The Frankie Slide at Turtle Mountain

Frank Slide on May 5, 1971

The “Frank Slide” was a tragic rock-slide that took place across the town of Frank, a town known for coal-mining. The town was in the Northwest of Alberta. The slide itself comprised 82 million metric tonnes of limestone, and nearly half a mile long, falling down from Turtle Mountain and into the “Crowsnest River” that was at the bottom of the mountain. Lasting a little longer than 90 seconds yet still killing about 90 people, the Frank Slide was one of Canada’s deadliest rock-slides.

The biggest question is, “What caused the slide?”. The answer is simply that the structure of Turtle mountain was very unstable because of thrust forces and gravity, and this tragedy would inevitably happen.

The “Frankie Slide” Myth

Shortly after the slide, a myth was created about a baby girl had survived the rock avalanche, but was inaccurate. The story itself is true in saying that there were several younger girls that survived, although the part of the story that mentions a baby girl being the sole survivor, was a tad far-fetched.

There were three girls who survived the rock-slide. Three-year-old Fernie Watkins, two-year-old Marion Leitch, and 15-month-old Gladys Ennis. The youngest of the three was found choking on mud and was saved by her parents. Stories began to spread that Gladys was called “Frankie Slide” and that she was the sole survivor of the rock-slide, which was as we now know, false. In fact, she alongside the two other girls were among the other twenty plus people who had survived the rock-slide and had become victims of the Frank Slide.

Future Damage

A future avalanche is inevitable, unfortunately. Scientists believe that as Turtle Mountain continues to move at a few millimetres every year, the unfortunate forces of gravity will eventually overpower the forces which are holding the mountain together and keeping the structure stable leading to yet another rock-slide. However, the same scientists do not believe that there will be a rock-slide on the same side of the mountain, but it will, in fact, be towards the south of the mountain.

Concluding the unfortunate incident, the damage the rock-slide consisted of many miners’ homes, farms, railway lines, factories and even the Frank cemetery caused that miners homes, farms, railway lines, factories and even the Frank cemetery. The slide left hundreds devastated and while many were unharmed by it, their homes destroyed and having to start again. A lot of those who lived in the town of Frank started lives elsewhere and the town lessened in population.


  1. I’m trying to figure out the geological factors. The soil appears to be flowing in a liquid fashion rather than a rock fall manner. Given that the time was May, which might correlate with Spring snow melt and rain, was the ground saturated? Also, is there a stream/river in the area (some of the photo suggest this)? Another geological phenomenon that occurs in Spring is called “mass wasting”. This is related to the expansion of water in the ground/between rocks (10% increase) during freezing. When the ice melts/thaws, the gaps allow for soil/rocks to settle, sometimes setting off rock slides, avalanches, or dumping.

    Liked by 1 person

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