The 2013 Flood - Southern Alberta - Hiking Alberta

 

This powerful flood event will be remembered for generations in Calgary, Alberta.

 

June 2013 Flood, Alberta, Canada

 

The Bow River, flowing through the middle of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, overflows its banks creating havoc and causing massive destruction but this is only a small, indicative portion of the overall catastrophe.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada Hextall Park at the intersection of the Bow River and Bowness Road on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada Hextall Park at the intersection of the Bow River and Bowness Road on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada Hextall Park at the intersection of the Bow River and Bowness Road on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

There is a lot of rain in Southern Alberta throughout May and June.  Nothing spectacular, just consistent.  The ground becomes saturated with water until it can absorb no more.  On the hike at Read's Ridge in May, the Spray Lakes Reservoir water levels were very low.  At that time, they are leaving plenty of space for reluctant snow to melt from upper elevations.  It is the normal course of events.  On June 20, a freak storm begins, from an uncommon easterly direction, dumping an average 80 mm of rain into the front range of the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary within a very short period of time. 

The Ghost, Spray Lakes, Kananaskis and Glenmore Dams have insufficient capacity to handle the massive influx of water and debris from flooded tributaries determined to deliver massive volumes of water to the Atlantic Ocean.  There is no alternative but to open dam spillways.  The infrastructure constructed to prevent the problem will now create the problem.  If the earth dams are compromised, the disaster and recovery respectively will be significantly larger and longer.  Rock and a hard place.  No good place to go.  On the periphery, runoff from huge, saturated, mountain water sheds cause major destruction in Canmore, Okotoks and High River on the way to Medicine Hat.  Creek and river courses are altered forever.  Billions of tons of rock are displaced and combine with natural debris to sweep away bridges and sections of road as new water courses are created.  Major geographical areas are shut down for safety and repair.  At last estimate, overall damage cost exceeds 7 billion dollars.  Impact and recovery time will be measured in years.  The Bow and Elbow Rivers flood Calgary.  Homes are lost.  Thousands are seriously damaged.  Following photos were taken near my home after water levels begin to decline.

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada The 85th St. bridge over the Bow River linking Bowness Park and Baker Park on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Notice the flooded Bowness River pathway in the foreground of the very fast, high and murky Bow River.

 

Common recreational features illustrate the extent of the flooding.  The renovations in Bowness Park are washed away.  Incursions at Baker Park on the other side of the Bow River have swamped prominent features.

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada The Sun Bowl in Baker Park is below the swollen Bow River on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

The Sun Bowl in Baker Park is below the swollen Bow River on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Stoney Trail Bridge over the Bow River defines the west end of Baker and Bowness Parks on opposite sides of the Bow River.

 

Many sections of Calgary's extensive pedestrian and bicycle path system are interrupted.  The pavement has been swept away.  Major roads and bridges are gone.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

The paved pathway ramp to the lower bridge connecting Baker Park with Bowness Park is completely gone, washed out by the raging Bow River during peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Emergency response systems operate beyond maximum capacity.  The crushing destruction is handled as expeditiously as possible.  Military assistance aids Calgary, then High River.  In the midst of surreal devastation, human spirit rises above, copes and gradually gains retribution.  It is an incredible, uplifting and indelibly memorable experience.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

Canada Olympic Park looms above Bowness Park on the south side of the swollen Bow River as viewed from Baker Park on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

Lilacs at the south end of the 85th Street Bridge over the flooding Bow River on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Flood, Bow River, Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

An errant canoe from the Bowness Pond rental facility waits for recovery near the south end of the 85th Street Bridge over the flooding Bow River on June 23, three days following peak flooding on June 20, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Kananaskis Country is evacuated by helicopter prior to shut down.  Maintenance crews and thousands of volunteers tackle the massive task of repair and make admirable progress in spite of catastrophic damage.  More than 3 months later, major sections remain closed.  Trails are destroyed or altered forever.  The Kananaskis Country Golf Course is decimated.  There is speculation it may not be rebuilt.  A dozen bridges on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) are simply washed away.  Allen Bill Pond is gone.  Forget-Me-Not Pond sustained minor damage but miraculously survived. 

There is a paved trail between the Kananaskis Delta Lodge and Wedge Pond.  Sections of it are swept away.  It may be years before it is restored because fundamental infrastructure must take precedence.  Along this path there is a picturesque bridge adjacent to Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) with mighty Mount Kidd in the background.  Although the little pedestrian/cycling bridge stands firm, it is no longer connected to anything.  The monumental force of the flood water swept away the vehicle bridge over Evan Thomas Creek and the course of the creek moved south leaving the little pedestrian bridge intact and clearly visible from Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) as an iconic reminder of the incredible natural force which swept through here.  It is only one of thousands of perennial reminders of the floods of June, 2013.

 

Flood, Evan-Thomas Creek. Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The pedestrian bridge, once over Evan-Thomas Creek in Kananaskis Country, stands disconnected when massive volumes of flood water altered the course of the creek. It is an iconic image representing the force of the June, 2013 flood water.

 

Something else happens in subsequent months.  Initially, maximum focus is targeted to restoring basic needs.  Subsequently, a period of shock and mourning transcends to reluctant acceptance.  A melancholy blankets the residents who have witnessed the unfathomable.  The grieving for massive change and destruction captures the imagination and curiosity but demands time for absorption and review. 

It will be a long time before the restoration of carefree comfort becomes the new normal.  It will happen.  Outdoor recreation through the coming months and into next year is going to be absolutely fascinating.

Images in this post were captured on June 23, 2013 with the exception of the Evan-Thomas Creek pedestrian bridge captured on October 1, 2013.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Re: "The pedestrian bridge, once over Evan-Thomas Creek..." First of all, thanks for excellent documenting, Barry. I love kananaskis and have not been out all summer. Seeing the photos (yours and others) of this particular bridge really brought it home as i know it well. We just moved out of sunnyside (in Calgary) 3 days before the flood took over our entire part of the neighborhood! I volunteered at Morley and Siksika Nation. Anyways. Thanks! Marian

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