A Hay River tourism operation on the shoreline of Great Slave Lake has been hit hard by high water and high wind.
During a wind storm on the evening of Aug. 29, the 2 Seasons Adventures campground suffered an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in damages.
According to Environment Canada, the winds on the evening of Aug. 29 were 26 kilometres per hour, gusting to 55 km/h. They were coming from the north and driving already high water onto the shoreline.
The damage at the campground is extensive – sand and large pieces of driftwood over its gravel road, dislodged and damaged yurts, a destroyed events area, a knocked over cabin, and a beach still covered by high water.
“We lost 45 revenue camp stalls on the beach that are destroyed,” said Fraser Pike, who owns and operates the camp ground with his wife, Kathy McBryan.
Pike explained the camp stalls, where people would park their campers for the summer, were the main source of income for 2 Seasons Adventures because people wanted to be on the beach.
The company’s Facebook page indicates they have 40 beach front stalls, 10 treed stalls and a group camping area where another 20 stalls could be placed, plus six yurts and two one-bedroom cabins.
Except for the high water, he said the beach stretches about 150 feet into Great Slave Lake.
McBryan believes the loss of the camp stalls, now underwater, is the worst of the damage because families would spend their summers there.
“This place is always full of children and families and activities and life,” she said. “The only way you can think of it is when you see the pictures on the news when hurricanes and tornadoes hit. That’s how you feel. You feel like it’s a natural disaster.”
McBryan added the beach is the main selling feature of 2 Seasons Adventures.
“That’s why people come and camp at 2 Seasons,” she said. “They want the beach front. They want that kind of lifestyle. Otherwise, you can go camp in any bush.”
Pike noted that, when the wind and water began to rise, some guests were at the campground, both at the campsites and in the yurts.
“We had to evacuate all them,” he said, noting that involved up to 10 people.
Two weeks previously, there was a smaller flood of the camp stalls area, meaning 40 families had already been moved from the area.
Pike said they realized there was a problem brewing on Friday evening, Aug. 28.
“The wind came up and it was kind of washing over the beach,” he said. “And Saturday afternoon (Aug. 29) around 4 o’clock the water came up and by 10 o’clock Saturday night we were devastated.”
The destruction of the events area is a major blow.
Pike said the area – including a dance floor, a stage and a tiki bar – was used for all kinds of activities, such as weddings, dances, a pig roast and more, and it is now ruined and needs to be replaced.
Three of the yurts – circular tents which were an estimated 350 feet away from the water’s edge – were moved by the rising water and driftwood, and floated into each other. They will need to be put back in place and require new flooring, electrical and propane.
“You can’t just pick them up and move them back,” said Pike. “You’ve got to carefully rebuild everything.”
Pike noted that the road – covered by driftwood after the storm – was built at an elevation two feet higher than the 100-year high-water mark, as determined by surveyors.
The owners are not sure how to protect the property in the future.
“Do we build a barrier like they did in the West Channel and then you don’t have a beach,” said Pike. “Where do we go from here?”
The 2 Seasons Adventures campground is now closed for the season. It normally closes on Nov. 1.
“We’re done for the year,” said Pike. “Now we’re in straight clean-up mode.”
The business owners are planning to rebuild the damaged or destroyed sections of the campground.
“We’re definitely rebuilding,” said Pike. “Hay River definitely needs the campground.”
However, he noted the exact extent of the damage won’t be known until the high water goes down in Great Slave Lake.
“We don’t know what’s going to be left when the water goes down,” he said. “We won’t be able to know until we see it.”
The owners opened 2 Seasons Adventures five years ago.
Pike and McBryan live year-round at the campground in a house that was not damaged.
Other areas of the shoreline of Great Slave Lake were impacted by the high winds and high water.
The beach at the Hay River Territorial Park was covered in a jumble of driftwood.
There was also some erosion in places.
At the Sept. 1 meeting of town council, Glenn Smith, the senior administrative officer with the town, said the Aug. 29 storm involved significant water and some risks associated with high north winds on the shoreline.
Smith noted there were some reports of damage to one or two properties on the lakefront, along with water entering a property on Lakeshore Drive.
The SAO said the town was in close contact with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs during the storm.
“We’re still in some discussions on what can be done, if anything, and recognizing that high winds and high water levels through the fall, as we switch to more predominant wind season and north winds, we’ll probably see some other scares,” he said.
Stephane Millette, the town’s director of recreation, said Porritt Landing escaped without damage despite extremely high water.
“Our docks at Porritt Landing were actually above the retaining walls,” said Millette. “The water did lower and there was no damage to the docks or to any vessels to my knowledge.”
Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation said there was no damage on the Hay River Reserve because of the high water and high wind.