Saturday Snapshot June 22: The Two Faces of a River

Household items, children’s toys, swing sets, and the roof of a house should not be flowing down a river. And yet they did. It was painful to watch, even just from a TV screen. You probably have heard about it on social media and in the news, the unprecedented flooding of Southern Alberta, and right here in the City of Calgary.

Record rainfall downstream from the Mountains gathered forces into torrents so fast and furious that caught many off guard. In just a matter of hours, 26 communities in the City had to evacuate, that’s 100,000 people leaving their homes, some had to be rescued by emergency responders in boats. In other towns, many had to be plucked from the rooftop by helicopters.

No I don’t have snapshots of the devastation. Yesterday, I was tense but relieved I didn’t have to evacuate. I was in no mood to head out and snap photos, however rare and newsworthy they could have been. I didn’t want to add any more sensationalism to a dire reality.

The two faces of our rivers. I’ve been birding close to The Bow all this time, knowing it is the lifeline, home and playground for many species of shorebirds. But yesterday, I saw its ferocious side.

For my Saturday Snapshot, I’d like to remember its calm and peaceful face. These photos were taken three weeks ago by The Bow River.

Baby Mergansers’ Day Out with Mom:

Mother Mergenser & Babies

Mom Merganser and Babies

Babies day out

This Canada Goose family had also come out in that beautiful afternoon:

Family Time 1

Canada Geese outing

This is the face of the river I like to remember:

The Calm Face of The Bow


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

38 thoughts on “Saturday Snapshot June 22: The Two Faces of a River”

  1. Thanks for sharing the beautiful river — not what is happening now. My thoughts are with you and with your community.

    Thanks for sending the online view link via email. It was sad, fascinating, overwhelming. I forget you are so near the mountains when it comes to the effects of weather.

    Sending hugs, wishes, hopes for those evacuated that it was precaution, though from looking at the site, it is more than that, to be sure.


    1. Jeanie,

      Yes, even our hospitals are named the Foothills, and the Rockyview. Just shows you how scenic Calgary is to be located right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The Bow River at Banff National Park (which is only an hour’s drive away) has been the setting of many a movies dating back to River of No Return (1954, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum). That’s the beautiful side of the river. Yesterday, it was the muddy, ferocious side.

      The 100K+ evacuees are not all so fortunate to take it as a precautionary measure. Most need to stay away for some more time. Many had their homes immersed in water, the loss is devastating. And that’s only in Calgary. Some other areas are even much harder hit.


  2. thank you for sharing these peaceful photos.. its sad to think what might be happening to all the waterfowl young at this time.. hopefully the adults could sense a change and got them out of harm’s way.


    1. Selah,

      I’m not sure about the next few weeks’ birding events if they can still continue, but if I meet our knowledgeable leader, I’d be sure to ask him about this good Q. What do the birds do in a flood. Just this morning, I can hear birds chirping and singing outside. So glad to hear some sounds of normalcy.


  3. I totally understand not wanting to add any more sensationalism to a dire reality; what you wrote was a perfect tribute to the situation and the people effected by it, and I love how you dwelt on the life that is to be found even in the little creatures. xo


    1. Bellezza,

      I thank you for your very kind comment. And appreciate your insight. Yes, the contrast of catastrophe, and the reminder… resilience, delight, the gift of life,


  4. Saw images of the flooding on our news last night. Not good. On a happier note, always nice to see baby birds. I’ve never seen little Mergansers before, they are adorable.


    1. Leslie,

      Again here, I regret I didn’t have a better lens and camera. You know how crazy these baby Mergansers looked. With closer crop from my laptop, they look like they’ve all put on masks, or mascara. It was delightful watching them follow their mom, whatever she did, they’d do: dipping, splashing… reminds me of a first year psychology concept: imprinting. 😉


    1. Doing the best we can now to save water… City has announced some measures like no outdoor watering or car washes, save our laundry until full load and absolute necessary, and 5 mins. shower. I think these are reasonable. 😉


  5. I was wondering how you were doing and I’m glad you posted. It’s good to hear you’re OK. Some of the photos on the news are just shocking. The numbers affected are feeling all too familiar.

    I love your photos and I understand how you feel about being so close and yet still relatively unscathed. I live within a few miles of the the second of this year’s two Oklahoma EF5’s. The destruction is so difficult to comprehend and we were lucky to be missed. We watched it go over us on radar, while we huddled in the shelter. It was terrifying. The flash flooding that followed cost several lives as well.

    So, we down here in Oklahoma sympathize! Let’s hope the waters don’t take too long to recede.


    1. Michelle,

      Thank you for your concern. I was thinking about you yesterday as I anxiously glued to the TV. All day news from our local stations, all programs cancelled.

      But today… You wouldn’t believe what I saw. Sure there were lots of road closures, major traffic jam everywhere, but as I drove near an escarpment overlooking the muddy, fast, bulging River, lots of people converged like tourists to a point of interest. It was like a festive event, people came with cameras, young and old, wheelchair and baby carriage, and TV stations that had set up tents and awnings. There was an ice cream truck, and a kid’s lemonade stand with a sign saying ‘donations’. Call it resilience, if you will.

      Yesterday I was quite tense, but today, with the sun out and the sprightly mood in everyone (yes even drivers are much more polite today!) with the Mayor and the Stampede officials saying they’re going to recover just in time for the Calgary Stampede in two weeks. I’m impressed. I know, we still have those in need in our mind, but I was so surprised by the mood change.


  6. I worried about you. I’m glad you didn’t have to evacuate, although I’m sorry that you and so many have suffered. My husband and I drove through a storm in May that turned into tornadoes that hit St. Louis. We felt grateful not to have suffered any damage, but felt bad about those who were hit. It’s even harder, as in Michelle’s case above, as well as yours, when you live so close to the damage.

