Water, water everywhere: High water levels mean new hazards in Jasper National Park

Water levels are rising in rivers, lakes and creeks in Jasper National Park, and Parks Canada is emphasizing the importance of water safety as conditions create new hazards.

The cause of the flooding is significant rainfall over the past few weeks and a late snowmelt.

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Parks Canada said in a press release June 26 that there is still a significant amount of snow at higher elevations and that, combined with persistent rain, means water levels in rivers, lakes and streams will continue to rise. 

As well, new hazards are being created, sometimes in unexpected places.

Parking lots, day use areas and trails close to the river have flooded throughout the park. Hazardous tree debris is also being carried by the high current, which has created log jams. 

"You have to be prepared," said Steve Young, public relations and communications officer for Jasper National Park. 

"Do your research, check reports. We try to keep that as updated as possible."

The Moab Lake road was closed on June 27 due to flooding in sections along the seven kilometre stretch, until further notice. 

Young cautioned people to take the safe way, wherever they go.

He said: "There's just a lot of water out there, there are places you wouldn't expect [hazards].

“Don't take unnecessary risks, use common sense."

That includes paying attention to signs and notices.

"If something's closed, abide by that ruling," Young said. 

He also advised folks to use the advised COVID-19 protocol.

Young said visitors and residents need to be aware of the potential for or presence of hazards including high river levels and very fast moving water.

There is danger of rock fall from steep river and canyon banks, as well as hidden obstacles under water. Backcountry bridges may be impassable or have been swept away – and bridges may be impossible to pass under in your watercraft.

Paddlers will encounter new sweepers (fallen trees partially or completely blocking passage on a body of water) and strainers (obstructions in a river that only limited amounts of water can pass through).

And previously fordable creeks may now be impassable.

Parks Canada advised these hazards will continue until the alpine snowpack melts and rainfall returns back to more seasonal levels.

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