Flooding at Churchill’s Goose Creek subdivision. Riccki O’Connor photo.
Nobody really thought ahead when the massive blizzards were pounding Churchill this past March. When the spring thaw came, permafrost has prevented meltwater from permeating the soil and has lead to major flooding in parts of the tundra from Thompson to Churchill along the Hudson Bay rail line.
Once again, as was during the time of the blizzards, supplies and groceries have been delayed due to lack of train service to the northern community. During the March storms groceries were stranded in the south for three weeks leading to a state of emergency.
“With the spring melt underway, water is everywhere”, said Mayor Mike Spence. “We’ve got historic record water flows coming into our community here. It’s a lot of water coming down,”.
Not expected to peak until early June, the Churchill River, as of last weekend, was flowing at about 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). With ice still on the Churchill River the flow of overrun onto land can be unpredictable due to tidal flow and ice jamming along shore.
The Goose Creek subdivision has been flooded up river and volunteers have been furiously filling and placing sandbags to try to contain the water. The tracks over parts of the 100 mile stretch of the Hudson Bay rail line have been completely flooded over and no trains have been through since May 23rd.
“We have a rail problem here where we are not able to use the train system because of damage to the rail line, so that needs to be attended to, and that actually can’t be attended to until the water conditions are dealt with.” stated Spence.
Churchill is working with Thompson’s Calm Air, to work out plans to fly groceries into town as soon as possible!
Churchill is a funky frontier town with some unusual characters and a town center right out of the movies. The town is self-contained with just about every activity you want located in the town complex. Northern restaurants and bars line the main drag which is Kelsey Boulevard. Polar bears even saunter into town so if one is patient one doesn’t have to head out to the Churchill Wildlife management Area in a polar rover to see them.
Here are five attractions outside of Churchill proper that are worth checking out if you happen to visit the northern village.
1. Ithaca Shipwreck: Just off the coast near Bird Cove in Churchill, this old freighter is a classic landmark of the region.
2. Cape Merry: This iconic overlook on the precambrian sheild above the Churchill River and Hudson Bay is a classic starting point for any Adventure group arriving in Churchill. One can become geographically centered here and get a feel for the immensity of the Hudson Bay.
Natural Habitat group at the Cape Merry battery. Karen Walker photo.
3. Port of Churchill: A major economic stalwart of the town, this massive grain storage and port facility facilitates the cargo train as well as enormous cargo ships transporting grain products across the oceans via waterways accessible to the the Hudson Bay.
Grain port of Churchill.Steve Selden photo.
4. Observation tower at Goose Creek: In the summer this spot is a great place to observe various marsh birds and ducks. You also can get a distant view of an annual osprey nest as well as a clear vista about eight kilometers up the Churchill River. A quiet respite with amazing sky and landscape views.
Observation tower at Goose Creek marina.
5. Anglican Church: If you like the intimate atmosphere of a quaint church service, this is the place. If you also want to see a national treasure you can do that as well. The Lady Franklin stained glass window is displayed to the right of the alter. This grand piece of art was given by Sir John Franklin’s wife, Jane, in appreciation of all the search efforts put forth to find her husband and their lost Arctic expedition of 1845.
Anglican church in Churchill rests on the edge of the Hudson Bay.
Close – up of the Lady Franklin stained glass window Photo Karen Walker