Sunday, July 24, 2011

Explaining myself, for my friend Friko

I often refer to my husband, Dick, walking our dog, Lindy, "at the coulee" or "by the coulee" near our neighborhood. Once or twice I've remembered to provide a link to explain the word coulee to those of you who may be unfamiliar with it.
Because it is applied to many different kinds of places in North America, it is not surprising people in the rest of the world don't understand what I mean. My blogger friend Friko, who lives in England, has asked me, "What is a coulee?"
That is a very good question. There are many answers and, as a relative newcomer to the Canadian prairie, I find I cannot satisfactorily define "coulee" by myself.
If you click the link below, you'll find the following explanation, plus more detail, and some photographs, including one taken in southern Alberta.  The best I can do is provide illustrations, below, and I didn't even take them myself.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coulee (or coulée) is applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley or drainage zone.
The word coulee comes from the Canadian French coulée, from French word couler meaning "to flow".
The term is often used interchangeably in the Great Plains for any number of water features, from ponds to creeks.
Aside from those formed by volcanic eruptions, (coulees) are commonly canyons characterized by steep walls that have been shaped by erosion. These types of coulees are generally found in the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada.
Coulees provide shelter from wind and concentrated water supplies to plants which would otherwise struggle to survive in the xeric sagebrush steppe. Trees are often found along streams in coulees and at the base of their walls.
© Photos left, and right, by Richard Schear
First three photos at the coulee
in our neighborhood.

© Photos above, and below, by Maria Davies

Photo taken last week by my sister-in-law at Police Point Park in the north side of the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta. The steep canyon wall runs above the south bank of the South Saskatchewan River opposite the park.
Many coulees in this area, such as the one where Dick and Lindy walk daily, have water in them only intermittently, sometimes not at all in a dry year. The ones containing large rivers such as the South Saskatchewan, always have water, although at widely varying levels depending upon the time of year, and the whims of prairie weather.
Below, my brother Clint Davies and his wife Maria at Police Point Park.

© Photo by Richard Schear    


Kay said...

I didn't know what a coulee was so I'm very grateful for your explanation. How lucky you are to live in such a beautiful place with lots of room for Lindy (and Dick) to take walks.

Reflections said...

Thanks to Friko for asking... and thank you for the wonderful explanation. I too was at a loss for what it was.

Friko said...

Thank you very much for this explanation, Kay. Now I know: a Coulee is a ditch, sometimes large, sometimes narrow, sometimes deep, sometimes shallow.

btw I've had a problem getting here several times. Perhaps the blogger ditch was too deep?

Jo said...

Hi Kay, I always thought a coulee was a syrup to drizzle over Camembert. I'm thrilled to see it means something else too. Thanks for the explanation. I love the places Lindy and Dick walk. Makes me miss my doggies back home where it's apparently very cold at the moment. (((Hugs))) Jo

Sally in WA said...

Geez, we have so many coulees near the Okanogan house (including Grand Coulee Dam)that I never gave any thought to the word "coulee". Its just something you grow up with. I didn't realize you had them, too. Neat!