Frank Slide on PH 3 Crowsnest Highway
July 10, 2007.
We are staying in the campground at The Great Canadian Barn Dance in Hillspring, Alberta. The campground is a PPA park $12.50 weekdays with no discount on weekends thus $25 for 30-amps and water. We located this place 6-years ago and had a good time at the Barn Dance, this time we decided to stay at their campground. These are great people. If you are looking for the Great Canadian Barn Dance and Campground it is located at: N49° 20.635' W113° 36.972' for those of you not into GPS drive 14-miles south of Pincher Creek on PH 6, then turn east on PR 505 and go another 14-mles where you will see the signs for the Great Canadian Barn Dance. Turn north on that road the Great Canadian Barn Dance will be less than 3-miles up that road on the west side.
For those of you that are not familiar with PPA (Pass Port America) it is an organization you can join for less than $50 per-year. Campgrounds that belong to PPA offer 1/2 price discounts. That kind of savings can quickly add up. While participating PPA parks generally have some restrictions on dates the PPA offer is valid, or possibly days of the week the discount is valid, or perhaps the number of days that the PPA discount will be honored the discount is genuine. Many times PPA campgrounds are new campgrounds that need help in getting established. Other times PPA campgrounds may be on the outskirts of town instead of in the "prime" location thus they need to provide an incentive for campers to stay with them. Whatever the reason PPA campgrounds generally provide a much cheaper option. PPA is the only campground organization that I think is worth the cost. PPA does not have a gimic. What you see is what you get. Once you join they send you a directory listing all participating campgrounds. The PPA directory is the FIRST directory we check when trying to locate a place to spend the night. You can join PPA by calling 228-452-9972. If you decide to join PPA, it would be nice if you gave them my number "R-0156251" as the PPA member that told you about PPA. In return PPA will give me a $10 credit toward next years membership fee. I will thank you in advance for that kindness. Thank you.
Driving west on PH 3 about 15-miles west of Pincher Creek Turtle Mountain comes into view with this awesome landslide scar clearly visible for miles and miles away.
While this landslide clearly looks awesome from where we are we are only able to see possibly 1/2 of the area covered by the slide. This scene just prepares visitors for what they are about to view.
As we get closer to the slide on the eastern side we turn off PH 3 and take a "scenic" drive cut through the slide rubble not far above the river. At this time we have yet to realize the true magnitude of this slide. At this time we also do not realize that the slide covered the river and that a path had to be cut allowing the river to flow or the dam that it created would flood cities upstream and cause a potential hazard to communities downstream when the dam gave way. So the green area you see now is the river. At this time we did not realize that a path had been cleared of debris so the river could once again flow freely. The slide covered the river with debris for what I would say is a mile or more so the job of clearing rubble was a major one.
Remnant of the old mining town of Frank
While driving through the "scenic road" (cut through the rubble) we came upon this structure that survived the slide. It was one of the few things in the mining town of Frank to survive. It looks like it might have been the mine entrance but I am not sure. I am sure that any good story about the Frank Slide would identify this structure.
It is impossible to comprehend how this one swath survived when the falling slide rocks parted as they made their way past this structure. I guess some things are not to be known. This structure sits mid-way through a mile wide fan of rocks that came tumbling down off the mountain above and went flying by only to stop possibly a mile up the hill on the other side of the valley.
Here again you can see the river where rubble was cleared to allow it to flow again.
Frank Slide Monument
This is a small monument to those who lost their lives in Frank Slide.
This is a closer look at Turtle Mountain one of the Front Range Mountains in this area. Note that it is a "classic" Front Range Mountain with highly tilted bands of grey colored sedimentary rocks made up of limestones, slates and sandstone.
The part that broke off and fell creating the Frank Slide was an enormous portion of the top of that mountain.
This picture is taken from high on the north side of the slide looking to the east. Turtle Mountain is on the right and across the river from where this picture is taken. In otherwords at this point the slide has crossed the river and is climbing up the other side. What isn't captured in this picture is where the rocks ended up. At this point I would estimate that we are at least 1/2 mile from the river and several hundred feet in elevation above the river.
Frank Slide debris field
Now, this picture gives a better perspective of the enormity of Frank Slide. I took this picture from the Frank Slide Interpretive Center 1/2 mile up the mountain on the opposite side of the valley and you can clearly see that the slide went flying past this spot. Between where we are and Turtle Mountain on the other side lie the river and PH 3. The rock slide through those areas had to be cleared to make room for both of these to pass through.
The (CPR) Canadian Pacific Railway snakes along the Crowsnest River valley. This important transportation route was completed through Crowsnest Pass in 1898. Mines were soon opened near the railway. Bituminous coal, (soft coal) which is still abundant here, was good for fuel for steam production and the mines vied with each other for contracts to supply the railway. The leftover coal known as "slack", which was too small for any other use, was used to make "coke", a nearly pure carbon fuel produced by heating coal to remove impurities. Crowsnest Pass was close to markets for the coke, such as the smelters at Trail, British Columbia and in the northwestern United States which refined metal from ore.
Frank Slide debris field
From this viewpoint on the opposite side of the valley it is much easier to see how the debris pile fanned out when it started up the opposite side.
We are as much as possibly a mile from the center of the slide at this point. Where the slide crossed the river it may be a mile wide.
From this vantage point it is difficult if not impossible to imagine that anything in the path of these rocks could have survived yet the rocks did part to go around that building in the earlier picture. By the way that building is down near the river near the center of this picture.
Debris field from Frank Slide
On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 am, 90 million tons of limestone crashed down from the summit of Turtle Mountain, burying part of the town of Frank. The rockslide-avalance devastated 1.2 square miles of the valley in less than 100 seconds. An estimated 70 people were killed.
This picture was taken looking east from the Frank Slide Interpretive Center high on the opposite side of the Valley from where these rocks came from. From this view point we are looking at the furthest reaches of the rock slide. The slide had fanned out at this point.
When the landslide took place most of the almost 600 residents of the coal mining town of Frank were asleep. At the coal mine, the night shift was down in the mine, and a few men were working on the surface in the mine buildings.
Debris field from Frank Slide
This is just another view looking down the valley and across the debris field. A huge wedge of limestone almost a mile wide, at the crest of Turtle Mountain broke off. It smashed apart as it slid downwards, breaking into boulders that rolled and bounced down the side of the mountain, and spread across the valley.
In about 90-seconds, homes, buildings and lives were destroyed. Rocks covered part of Frank, closed the entrance to the mine, and swept away the mine buildings and those working in them. Miners trapped underground managed to tunnel their way to the surface. The slide had also buried a construction camp, livery stables, tents, a store, and some ranch buildings. 70 people are known to have died.
The sound of the slide was heard miles away, and clouds of limestone dust hung over the Pass for quite a while.
Since that day the slide has remained an imposing presence that will always be with residents of the area.
Frank Slide debris beside PH 3 Crowsnest highway
This picture was taken from PH 3 (Crowsnest Highway) to show how much of the slide debris had to be removed in order to construct the highway through the slide debris field.
Debris removed from the highway
Like I have stated, the slide covered at least a mile of the valley when it crossed over this area. One can only imagine the immense job it must have been to clear the rubble in order to construct this highway.
Frank Slide rubble on the side of PH 3
This picture is again taken from PH 3 but it is looking back toward Turtle Mountain where the rocks came from.
Frank Slide debris beside Crowsnest highway PH 3
Frank Slide debris on both sides of PH 3
This picture was taken from PH 3 somewhere inside the debris field looking east.
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