In the small hours of July 27, 2011, a camper in the Nakusp Hot Springs campground was woken up by a deep rumbling. Thinking it was an earthquake, she woke up her partner and they drove their RV to the higher ground of the Hot Springs upper parking lot.
By the time Hot Springs manager Pat Farish arrived that day, there were seven RVs parked up top.
“I thought well done…the campground is full,” she related, but as she later learned, it was just a group of campers who had moved to where they thought they would be safer from the “earthquake.”
The “earthquake” turned out to be a massive slide of water, rocks and trees close to the Kuskanax Forestry Service Road that took out everything in its path. A portion of the road that connects the beautiful Cedar Grove with the Hot Springs Road was swept away in the flood that left a giant pile of tree trunks in its place.
“The first place it could get out of the ditch was the road,” said Ken France, Heli-ski Manager with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). “That morning where it came out into the lake it was dirty, dirty brown.”
This was bad news for hikers and mushroom pickers, but it was worse news for CMH. The heli-ski company has two large fuel tanks at the back of the Kuskanax Forestry Service Road (KFS) they need to get to and fill up.
In order to get to the two 50,000 litre tanks, the company had to rebuild the road to them, something that is just part of working on forestry service roads in mountainous terrain.
Because of amount of engineering and work involved, it took three and a half months and about $25,000 to get the loads of washed out timbers cleared out and the road reconstructed. Maintenance around here has been costly, with KFS already costing the company approximately $30,000 and St. Leon Forestry Service $10,000 to keep the roads in good shape this year.
CMH took over maintenance of KFS three years ago, France told the Arrow Lakes News, when active logging stopped in the area. Since then, the heli-ski company has had stewardship of the road, which keeps it open.
For the heli-ski outfit whose fuel tanks are on the road, it made sense to take over KFS.
“Our fuel is there,” France emphasized, “and we couldn’t operate without it, frankly.”
CMH keeps the KFS to wilderness road standards year-round, something that France recognized benefits a lot of people in the area.
“It works for hunters and berry pickers, too,” France noted, “I don’t want to see it go unopened for local reasons. We’re a part of the community.”
“I got a lot of calls from berry pickers,” he said, after the road was gouged away by the massive torrent.
Anyone who has driven up KFS knows that the changing season take their toll on the roads, with spring runoff often carving deep channels into the dirt. France is well aware of seasonal wear and tear, and said they will have to address it again this spring.
The area above the Nakusp Hot Springs is one of the snowiest CMH territories, which means there is a lot of water that comes down the mountain.
“It’s wetter than anywhere else,” France commented, and said their study plot in that area has extremely high accumulations over time. Last summer’s washout was due to the combination of a steep slope, lots of water, and trees which dammed the water until it finally broke.
The road is now fixed, and access restored to both fuel tanks and the Cedar Grove, thanks to CMH.