Today, Frank is a very small town in Southern Alberta, but back in the early 1900s, people thought it was going to be the next Pittsburgh. Due to its rich mining industry, people were coming from all over the place in hopes of creating a better life. Then, in 1903, the mountain tumbled down with 82 million tonnes of limestone rock covering up more than three square kilometres of the valley below, claiming more than 90 lives in the process. It was a devastating morning that changed the town of Frank forever.
More than 100 years later, Frank Slide is a “bucket list” attraction, teaching people Frank Slide facts while providing dramatic views of the landslide itself. For me, it was mesmerizing to be standing on the rubble that once crowned the top of Turtle Mountain. We started off with the free “Drive Through the Slide” tour, which is basically a self-driving tour through the original road that was covered up by the landslide. Along the way, we stopped the vehicle to read the info-signs provided by the interpretive centre. At one point, we were standing in the closest place that didn’t get struck by the landslide. It’s truly hard to believe that I could have been standing here back in 1903 and had the landslide go whizzing right by me. Can you imagine that? Our next stop was where they found some skeletons in one of the houses that got demolished. In fact, there are skeletons still underneath the rock. There was just no way to find them all.
After driving through Frank Slide, we moved up to the interpretive centre to get a more in-depth look into what happened. We learned what caused the slide, how mining worked in the area, saw artifacts from back in the day, and admired pictures of people who lived in the area when it happened. There’s also videos and a lot of interactive displays that demonstrate how the mountain’s seismic activity is monitored today.
Fun Fact: The indigenous people of this area actually told the miners not to live at the bottom of Turtle Mountain. The reason the indigenous tribes called it Turtle Mountain is because they knew it was moving. They warned the pioneers but they didn’t listen.
Then, from outside the interpretive centre, there are incredible views of the valley and the mountain. There are also various trails you can walk, which took us through much of the rubble while giving us different vantage points of the destruction. One of the interpreters was telling us a joke she tells kids who visit on school trips. She tells them that during their visit, they will stand on top of Turtle Mountain. What she means, of course, is that all the rubble they are standing on used to be the top of Turtle Mountain. She told us that some kids laugh while others are unimpressed. However, she did inspire the title of this post.
As I stand in the middle of the rock that devastated the town of Frank, marveling at the massive mountain with part of it missing, I’m simply stunned by the power and beauty of nature. One moment it can be just a stunning natural beauty to admire and the next minute it can become one of the ugliest events you’ve ever experienced.
Frank Slide is truly impressive. It’s beautiful, rugged, and a big part of Alberta’s history. This is one of those sites that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
If You Go
Frank Slide is around two and a half hours south of Calgary on Highway 22, the Cowboy Trail.
Check the Frank Slide website to start planning your trip and find other activities in the area.
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