Flooding In Calgary

1883 – 2013

Calgary is a dynamic city built at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

This website tells the story of how flooding has impacted the city and its citizens over the years, and how the community has always come together to rebuild.

Timeline of Major Flood Events

Calgary Public Library PC_1325

1881 Fort Calgary: Located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, the six-year-old Northwest Mounted Police post was photographed by George Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada.

Ice Jam Destroys Bridge

October 31, 1883

On the afternoon of October 31, 1883, the pedestrian bridge over the Elbow River was carried away amid icy waters. The debris threatened the Canadian Pacific Railway trestle bridge.

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Glenbow Archives NA-1315-10

Washout on railway bridge on Elbow River, Calgary, Alberta.

New Bridge Destroyed

July 15, 1884

The rains began on June 22 and by July 15, the flood waters had destroyed the one bridge that survived the 1883 flood and the bridge built to replace the one lost the year before.

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The City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives CalA 2013-029-005

Man surveying flood damage on the Bow near 2nd St. East.

Col. Walker’s home floats away

June 17—19, 1897

The flood began on June 17 when the Bow River rose rapidly and overflowed its banks around midnight. The flood surge on the Elbow River hit in the early hours of June 19, 1897.

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City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives CalA 2013-029-008

Men in HMS Cupid rowboat on flooded street downstream from the Langevin Bridge.

In Splendid Isolation: Calgary is cut off from North, South, East and West

July 2–5, 1902

The Bow’s rushing waters – comparable to the rapids and whirlpools of Niagara Falls – washed out bridges and cut off railway access to the city. Calgary was left isolated and without electricity.

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Glenbow Library and Archives NA 4355-17

House in Elbow Park on 40th Ave. SW

Centre Street Bridge Collapses

June 28, 1915

Record-breaking rainfall caused the rivers to rise to deadly levels. In addition to wiping out three of Calgary’s bridges (including the original Centre Street bridge) the flood of 1915 claimed several lives, including that of one of the city’s own workers.

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Glenbow Library and Archives NA 2365-26

Crowds and automobiles on Mission Bridge over Elbow River.

Drought ends, floods begin

June 2, 1923

Southern Alberta had faced several years of drought conditions when the rain started falling on June 2.

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Glenbow Library and Archives, NA 1451-39

Calgary Exhibition and Stampede horse barns flooded.

Worst Flood Since ’02

June 3, 1929

From Saturday morning, June 1 to Monday morning, June 2, the Bow River rose from 5.8 feet to over 11 feet. Monday morning the Elbow broke its banks. This would lead to the worst flooding in over 25 years.

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Glenbow Library and Archives NA 2063-3

Glenmore Dam during the flood.

Glenmore Dam Saves City

June 5, 1932

Thanks to the newly-constructed Glenmore Dam much of the flooding was contained. Still, communities close to the rivers were affected and motorists were left stranded.

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Glenbow Library and Archives NA 2864-1181

Dog pound rescue.

Ice Jam Causes Flooding

December 1–6, 1950

The Glenmore Dam could not have prevented the ice jam that started 1950’s winter flood. Rescue workers battled below-freezing temperatures to come to the aid of people (and dogs) stranded by the flood.

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City of Calgary Deerfoot4

Deerfoot Trail becomes a lake.

Calgary grinds to a halt

June 2005

The rivers, at a record high following three large rainstorms, broke their banks triggering a city-wide state of emergency. 1500 people were forced to evacuate while 40,000 homes and countless pathways and bridges sustained significant damage.

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City of Calgary WC3C9185

Flooded residential street.

Calgary’s Most Damaging Flood

June 20, 2013

The costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, the flood of 2013 damaged or destroyed many homes and businesses as well as vital portions of the city’s infrastructure. In the absence of electricity, social media became a powerful tool to disperse information and bring Calgarians together.

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