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Nature Rivers

Heart Waters

Sources of the Bow River

by (author) Kevin Van Tighem

by (photographer) Brian Van Tighem

RMB | Rocky Mountain Books
Initial publish date
Oct 2015
Rivers, Regional, Fish
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2015
    List Price

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Shortlisted for the 2016 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival award for Mountain & Wilderness Literature.


“We could belong here too. We could be like the bull trout, the willows, the wary horses; like the river that continuously arises from these fine green places where the waters are born. We could find our best selves in the stories of those living waters and the river that gathers them together. Ultimately, after all, we are that river.” — from Heart Waters


Water does not come from the river. It comes to the river. Heart Waters takes us to the sources of that water – and into the living beauty, human stories and future possibilities that also arise from the green uplands and valleys of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes, where the mighty Bow River is born.


For more than a century the foothills and Front Range mountains of western Alberta have been recognized as being vital to the water supply for western Canada. Virtually all the water that sustains communities, ecosystems and the economy of prairie Canada comes from this narrow strip of land arrayed along the Continental Divide. For all its importance, however, water management decisions affecting this enormous region have ignored the significance of land health and focused almost exclusively on building dams.


The result, as the author points out, is that the Bow River’s annual flows have decreased by more than a tenth, even as spring floods become more frequent and more destructive. The solutions to prairie Canada’s water challenges lie in healing the wounded landscapes of our headwaters.


Heart Waters delves deeply into the history and ecology of a landscape whose critical value as a watershed is matched by its sheer beauty and diversity. A rich array of stunning images by Jasper-based photographer Brian Van Tighem complements the author’s well-researched explorations of the stories whispered by the living waters that drain from Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country and the famous ranchlands of the Bow River watershed.


Kevin Van Tighem’s latest book is a deep exploration of place and an invitation to recognize that our water future depends upon knowing our headwaters better and caring for them more passionately — as our heart waters.

About the authors

Kevin Van Tighem, a former superintendent at Banff National Park, has written more than 200 articles, stories and essays on conservation and wildlife which have garnered him many awards, including Western Magazine Awards, Outdoor Writers of Canada book and magazine awards and the Journey Award for Fiction. He is the author of Bears Without Fear (RMB 2013), The Homeward Wolf (RMB 2013) and Heart Waters: Sources of the Bow River (RMB 2015). His next book (to be published by RMB in 2017) will be a series of essays that reflect on the ecology, conservation history, missed opportunities and emerging possibilities of Alberta, a place that could have been about so much more than oil. He lives with his wife, Gail, in Canmore, Alberta.

Kevin Van Tighem's profile page

Brian Van Tighem was born on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. His freelance career has seen wide range of photographic experience, from adventure photography, landscape, architectural interiors and travel and tourism.

Brian Van Tighem's profile page

Editorial Reviews

What’s spectacular about Kevin’s book is that it transcends – yet never leaves – the water. Kevin looks at the history, the present, and considers the future. He carries us to consider the entire watershed and the cumulation of impacts, influences, and their ramifications. The secret is that you won’t know that he’s doing it because you’ll be taken in by the beauty of the images, the knowledge behind what’s written, and an artful writing that engages you. No greater compliment can be given than to say it’s a humbling masterpiece that pauses us into countless considerations along the way.—Dave Jensen, Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine

Heart Waters is a magnificent book…. At the risk of gushing, I believe this is one of the best books I have read on the environment — and we are so lucky to have a book of this caliber about our environment.—Southern Alberta Group for the Environment

This book is an ode to not just the Bow River, but also its tributaries – the Quirk, Cougar, Ford, Johnson, Prairie, Meadow, Bateman, Pekisko Creek and Sheep. Heart Waters discovers these sources and demonstrates the beauty of the Bow River, delving into the human activity that is intrinsically linked to this watershed, and what the future might hold.—Mike Cotton, Crowfoot Media

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