Flood damage hasn't kept people away
Kananaskis: Campers and day goers enjoy nature amidst ruins
By: Jenica Foster
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 12:58 pm
People are springing back to their favourite parks in the foothills after many were damaged in the flood that hit Southern Alberta almost two months ago. Fast flowing water may have torn up trails and campgrounds across Kananaskis, many people were still enjoying the peace and quiet nature lent on Saturday.
Okotokisn Patty Milz’s family was worried flooding may have ruined their plans to attend a family reunion along the Sheep River at Sandy McNabb Campground. They were reassured when the campground opened again after the flood, although the day-use area still remains closed.
“The devastation is unbelievable,” Milz said. “We mostly camp four weeks out of the summer, but this year decided to stay home mainly because of bad weather.”
After walking closer to the river, the couple saw fire pits washed away and silt covering picnic tables. Gravel littered the road and roots jutted out where part of the pavement was completely gone.
“I don’t know how they will ever bounce back from this, if they ever do,” Patty said.
Popular parks and trails along southern Alberta’s foothills are starting to reopen for campers, hikers and weekend warriors.
Fiona Wiseman, Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation spokesperson, said 71 per cent of Kananaskis campgrounds and 77 per cent of summer trails have reopened. Parts of Kananaskis started to reopen June 26 with the help of over 600 volunteers. Areas that are still closed include parts of Elbow Valley, Highwood, Sheep Falls and more. Most of these areas are closed due to major site damage or highway access issues.
On August 2 Alberta Parks posted on their website that Highway 40 between the north winter gate near Kananaskis lake trail and the south winter gate near the junction of Highway 541 is closed to all traffic including vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The website also said Etherington Creek provincial recreation area will be closed indefinitely because of flood damage and the impassable forestry trunk road.
The flood destroyed 17,000 square metres of land in Elbow Falls and ruined the Peter Lougheed visitor information centre. Wiseman said there is no way of knowing when closed areas will reopen.
Glenn Naylor, conservation officer with Alberta Parks, said most of the damage was caused by water rapidly rolling off the Mountains into rivers across Kananaskis.
“Every single waterbed became a large torrent of water, even creek beds that are normally dry every year,” he said.
The rushing water eroded banks and roads leaving a trail of debris. Even trees were mangled and uprooted, Naylor said. Along with a team of volunteers, Naylor said they worked to clear trails and campgrounds.
“My initial thought was, ‘Oh my god this is going to take months,’ but with so many people working together and working long, hard hours we have managed to get up and operating faster than we had initially thought.”
Flooding also affected many of the animals who live amongst the dirt and twigs in Kananaskis. Naylor said the squirrel population has declined after many drowned in their burrows. He said fish may have ended up in pools of water outside of rivers and once they dried up the fish died. Larger animals such as bears and moose were able to tough out the storm, but their food supply may have diminished. Naylor urges hikers to carry bear spray in the case of an emergency.
Hikers must also be careful of changing terrain. He said the trails look completely different than they did before the flood. Soil is loose and banks may be undercut causing hikers to loose their balance. Although many trails are open, Naylor urges people to use caution.
For more information about park closures, visit http://www.albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country.aspx