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April 14, 2010
As part of my volunteer work with Parks, I was down into PLPP and on the north side of Upper Kananaskis Lake today.
First, access notes: Once past the Wedge Pond roadblock, crews are working hard on the road washouts, with the biggest crews (multiple backhoes and dump trucks) working the mess at Grizzly Creek, Ripple Rock Creek and Hood Creek where the pavement was removed in numerous places and hundreds of tons of debris hit the road. It's looking really good, but needs more time. There's also a huge mess spanning from Opal Day Use north to Galatea. Numerous hillsides also slumped and put debris on the road but these have mostly been fixed. South of Hood Creek all the way to the North Interlakes, the roads are fine. Parks staff is escorting people in and out to get vehicles stranded back there (Boulton Trading Post has ~15 RVs and 5 pickup trucks awaiting retrieval).
So, to the trails: Walked the Three Isle Lake trail to past Invincible Creek. The trail's fine until the bridge over Invincible, which is still there, but is under 2' of water, and is now the top of a very pretty waterfall. The creek is still roaring, and was probably 100' wide during the peak of the flood. There's a very dangerous way to cross the torrent on a log jamb. I did it twice and can't really recommend it. Someone else was back there on a bike today. I hope it was a Parks person.
Headed back down the moonscape of the Palliser slide, and went past the Point campground, which looks OK (though we didn't go in). Crossed the Kananaskis on the still-intact-but-listing bridge at Lower Kananaskis Falls (the river still runs under one end, which I hope won't cause it to wash away). The river is still in full flood and has partially eroded the bank with the trail on it. The trail here was under water and shows the effects of that. Wherever it was before, the memorial bench is now stuck in the middle of the river.
The wildlife seems to like the fact that we're not there. On the trail, saw multiple recent bear scat and tracks, recent wolf and coyote scat, recent moose tracks and scat. Saw a moose near the Pocaterra Day Use area.
My time back there today really hammers home that there's parts of the backcountry that are just fine, but the parts that aren't safe are really not safe. I was in a meeting with Parks this past week where they ran through a quick inventory of the damage, and while it's not my place to disclose the discussion in that meeting, it's pretty safe to say that almost all bridges are damaged or gone, and trails in low lying or narrow creek valleys are very badly damaged. Trailheads and parking lots are missing or filled with rock. Creeks are still rivers, and rivers are raging. While some places made it through unscathered, you may not recognize some places when you get there next.
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