Sarah Harmer’s Great Lake Watermarks – Lake Erie

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It’s dark. I have driven overnight and arrived where the mouth of the Grand River meets the shallow north shore of Lake Erie. I am here to sing a song at a small sunrise wedding ceremony. I was given directions to this lighthouse, and I wait with my guitar on a gravel spit jutting into the water. I’m the first one to arrive but I’m not the only one awake. In the pre-dawn grey perch boats motor out from the harbour, their lights glowing as they pass. There’s a clatter of chains. I imagine anchors being hoisted, nets being hauled. I hear talk between the fishermen. Is it Portuguese? The sky slowly begins to lighten and a few silhouettes, wedding guests I hope, make their way down the path towards me.

Sarah Harmer is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and activist.

Click here to check out this and Sarah’s other Great Lake Watermarks on the Watermark Project archive.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project, preserving our national water heritage through storytelling. To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Photo credit: Dustin Rabin

Creeks and Peaks: A Bow River Watermark with Ngaio Hotte

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Ngaio Hotte is a writer, resource economist and facilitator based in Vancouver, BC.

Over the summer of 2015, Ngaio embarked on a journey to cross the Canadian Prairies by canoe with her partner, Harry. This journey gave them a chance to witness incredible parts of our country and to learn new things about one another that they would carry into their marriage. It symbolized the beginning of a commitment to experiencing the world and learn together.

Here Ngaio shares her Watermark about a harrowing experience on the Bow River that, despite costing them their canoe and gear, failed to quash their spirit of adventure…

 

During the summer of 2015, my partner and I pursued a dream to travel across the Canadian Prairies by canoe. Our journey began on the outskirts of Lake Louise, near the headwaters of the Bow River, and finished near Brandon, Manitoba.. This journey gave us the chance to witness and experience incredible parts of Canada’s landscapes and waterways, and to learn new things about one another. It symbolized the beginning of a commitment to experiencing the world and learning together. The following is an excerpt from my accounts of our journey. The full highlights of this trip are captured on our travel blog, creeksandpeaks.com.

We knew when we started this trip that there would be highs and lows, but we never expected that they would come so early on. What a roller coaster this week has been.

We first put our paddles in the water at Lake Louise just over a week ago. From there, we had a leisurely float down the Bow River past Castle Junction to Johnston Creek canoe campground, then on to Banff the following day. The Banff townsite materialized suddenly, as if out of nowhere in the middle of the mountains. Our first portage of the trip, around Bow Falls, went smoothly, despite one of our water jugs rolling into the river and another being stolen from beside the pathway. From our map, we had expected to find a campground on the outskirts of town, but when we saw none we decided to paddle on to Bow River Campground just past Canmore. We followed the river along below the Three Sisters and Ha Ling Peak, illuminated in the twilight, and arrived at the campground just as night began to fall. The campground was full, but a friendly couple allowed us to squat on the edge of their site for the night.

We awoke the next morning expecting that our day would be occupied by a long, painful portage around the Bearspaw, Kananaskis and Horseshoe Dams. Fate had other plans.

We put into the water after a lazy breakfast and floated along, reaching a fork in the river about a kilometer downstream from the campsite. We agreed that the right side of the fork looked like the correct route to follow. We swung around toward the outside of the fork to avoid a fallen tree in the river; what we didn’t notice was that the current was carrying us toward another tree jutting out from the left side of the riverbank.

We paddled hard to avoid it, but not hard enough. The tree caught Harry in the stomach and stopped the boat dead. Realizing we were in trouble, Harry tipped backward out of the canoe, hoping that would free it. It didn’t.

The canoe had become trapped on another branch. Harry watched helplessly from the water as the boat slowly listed to one side and flipped over, dumping Abby, our dog, and I into the frigid water.

I bobbed to the surface and looked around for Abby, but couldn’t see her. I quickly realized that she must be trapped under the boat. Screaming to Harry, I frantically tried to grab the bow of the boat and drag it toward shore, but the boat was heavy and the current was strong. Harry, much taller than I, swam underneath the boat and found that he could reach the river bottom. Grabbing the gunnel of canoe, he pushed up hard and managed to flip the boat right-side up.

I watched Abby bob out from beneath the boat, looking scared but unhurt. Knowing that we needed to regain control of the canoe, I pushed myself up out of the water and back into the heeavy boat. That I was able to do this from the side, without the canoe tipping, speaks to how heavy the canoe was when fully loaded with our gear. Once in the canoe, however, I could see that our situation was about to become much worse: ahead of us was a large log jam, stretching most of the way across the river.

