April 13th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 15
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Part Five – East Crowsnest Pass Drainages
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear photo
Enhanced topographic map showing number coded drainages and letter coded coal mines.
So turning once again to how does the flow go to the Crow, let’s wrap this water course course up with a look at some of the creeks on the east edge of the municipal boundary. The two significant ones size-wise are, of course, Drum and Byron Creek, numbered 1 and 2 on the map, both of which feed Crowsnest River from the south.

Drum’s north fork drainage actually starts on the west side of Turtle Mountain and its two smaller southern forks begin on the west side of Hillcrest Mountain. Drum flows between Turtle and Hillcrest Mountain through a gap and on through the town of Hillcrest, then parallels the Crow for a while. When one views this gap from on high in Google or from the ridge above North Bellevue there is a piece of geology observed that explains the Turtle Mountain anticlinal failure theory. You can clearly see, as the Google photo shows, the slightly overturned anticline in the north face of Hillcrest Mountain. One can then imagine this on Turtle, the limestone layers of rock literally hanging there. Now imagine taking a ten foot thick vertical coal seam away from it at the toe of the mountain!

Eventually the smaller flow of Falls Creek joins Drum just before it merges with the Crow. I was there in 2013 when Drum turned into a wild rogue, damaging bridges, undermining buildings and eroding the hell out of its banks through town. It was remarkable to observe workers fighting to keep buildings in the park from being completely undermined. When you study this little creeks upper reaches and imagine the rainfall that flowed out of it you come to understand how it achieved such power.

South and east of Drum, the Byron Creek flows emerge from the east side of what is known as Hastings Ridge and the west side of Byron Hill. Multiple branches combine ultimately to then join with the Crow at what is called the East Hillcrest Bridge. I was there that morning in June 2013 when Byron also burst out of the mountains and at its north end assumed the path of least resistance, jumping out of its course and running down the edge of the road into the Crow. I personally went from one end of the Pass to the other that day and was witness to the incredible power of water in volume. It is something I will never forget. Some serious government flood hazard identification studies have followed up on the aftermath of events like 2013.
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To the north of the Crowsnest River on the east side of the Pass there is a smaller unnamed drainage that moves through the town of Bellevue, another down the east side of Bellevue Ridge and a third that starts below Robertson and Tallon Peaks. The first flow makes it to North Bellevue (Dairy Road) and then disappears only to re-emerge at the outflow pipe of the Bellevue Underground Mine. No surprise there, the mine underlay’s almost all of Bellevue north of Main Street.

The second stream that moves down the west side of Bellevue Ridge also disappears but its waters eventually make it into the Crow. Google Earth shows a couple of interesting private ponds on the very east side of Maple Leaf that are probably connected to this flow. It is highly likely that this stream has found its way into the old Mohawk Mine workings. The last stream of these three has two forks and sweeps down from the west side of Tallon Peak, east of the Passburg Cemetery and through the old Leitch Collieries site, under the highway and into the Crow. Tallon was apparently named after L. Tallon an assistant to a prominent land surveyor William S. Drewry who conducted surveys in the Rocky Mountains in 1888 and 1892.

You will note on the map sketch I have highlighted in pink and capital lettered the existing underground mines in this eastern area. The pink areas show the approximate underground extent of each mine to its closing. This information is available on-line from the Energy Resources Conservation Board which has a map reader that one can zoom into for fine detail of every single coal mine in Alberta. The mines are lettered clockwise and are (A)- Bellevue Underground Mine 1903-1961, (B) Mohawk Mine 1907-1952, (C)-Leitch Collieries 1909-1915, (D) South Passburg/Byron Creek Collieries -1907-1915 & 1927-1934, (E) Hillcrest Collieries 1905-1939 and finally Franco Canadian Collieries (Frank Mine) 1900- 1918. Every single water course mentioned passes over at some point a part of one of these mines. Bellevue Mines workings even made it underneath Gold Creek but you will note by the star on the map that it DID NOT go underneath the Interpretive Centre.
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Bellevue Mine also passes under that hidden gem that Aggie Mitchell has so aptly captured in her reflection photo, that being Connelly Lake in autumn. Connelly is named after Robert and James Connelly who were among the first settlers in the Pass. Robert and William Evans, who ran a livery, horse drawn drays, lorries and taxi service out of Bellevue, hauled cut ice from Connelly Lake for the hospital and meat markets some years later.

Turning one last time to the Crowsnest River in this area I see that Frank Lake is rapidly becoming nothing more than a wider portion of the river. Silt from the aftermath of years of industrial impacts on the Lyon Creek basin, exacerbated further by the 2003 fire, have changed a fine fishing lake into a shallow weed infested pond. I recall years ago stopping there and watching a group of ten mergansers working the lake in tandem. They dove one at a time in rapid sequence and bobbed to the surface in the same sequence. It was evident they were working together, perhaps corralling fish like whales do. Incidentally, Ian McKenzie has informed me that the name Lyons is incorrect and that in the Blairmore Enterprise in 1908 it is called Lyon and also in that 1913 forestry map I have been using to study original courses of the Crow. Colonel Henry Lyon was Blairmore’s first mayor and served with the 192nd in World War One. According to McKenzie, Lyon may have been one of Blairmore’s first inhabitants along with Felix Montalbetti, serving as a station master when it was called Tenth Siding or the Springs in 1897.

Further down below River Bottom that forestry map shows the Crow swept further east up against the sandstones running south from the Bellevue Mine. Today it takes an abrupt right turn just past the sewage ponds indicating once again a deliberate manmade change in course. This was probably done to open up land for the Bellevue Mine buildings now long gone and to protect the CPR tracks. If you check my Pass Herald archives on line you will find a June 10th, 2015 article called Il Bosc-Stories from East Bushtown that has an old map clearly showing this original course.

As so the combined waters of the Crow’s drainages moves on out of our municipal boundary where it continues to gathers waters from dozens of smaller creeks and joins rivers like the Castle and the Oldman before being trapped in yet another giant silt pond we call the Oldman River Dam. It will take some time to step back on these five stories so that I can eventually share thoughts and concerns of both myself and other stream watchers and users. Until then come to know your watersheds, understand their significance and when ever and where ever you can, help Protect the Flow of the Crow.
April 13th ~ Vol. 85 No. 15
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