The Channel

It was the geese that I heard first. A few days ago, I could hear the Canada geese after dark ……. somewhere close. Lots of them, probably hundreds of them. And I knew that the middle channel of the river would soon be open!

It always starts upstream when small creeks and tributary rivers melt and the water current flows wildly towards the larger Rideau River. About a month ago or so, I noticed the Kemptville Creek, a.k.a. the South Branch of the Rideau River, completely melted and rushing through town towards the Rideau River. The temperatures spiked slightly above normal ~ around 5 degrees celsius (41F) ~ about three weeks ago and that started the big melt. Then it got colder, much colder, below normal colder and stayed that way for a couple of weeks – actually until now – slowing down the melt quite a bit.

When I drove to town, I noticed that the middle of the river ~ the Channel ~ was open at the bridge at Beckett’s Landing!  Hurray!!  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw that little sliver of water at my place. Each time that I went into town, the channel was open further and further towards my place. A few days ago, I noticed that it was within eyesight of my house! Yeah!  The anticipation of this ‘right of spring’ was so exciting!

Channel

 

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of Geese and other spring birds, I was delighted to see the open water, even through the fog and rain! Canada Geese rested along the edges of the ice after their long journey from the south. Some of them were swimming delightfully in the water.

The Channel being open is THE sign that spring has REALLY arrived! It’s the promise that winter is behind us even if we do get more snow. It means that the ice at the edges of the river are melting and letting go and embracing spring. Buds on the trees are waiting to burst; spring tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are poking their leaves out from under the slushy snow. Red-winged Blackbirds are arriving back to their homeland and Bluejays are coming out of the forests.  Yesterday, Nellie thought she heard a bullfrog.

Today, it’s only a sliver of water that’s open. But within a few days, the rest of the ice will let go and my Lake of Shining Waters (read about it here) will be exposed until the end of the year!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Ahhhh, spring!

 

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Shoreline Naturalization

I’ve lived along the shores of the Rideau River for almost 35 years.  I’m grateful that nature has shared it with me and others.  This river and the canal system that’s part of it, is a National Historic Site, Canadian Heritage River, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it remains the most extensive, well preserved and significant example of a continuous working canal/river in North America.  Most sections of the river remain in their natural state, even rugged wilderness, while other areas support farms, homes, small towns, two big cities, and historic lock stations.

Our local conservation association is helping waterfront homeowners to restore their shoreline to a natural state to encourage a more positive ecosystem for flora and fauna through their Shoreline Naturalization Program.  I first heard about this program a few years ago and even talked to someone at the local Ecofair last year.   I read up on it and even found the guidebook On the Living Edge Handbook: Your Handbook to Waterfront Living at last fall’s book fair.  I believe I already follow sustainable waterfront living, as mentioned in the book, like using clean recycled 45 gallon plastic drums (we were told they used to hold Coca-cola syrup) for our docks. But I was also guilty of a few things like making a beach 33 years ago with trucks of sand for the kids to play in.  In the last few years, I’ve let the cattails and natural plants grow back in along the beach.

Siberian Iris among the cattails

Siberian Iris among the cattails

This spring, I contacted the conservation authority to say that I was interested.  I was too late for this spring’s projects but I had an on-site shoreline consultation about my vision.   Luckily, I agreed to receive the ‘surplus stock’ from this years’ plantings:  a variety of 106 native trees and bushes including White Pine; Red Maple; Sugar Maple; White Birch; Bur Oak; Tamarack; Cedar; Sweet Gale; and Pagoda Dogwood.  They came as bare-rooted seedlings from 12-36” (less than a meter) tall.  I planted them in 3 days.

Most of the tree seedlings were planted along the sides of the property – sugar maples closer to the house for easier accessibility for tapping in the spring when there might still be snow on the ground.  The lower growing bushes, Sweet Gale and Pagoda Dogwood, were planted down along the river and up along the sides.  I’ve saved a few for my ditch project.

