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A City on Two Rivers

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 610

Elbow River in Flood, 25th Avenue W Bridge, 1923

Postcards from the Past, PC 610

I don’t want to bring this up, really, but flood season will soon be upon us. Since the founding of the city, where the Bow River meets the Elbow, flooding has been a reality for Calgarians. The first major flood occurred in 1884 but caused little damage because of the limited population and structures in the settlement. But floods occurred regularly and in both winter (usually caused by ice jams) and summer. Many of us, over many generations, have been the victims of Mother Nature. A flood in 1923 washed out the gas line near High River that supplied Calgary with gas. The Albertan of June 2 said: “Ham and eggs were at a premium in local restaurants last night. There was no gas to cook them.” Water flooded the basement of the city power house and there was no power to the city. The flood was caused by a heavy rainstorm in the mountains. The Elbow was yet to be controlled by the Glenmore Dam, which wasn’t built until 1931, and rose nearly five feet. The Bow also rose to within inches of the high water mark of the 1915 flood.

What is really interesting in all of this is that there are postcards showing the rivers in full flood. Most of the postcards in our collection were created to show off the city to friends and relatives back home. We often joke that very few postcards show Calgary in the winter. But there is a series of postcards showing bridges and homes threatened by the floods of the city’s two rivers. The two I’ve used to illustrate this entry are from the flood of 1923. Is this akin to the t-shirts we wore bragging that we survived the blizzard of 1999?

PC 613

Flooded Residential Street in Calgary, 1928?

Postcards from the Past, PC 613

To find out more about the city and its relationship with the rivers that run through it you can check out the chapter on floods in Calgary: Spirit of the West by Hugh Dempsey (971.2338 DEM) or our newspaper clippings file (there are actually 3 files) called “Floods – Calgary” in the Community Heritage and Family History room. You can also search our library catalogue for books and other items about the two rivers that make our lives here wonderful and difficult. And, as always, if you’d like to see more pictures of floods in Calgary and Southern Alberta, just search our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link on the left) with the term ‘flood’.

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