March 2nd, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Flow of the Crow – Part Deux
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo Crowsnest Museum
Enhanced topographic map with creeks numbered and municipal boundary in orange
So let’s continue on in this multi-column series on the significant drainages throughout the Pass by studying Allison, McGillivray, Bohomolec and Nez Perce Creeks. The map photo showing at the top of the page has the courses of each creek highlighted in blue and labelled with numbers for those not familiar with their location. The orange east-west line is the municipal boundary.

First up is Allison Creek (#1) who drainage covers a huge area and whose main body runs south for 14 kilometers with no less than 15 ephemeral (seasonal) first and second order streams connecting to it. A large west branch carries waters from two streams starting at the north side of Mount Tecumseh and a third starts part way up the old Deadman Pass trail.

The impact of our presence in this watershed has been going on for a long time and the early historic evidence of this has a couple of fascinating facts. By 1902 the Peter McLaren mill in Blairmore was fully operational and from May to October each year it was fed logs down the Crowsnest River from bush camps up Star Creek, North York Creek and from the expansive slopes above Allison Creek. In order to move timber out of the Allison area a six mile long flume was constructed back then along with a substantial dam to feed it. There are still remains of this dam about a kilometer upstream from where Chinook Lake waters bleed into Allison Creek.

The flume had a wooden plank walkway that ran alongside it with telephone stations (probably hand crank) that were manned. The men stationed at these phones monitored the log flows and should a crack-up (jam) occur in the flume they would contact the bush camp to shut down its feed until it was cleared. Riding logs on this flume was apparently a favourite pastime of my father as a kid. He would hike to the dam and ride all the way down to what was known as Camp 4 close to the Crowsnest River. What I wouldn’t give to have been around to take that ride!

Bohomolec Creek (#4) is immediately east of Allison and I was surprised by its northern reach feed-wise. There is 6.8 kilometers of length to it with two first order streams both coming off the south west flank of Crowsnest Mountain. They meet about half way, are joined by a flow from the Coleman Fish and Game Pond, and then carry on under the highway and CPR tracks to join the Crow.

The noted archaeologist Dr. Barney Reeves, whose Lifeways of Canada teams did extensive research in the Pass in the 1970’s, indicated to me that the ridge immediately west of the Bohomolec’s stable near the highway was in fact a bison jump. When the corral posts there were put in back in the 1950’s bison bones were encountered. The east side of this ridge used to be a family favourite site for picking glacier lilies which, it appears, have been unfortunately extirpated by our uninformed harvesting. I was gob smacked when I realized that as a child I had unknowingly been walking on the buried remains of a K’tunaxa (Kutenai Indian) bison kill site. I will have more to share about other such sites in my next column.
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As an aside it is nice to note that in 2009 an agreement was reached with the then Bohomolec Ranch property owners and the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect this 160 acre property, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy this important place intact. The previous owners managed to resist attempts by mining investors, wind farm developers and others to use the land and the provincial government almost expropriated the land in the 1980’s for a rock quarry. Ugh....

McGillivray Creek (#2) and Nez Perce Creek (#3) further to the east run more or less parallel to each other with McGillivray running about 13 kilometers and Nez Perce about 10 kilometers south to the Crow.

McGillivray’s west arm starts at the base of the Seven Sisters and merges with its north arm at Ma Butte. There are some spectacular canyon areas in the lower reaches of McGillivray and of course a beautiful waterfall about a half kilometer upstream from Highway 3. This fall, a few hundred yards above these falls, I found the remains of what was at one time a large water pump. Remarkably the stone-walled enclosure of this pump sits right on the edge of the creek but what is even more amazing is what the pump did. It is directly west of the old McGillivray mine site buildings that were torn down long ago. Water from McGillivray Creek was pumped up out of that deep gorge and east about a kilometer to the mine site for its wash house and water supply. Why they did this when the mine site was literally perched right about Nez Perce Creek is a good question. I suspect given that Nez Perce Creek was the town of Coleman’s water source at the time probably meant they were restricted from using it.
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Both McGillivray and Nez Perce had dams on them at one time for industrial and municipal reasons. Both have been day lighted but the evidence of the McGillivray dam is clearly visible above those aforementioned falls. I recall taking a ride on large blocks of floating ice on the Nez Perce dam as a kid, probably not a smart thing to do but kids are kids. I also recall an interesting story of my father’s about this creek. It seems that the old McGillivray Mine that starts near Highway 3 runs, astonishing, under both McGillivray and Nez Perce Creeks. Mining maps reaffirmed this for me but when my father was Town Foreman of Coleman (1955-59) he realized that some Nez Perce Creek waters were being lost through subsidence cracks into McGillivray Mine and subsequently were contributing to the flow out of the old McGillivray entry. Being a mine surveyor also he knew exactly where the mine had taken too much support coal and cracked the “creek barrier”. He challenged the then town council to allow him to culvert past this obscured subsidence point to keep water levels up in the dam but they were not interested.

Another fascinating story about Nez Perce Creek. Some years ago a rather spiritual and likeable fellow named Peter took it upon himself to make a part of this creek a contemplative sanctuary. He spent several years hiking up to a secluded area above the old dam where, alongside and over the creek, he created stone benches, small bridges, stacked stones of all manner and other curious wooden structures. Those visiting the site referred to it as Peter’s Inukshuk and up until the 2013 flood it was a popular spot to hike to, explore and even meditate at. I haven’t had the heart to go back there and see what survived that catastrophic flooding event.

My next column will move south to York, Star, Lyons, Pelletier and Blairmore Creeks. Once all drainages are historically covered I am hoping to backtrack and do a column or two that looks at their issues and engages some of the more informed stream watchers and users in some useful dialogue about the state of these streams and what needs to be done to protect them.

Tracing the Flow of the Crow:  Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4
March 2nd ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
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