Daisy

Daisy

Along with these plantings, I’m practicing natural management of my grass cutting along the river.  I’ve left a wavy swath 5-15 feet wide along the river’s edge this year with a path to the dock.  I’m so thrilled that I have my own wee meadow!  There are all kinds of native plants already growing like Daisies, Siberian Iris, native Irises, ferns, Joe Pye Weed, orange Daylillies, and wild Morning Glories.  I’ve transplanted some ostrich ferns and other plants that love wet areas.  I also have some Rue Meadow growing prolifically on the path by my pond that I’m going to transplant down by the river.  Yesterday I noticed places where snapping turtles have probably laid their eggs.  And I think we have a resident muskrat under the old dock.

I’m looking forward to watching nature do her thing down by the river.

"Flags" wild Iris

“Flags” wild Iris

Ottawa

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is a wonderful place to visit.  I’m not being biased because I live in the country nearby.  There are SO many things to see and do in Ottawa.  I’m kinda glad that I live so close by.

Changing of the Guard

First and foremost, there are the Parliament Buildings where the business of the nation is conducted (for 100-150 days a year).  The ‘Parliament Buildings’ consist of the Center Block (where Members of Parliament debate and vote and Senators ‘work’), the West Block, and the East Block (both of these are MPs offices and meeting rooms).  It’s a great place to visit for locals and tourists alike – the Center Block with its Peace Tower, looks like Big Ben clock in London and chimes quarterly.  When I was 8 years old, my Parents brought us to the Parliament Buildings and I’ll never forget it.  The honourary “Guards” in red wool coats and bearskin tall hats march every day at 10 a.m. from the War Memorial to Parliament hill for the “Changing of the Guard”.   It’s a free event with musical ‘pomp and ceremony’ worth attending for young and old alike.

Mountie

A walk around the Center Block building is a lovely stroll.  You might be lucky enough to meet a Mountie and see the RCMP’s horse grazing on the west lawn ;  you will certainly walk past the Cat Sanctuary (housing feral cats) ;  a gazebo with a spectacular view of the Ottawa River and beyond ;  statues of former Prime Ministers as you round the east side ;  and a grouping of statues of influential women of the past.  Visitors can also go up the Peace Tower to the look-out (which is the clock tower where the flag flies) or tour the Center Block Library (the only structure not destroyed by fire in 1916).  Every night during the summer, the MosAika Sound and Light show is played on the walls of the Parliament Buildings Center Block – just bring a lawn chair or a blanket and enjoy the free laser show.   After 49 years, I returned to Parliament Hill for another visit and was even more impressed!

Beavertails!

Within walking distance to the Parliament Buildings is the Byward Market (where you can buy a famous Beavertail pastry or an “Obama” cookie as well as local produce and souveniers) ;  The National Gallery (Art) ;  The Mint ;  the Sparks Street Mall (closed-to-cars street with shops) ; The National Arts Center ; the Rideau Canal and Locks ;   the magnificent Chateau Laurier Hotel ;  and many teens’ favourite, the Rideau Center Mall.  A nearby cruise down Sussex Drive will lead you to beautiful Rideau Falls, where the Rideau River falls into the Ottawa River ; past the Governor General’s Residence with its gorgeous gardens and tours ;  past the Prime Ministers’ Residence (guarded and closed to the public) ;  a number of foreign Embassies ; and past a breathtaking look-out along the Ottawa River.  You can also go on a Boat Cruise on the Rideau Canal or the Ottawa River.

 

A visit to Ottawa would not be complete without spending time at one of the national Museums.  Our favourite by far, is the newly renovated Museum of Nature (affectionately known by my family as the ‘dinosaur’ museum).  It’s fantastic for young and old – give yourself 3-4 hours to tour this huge castle-like place!  We used to always go every March Break when my Sisters and their children came up.  Our second favourite is the Museum of Science and Technology (a.k.a. the ‘Crazy Kitchen’ museum) – a dream come true for train lovers and active children.  There’s also the Museum of Civilization across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, the impressive Canadian War Museum, the Aviation Museum, The Mint, and a bunch of other smaller museums on specific themes.

