Visiting Frank, Alberta and Turtle Mountain: remembering the events of April 29, 1903
A sudden, tragic collapse
Turtle Mountain (height: 2210 metres) and Frank are located within the municipality of Crowsnest Pass, Alberta and historically have been bound together with one another in a tragic way. A devastating rock fall considerably obliterated a sizable proportion of the town of Frank on April 29, 1903.
There is a poignant interpretive centre commemorating these tragic events; this centre overlooks the over 82 million tonnes of rocks which still lie where they fell in 1903.
After the tragic events of April 29, 1903, a precise death toll established, but it was reckoned that between 70 and 90 people perished. Geologically, Turtle Mountain is a faulted limestone anticline; and today it is known that the effect of freezing and expanding water between the layers of limestone can heighten a susceptibility for rock falls on the Mountain. The Government of Alberta continues to monitor the Mountain's stability.
Turtle Mountain forms part of the Blairmore Range of the Canadian Rockies. Interestingly, already prior to the event known as the Frank Slide, local First Nations knew Turtle Mountain as 'the mountain that moves'; i.e., they were already aware that the Mountain was susceptible to dangerous rock falls, and, indeed, it is known that First Nations refused to inhabit its vicinity because of the danger it posed.
The official name of the mountain was the idea of a European, Louis O. Garnett (1), who in 1880 thought it resembled a turtle. However, after the tragic events of 1903, the formerly perceived turtle shape became less apparent, although the name 'Turtle Mountain' continued to be used (2).
The town of Frank was founded in 1901, and was named for Henry L. Frank (1851-1908)(3), co-owner of the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company which owned the mine where many of the town's residents worked. The mine itself went out of production in 1917, but this was not directly related to the tragic events of 1903; indeed, after the Frank Slide, the town of Frank actually almost doubled in population to 1,178 in 1906 because of increased work opportunities at the mine. Today, Frank's population stands at approximately 200.
Some historical accounts have given the location of the tragic Frank Slide of 1903 as having occurred in the Northwest Territories of Canada. This is technically correct, since the Province of Alberta was not founded until 1905 (4).
Frank Slide is now a Provincial Historic Slide of Alberta (5).
March 2, 2015
(1) Louis O. Garnett was an early rancher in Alberta.
(2) Henry L. Frank also at various times served as Mayor of Butte, Montana and as a member of the Montana State Legislature and was involved in a number of significant business ventures.
(3) See also: http://www.peakfinder.com/peakfinder.ASP?PeakName=Turtle+Mountain
(4) However, prior to 1905, within the Northwest Territories, there existed the Alberta District, so it would be historically correct to assert that the Slide occurred in either the North-West Territories or Alberta.
(5) See also:
The Government of Alberta maintains a selected list of sites in the Province which are deemed to be be of special, historic significance.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
Coleman (within the municipality of Crowsnest Pass, Alberta) has an interesting local history museum and gift shup, which specializes in the mining heritage of the region.
Sparwood, British Columbia (distance: approx. 20 kilometres from Crowsnest Pass); home to what is known as 'the largest truck in the world', a Titan on display, formerly used in the local mining industry; Sparwood, on the Elk River, is known for its large murals depicting life at the former mining communities of Michel and Natal; there are various campsites locally.
How to get there
Road access to Frank, Alberta, is via Highway 3, in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass. One of the nearest international airports to the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is Cranbrook / Canadian Rockies International Airport (road distance to Crowsnest Pass: approx. 145 kilometres), to which Air Canada flies, via Vancouver, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. The much larger Calgary International Airport (distance: approx. 230.2 kilometres), with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. Air Canada also flies to Lethbridge Airport (distance: approx. 144.5 kilometres), via Calgary, from where car rental is also available. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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