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Wilderness Adventures - May, Week One/2011

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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31/05/2011 2:35 PM

Still Flooding - Bella Coola Road Closure Notice

A few hours after I wrote the blog below, there were a couple more blowouts on the roads. There was a big ruckus on the radio while Highways tried to get flag people and as many trucks and excavators to the Nimpo Lake Community Hall as quickly as they could. That little rivulet there that I mentioned normally only ran about three days every spring had been a gushing torrent for the past week. It had built up a huge pond next to the community hall but still seemed to be draining okay. I guess our newest RCMP member was just coming back from the south Nimpo Lake road where the bridge was being undermined by water, when he came by the Community Hall. He could see that the culvert there was sticking up into the air and while he watched, chunks of road edge started falling into the hole left behind. While Highways guys scrambled to get equipment, he kept track of the rate at which the water was undermining the road and it was fast! I think that's why the highways maintenance guys got on it so fast. There's a good little dropoff on the other side of the highway so if they couldn't get the water under control, they stood to lose the highway there. They managed to get the culvert reattached to the piece under the road and big rock around it so that the water wouldn't keep eating into the road bed.
Since they had to put a really big excavator with a long reach on that job, they were able to bring Len's excavator up from south Nimpo where they had been shoring up the bridge there with rock. They were hoping they wouldn't lose it but last I heard, water was hitting the bridge. But at least that excavator was able to start working on our bridge on north Nimpo road, that Andy had been working on keeping open for the past week with his little Bobcat. While that machine is a good one, without bigger rock, some pit run and decent fill, there wasn't much he could do but just keep one lane going each day. With the big excavator and a few truck loads of huge rock, they were finally able to repair the road properly on both sides of the bridge Sunday and Monday.
I haven't heard the status of south Nimpo Lake road yet other than no one is allowed to drive across the bridge, but everything else right around here seems to be settling down somewhat. I think Highways put some big equipment down at Towdystan to shore up the highway there where the Dean River crosses the road. Normally a placid little creek, it's just been ripping through there and I've fully expected it to be the next waterway to tear up the highway.
We've been watching the lake carefully and it doesn't seem to have come up a very measurable amount today, which is positive. We've been getting isolated thunderstorms and squalls for the last two days, but they haven't put down the massive amounts of rain that we were seeing last week. If the weather stays cool with no sun and little rain......
For those of you thinking of traveling to Bella Coola, the following is a road closure notice for the next two weeks.
Interior roads: Hwy 20 will be closed May 25 – June 12 in the following location for work on the hill, with 2 daily openings.
Closed area: 77 km E of Bella Coola to 101km E of Bella Coola Openings: 6 – 7:30am and 6 – 7:30 pm.

