Go back to news listing

The Great Flood of 1915: A look back at one of the worst natural disasters in Drumheller's history 

Posted on Jun. 16 2023

On June 17, 1915, a massive flood swept through the valley of the Red Deer River, devastating the town of Drumheller and its surrounding areas. The flood was caused by heavy rainfalls in the Rockies, which led to a sudden surge of water in the river. The floodwaters quickly overwhelmed the town's limited infrastructure, leaving behind a trail of destruction and tragedy. The flow rate during this flood event was estimated to have been more than 200 cubic metres per second. 

The impact of the flood 

The Great Flood of 1915 was one of the worst natural disasters in Drumheller's history, and its impact was felt for years to come. The floodwaters destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure, leaving many residents homeless and without basic necessities. The flood also claimed the lives of at least five people, including two young children. 

The town's coal mines were also severely impacted by the flood, with many of them flooding and becoming inoperable. This had a significant economic impact on the town, as coal mining was the primary industry in Drumheller at the time. The flood also damaged the railway line that connected Drumheller to the rest of the province, further isolating the town from the outside world. 

The response to the flood 

In the aftermath of the flood, the residents of Drumheller and the surrounding areas came together to rebuild their community. Volunteers from nearby towns and cities came to Drumheller to help with the relief efforts, providing food, shelter, and medical care to those affected by the flood. The Canadian government also provided financial assistance to help with the rebuilding process. 

Despite the challenges, the residents of Drumheller were determined to rebuild their town and prevent future flooding events. The town's infrastructure was significantly improved, with new bridges, culverts, and drainage systems put in place to better manage floodwaters. The town's coal mines were also re-opened, and new industries were established to help diversify the local economy. But despite the hard work and updated infrastructure, mapping tools weren’t quite as up-to-date, and the town has remained in the zone of flood risk. 

Lessons learned from the flood 

The Great Flood of 1915 had a profound impact on Drumheller, both in terms of the damage it caused and the lessons it taught. The flood highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure to better manage floodwaters, as well as the need for emergency response plans to help communities respond to natural disasters. The flood also emphasized the importance of community resilience and the power of working together to overcome adversity. 

Looking forward 

Today, Drumheller is a thriving community that has learned from its past and is prepared for the future. The town's infrastructure has been significantly improved, with new flood control measures put in place to prevent future flooding events. The town's economy has also diversified, with new industries like tourism and recreation playing an increasingly important role in the local economy. 

The Great Flood of 1915 may have been one of the worst natural disasters in Drumheller's history, but it also served as a catalyst for change and growth. By remembering the lessons learned from the flood, Drumheller can continue to build a more resilient and prosperous community for generations to come. 

Behind the Scenes: A Look at the Engineering Behind Local Flood Control Measures 


Drumheller, Alberta has a long history of flooding, with several major floods occurring in the town's past. To help mitigate against damage from future flood events, the town has invested in a range of flood control measures, from berms to stormwater management systems and diversion channels. But what goes into designing and engineering these flood control measures, and how do they work to protect the town from flooding? In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the engineering behind local flood control measures. 

Designing and Building Berms 

Berms are some of the most common flood control measures used in Drumheller. These structures are designed to provide a barrier between floodwaters and the town's infrastructure, private land, homes, and businesses, helping to prevent flooding in low-lying areas. Berms are typically made of compacted soil. 

The design of these structures is critical to their effectiveness in preventing flooding. Engineers must take into account a range of factors, such as the water level for the design flood, the height and width of the berm, the type and strength of the materials used, and the potential impact of floodwaters on the structure including the potential for erosion and seepage. To ensure that these structures are built to withstand the force of floodwaters, engineers may use computer simulations to test their designs before construction begins. 

Managing Stormwater 

Another key component of flood control in Drumheller is the management of stormwater. Stormwater management systems are designed to collect and store excess water during heavy rainfall events, helping to mitigate flooding in the town's streets and homes. These systems may include overland drainage channels, pipes, and retention ponds, and must be carefully designed to handle the specific needs of the town. 

Engineers must take into account a range of factors when designing stormwater management systems, including the size and shape of the area draining to the system (also known as the catchment or drainage area), the type of soil and vegetation used, and the amount of rainfall expected in the area. The goal is to create a system that can efficiently collect and store stormwater, while also ensuring that excess water is safely discharged away from the town's infrastructure. 

Diverting Floodwaters 

Diversion channels are another important flood control measure used in Drumheller. These channels are designed to redirect floodwaters away from the town and convey flow directly to the rivers and creeks of Drumheller. The design of diversion channels is critical to their effectiveness, as they must be able to handle large volumes of water and prevent erosion and other forms of damage. 

Engineers must carefully analyze the topography of the area when designing diversion channels, taking into account factors such as the slope of the land and the potential impact of floodwaters on the channel's walls. They may also use computer simulations to complete their designs and ensure that the channel will be effective in conveying the design flood flows. 


The engineering behind local flood control measures is complex and multi-faceted, requiring careful planning, design, and construction. From berms to stormwater management systems and diversion channels, each of these flood control measures plays a critical role in protecting Drumheller from flooding. By understanding the engineering behind these measures, we can better appreciate the effort and expertise that goes into ensuring the safety and well-being of our community. 

Prev Next

Recent News