Elbow Falls Flood - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Ongoing flood impact at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Elbow Falls Flood, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

From the early morning meeting at the Bragg Creek shopping plaza southwest of Calgary, Albertaa light hiking day in Kananaskis Country is planned to survey the aftermath of June 2013 flooding.  The primary objective for the day is Elbow Falls.  For comparison, a few archival photographs have been included. This first group of photos was taken on June 19, 2005, a few days after damaging floods decimated the popular day use area a short distance downstream from Beaver Ponds.

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Raging flood water on June 19, 2005 at Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Rage flood water on June 19, 2005 at Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

This next group of photographs was taken on May 12, 2008 when the profile of Elbow Falls is relatively normal with higher water levels in spring runoff.

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls on May 12, 2008 in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

On August 25, 2013, there are throngs of people, on this weekend day, investigating an Elbow Falls clearly altered by the June, 2013 flood.  The course of the Elbow River has either destroyed or completely washed away portions of the picnic areas above Elbow Falls.  The boundaries of the fall has been modified substantially and the bowl beneath the fall has been filled with boulders, reducing the waterfall height.  Elbow Falls more closely resembles a cascading rapid.

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Images captured on August 25, 2013 at Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada August 25, 2013 photo from above Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Elbow Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada August 25, 2013 photo from above Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Near the end of Highway 66 west of Bragg CreekForget-Me-Not Pond has survived relatively unscathed.  This is surprising because the tiny pristine pond was badly damaged in 2005.  Obviously the restoration created better defense against incursion from the adjacent Elbow River.  There is some trench erosion on the river side and a few small sections of the circumference pathway have been interrupted but overall this pristine, beautiful pond has survived the onslaught.  Minor repair will likely be straightforward.  Forget-Me-Not Pond is a tiny, emerald gem when viewed from the top of Forget-Me-Not Mountain.

 

Forget-Me-Not Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Forget-Me-Not Pond backed by Ford Knoll and Powderface Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Forget-Me-Not Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Flood debris litters the rocky plain of the Elbow River adjacent to Forget-Me-Not Pond in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

On the return drive to Bragg Creek at the end of the day,  the short delay on the way in has become a very long delay.  At Allen Bill Pond, the bridge over the Elbow River was destroyed in the flood.  An alternate, one-way, dirt alternative detour has been constructed and recently opened to allow traffic back and forth until the main road can be prepared.  Automated traffic signals control flow, 2 ½ minutes in one direction, then the same in the opposite direction.  The lineup to leave is very long which allows plenty of time to look around.

Allen Bill Pond is gone.  The popular recreation area was wiped out in 2005, and then restored, but this 2013 event appears even more devastating.  What was once a small and beautiful recreational pond, similar to Forget-Me-Not Pond, is a field of rock with streams running through it.  Allen Bill Pond was rebuilt following the 2005 flood.  It is also the trail-head for the Fullerton Loop hike which now leaves from the Ranger Station across Hwy 66

Eventually, it is our turn to complete the detour for the return to Bragg Creek and Calgary.  This has been an interesting and relaxing day.

 

Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The remains of Allen Bill Pond in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The detour past the bridge collapse over Elbow River at Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Alternating one-way traffic on the temporary bridge over the Elbow River near Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Detour at Allen Bill Pond, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Photographs for this post were taken on June 19, 2005,  May 12, 2008 and August 25, 2013.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

We visited Elbow Falls today, our previous visit was April 2011, so sad to see the destruction caused by 2013 flood. Enjoyed your photos of past and present. Will definitely visit the Falls when we return again, hopefully the area will be returned to something like it's former glory. Di and Bob, Australia

Thanks for your comment and kind words, Laurel. The Kananaskis Country maintenance crews and volunteer groups will be busy for the next few years. Many trails will never be the same. They will be different and equally spectacular.

Thanks for your comment Boomergirl. I believe the answer is 'no'. In the 2005 flood, the water was running very high above rocks which are normally accessible. The rock in the closeups is behind and beneath the rock shown in the broader view as I recall. I was not paying too much attention to that kind of detail.

No argument, Mike. That first, post flooding encounter is a bit of a shock. It will take awhile but I am confident the Allen Bill Pond and Elbow Falls Day Use areas will be restored, perhaps to something different, but equally spectacular, so those popular picnic and strolling missions can be continued. Thank you for your comment, Mike.

Some fabulous pics, Barry. I scrolled through 2-3 times to see how much the Elbow has changed in a pretty short amount of time. When you shot 2005 flood pix, the close ups- is the rock on the left the top of the rock on left in previous pix?

Really interesting before and after photos. I had no idea that Allen Bill Pond was completely wiped out. Terrific photos!

Thanks Barry for this post and all your posts. When my wife and I went out to Elbow Falls and Allen Bill in September we were heartbroken. So many years of memories with our children. It was also a great place to take people from out of town to show them the beauty without having to make it too strenuous on them. I cannot argue with nature but I can say it was heart breaking. Thanks for the post, Barry.

The power of the water is difficult to imagine. When I was taking the 2005 photos directly over Elbow Falls I was wearing a harness and had myself securely roped to the railings above me. The power of the water rotating and frothing underneath me will be forever memorable. It was an exciting experience. Ariel photos show Elbow River actually created a new route. Thousands of trees were uprooted and sent downstream. Bridges in their path were badly damaged or completely destroyed. On your next picnic, you and your husband will be able to enjoy a walk on the wide swath of rocks which were deposited as new channels were created. Same place - whole new experience. Thanks for your comment, Sheryl.

Thank you for your comment, Helen. 2013 was a year of extremes that seems to be carrying over into the winter months. Never a dull moment. It does make for some interesting experiences. I will be doing more hiking in Kananaskis Country in 2014 as trails are repaired and reopened. Many hikes will never be the same again and it may be several years before some are completely accessible but I am looking forward to discovering the dramatic changes along water courses.

My hubby and I went out to Elbow Falls one evening a couple of weeks before the flood and had a wonderful picnic - we hadn't been out there in years. Incredible to see how the water carved new channels and altered the height of the falls.

Great to see Nature's changing moods. So peaceful, then so dramatic and dangerous.

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