Disaster at Lost River, 1952: Part l

This was it. We were finally going to Lost River.

Well, not directly. We spent the night in Saskatoon. Then in the morning, drove to Lost River. For those who know Saskatchewan, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive.

As Andrew drove, I read him the most compelling story I had come across in the first edition of Search for Yesteryears (a community history published in 1984).

It’s titled “One April Day (April 8, 1952)” and was written by Doreen Enns. But I’m calling this post “Disaster at Lost River” because that’s what my Grandpa Neufeld called it… and honestly I think it’s more apt.

I wasn’t expecting my voice to catch in my throat as I read the story out loud to Andrew. It began when I read aloud the words, “I think Abe Janzen is drowned and we don’t know where some of the others are.”

You see, Lost River is located on the Saskatchewan River, which is neither north nor south. It is the part of the Saskatchewan River where the South has fed into the North, and the river is now larger and perhaps a bit more formidable.

And, “the ice in the Saskatchewan River had gone out the night before. Now an ice jam had occurred…”

All that flowing water no longer had a place to go, and rose quickly. A flash flood.

There was a logging camp on the banks, and the water overtook the camp:

“Someone awakened at 5am to find water running into the shack, and quickly roused the others. Half-dressed… they ran.”

“He clung to a floating log which kept turning over and over in the icy water. Numb with cold and despair…”

“The waters rose higher and higher; escape was cut off. When my brothers arrived, one of the boys had already lost his hold to slip into the water’s icy embrace.”

“Henry, knowing his brother’s danger, caught the trailing halter rope of one of the horses, leaped on the horse’s back and turned the animal into the churning waters rising with such merciless speed, in a gallant attempt to save his brother. The three on the shore gasped in horror as in a moment Henry and his horse sank under the icy waters to rise no more.”

“The water began rising again. Loud cracks like pistol shots rang out as huge trees were broken off like matchsticks and everything its path was swept downstream as the mighty flood of ice and water thundered towards us. We turned and ran.”

“I heard Mr. Brown say, ‘There go the others now; there’s no hope for them.’”

 (To be continued…)