Still fun at the Museum of Nature

Of course, if you visit Ottawa in the wintertime, you can skate on the famous Rideau Canal, Canada’s largest ‘skating rink’.  Ottawa has many parks, bike paths, and tourist attractions but the outlying areas are full of interesting places to visit, too,  like the Champlain Look-out or the MacKenzie King Estate (and their $24 cucumber sandwiches!) in Gatineau Park or Kiwi Gardens west of Perth.

Is there any reason why I wouldn’t love Ottawa?

Useful Links:

http://www.canadascapital.gc.ca/celebrate/mosaika

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Visitors/index-e.asp

http://www.ottawamuseums.com/

http://www.kiwigardens.ca/welcome.htm

 

The Mighty Rideau River

I’ve lived here for over 30 years, along the beautiful banks of the Rideau River.  My children grew up here fishing, canoeing, chasing damselflies,and catching turtles and frogs, which I’m sure you’ve already read about in some of my other blog posts.

Painted turtle in seaweed

Painted turtle in seaweed

Damselfly

Damselfly

Bullfrog

We’ve made many ice rinks in the winter out on the river too.  I thought I’d tell you abit about this magnificent river.

River Ice Rink

River Ice Rink

The Rideau river is part of the heritage Rideau Canal system which meanders along various elevations  through Eastern Ontario from Ottawa, at the Ottawa River, to Kingston, at Lake Ontario.  The Rideau Canal is 202 kms (127 miles) long and includes lakes, rivers, 292 islands, and 45 locks along 1091 kilometers (675 miles) of shoreland, one itty-bitty section that is mine.   Actually, a person could go ANYWHERE in the world via boat right from my own backyard!

Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the British Royal Engineers supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal between 1826-1832, constructed along an old Native Canadian canoe route.  The Rideau Canal was built as a result of the War of 1812 when the United States tried unsuccessfully to invade Canada, before we were officially a country (1867).   The leaders of the day thought it was prudent to have a safe water route between Montreal and Kingston (capital at the time)  to bypass the vulnerable narrow St. Lawrence River in that area.  There were few roads in those days and most travel was via ship.  So this new Rideau Canal had to accommodate boats up to  40.8 meters (134 feet) long and 10.1 meters (33 feet) wide, which was pretty standard for the day.   Hundreds of English, French, Irish, and Scottish men battled the Canadian wilderness and malaria, working with early 19th century hand tools, to build this Canal in just 6 years!  To this day, all but 2 locks are still operated manually.

Lock

Lock

It’s awesome to go to the Lock Stations and watch boats go through – there are 45 locks located at 24 lock stations, which were constructed to bypass the 24 kms of non-navigable waterway.  When my cousin Graham and his wife Valerie came from England to visit me a few years ago, I took them on a tour to the local lock stations.  We walked right across the closed massive lock gates (it’s okay, there are railings) to the other side.  We stood over the sluice grates watching the water churning as it enters the lock.  The Lockmaster mentioned that a boat was about 15 minutes away and asked it we wanted to wait and watch it go through the lock.  We agreed and started talking about my relatives………so while we waited, the Lockmaster made us tea and served it to us on a tray outside of the lock station!   Isn’t THAT Canadian hospitality at its finest!

Locks

Locks

It’s amazing to watch a lock fill with water – 1.3 MILLION litres (280,000 gallons) for EACH lock!  It comes rushing in under the water via the sluice while the boats bob gently while rising or lowering inside the lock.  It’s fascinating!  I never tire of watching that…..  You have to remember that these locks were designed and built almost 200 YEARS ago!  And they still function today as they were meant to function then.  It’s the oldest continuously operating canal system in North America! Talk about sustainable!    The Douglas Fir gates, however,  must be replaced every 15 years, made in a shop in the small town of Smiths Falls, along the canal.

In 1926, the 100 year old Rideau Canal was designated as a National Historic Site and in 2000 it was designated as a Canadian Heritage River .   The Rideau Canal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, joining the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, and the Taj Mahal in India, to name a few.  Whew, I am humbled to be keeping such noble company!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

My ‘Lake of Shining Waters’ , Rideau River

http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/on/rideau/plan/plan3.aspx

http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/on/rideau/visit/ecluse_lock.aspx

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