The City of Edmonton Archives just launched a new virtual exhibit marking the 100 anniversary of the largest flood in Edmonton’s recorded history. At 6am on June 27, 1915 the North Saskatchewan River started rising. When it finally peaked at 3am on June 29, it was over 45 feet (10 meters) above the low water mark! The images below contrast the flood levels with typical water levels.
As you can see in the above image, a loaded train was parked on the Low Level Bridge to stop it from washing away. The bridge was in danger not just from the force of the water but also from the impact and drag of debris as buildings from Walterdale and Ross Flats (today’s Rossdale) lifted from their foundations and floated downstream to hit the bridge.
On June 29, even as the waters were receding, Mayor William Henry presided over a City Council Meeting and recorded formal thanks to the Canadian Northern Railway Company, presumably for the train on the bridge, as well as City employees for their “self-sacrificing spirit” and “the energies of the men which greatly minimized the resultant damage.” Council also stated their support for whatever relief measures the City Commissioners undertook.
The 1915 flood changed Edmonton and is the reason for the beautiful River Valley parks we have today. Before the flood the area was an industrial hub of businesses and communities of workers and their families. Much of this was gone when the flood waters receded and Edmontonians made a conscious decision not to build to that extent on the river banks again.
For the exhibit, we’ve created a series of interactive maps that highlight pre-flood businesses along the river banks. The exhibit also features a short documentary created by former City Archivist Michael Payne. Have a look and tell us what you think in the comments of this post! We’d love to have your feedback.