BOW VALLEY - Rivers are running high and fast.
Alberta Environment has a high streamflow advisory for the Bow River from its headwaters in Banff National Park to upstream of Ghost Lake reservoir, and for the Pipestone River in Lake Louise.
With water levels above average, with recent rain and snowmelt at higher elevations, public safety officials urge paddlers to be careful, including a section of the Bow River throughout Bow Valley Provincial Park where there is a significant log jam.
“Don’t paddle in these areas unless you are very skilled and knowledgeable,” according a Facebook post from Kananaskis Public Safety.
“When something goes wrong in the river, it goes wrong fast and often with consequences.”
Last weekend, Kananaskis rescue crews responded to call for a kayaker who flipped on the Bow River, with an outcome that rescuers described as “very lucky.”
In the past, Cougar Creek and Grotto Canyon near Canmore are two places where rescuers have had to help stranded hikers as water levels quickly rise.
“Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to cross a raging creek,” they said. “Consequences add up quick once you're in moving water, especially with a backpack.
According to Alberta Environment, most of the province, with the exception of the southeast corner, has received between five to 20 mm of rain since Saturday (May 30). Areas along the southern portion of the eastern slopes saw up to 50 mm of precipitation Saturday-Sunday.
As of Thursday (June 4), a high streamflow advisory remains in effect for the Bow River.
According to Alberta Environment, water levels rose by 0.7 metres on the mainstem of the Bow River upstream of Banff, but are currently falling.
A high streamflow advisory is also in effect for the Pipestone River near Lake Louise after snowmelt on top of the thunderstorm activities last weekend increased flow rates.
The Pipestone has risen by 0.4 metres since Saturday (May 30), but Alberta Environment indicates water levels are falling now.
“Water from the river flowed into nearby low-lying areas, but there currently no widespread flooding concerns,” states the website.
“Below normal temperatures are forecast for the next few days, which is expected to slow down the snow melting.”
Parks Canada continues to monitor water levels on the Pipestone and Bow River. They are also keeping a close eye on the Kicking Horse River in Yoho National Park, which runs through Field.
“Water levels have begun to drop,” said Lesley Matheson, a spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.
Matheson said there is currently no risk to the communities of Lake Louise and Field.
“Minimal localized flooding has occurred near the Lake Louise visitor centre and affected areas have been closed,” she said, referring to picnic benches that get flooded every year.
“A Parks Canada incident management team will continue to monitor water levels throughout the spring.”
In Banff, Parks Canada closed the Fenland trail and surrounding area on Monday (June 1) when the trail flooded.
On the same day, the Town of Banff closed the canoe docks and a small section of the pathway on the north side of the river.
“We never had to close more than a 10-metre section,” said Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s director of communications.
When the Bow River’s flow reaches 200 cubic-metres per second, the Town of Banff issues safety messages, while at 230 cubic-metres per second, Darrah said the municipality will close parts or all the trail,” said Darrah.
“At 300 m-cubed/sec, we close the lower Bow Falls viewing platform and start deploying dams near housing in a couple key areas,” he said, noting that has not had to occur yet this spring.
Downstream in Canmore, municipal officials are keeping a close eye on water levels.
Earlier this week, Cougar Creek was flowing to the Bow River, but did quiet down.
“Groundwater level is expected to rise rapidly with the recent precipitation and the rise of the Bow River,” said Robyn Dinnadge, the Town of Canmore’s manager of communications.
Go to https://rivers.alberta.ca/ for up to date information on river flows, or download the Alberta Rivers app.