Declining water levels in the Hay River throughout August have nearly reached all-time lows, according to hydrometric data obtained from Environment Canada. The river’s small basin, located in northwestern Alberta, has been affected by a combination of above average temperatures and below average rainfall this summer, according to Bob Reid, a manager with the Water Survey of Canada for the NWT and Nunavut.
“The big forest fire in northern Alberta in mid-July proved just how dry this summer has been,” Reid said. “The water level was also very low at the beginning of June, then it rose a bit.”
Real-time data from a hydrometric station located in Hay River indicates the water level reached a low of 1.84 metres on Aug. 23. During the same time last year, the river was just above three metres.
The river level had been decreasing at a pace of around three centimetres per day since Aug. 1, when it was at 2.5 metres.
The level started rising last Thursday afternoon, for the first time since July 23, when long-awaited rain fell on Hay River throughout the day.
Sightseeing businesses, such as 2 Seasons Adventures, have had to adapt to the difficult situation.
“Right now, we’ve stopped going to the (Alexandra and Louise) Falls,” said Spencer Pike, who works at the company. “I used to go every two or three days and now I can’t go at all. I’ve never seen the river this low. You can even notice the difference by how much less water is coming down the falls as opposed to other years. Usually, we don’t have this problem until late September.”
Islands of rocks have appeared at multiple locations in the river.
Dean McMeekin, who has a pontoon boat, has been limited to where he can actually use it.
“We don’t go as far up the river as we used to,” he said.
The water level hasn’t affected everyone, however.
“Quite frankly, you can still use the river as long as you know where you’re going,” said Cody Williams, who works at Monster Recreational Products in Hay River.
Williams noted the company’s boat sales haven’t been affected by the water level.
The Mackenzie River and Great Slave Lake water levels are slightly above average, according to Earl Blacklock, spokesperson for the GNWT‘s Department of Transportation.
— by Myles Dolphin