Seeing that Abby was unable to climb up out of the water on her own, Harry hoised her up onto a nearby log before swimming back toward me and the canoe. I tried to paddle away from the logs, but it was no use. Once again, the canoe became trapped against a log. This time, however, water began to rush in over the sides. As the canoe swamped, I fell out again and was carried downstream toward another part of the log jam. I remembered the advice I had learned about log jams during my training as a raft guide: approach feet first and then push yourself up and on top of the logs. Fortunately, I avoided any sharp branches and climbed out of the water unhurt. Harry was washed up onto the other side of the same log jam. Quickly but cautiously, we began removing what gear we could from the canoe and lifting it to safety on logs while the water rushed through the branches below. Once we had salvaged everything we could, Harry worked on trying to dislodge the canoe. With the current pushing hard against it, there was little he could do.

Once we realized that Harry would not be able to get the canoe unstuck on his own, we decided to call for help. We were trapped in the middle of the river, with freezing cold water flooding through the trees all around us. Luckily, the dry bag with our valuables, including my cell phone, had been accessible and we had strong cellular reception. I phoned 911 and was patched through to the dispatcher in Canmore, who contacted Alberta Public Safety in Kananaskis. Again, we were lucky, because we were able to change into dry clothes and keep warm while we waited. The rescue boat arrived in less than 30 minutes and plucked us all out of the dangerous situation.

We lost our canoe, tent and gear barrel, but we were lucky to make it out alive. We spent the next several days staying with friends in Calgary while we worked with locals, guides from Canadian Rockies Rafting and Canmore Fire Rescue to see if any more of our gear could be retrieved. Several people went out to the log jam but the water was still too high to get close enough to the canoe.

When we finally accepted that it could be a very long time before we got our canoe and the rest of our gear back, if ever, we began to collect borrowed and donated gear from some of the many people who offered to help us out. I started out feeling pretty low as we began the re-grouping effort. After all, this trip has been my dream for many years: this is not the way I had envisioned it unfolding. But as we met up with one person after another, their encouragement began to lift my spirits.

Finally, the night before we were scheduled to get back on the river, we made a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-op for some supplies. As I stood in the emergency supplies section, I looked up at a fellow who was entering the checkout line and was stuck with amazement: there, in front of me, stood my canoeing idol, Karsten Heuer. Karsten and his wife, Leanne Allison, made a documentary about their own canoe trip across Canada, which retraced the footsteps of Canadian author Farley Mowat. That he would appear before me the night before we restart our journey after a major setback was nothing short of incredible.

I told Karsten the story of our journey and our accident. He was familiar with the stretch of river where it had happened and supportive of our continuing. I wrote down his email address and promised to send him updates.

Yesterday, nearly a week after the accident, we made it back onto the river. We were all still a bit shaken, but nevertheless eager to continue on our journey. Geoff MacDonald, who completed his own journey across Canada by canoe with his wife Pam just two years ago, loaned us his canoe and saw us off at the river. It was a fitting end to our week: to begin our journey anew with the support and well wishes of other dedicated Canadian paddlers.

 

Click Here to check out Ngaio’s story on the Watermark Archive or learn more about Ngaio & Harry’s canoe trip across the prairies by visiting https://creeksandpeaks.com/  

 

Introducing North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors!

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The Waterkeeper Gala in Toronto on Thursday, April 21st, is just one week away!

This year’s Gala will introduce 12 Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors from across Canada. These are individuals who have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to creating a future where every Canadian can swim, drink, and fish. They are leaders who are promoting water literacy and watershed awareness, kick-starting education and protection programs, and building a strong “Swim Drink Fish Community.”

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to have three of our wonderful directors included in this inspiring group of water leaders! Meet our Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors…

 

Karen Percy Lowe

KarenLoweKaren is a former Canadian alpine skier. She won 2 bronze medals in skiing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, where she was Canada’s flag bearer in the closing ceremony. Karen is married to former Edmonton Oilers player and current Director of Hockey for the Edmonton Oilers, Kevin Lowe. Born and raised near the Bow River in Banff and travelling the world as an Olympic and professional downhill skier, Karen has always felt a connection with water and interest in global water issues. As a result of this growing concern and interest in clean water for communities everywhere, Karen wanted to bring her passion to her watersheds in Alberta. Karen is the co-founder and President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

Kevin Lowe

KevinLoweKevin Lowe is a retired defenceman and coach in the National Hockey League and the current President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers. As a defenceman, he played for the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers. Kevin is a long-time supporter for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water and Waterkeeper-work. Kevin’s interest in clean water and water issues grew out of his original bond with the Shuswap Lake. The responsibility of stewardship of this lake and the other waters began with him learning more about everyday practices which can harm lake water quality. Today, he is a Director for the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

