More than a century ago, residents of the quiet mining town of Frank were awoken by the sound of tons of limestone rock crashing down the side of Turtle Mountain.
Early in the morning on April 19, 1903, 82 million tonnes (30 million cubic metres) of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain. The falling debris buried a portion of the town of Frank in the valley below, killing more than 70 people.
Within 100 seconds, Frank’s coal mining operation, the recently built Canadian Pacific Railway line, homes, and businesses were demolished and smothered by stones and boulders-with the residents inside.
The disaster had a chilling effect on the town for decades after the event, and today the site of the tragedy is an active hub for geological study and cultural history.
The Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) has installed equipment to provide ongoing monitoring and research of Turtle Mountain. The program is focused on understanding the nature of rock movements on the mountain ranges surrounding Crowsnest communities.
The Turtle Mountain Monitoring Program (TMMP) enables near-real-time monitoring and ensures the safety of residents living in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass by providing advanced warning of mass movements on the mountain.
Through a decade of research, the AGS has determined that movement of the mountain’s rock mass has been slow (millimeters per year) and finds the likelihood of a large-scale rockslide to be low.
Visitors can sift through aftermath of Canada’s most infamous rockslide and connect with living history, and get a crow’s eye view of the Crowsnest Pass at the most popular attraction in the area: The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
Two award-winning, presentations are shown daily: “On the Edge of Destruction” (a powerful, 30-minute docudrama that recreates the remarkable night the rockslide came down) and “In the Mountain’s Shadow” (a visually stunning presentation that vibrantly illustrates the history of the Crowsnest Pass from immigration through coal mining to rum running).
Walking trails around the Centre and through the slide provide spectacular mountain views and a reminder of the awesome power of nature.
The Centre is open year-round, and offers state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, dynamic interpretive programs and exclusive presentations, and doubles as a Travel Alberta Visitor Information Centre for The Pass and the surrounding areas.
The gift shop features souvenirs, books, clothing and other items from around Crowsnest Pass.