On June 17, 2013 we made a trip into the Livingstone Mountain Range. Not once in our travels did we anticipate the carnage that was to follow in days to come. That was the week that Mother Nature’s wrath would unleash one of the worst storms in Alberta’s history. The amount of rain that fell combined with the melting snow from the high country created flooding nightmares that will be talked about for years to come. A lot of the areas that we travelled on that day in June are no longer accessible. Bridges and roads were washed out and the saturated instability of the area as a whole makes it unsafe to go there.
Our road trip took us from the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) west on Hwy 532, past the Indian Grave campground. We followed the rutted gravel road upwards to the summit before descending on the other side to what would be our last stop of the day, Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreational Park. We arrived mid-afternoon. The picnic area and camping spots were peaceful; the sound of water in the distance and birds and chipmunks overhead. Wild flowers and fruit plants were growing in abundance and the Old Man Moss hanging from the trees lent itself to the cool aloofness of the area. A damp woodsy smell mingled with the crisp clear smell of the river and welcomed all who stopped to visit this tranquil spot.
River trails gave way to the easily accessible vantage points. A smooth outcrop of rock formed part of the river’s bank, a natural diversion for part of the river water to flow over. It looked like large stepping stone had been placed there intentionally by Mother Nature. Not far down-stream a footbridge crossed this quiet part of the Livingstone River to an island where more trails made their way upstream to the falls. An aggressive side of the waterway that made its way between centuries of rock layers on its way towards the eastern horizon to meet up with the Oldman River.
Two months later we made the trip back to this place we had marked on our radar to visit often. The conversation came to an abrupt halt as we made our way through the parking lot and around to a picnic site in the Livingstone Falls Provincial Park. The trees that were left standing had brush and debris wrapped around their trunks. The walkways and trails had been obliterated completely. Picnic areas and camp sites that were once defined were now patches of bare ground covered with fragments from Mother Nature’s fury.
The footbridge to the river island was no longer, in its place a natural bridge of debris left behind in the wake of this horrific flood. The island where small plants had once called home is now a vision of gravel, rock and toppled trees stripped of their bark and limbs from their trip down steam. The force of the water had eroded the earth leaving trees grasping for any form of dirt or rock to keep them from toppling over; their bare roots dangling over the side of the river bank that once gave them firm footing.
The water that flowed over the smooth rock bank near the camping area had not had its course altered but where the willows and young saplings had once stood along its edge, there is now a pile of ravaged trees. Much of the shallow bank on the other side had disappeared leaving tree roots swinging in the wind. The grass and moss that had been a delicate carpet between the rocks lay flattened or was gone. There were places that the trees had been pruned of their branches five to six feet above the ground. The Old Man Moss that once called the lower branches of the trees home had disappeared along with the branches from where it hung.
Mother Nature’s destruction affected not only cities and towns all over the province of Alberta; she also devastated watersheds of the Livingstone Range. Now, as with many years past, we are on flood watch again as Mother Nature descends upon us.