Pembina River Tubing rises from the ashes after Parkland County wildfire

Click to play video: 'Pembina River Tubing reopens after significant wildfire damage'
Pembina River Tubing reopens after significant wildfire damage
After being badly damaged in a wildfire one year ago, Pembina River Tubing is once again welcoming customers — just in time for the summer season. Erik Bay has the story – Jun 1, 2024

Pembina River Tubing manager Cheryl Harris vividly remembers the day her business near Evansburg and Entwistle burned to the ground.

Through a security camera feed, she watched as the Range Road 70 wildfire tore through Parkland County on May 5, 2023, destroying the popular summer destination 106 kilometres west of Edmonton.

Security camera footage of a wildfire at Pembina River Tubing in Parkland County on May 5, 2023. Credit: Pembina River Tubing via Facebook

“It was actually our wedding anniversary when the wildfire came through and took out our business,” she told 630 CHED’s This Morning with Stacey Brotzel and Daryl McIntyre on Thursday.

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The business is a popular summer attraction.

Those looking to float the Pembina River launch from the property and float for several hours downstream until they reach Pembina Provincial Park, where buses take patrons back to the river tubing company’s parking lot.

Click to play video: 'Parkland County wildfire destroys Pembina River Tubing, damages homes west of Edmonton'
Parkland County wildfire destroys Pembina River Tubing, damages homes west of Edmonton

The wildfire last spring made it impossible in 2023, however.

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According to a November 2023 investigation by Henricks and Associates Ltd., a company that determines wildfire origin and cause, a resident reported a wildfire burning near the Trestle Creek Golf Resort on April 29, 2023.

The cause of the fire, which burnt an area of approximately 6,284 hectares, was determined to be a holdover from a burning pile of debris.

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A little more than a year since that fateful day last May, Pembina River Tubing has officially reopened.

Even though the temperatures aren’t exactly swimsuit weather, some patrons have already braved the chilly waters.

Harris said tree trimming saved some things such as changing rooms, bathrooms, a parking booth and a solar shed. The rest was destroyed, she said, including the area where tubes and life jackets were stored.

It was a challenge to get the business up and running for this season, she said.

“We were using the same company that we used before for the tubes because the tubes were a high quality tube that’ll last,” Harris said of the river that can be rocky and shallow in areas, puncturing tubes and floaties made of less-sturdy materials.

“But when it came to the life jackets, it was a little bit more of a challenge because the prices of everything have gone up so high.”

The company eventually found a supplier, but there are fewer tubes. Before the fire, Pembina River Tubing owned more than 700 tubes — this year, only 240 are available.

Harris said she’s looking forward to fully rebuilding and rising from the ashes.

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Reservations are only being booked two weeks in advance by phone due to technical issues with the company’s website.

There aren’t any reservations yet, Harris said. She suspects people are waiting for improved weather conditions before booking.

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