “Heralded,” finds himself still weak from the accident which overtook him last fall in Toronto. The noted hockey star and canoeist has not done anything with a canoe from that day until Monday evening last when he went to Henderson Lake and gave himself a try out in a borrowed canoe. He found himself so much out of practice and lacking in strength from his enforced lay off that he will not be able to accommodate his friends and admirers here who have so urgently requested him to give one of his celebrated canoe performances at the lake during his visit to the city. Bruce, in talking to the Herald, said it would take him a considerable space of time to get in condition for the work and he will be leaving Lethbridge at the end of the week. Although he has completely recovered from the accident which laid him up for several months, he is not yet in athletic form but promises to be heard from when the hockey season opens up. He relations here wish him to give Southern Alberta serious thought as a place of residence and business, but “Riddy” has big interests in the hockey world as well as being in demand as a coach in the canoe clubs of the east.

14 August 1912 p 6 Lethbridge Daily Herald

It’s usually never difficult to get me off on a tangent and I had to know about Bruce Ridpath.

Bruce Ridpath played for the Ottawa Senators when they won the Stanley Cup in 1911. He was very high-scoring, with an average of better than a goal per game in his four years in professional hockey. His hockey career was cut short by an automobile accident that fractured his skull. While he attempted a comeback, it wasn’t to be. He was also renowned, before his accident, as a canoe racer and stunt paddler.

What brought Bruce Ridpath to Lethbridge? His brother, Thomas Ridpath, had moved to Lethbridge in 1911. Like his brother, Thomas was also an expert canoeist and on his arrival in Lethbridge was involved in helping develop the Lethbridge Aquatic Club, which sponsored canoeing and sailing on Henderson Lake. A lot of sporting and recreation clubs got their start in this 1906-1913 time period. But, I must admit, canoeing wasn’t one I was expecting to find.