On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., 110 million metric tonnes of rock fell from the top of Turtle Mountain, in a slide approximately one km wide, half a km high and 150 metres thick. An area of three square km of the valley bottom, including part of the town of Frank, was buried.
The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre will be commemorating the 120th anniversary of the slide with a ceremony on April 29, 2023 at 1 p.m. An outdoor memorial service and wreath laying will be held at the gravesite along Old Frank Road, followed by a reception back at the centre.
“It will be a time to show reverence for the many lives lost to the Frank Slide, as well as respect for the immense power of our mountains in the South Canadian Rockies,” said a press release from the Interpretive Centre.
The town of Frank had a population of 600 at the time of the slide, and over 90 of them were killed.
According to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre an exact count of those who died was never done, because many victims were never recovered.
The famous story of the single baby girl being the only survivor is not true, according to information from the Centre. There were actually quite a number of survivors from those in direct path of the slide, and three of them were young girls.
“The first was Fernie Watkins, a 3-year-old girl found in the debris outside her family’s home by the pit boss at the mine, Edgar Ash.
“The second was Marion Leitch, 27 months old, who was thrown from her house when the rocks hit. Marion was supposedly found on a pile of hay beside the house.
“Gladys Ennis was 15 months old at the time of the disaster and was found choking on mud thrown by the slide that destroyed her home. Lucy Ennis or Sam Ennis, Gladys’s parents, saved her life, as one of them cleared their daughter’s nose and throat of mud.”
The town of Frank was moved after the slide, with nearly all of the buildings of Old Frank dismantled or relocated. Today, the community is part of the municipality of Crowsnest Pass and is located on the north side of Highway 3 at the location known as New Frank
Turtle Mountain is still monitored by scientists from the Alberta Geological Survey.
“Scientists estimate that any major rockslide from Turtle Mountain is not likely to occur anytime soon if the mountain continues to move at its current slow, turtle-like pace. However, if movement begins to speed up, a major rockslide could happen much sooner. And, if an earthquake happens nearby, all bets are off,” says information at frankslide.ca
Open year round, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre offers interactive exhibits that showcase the deadly slide of 1903, its impact on the area and the ongoing monitoring of Turtle Mountain.
The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is located just 1.5 km off Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass and is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A complete tour of the centre’s galleries and film presentations takes approximately two hours.