$600 fines aim to dissuade dangerous trespassing by cliff jumpers, swimmers near Seebe Dam

An RCMP member on the banks of the Bow River near the Seebe Dam during the search for a missing teen in 2020. (file)

Increased enforcement and heftier fines are being introduced to prevent trespassing on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation along a stretch of the Bow River that has proven deadly.

The Municipal District of Bighorn, Stoney Nakoda First Nation, RCMP, TransAlta, ATCO and the Canadian Pacific Police Service have partnered for an initiative designed to thwart illegal activity downstream of the Seebe Dam, approximately 60 kilometres west of Calgary.

"Driven by social media and a disregard for the wellbeing of themselves and their friends, people are unnecessarily putting their lives at risk," said Rick Lyster, director of emergency management for the M.D. of Bighorn, in a statement issued Tuesday. "The terrain can be unstable and the water in this stretch of the Bow River is ice-cold and especially treacherous. Water levels change without warning and strong undercurrents and undertows can drag people under or sweep them away to further dangers down the river.

"Anyone going to these sites is not concerned with his or her own safety. That makes them a danger to both themselves and to their friends."

Stoney Nakoda RCMP says trespassers are endangering themselves and others, as cell phone service in the area is limited, and violators may be subject to a fine of at least $600 for each offence.

In August 2020, 16-year-old Blessing Paul of Calgary was found dead several days after being swept away by the river.

In July 2014, two men died downstream of the dam while attempting to swim across the river to the unsanctioned cliff jumping site.  

Stoney Nakoda First Nation officials say there has been a startling increase in the number of trespassers on the Nation's traditional lands and there are concerns for the safety of citizens.

"While most trespassers mean no harm, there are far too many that litter, graffiti rocks and structures, consume alcohol and recreational drugs, leave human waste and damage the riverbank and natural habitat," explained John Slater, security manager for the Stoney Nakoda First Nations."