During the record-breaking 2018 fire season, the typically clear waters of Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta flowed black.
During the record-breaking 2018 fire season, the typically clear waters of Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta flowed black. But it had nothing to do with the extensive fires that torched much of British Columbia and a small part of Waterton.
The carbon came from the remnants of another wildfire that had raced 26 km — from one end of the park to the other — in less than eight hours the year before. Heavy rain from a violent thunderstorm in July 2018 flushed the ash, soot and blackened debris that lay on the forest floor into the Cameron River.
Waterton officials, concerned about the impact of the fire on drinking water and the river’s aquatic species, brought in University of Alberta forest hydrologist Uldis Silins to monitor water quality in the park over the coming years.
I was fortunate to spend some time in the field with Silins in Waterton and in the Castle Crown Wilderness, where the water quality has still not fully recovered from the 2003 Lost Creek fire in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass.
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Image via Queen's University.