VIDEO: 100-metre wave causes massive washout in Bute Inlet

Landslide causes wave in glacial lake, washes out river on B.C. Central Coast

An aerial shot of the landslide, captured by 49 North Helicopter pilot Bastian Fleury. Photo 49 North Helicopters/Facebook

An aerial shot of the landslide, captured by 49 North Helicopter pilot Bastian Fleury. Photo 49 North Helicopters/Facebook

Bute Inlet, located north of Campbell River on the mainland coast, is looking a little bit different after a glacial lake burst causing a damaging wave to rush down the river into the fjord.

According to the co-director for the Centre for Natural Hazards Research at Simon Fraser University Brent Ward, at around 6 a.m. on Nov. 28, a landslide occurred near a glacier in the Coast Mountains of southwestern B.C.

“There was a landslide from the west side of the valley that hit the front of the glacier then turned a corner and went into the lake. It triggered a very large wave,” Ward said. “People have looked at it, and they figure the wave was at least 70 metres high and possibly higher. It could have been up to 100 or 110 metres. That would have triggered a wave that travelled down the lake, which would have over-topped where the river exits the lake and started down it… The creek started to down-cut. Then once you do that, all of the water that’s in the lake continues to drain out. It was a huge event, a huge amount of sediment eroded out of that valley and deposited on the fan and then finer sediments went down the Southgate River and into the fjord.”

Story continues below…

A Campbell River-based helicopter tourism company heard about the incident, and sent a pilot up the inlet to investigate. The video he took shows that was once just a regular creek turned into a raging river that wiped out thousands of trees and carved a deep gash down the centre of the valley.

“There’s been a few reports in the last week that there were lots of floods in Bute Inlet, so we went to check it out. It was coming from a landslide that happened in the Southgate River in the inlet. It’s a huge one, it’s a massive one,” said pilot Bastian Fleury. “I’ve seen landslides, but that’s the biggest one I’ve seen and the biggest one that’s happened around here in the last few years for sure. We followed the landslide up, it’s about 10-12 km long. At the top there’s a glacier, and the glacier is different too. It lost lots of ice that ended up in the lake, which created a wave that probably flooded the valley.”

“I know the spot, I’ve flown there before and it’s totally changed now. It’s really wide, flooded the whole Southgate River,” he added.

The massive rush of sediment into the valley will have a large effect on the fish population that uses the rivers affected as spawning grounds, Ward explained.

“The river itself will start to modify the sediments, but it’s going to have a serious effect on fish. The lower reaches of Elliot Creek are Coho habitat, and if you look at those images, that habitat is now buried with gravel. I think there’s a Chum run that goes up the Southgate, and that may be better off because the river will probably re-establish, but if there were any fry or eggs in that lower part of the channel then it would have been affected,” he said.

“It’ll come back, these landslides happen, but when you’re dealing with a four-year life cycle of a fish, it’s going to have a longer effect than that. So Elliot Creek will start to cut channels into the fan, and those lower reaches will start to cut back, but it’ll take a while,” he added.

These kinds of events are not unheard of, but they are relatively rare. Thankfully, Ward said, there have not been any recently in Canada that have caused any injuries or deaths, but those kinds of landslides do happen elsewhere in the world.

“We’ve been very very lucky that no one has been killed,” he said. “In other parts of the world where these things happen in higher population densities, they’ve killed a lot of people, especially in the Himalayas. There was a big event at Chehalis Lake back in the 90s that wiped out three campgrounds, but luckily there had been a whole bunch of snow, so nobody was there.”

Ward said the extent of the damage to human-made infrastructure was possibly one forest company-owned bridge.

The event was probably caused by water pressure building up behind an ice plug in the rock, similar to how pressure can build up in a kinked garden hose.

“When you have really steep slopes and an issue with the bedrock, then you can get a landslide,” he said. “In this case it looks like the area failed was initially supported by the glacier, but with the glacier melting back and retreating, that slope was exposed.”

The inlet opens just north of Maurelle Island and is 80 km long, ending in two rivers, Elliot Creek and Southgate River that are fed from glaciers in the Coast Range mountains. The landslide itself is between 10 and 12 km long.

RELATED: Permanent fishway approved for Big Bar landslide site

Report finds no obvious cause of Old Fort landslide in northeastern B.C.



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell RiverEnvironmentlandslideWeather

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some bystanders with fire extinguishers helped keep the fire under control. Photo courtesy Suzie Thomas
Bystanders keep fire from spreading near McIvor Lake turnoff

‘Just be vigilant and careful,’ says Campbell River fire chief

The Pier Street Farmers Market will once again take up residence on Sundays from May to Septmber at the parking lot across from the Community Centre in downtown Campbell River for 2021. Mirror File Photo
Pier Street Farmers Market returns to Cedar Street parking lot for 2021

…and it’s hoped that the addition of artisans this year will make it even better

Some recommendations from the Downtown Safety Select Committee have been approved by Campbell River City Council, including removing the glass stage covering at Spirit Square. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Council going ahead with removing Spirit Square stage covering

But mayor acknowledges need for ‘welcoming, warm place with support services’

A small fire on North Rendezvous Island is the first wildfire of the season in the Campbell River area. Officials are asking people to take caution when burning during these dry conditions. BC Wildfire Dashboard
‘Conditions are tricky at the moment’ warns Coastal Fire Centre

Small fire on North Rendezvous Island first of the season for Campbell River area

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read