This summer’s sustained heat has turned some of the Northwest Territories’ most majestic waterfalls into bumbling brooks.
Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls, along the Hay River, have been reduced to trickles compared to their usual torrents.
The NWT government says hot weather and an exceptionally dry May are contributing factors to low water levels across much of the territory, though rainfall in the South Slave and Dehcho was “generally closer to normal” in June.
In a water monitoring bulletin issued last week, the territory’s hydrologists said “extremely low” rivers in those regions include the Hay River, Kakisa River, Trout River and Petitot River.
A graph of the Hay River’s water level showed river discharge near the town of Hay River itself to be at a record low.
Low water comes only a year after the same monitoring station posted record-high discharge levels and Hay River endured a disastrous flood.
Marilyn Chalifoux visited the falls south of Hay River on Saturday, as part of a trip to the town to celebrate her mother’s birthday.
“On the way back, we stopped at Louise Falls and then we went up to Alexandra Falls. I don’t ever recall the river being that low in that area,’ Chalifoux said.
Chalifoux is from Beaver First Nation, between High Level and Fort Vermilion, and was raised in Meander River, some 150 km upstream of Alexandra Falls on the Hay River.
“We’ve seen the Hay River low before. That was in the 1980s, and I remember then that the river was really low and there were dead fish in the water,” she said, recalling a summer that was, like this year, hot and dry.
But Chalifoux said this year seemed worse.
“As an Indigenous person, I know our Elders have spoken of these times that are coming. We’re seeing it now. Mother Earth is suffering,” she said.
“I have never seen it like that, ever.”
In the North Slave, the GNWT says water levels and flows are lower than normal on the likes of the Yellowknife River, Cameron River, Snare River, Prelude Lake and Prosperous Lake.
The Snare River is home to the North Slave’s hydro system. The NWT Power Corporation last week told NNSL it has been burning diesel at its Yellowknife plant since last fall to compensate for dips in hydro generation brought on by low water.
But the situation isn’t the same in all areas of the NWT.
The territory’s water monitoring bulletin states that a large dump of rainfall over the Mackenzie Mountains at the start of July has produced “near-record high water levels” on the Keele River.
The Beaufort Delta, meanwhile, was described as “warm and wet” during May and June, with water levels near average or slightly lower than normal.