    My husband and son are in Ontario now near the Lake of the Woods, where I see there is a lot of rain. So I have Canadian weather a lot on my mind.

    Beautiful photos of birds, as always! The ducklings are adorable!


    1. Cathy,

      Thank you for thinking about me. I can’t say I’d ‘suffered’. I’m definitely one of the fortunate ones to have our homes dry and intact. As you read my response to Michelle above, I just couldn’t believe what I saw today. This is an historic event in Calgary. In 2005 we had a serious flood. They said it was a hundred-year-flood. Well, now eight years later, we had one about 3 times the magnitude. What do we call it? That’s why people are so eager to come out and witness the occasion. While there are those who are devastated by the loss of their homes, we are all, the whole city I’m sure, relieved that there are no casualties or injuries within the City, and, people had been overwhelmingly helpful and generous.

      So you do have some Canadian ties at the moment. It would be real nice if you could be with your family visiting Ontario now.


  7. I saw the flooding in Calgary on TV – it’s so terrible for people who experience the destruction. But with global warming I think we’ll see more of it. Here, we used to have a tornado once in a while, but now they come quite often, fires also are destroying many homes. Rivers can be so pretty and peaceful under the sun. I like you photos. There is a lake not far from us and the last two days we have seen mallard ducks in our back yard. This morning there were 5 ducks sleeping under the bird feeder, a rabbit, a couple of squirrels, chipmunks, and a multitude of birds, but I had to make coffee so I just looked at them.


    1. Vagabonde,

      This is 3 times the magnitude of eight years ago when we had the hundred-year-flood in our City. So, don’t really know if we’ll get this more often. I sure hope not. The major natural parks are still closed due to the flood, so I really haven’t visited the birds since the flood. Hope they’re all right. But not sure about the water fowls since the River and streams are all muddy.


  8. I’ve never seen baby Mergansers – they are funny and adorable.

    I’m back home now and was happy to see your post. The events in Calgary are so like the flooding in Houston with Tropical Storm Allison in 200l.Despite the lack of hurricane winds, we lost whole neighborhoods, the Texas Medical Center and the Museum District. But, we recovered and many changes were made that will prevent damage in the future.

    I do understand people wanting “to go see”. Even decades and centuries after some of the major and historically important American floods, people still are researching and reading, “seeing” in the only way they can. There’s nothing quite like a river.

    Oh and I “met” over a post I wrote about a Mississippi flood – her St. Louis was one city that went under. T.S. Eliot, a St.Louis native, was writing about the Mississippi in his “Four Quartets”. It’s a good description of these powers:

    I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
    Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,
    Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
    Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
    Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

    The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
    By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable.
    Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
    Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
    By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting…


    1. Linda,

      The Mississippi… and T. S. Eliot. Well, you always give me more to think about. While we’d like to think of it only as a natural beauty, we often forget the other side of it… its inherent power. Since you mentioned The Mississippi, I’ve recently seen the movie Mud (it’s an ironic pun now as that could be the most apt description of our River right now). It’s a movie using the Mississippi as a setting, and, a little homage to Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. So, after the movie, I went straight to that book. I’d never thought anything more about rivers… but lately, I’m made to do just that.


  9. Oh, Arti, I am sad to hear of the destruction of your city, so sorry for the folks who have had to evacuate, but glad that you are safe. May you remain so. These Janus-faced rivers…
    The Mergansers are adorable; thanks for sharing them.
    Be well.


    1. ds,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving me with your kind words. A positive note… I’m really impressed how quickly this City bounces back from devastation, and how much generosity there is out there. Again, glad to hear from you. 😉


  10. So much loss and destruction. I do hope people are keeping safe and the rebuilding can begin. Those Merganser babies are adorable — how lovely that you caught them on their day with mama.


    1. nikkipolani,

      Thanks… the rebuilding is well underway already in our City. As for the Mergansers, and all the shorebirds, now I really wonder how they can live with such a muddy river full of debris.


  11. Arti, I can relate to your not wanting to photograph a disaster. When Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York, thee was no way I was going to blog about that. I love the pictures of the ducks and geese during far more bucolic weather days. I hope those days return soon. Mother Nature can be a beast … Was climate change a factor here?


    1. lameadventures,

      Well, that’s just my feeling during the flood and the immediate aftermath. But the next day when I drove out and saw what the City was like, I was moved by the enthusiasm of people trying to recover and rebuild, and all who came out and watch, to be with everyone, and to see, to witness the historic event. I had to take photos, not so much of the flood, but of the spirit of the crowd.

      For this particular case, it’s all from continuous heavy, record rainfall. Since we live in the downstream of the Rockies, thus the consequence. Don’t think in this particular case climate change is the cause, since it’s not spring melt runoff from the mountains, but June rain. However, I sure hope there’s something we can do to at least alleviate the situation better in the future.


  12. Oh Arti, I am glad you are ok. I heard about the flooding on the radio and got worried for you, burst out to Bookman, I think that’s where Arti lives! We’ve had some recent storm-related destruction here too. I’m fine but a large number of people have lots of clean up and repairs to make. I hope the river has since gone down and the city recovers quickly.


    1. Stefanie,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Apparently the flooding is only the beginning. Now it’s damage assessing and clean up time and we’re confronting with the dire reality of the aftermath, an estimated $5 billion price tag, many will lose their whole life’s possessions totally. Just this morning, a bridge that had been weakened by the flood partially collapsed and a CP train was derailed on it. The cars carrying hazardous material are hanging precariously from the bridge, anytime could drop right into the Bow River. It’s not too far from where I’m living and we’re all holding our breath about this one.


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