Improving visitor safety in Kananaskis

5.4 million visitors in 2020.

Kananaskis is a large, multi-use recreation region in Alberta extending from Highway 1A in the north to Highway 532 in the south. The region offers camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, equestrian, and so much more. In 2020, Kananaskis saw 5.4 million visitors and broke a record for visitation. With its growing popularity due to its beauty and proximity to Calgary, tourist safety and services are a major concern. Thurber has helped improve some key tourist attractions in the area.

Grassi Lakes rockfall hazard assessment

The Grassi Lakes are two shallow, aquamarine lakes nestled beneath limestone cliffs. The lakes are reached via a short, easy hike. Rock climbers enjoy scaling the cliffs, and the influx of tourism in the area is bringing more hikers to the lakes. With the proliferation of users comes a greater risk of injury due to rockfall.

In 2018, Alberta Environment and Parks engaged Thurber to evaluate the rockfall hazard from the cliffs and perform risk analysis to develop mitigation options that would be employed during redevelopment and upgrading of the trail.

Thurber conducted site reconnaissance, surficial geologic mapping, and terrain analysis using high resolution drone photography and Lidar topography to evaluate rockfall source areas and runout zones. We modelled rockfall to determine runout zones and to map relative hazard zones for the site.

In 2022, Alberta Parks closed Grassi Lakes to conduct trail and parking lot upgrades, including mitigating rockfall hazard and installing signage and fencing depicting rockfall areas. The trail has since been reopened.

Troll Falls: improving access and visitor safety

Accessible year round, Troll Falls is a family-friendly walk through the forest leading to a scenic waterfall. Its easy access makes it a popular destination but the parking lot was much too small to accommodate all the users.

Thurber provided geotechnical site evaluation, investigation, and recommendations for site grading and asphalt pavement design for the improved access road and parking lot expansion. We also provided quality assurance in the form of proof rolling and compaction testing of subgrade materials, hot mix asphalt sampling, and asphalt coring.

Because the parking lot would bring more visitors, Thurber also assessed the potential for dangerous rockfall around the falls. We determined that the falls can be admired from a safe distance and Alberta Parks has installed fence barriers to prevent people from getting too close to rockfall hazards.

The completed parking lot is now complete and the falls remain a favourite destination for locals and visitors.