29/05/2011 9:35 AM

Extensive Flooding

Had I written this blog a week ago, I would have titled it High Water, but we're a little beyond that now.
It's been an interesting spring this year. May 14 was to be the date for the annual Nimpo Lake, Anahim Lake Canoe Races except.... the ice wasn't off yet. It finally started going off on Friday the 13th but since the races start in the back bay, and that's the last place the ice goes off, we all kind of wondered what was going to happen. Saturday morning I heard this godawful rattling and crunching sound out there and went out to see Johnny running his motorboat through the ice along the shore opposite to us and down toward where the Dean River exits the lake. He ran his boat back and forth trying to break up enough ice for the canoes to get through. He succeeded. There was quite a racket made by the guys paddling their canoes through the broken ice, but they made it to the Dean.
I figured it should have been put off for a couple of weeks because the river was high and COLD! Anyone falling in was risking hypothermia, but the band had been booked already for the dance later in the evening, and the date wasn't going to be changed. Those young guys must be pretty tough because most did get wet and one got caught under a log jam when their canoe went under, but they all made it through to Anahim Lake eventually.
Like the rest of BC, our spring was cold. We were well into May before most of our snow finally melted, but when it did, it went within a week. As a result, we watched the lake come up, but that's normal. It usually drops again after ice off. Not this year.
We had a much higher than normal snow load this year which all melted at once, and then we got rain. It wasn't a huge amount at first, but for the past week, it hasn't stopped. In just one night alone we got an inch of rain and while up at a friend's the other day, the way the rain started pounding on her roof, I though we were in the middle of a war zone. Extensive flooding has been the result.
Some places started sandbagging in Anhim Lake two weeks ago and several places have their feet in water now. We've been watching the Dean River come up steadily and Nimpo Lake was climbing slowly, but in the past week it's been climbing several inches a day. Some estimates are that it has come up between three and four feet. I would say that's about right. We have a two to three foot drop down to low water level off our shore in front of the house. Right now the lake is well above that and well up into our lawn. It has probably come up a foot just in the past four days. Our docks are covered with water, as are most everyone else's located on the lake, some completely unreachable. Last night we had to pull the water pump up off the shore because it was going to be going under, as well as the canoe because there was a risk of it floating away. Our next door neighbour's road has been under water for some time now, and our other neighbours are watching the water climb up to their driveways.
The road at the bridge on our main road keeps blowing out. I think this morning is the fourth time.... or maybe the fifth. The first day it was on this side and highways called Andy to see if he could fill it in with his Bobcat and hoe. The second day it blew out on the other side and that's where it's been going every day since. Highways hasn't had the time to come down with big equipment and rock to fix it properly so Andy's just been trying to keep it filled in and one lane open for all the traffic on our side of the lake until highways equipment can get here.
We took a drive down to McClinchy Thursday evening to see how it was faring. It was high, muddy and just rocking along, but no danger yet to the huge boulders placed to protect the highway after the flood last fall, but the water we saw on the way down was incredible! A little rivulet that normally only flows about three days every spring by the community hall was just boiling out through a culvert under the highway. Just a little way farther down we could see the resort there had its fences and new road under water and was having to use their old driveway. Farther on at the subdivision at the other end of the lake there is a creek that flows through a culvert there and has been raising the water level in the meadow at that end for the past two weeks. Now it was boiling into the culvert and boiling out the other side. By the next morning it had exceeded what the culvert could handle and was flowing over the highway.
Len had to go in with his excavator and place rock along the highway to keep it from being undermined any more than it already had been the night before. Same with another place just a little farther down the highway where the water was starting to collapse the edges and the pavement crack down the middle, he tried to get rock tucked in under the edge of highway as much as possible to keep it from washing away completely.
The road into the subdivision had a creek washing through to the lake that normally is never there, but while we saw a lot of water flowing on our little evening drive, it looked fine. By the next morning it had blown a hole across the road big enough to bury a pickup truck.... or two. Our Post Mistress had to boat back and forth for a couple of days until they got it fixed to one lane yesterday afternoon.
The place that most concerns me is Towdystan where the Dean comes in from where it originates up in the hills. Normally a placid little waterway that barely moves, it too was rushing through its culverts with water literally boiling up on both sides and rolling over two heights of snake fence. If there's any water that might really take out the highway, I think it could be there.
Highways maintenance guys have their batch of problems Anahim Lake way as well. The Dean River road past the Stampede grounds blew out the same morning all our washouts happened along with a couple of other washouts, so no one has been able to get through on that road. I overhead someone on the radio talking about the Morrison Meadow road being washed out as well. The biggest problem the highways maintenance guys have had is that they can't get into a number of their gravel pits to get fill or big rock, because either the pits are under water, or the roads going in are, or are so wet that you would sink out of sight if you tried to get a big truck over them.
Ground saturation is the biggest problem of all right now. Everything is so saturated that there is no place for rain to go except to flow to the lowest point. We figure that all this started last fall with that big rain we had in September that caused all the floods then. The ground was still saturated going into winter and then froze. When over five feet of snow at this elevation (much more higher up) melted in the last week of April and first week in May, only a bit could soak in, and the rest had to find the lowest point. Throw several inches of steady rain in on top of it, and it too had to find its lowest point. That would be us and Anahim Lake. Anahim Lake is so backed up that though the Dean can flow out of our lake, and has exceeded its banks, it can still only flow so fast and take so much water, so then Nimpo Lake back ups.
deally, if we got a couple of days of no rain, but not too hot, the water should start to go down a little bit. What we don't want is wind, because if the waves start whipping up on the lake right now with water up on ours and everyone else's land, it will cause some erosion as well as some damage where flotsam has been floated in by high water.
Our lake water is the color of weak tea now and I've stopped drinking it. On our little drive the other night I could see the black swamp water going into all the waterways that will eventually end up in our lake, and I think Giardia (beaver fever) is a very real threat now. We have a number of filters on our water system, but not an ultra violet one that would kill the bacteria.
I think we'll be okay once this water starts to recede because unlike Anahim Lake with Corkscrew Creek, Nimpo Lake does not drain any real mountains. We do have hills surrounding the area, but once the snow is melted from them and the rain stops, that should be about it. But I do think the rest of the province is going to have some serious problems in late June and July when the snow pack in the high mountains start to melt. Most mountain ranges throughout the province, including ours, got a higher than normal snow load this winter and once it really warms up, that's all going to come at once unless we have an extremely cool summer. We saw how much the Fraser River came up a couple of weeks ago in a very short period of time, and it doesn't even really start to rumble until the higher elevation snow begins melting. I know that there are a number of areas around the province now that are under flood warnings and watches, but I think it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
The only bonus out of all this so far? No mosquitoes. Can you believe it? Once the sun comes out and the water starts to go down I'm sure they'll be horrendous but to this point, it's been wonderful! Sad for me because for the last five months up until yesterday, I haven't been able to get outside and enjoy the lack of bugs, but starting today, I'm on my way. No more stuck on the computer day after day. My job is done and I'm back in the blog writing saddle again! I keep getting mournful emails from my husband wondering where the blog is, so I've got to get back to writing on a more regular basis.

You'll find last month's poor single blog at April Week One..

The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Culvert sticks up on the air.
Flood water eats at the edge of the road.
Flood water pours over the highway and waterfalls on the other side.
Large washout on Dean River Place road.
Sinkhole at the bridge.
Bobcat on sinkhole at the bridge.
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