Will the Garibaldi Lake Barrier flood Squamish?

One of the Most Unique Places on earth!


In 1907, when the first ascent of Mount Garibaldi was completed by Vancouver mountaineers, the views from the peaks inspired the establishment of summer climbing camps at Garibaldi Lake. This group of mountaineers was instrumental in founding the British Columbia Mountaineering Club that same year.

The interest sparked by the camps eventually led to the province legislating the park as a park reserve in April 1920.  Seven years later, in 1927, it enhanced the status to a designated Class A Provincial Park. This was an important step as The Alpine Club had already predicted that the 195,000-hectare Provincial Park would attract thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to one of the most photographed places in British Columbia.


Will the barrier eventually flood the beautiful Town of Squamish?

Garibaldi Lake is surrounded by a group of nine, small stratovolcanoes and basaltic-andesite cones. The lake was formed because of Lava Flows. These Flows blocked the valley creating a natural dam. This Dam is now known as “The Barrier”. The dam has continually trapped meltwater from Sentinel Glacier and Sphinx Glacier forming what we now call Garibaldi Lake. 

The Lava Dam is over 300m thick and about 2 km wide. Sometime in the fall or winter of 1855–56, part of this dam gave away resulting in a 25,000,000 cubic meter landslide that devastated the area below. 

The instability of the barrier was brought to public attention in the 1970s, eventually leading to the area below The Barrier being declared unsafe for habitation in 1981. The village of Garibaldi was evacuated as a result of this.

Today, the land immediately below The Barrier is referred to as the Barrier Civil Defence Zone by BC Parks. The area around it is denoted by signage warning hikers not to camp, stop, or linger within the hazard zone.  

If the full Barrier were to give in, the Town of Squamish could potentially flood. The full force of Garibaldi Lake would be released downstream, causing damage in the Cheakamus and Squamish Rivers and potentially major damage to the Town of Squamish.


The incredible turquoise colour of the lake’s water is due to glacial flour. Glacial streams and lakes are characterized by their high sediment concentrations. This fine-grained material is called glacier flour/ rock flour/ glacial silt. The sun reflects off these particles, refracting blue and green wavelengths of light.


The park’s landscape consists of many steep rugged mountains, coastal forests, and alpine lakes. Much of this landscape was shaped by quaternary continental and alpine glaciation, as well as volcanic activity such as the eruption of Mount Garibaldi about 13,000 years ago. Meadows full of wildflowers and scenic mountain landscapes abundant in wildlife make for Garibaldi to be one of the most unique and picturesque places on Earth. We like to refer to Garibaldi Park as the “Canadian Rockies Of The West”.

Garibaldi Provincial Park received its modern name from Mount Garibaldi, which was itself named after Giuseppe Garibaldi by Captain George Henry Richards during a survey of Howe Sound in 1860. Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general, patriot and republican. He contributed to the Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.


In 2007, a study on glacial recession in Garibaldi Park was conducted by the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University. This study determined that, by 2005, glacier coverage in the park had decreased to 49% of what it was in the early 18th century. The study attributed this decrease to the trend of global temperature change in the 20th century.

A similar study in 2013 by the same authors reinforced that the park’s glaciers, along with others in western Canada, are at the smallest they have been in several thousand years.


Garibaldi is also a fish – The Garibaldi, historically known as the Catalina goldfish and marine goldfish now commonly as the Garibaldi damselfish. This is a species of bright orange fish.

Check out our Outdoor Hiking & Camping Activities in Garibaldi:

Hiking & Camping – Garibaldi Panorama Ridge & Black Tusk

Awaken your inner explorer as we hike into the heart of Garibaldi and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Adventure in dramatic landscapes full of dormant volcano’s and towering ice-blanketed peaks.


Hiking & Camping – Garibaldi Wedgemount Lake

Grab your pack, tighten your laces and strap in, as you will ascend past a roaring 300m waterfall en route to a remote alpine lake.

Build up enough courage to jump in a glacier lake and enter an ice cave while surrounded by towering jagged mountains.






R & S Cannings (2015) British Columbia: Natural History of Its Origins, Ecology, and Diversity With A New Look At Climate Change