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Posted on: March 28, 2022

Walking on Bow River ice can be a deadly decision

Barricade on Ice

Banff Protective Services urges Banffites to stay off the Bow River. 

In the last week, despite the presence of open water upstream and downstream, members of the public have been reported walking on the ice of the in the townsite.  

“People think they are saving time but they could be losing their life. For only an extra 10 minutes, people can take the long way to the bridge and save their life and a lifetime of grief for their family and friends,” said Silvio Adamo, Director of Protective Services and Banff Fire Chief. “The ice is at risk all year because of rapid currents and changing conditions and gases from vegetation upstream. But especially at this time of year, with the ice shelves shifting and breaking into the moving currents, the river is not safe.” 

The new Nancy Pauw Bridge is being constructed in the location where there is often tracks in the snow where residents cross the river in their commute. With the pedestrian bridge under construction, the area is fenced off. However, obvious human tracks show people are crossing on either side of the construction zone. In past years, elk have fallen through the ice and died in the same locations.

“People may be tempted to cross at other locations, where the river is known to be more shallow. But there is always a deep channel in some part of a river crossing and that’s usually where water moves fastest, destabilizing the ice,” said Adamo. “Just take a little extra time this time of year, and the new bridge will be ready for next winter season.”

Banffites are also encouraged to stay away from the river banks in the coming weeks, when the water starts to rise. Pet owners must always keep their dogs on leash in Banff and should stay away from the ice this time of year. 

Residents who witness a person or pet fall through the ice are urged to:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Stay on shore
  • Establish and maintain a point of reference where the individual was last seen
  • Never attempt to rescue an individual or pet that has fallen through the ice 

 People in Banff can also prepare for flood season by downloading the Voyent Alert app or registering for the notifications at banff.ca/Alerts.

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