Alberta Campground Damages are 'Immense'
Calgarians looking to pack up the tent or put on the backpack to get away from it all this long weekend could have limited options after the flooding wiped out entire campgrounds, eroded trails and left highways impassable, the Calgary Herald reported.
On Monday afternoon (June 24) , there were still 23 communities under a state of local emergency after the worst flooding in Alberta’s history.
The flooding, which started Thursday and left a path of destruction, also caused major damage in the parks and forever altered the backcountry in the Rocky Mountains.
“The damage is immense,” said Glenn Naylor, district conservation officer in Kananaskis Country. “It’s a mess.”
Highway 40 leading into Kananaskis is closed due to the flooding, requiring officials to help 1,500 people who had been stranded in the area.
With the rescue operations complete, officials took a helicopter tour of the recreation area Monday to assess the damage to its campgrounds, trails and take a look at the backcountry.
In Kananaskis, Naylor said, officials should be able to open some of the front campgrounds in time for the July long weekend, but the backcountry will remain closed until further notice.
“We don’t even know if the campgrounds are there in some cases,” he said, noting trails and bridges are also washed out. “The backcountry will require over time a lot of work — bridge building and trail work to get the trails back.”
A water expert who does research out of Marmot Creek in Kananaskis Country said it’s “utter destruction” in the area.
“You can’t even tell where the roads and trails were,” said John Pomeroy, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who studies mountain hydrology. “If that’s typical of what’s around elsewhere, and I don’t know for sure, then the backcountry is going to be really different and initially very unsafe.
“There’s a lot of landslides, a lot of slips … and I have never seen quicksand in the Rockies.”
Pomeroy said the conditions were created by huge amounts of rain combined with snow melting from high in the mountains.
“Water has a lot of force as it runs downhill,” he said. “It can move boulders, and it does.”
Much of that debris came down into Cougar Creek in Canmore and destroyed the highway, which is preventing direct access to Banff National Park from Calgary.
Damage is also being recorded in many campgrounds along flooded areas in southern Alberta.
Officials in Banff National Park haven’t had a chance to survey the backcountry because crews are still working to open the TransCanada Highway, which washed out near its east gate.
“Our main focus is the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s Canada’s No. 1 transportation corridor,” said Michelle Macullo, spokeswoman for Parks Canada. “We’ve had crews out all night and they are still there.
“They are working really hard so we can re-establish some sort of traffic flow so there is a way to come in and go out for the long weekend.”
There’s no timeline on the major highway’s reopening.
Macullo said the damage is extensive throughout the park.
“There are some other roads we’ll have to look at,” she said, noting the Minnewanka Road and Highway 1A are all still closed. “Every effort is being made so folks can come in for the long weekend.”
Visitors can access Banff National Park by Highway 93S and Highway 93N to get to any of its campgrounds — including Tunnel Mountain, which is open.
Others are expected to open by the weekend.
“We are trying our best to have all campgrounds open,” said Kara Sherrard, Parks Canada’s manager of visitor experience with Banff National Park. “We’re testing water in some of them, but other than that I haven’t heard of any damage.
“Part of it will depend on the Minnewanka Road, which is closed.”
The road to Sunshine Village and its parking lot also sustained some damage, meaning it won’t be open to hiking until at least mid-July.
Farther afield, campgrounds in Lake Louise are open, as are those in Yoho and Kootenay national parks.