Drought ends, floods begin

June 2, 1923

Crowds and automobiles on Mission Bridge over Elbow River.
Glenbow Library and Archives NA-2365-26

The flood arrived on June 2nd and caused considerable damage before starting to recede on June 4th.

We have wanted moisture in this southern part of the province, but Alberta should work on a better average. It is not really necessary to make up in two or three days for three or four years’ drought. Calgary Daily Herald, June 2, 1923

1923 40 Ave SW looking from Elboya Bridge. 40th Ave. SW looking from Elboya Bridge. (Credit: Glenbow Library and Archives PA-1494-57)


Southern Alberta had faced several years of drought conditions when the rain started falling on June 2. Calgary’s population was approximately 70,000.


Under the direction of Chief David Ritchie, the fire and police services led the efforts to rescue people and household effects.


The most significant impact on Calgary's infrastructure was $2,500 worth of damage to the City power plant in Victoria Park. As a result, electricity to homes and the street railway system was cut off. The intake of the gravity waterworks system was damaged similarly to how it had been in 1915. The second reservoir, built after the flood of 1915 had little effect on mitigating the rapid drop in the quality of Calgary's water supply during the height of the flood.

Communities along the Elbow River – particularly Elbow Park – were the most affected by the flood. Mayor G.H. Webster ordered all city trucks to haul boats to this district in order to assist in the rescue effort. Houses in Rideau Park and Roxboro were surrounded by water. Along Riverdale Avenue the Elbow River covered back yards and washed away the wooden sidewalks. Dirt roads, still the norm in some communities, were particularly hard hit.


1923 Residential street in Elbow Park Residential street in Elbow Park. (Credit: Glenbow Library and Archives PA-3419-5)


In a December 7, 1923 report to Council, the City Engineer noted that $28,000 was required to provide river protection against future floods. This expenditure included the rebuilding of the piling along the Bow River between Centre Street and the Hay market. He also requested funds to be allotted to provide greater protection for the power plant in Victoria Park.

City Administration’s flood recovery efforts were hindered by a policy of restraint implemented in 1913 by City Council. On December 12, 1923 the Council rejected a bylaw to provide funds for the proposed post-flood reconstruction program.


Due to the fiscal restraint policy there was very little work done to mitigate the possibility of future flooding.



Flow on the Bow River above its confluence with the Elbow was 841 cubic metres per second.