Elbow Valley Bridge on Hwy 66 and Hwy 758 in the Hamlet of Bragg Creek
Seriously Damaged in the June 2013 Flood

The Impact of the 2013 Flood in Kananaskis

extended temporary bridgebridge builders

Construction of a temporary single lane bridge over the Elbow River on Highway 66

News Update: Thursday, August 1. It's complicated. The engineering and construction of a temporary bridge over a flood ravaged river in itself is a challenge. Then you have to consider environmental impact and the interests of the contractor, Alberta Transport and Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Then you have people like me hoovering around in anticipation of the reopening of the Elbow Valley. Given all that the best estimate for the first crossing of the bridge is Friday, August 2 at 4 PM.

Tuesday, July 30. They are just installing the last road span on the extended temporary bridge. They still have to do some ironwork and make adjustments to the bridge. Then they can finish the access ramps, install railings and the traffic control lights. Alberta Transportation will open the bridge and provide access to the Elbow Valley on Friday just in time for the Heritage Day holiday weekend.

When it reopens there will be long waits as it is a single lane bridge with a long access and egress ramps. There is a lot of excited anticipation among those who regularly recreate in the Elbow Valley. Every time I visit there are people milling about. When we get in, rumour has it that there will be significant damage to some of our favoured places like Elbow Falls. It is possible that Allen Bill Pond will never be restored. This is the third time the dam that forms the pond has been repaired. Maybe there are things mother nature just can't abide.

As of Thur. July 25,Alberta Transport has decided to extend the temporary bridge. They are making progress on the extension. The base of an abutment is visible. They have dredged another channel. The bridge will be extended, adding another span so they can widen the river bed.

The bridge was open on Tuesday, July 23 for one day to allow restricted acces for industry and evacuation.

Alberta Transport and Volker-Stevin and in particular their crew, have done a great job getting this alternate bridge installed in just over a month. Now they can turn their attention to the repair of the permanent bridge. That's why they widened the river bed on the west side, so they can adjust the opposite river bank providing space for them to work on the main bridge. They intend to add another span to the east end of the bridge, extending it over the eroded bank where the huge gap is now.

Many trails are closed

Check the Conservation Officers trail report. They seem to mean it when they say trails are closed. All of the Little Elbow Recreation Area trails are closed. The Trail Report says, "Note that all areas of Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area on the south side of HIghway 66 and east of the driveway to Elbow Falls Day Use Area are closed by Ministerial Order 14/13, issued July 23rd." Also, "We anticipate Hwy 66 opening Aug. 2nd at 4:00 pm and will update this report accordingly once more information becomes available.

Please view the photo gallery at the bottom of the page for more images

 

The video shows the work in progress as they build the temporary span

 

elbow valley bridgeAs much as Bragg Creek is a Gateway to Kananaskis, the bridge that spans the Elbow River near what was Allen Bill Pond on Highway 66 is surely the Gateway to the Elbow Valley. That gate is now closed and you can't drive to Elbow Falls. The valley is located about 1/2-hour west of Calgary Alberta in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. There are hundreds of kilometres of trails accessible from trailheads and recreation areas along the 15 kilometres of roadway from the bridge to the end of the road at the Little Elbow Recreation Area. The valley is reported to be the most popular provincial recreation area in Alberta with about 1/2-million visitors per year. Its main attraction year-round is Elbow Falls, a popular scenic attraction and picnic area. So when the abutment on the bridge got destroyed by a surge of water 5 times larger than the previous "flood of the century" in 2005, the loss of access to a highly valued natural area was felt far and wide. Cyclists, hikers, paddlers, climbers, runners, campers, picnickers and horseback riders all lost access to one of their favoured destinations.

At the peak of the flooding, reported on June 20, the flow rate of water was 560 cubic metres per second. The force of the water swept away shoreline and boulders placed along the bridge abutment. The bridge is located on a slight curve and there is a rock wall forming the shoreline. As the torrent of water and debris pounded into the shoreline and the eastern abutment of the bridge it bent and broke so that the end of the bridge dropped over 1/2-metre. Although the bridge is still standing, it is severely compromised and will require major repairs or a replacement. Alberta Transportation hopes to have that work done before winter, but for now they are installing a temporary bridge. Shell oil company and other energy companies have major operations in the area and they are participating in the reconstruction.

See more photos in the photo gallery below.

