Wallaceville Flood Ruins of High River, Alberta

The 2013 Alberta flood was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history. Its effect on Calgary was widely reported, but outside the city, the town of High River was also severely affected with flood waters rising over the tops of cars in the downtown area. The entire town of 13,000 was evacuated for days.

The Wallaceville neighbourhood in High River sat next to the river, and was particularly hard hit. Officials believed that it would be very likely to flood again, and that it would be unsafe for habitation. Thus, the decision was made to remove all buildings and municipal services, and restore the area to a natural state. A couple holdouts remained in protest of the offers made to them, but by October 2015, all land was transferred to the province. Demolition of the final homes in the neighbourhood began promptly.

Back in the summer, I visited Wallaceville. At that time, which was 2 years after the flood, dozens of homes, some of them fairly new, a condo building, and several businesses were still standing. My visit felt a little surreal, since it is unheard of in Canada to see residential neighbourhoods “undeveloped”. That term doesn’t even sound natural, but it’s exactly what the government decided to do in this case. Most residents were reportedly the assessed value of their home, just before the flood.

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