Glenmore Dam Saves City

June 5, 1932

Glenmore Dam during the flood.
Glenbow Library and Archives NA-2063-3

The Glenmore Reservoir and Dam contained the worst of the Elbow River’s flooding, reducing the impact on the citizens downstream.

Homes were threatened, though, and families had to evacuate both in the north and south sides of the city. Despite most of the city's infrastructure remaining intact some roads along the Bow, most notably the government road which accessed the Keith Sanatorium, were washed out.

Spray cascaded 30 feet in the air when floodwaters of the Elbow spilled through the new Glenmore Dam Thursday morning. Storage of millions of gallons of water in the new reservoir prevented a serious flood condition on the Elbow. Calgary Daily Herald, June 2, 1932


The Glenmore Dam had been built in the depth of the Depression using relief labour and local contractors. It was nearly complete when the high water hit. The population, which had reached over 80,000 souls, looked to the dam to save them from the rising rivers.


The Fire department rescued a number of people who were stranded by the flood. The water filtration plant on Williams Island was abandoned, and repairs were made to the gravity system so it would remain operational until the Glenmore Waterworks Complex was up and running in January 1933.


Residential flooding took place along the Elbow and Bow Rivers including Elbow Park, Victoria Park, Sunshine Auto Camp, Sunnyside and Hillhurst.

The city auto camp on MacLeod Trail became an island for several days when the water rose to six feet on the south side of the camp and 12 feet on the west. The last car fought its way through two feet of water at midnight, the engine stalling just as the car got clear of the flood. Two of the occupants were carried across the water by the Fire Department's lifeboat after an S.O.S. was sent out from the camp. The campground was populated by eight families, and boats were brought in from Bowness to move provisions into the camp, and to take people out if they wished to continue on their journey. This summer adventure likely gave young campers an interesting story to report when they returned home. (No mention is made of whether camping fees were refunded.)

Bowness Park was flooded causing damage to the dance hall and other structures. On St. George's Island, the flood damaged the Zoo’s flower beds and lawns which were torn up and covered with silt. Because there was advance warning of the impending flood, all of the animals were kept safe, although animal pens and shelters were damaged.

1932 bowness park Bowness Park. (Credit: Calgary Herald June 3, 1932)

The gravity pipeline and filtration plant on Williams Island was damaged, creating a serious water shortage.


The St. George's Island Zoo and Park were both open to the public soon after the flood. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede took place during the week of July 11 to 16, without incident.


The impact of the flood was mitigated by the Glenmore Dam which provided an empty reservoir to capture the flood surge.

No major floods occurred between 1932 and 2005 giving many Calgarians the sense that the Glenmore Dam had provided flood protection for Calgary. This was only partially the case, as it would endanger Calgary's water supply if the Dam could not be entirely emptied in anticipation of a flood or if the flood failed to materialize.



At peak, the flow on the Bow River above its confluence with the Elbow was 1520 cubic metres per second.