 

Alberta Transportation Road Closure Info

Highway 66

Details

  • starting 2013-06-26
Activity Information
  • Highway 66 is closed from Elbow Falls Winter Closure Gate to Elbow River bridge. It's estimated that the bridge will re-open to the travelling public with the use of a single lane temporary bridge which will have some speed and other restrictions imposed early August 2013.The construction of a permanent bridge, subject to safety, environmental, construction and weather issues is planned to be completed in or around late November 2013.

Last Update: Wed. July 31, 2013

This update is available online here: http://511.alberta.ca/ab/en.html

Highway 758: Note New Schedule for reopening is September not November

Details

  • Flooding or Washout
  • road closed starting 2013-06-20

Activity Information

  • Highway 758 road washout near Bragg Creek is closed to through traffic due to flooding. There is no through traffic but the road on both sides of the actual washout is open to traffic. Subject to Safety, Environmental, Construction and Weather issues its planned that this roadway will be re-opened to the travelling public in or around mid September 2013.

Last Update: Thu Aug. 1, 2013

This update is available online here: http://511.alberta.ca/ab/en.html

 

This photo gallery shows the bridge and the reconstruction project.

Images will be added from time-to-time to keep up with the progress in the restoration of the Elbow Valley.

 

Before the flood
Before the flood
The abutment is buried quite deep in the hilside and the shoreline is armoured with crushed rock boulders
  • Before the flood
    The abutment is buried quite deep in the hilside and the shoreline is armoured with crushed rock boulders
  • After the flood
    A massive amount of damage was done by the rain that fell on June 20 to 23, most of it on the first day. Huge amounts of shoreline were flushed downstream. Based on the previous photo it looks like possibly 50 cubic metres of earth disappeared. In the hamlet of Bragg Creek an area of about an acre of land disappeared. You can see that the metal posts are bent. Although the bridge is still standing it cannot be used.
  • Temporary span
    This huge metal girder will be placed on concrete pads and then covered with massive wooden planks. This construction will be used as a single lane temporary bridge to span the Elbow River beside the original bridge.
  • Temporary span begun
    This photo was taken on July 9. Work has begun on the concrete block pads that will form the abutment for the temporary bridge. The pad on the east side of the river is visible, but there is no pad on the west side yet.
  • Progress made
    This photo was taken on July 14, five days after the previous one. Both pads on either side of the river are now in place. It looks like centre has been filled with poured concrete. I wonder how they get the materials and machines across the river?
  • Giant Dumptruck crossing bridge
    This truck is hauling a load of crushed rock boulders (rip-rap) to the western bank and shoulder of the ramp on the temporary bridge. Once a few of these have travelled over the bridge, it will have done all the settling it will ever do and the public will be able to use it with confidence.
  • New temporary bridge
    The new bridge is almost done. The big question is what to do with the old bridge? Add another span to fillin the hole?
    There are adjustments to be made under the new bridge to compensate for settling. The access ramps still need to be finished. Armouring of the embankment is ongoing. A guardrail needs to be installed along the ramp. The traffic control lights need to be installed.
  • New channel excavated on the right
    Not sure what was going on here, but it may be part of the long term solution to redirect the river so there is less of a weak pressure point as the river curves under the bridge. Curves and man-made infrastructure seem to be a recipe for disaster in a flood.
  • First stage complete
    The first span over the Elbow River was opened for one day on July 23 for urgent work on the flood recovery. Another span will be added, extending the bridge to provide a wider river bed. The shovel has just unloaded a set of blocks that will be used to build the second span. The truck is parked where the span will go.
  • Almost done
    In this photo taken July 30, they are just installing the last road span on the extended temporary bridge. They still have to do some ironwork and make adjustments to the bridge. Then they can finish the access ramps, install railings and the traffic control lights. This photo was taken on Tuesday. Alberta Transportation will open the bridge and access to the Elbow Valley on Friday, August 2 - just in time for the Heritage Day holiday weekend.
  • The Volker Stevin crew
    These are a few of the Volker Stevin road construction crew. Other guys were operating the excavating equipment, installing signs, welding and working on a variety of projects.
  • Road Closed
    Highway 66 is closed at the McLean Creek turnoff about 4 kilometres inside Kananaskis Country. On my first visit, on July 9 only the Road Closed barriers were in place. They had also put up signs to prohibit parking near the barriers.
  • Party Time
    While the Powderface and Station Flats trailheads are inaccessible due to the closure of Highway 66, cyclists are using the West Bragg Creek trails. This photo, taken at 8 PM on a Tuesday in July, shows the lot almost full of cars and cars were overflow parked along the road. This may be a common site even once the bridge opens as the new single track trails like Ranger Summit, Boundary Ridge and Long Distance are some of the best designed and built trails in southern Alberta.

 

 

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