River water — and stress — dropping in flood-threatened Nahanni Butte

·1 min read
Nahanni Butte, photographed on Wednesday, with the South Nahanni River running along past it on the left. The Liard River, into which the South Nahanni River connects nearby, can be seen at the top of the photo. (Liny Lamberink - image credit)
Nahanni Butte, photographed on Wednesday, with the South Nahanni River running along past it on the left. The Liard River, into which the South Nahanni River connects nearby, can be seen at the top of the photo. (Liny Lamberink - image credit)

The threat of flooding in a small N.W.T. community, perched on the bank of the South Nahanni River, is subsiding.

After watching the river swell over the past week — quickly at first, and then more slowly — people living in Nahanni Butte noticed water levels drop an inch or two on Tuesday morning.

About 24 hours later, Burton Campbell, one of the community's 93 residents, said it had gone down by eight inches.

"It calms everybody's minds," he said. "You go back to your normal days … gotta check on your cabins and see if there's anything, any damage."

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC

Campbell took Raymond Vital to visit two of his cabins along the South Nahanni and Liard rivers — which connect northeast of Nahanni Butte  — to see how they'd fared on Tuesday evening. Both cabins were set high from the water's reach, and had not been damaged.

Water started to flood over low-lying parts of the road to the dump and to the Liard River Crossing on Monday afternoon, but it never breached a road near a teacher's cabin — the point at which Nahɂą Dehé Dene Band Chief Steve Vital said an evacuation order would have been triggered.

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC

Campbell said there's still more snow in the nearby mountains that needs to melt, but he's not worried about the risk of flooding anymore. Francis Betsaka, on the other hand, told CBC News he'd never been concerned.

Sitting on his ATV next to the river, 80-year-old Betsaka said he had lived in Nahanni Butte all his life and he knew the river well.

"I know it's going to be okay," he said. "It's going down for now, for the summer."

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC
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