One of our favourite all-season walks in Canmore is along Three Sisters Creek, starting just upstream of the Three Sisters Parkway, continuing through the unfinished Three Sisters golf course and Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, stopping at what we call “the big falls”. It’s a short walk, but over the past few years we’ve learned where and when to spot Calypso orchids, Lady Slipper orchids, Yellow Mountain Avens and other wildflowers. We know where we’re most likely to spot interesting ice and snow formations during the colder months. We’ve seen elk, white-tailed deer, coyotes and a pine marten. We noted some changes to the creek channel last year, after the June 2012 flood. So we were anxious to see how many changes resulted from the June 2013 flood.
Like most creeks in the Canmore area, water volume in the Three Sisters Creek increased rapidly and significantly after more than 200 mm of rain fell over 36 hours in June. At one point, the swollen creek threatened to wash out the Parkway, which would have cut the third and final roadway connecting Canmore to Calgary and other points east. Hard working operators and equipment saved both lanes of the Parkway. But anyone driving the scenic road will see that repairs and reinforcement are needed before the next high water flow event.
We spent one morning earlier this month creek jumping and rock hopping to observe and photograph other changes along the Three Sisters Creek.
Here are a few before and after photos, starting with the bridge on the Highline Trail,
the “big” waterfall (our usual turnaround spot),
This waterfall on Three Sisters Creek is about 8 meters (25 feet) high. I rested my camera on the end of a fallen log to steady it and used a 2 second delay to ensure it wasn’t jarred when the shutter opened.
and finally the cart bridge on the unfinished golf bridge.
After (from the far end)
We were quite shocked by the changes: wider creek banks, several meters of cart path simply “gone” at the west end of the cart bridge, half the meadow washed away, a water hazard more than half-filled with gravel and other flood debris, and several sprinkler lines exposed where they cross the creek channel.
Flood debris filled more than half of the water hazard on the unfinished golf course
Exposed gravel along the newly widened creek bank
Sod from one green on the unfinished golf course drapes over the new creek bank
One change we noticed is that several sections of the creek channel have been scoured down to bedrock, creating several new cascades downstream of the “big” falls
There are many areas where the path has disappeared, so we did a lot of creek jumping and rock hopping as we made our way upstream
Spruce tree roots desperately cling to rocks along the creek bank
There were a couple of positive signs, though. Although most of the Lady Slipper orchids were washed away in the flood, we did spot one small surviving patch in bloom. And volunteers are already hard at work constructing a replacement bridge for the Highline Trail a little upstream of where the last bridge washed away.
Lady Slipper orchid
New Highline Trail bridge under construction