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The Day Barrier Lake was Drained

Some of you may have noticed that Barrier Lake is looking lower than usual this summer. This question comes up a lot around the shop and at the beach:

“Where did all the water go?”

Our stock answer is that the water level was lowered for flood mitigation purposes.

The long answer is that TransAlta was paid $5.5 million to divert water through the spillway rather than store it in the reservoir for hydroelectric power generation.

They are letting it fill as fast as they can at the moment and the water level is rising. At the time of writing (August 15th, 2016), the water still isn’t touching the Targett point boat launch (far from it in fact).

Some of you may have noticed that Barrier Lake is looking lower than usual this summer.

The silver lining is that Barrier Lake’s beach has never been bigger. Less water means more ‘sandy beach’ at Barrier Lake Day Use Area. We noticed this and can’t put to words how nice it is to see a full parking lot and a spacious beach on a hot, sunny day.

But, back to the day, the lake got drained.

The sky was threatening rain all morning, but our group was keen to be outside despite this. We paddled the entire length of the lake, and for a little variety we headed up from Jewell Bay to the mouth of the Kananaskis River’s delta at the mouth of Barrier Lake. Something small and white popping out of the sand caught our eyes.


After a few perplexing minutes, we ruled out the guy firing golf balls from near the highway and started to look at alternate hypotheses.

We had two main theories that explained the golf balls’ sudden appearance.

  1. The Washed Down Theory: The balls washed down the river from the golf course after getting smacked into the river during the spring high water events as a process of natural erosion.
  2. The Act of God Theory: The balls got scoured out of every nook and cranny that they were stuck in for the last two+ decades that the golf course has been operating after the biblical Kananaskis flood of 2013.

No matter the reason for the appearance of these perplexing dimpled orbs, the golf balls were deposited in the alluvial region of the river. After a few weeks of continuous rain in the valley, the balls started to pop through the sand.

We decided that a bunch of the balls were around four to five years old, and some were upwards of 15 years old, as they have been out of production for quite some time.

I personally counted and collected around 100 in total. I left many, many, more to inspire adventure in others. We dug up a bunch and put many of them into patterns; what else do you do with a bunch of golf balls that you found on a sand bar on a lake?


As an experiment, we wrote HI in golf balls, mostly just to see if we could see it from the highway. Indeed, we could see the letters, but regrettably, my picture didn’t do it justice.

The paddle was a surprising one for all of us. The lesson I took home was that you just never know what to expect. I have canoed on that lake over a hundred times and I have never seen anything like it.

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