 

Britt Standen

BrittStandenBorn and raised in Edmonton, Britt Standen is the President and owner of Physique Fitness Stores. For the past 5 years, Britt has attended and supported the Waterkeeper Alliance fundraiser in Banff and Lake Louise. Living on the river banks of the North Saskatchewan River for the past 30 years it was a natural progression to “walk the talk” and she along with Karen Percy Lowe co-founded the Saskatchewan Riverkeeper group. She is currently the Vice President and Treasurer of the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

 

 

Click here to meet the other Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors and learn more about the Waterkeeper Gala!

 

Sarah Harmer’s Great Lake Watermarks – Lake Superior

Posted in: Inspiration, Recreation, Watermark | 0

It’s near the end of April but still Thunder Bay is frozen in and Lake Superior’s ice and snow reflect the sun back up into the blue sky. I am here to sing at an Earth Day celebration. I walk to the end of the blustery pier and stand next to a metal sculpture with a speaker in it. I am alone but for a woman’s stark voice coming out of the speaker, saying words in her native tongue- Ice, Fire, Moose.

Is it Ojibwe? Inside the Harbour Centre I study a perfect replica of a Laker, with miniature cranes, wheelhouse, and cargo containers. The long history of moving grain and other goods out of this water trailhead is evidenced in the black and white photographs on the wall of shipbuilding and ribbon cutting ceremonies.

Sarah Harmer is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and activist.

Click here to check out this and Sarah’s other Great Lake Watermarks on the Watermark Project archive.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project, preserving our national water heritage through storytelling. To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Photo credit: Dustin Rabin

 

Happy World Water Day 2016!

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Join us in celebrating World Water Day at North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and learn more about how you can become a Canadian Water Leader!

What is World Water Day?

World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then. Each year, UN-Water — the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation — sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate.

Better Water, Better Jobs

Today, almost half of the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies. (Source: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/about)

Become a Canadian Water Leader

With roughly 20% of the world’s freshwater found in Canada, it’s critical that Canadians do our part to safeguard this precious resource for future generations; it’s critical that we all become Water Leaders in our communities. But how do we do it?

The first step is to discover your Watermark, that powerful memory of a lived experience that’s shaped your personal connection to water; that defines what water means to you.

The next step is to become educated about your local watershed; learn where your drinking water comes from, what fish and wildlife share it with you.

Once you’ve learned a bit more about your watershed, get out there and experience it! Jump in, take a swim, go for a paddle, get your fishing line wet and maybe catch some dinner! Make some memories on the water with your family and inspire the younger members to get involved too.

If you’re going to defend your watershed, you’re going to need to know the rules: educate yourself on the laws and regulations that protect fish and water in your community. Participate in local decision making to make sure that your voice is heard.

Finally, take an active role in protecting your watershed. Volunteer at a local cleanup or fundraising event, donate to a local organization that defends fish and water, devote your time on a board of directors or found a non-profit of your own.

We all have what it takes to be a Water Leader. Take the first step and discover your Watermark today!

You can also download this cool infographic outlining the six qualities of a Water Leader created by our amazing friends at Waterkeeper.

 

6qualitesofwaterleader

Watermark with Krystyn Tully

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My North Saskatchewan River watermark dates back to 2009. This was around the time Karen and Kevin Lowe, Mark Mattson, and Britt Standen were starting the Riverkeeper organization, based in Edmonton.

I had been asked to join the board of directors for North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. I’m guessing it had more to do with my experience as a co-founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper than my knowledge of the river. I didn’t know as much then about the North Saskatchewan River, or Alberta water issues for that matter!

Britt Standen, one of my fellow directors, has a son named Max. At the time, I don’t think he was even old enough to drive a car, but he was really into aircraft and flying. The Standens had a friend with a small helicopter who was willing to take a couple of the Riverkeeper folks up for a 45 minute tour. He promised to give us an aerial view of both Edmonton and the river that flows through it.

I’d never been in a helicopter before. I thought it would be enormous, but it was sleek and relatively small – almost like a mechanical dragonfly. I sat in the back, away from the domed window in front. I had a side window to myself, with an incredible view of the landscape below as we cruised above the North Saskatchewan River.

What immediately struck me as I looked down at the shining river snaking through Edmonton was how completely different this was from Toronto, where I live and work. Toronto sits on the edge of Lake Ontario, but access to the waterfront is extremely limited, either cut off by the 401 and the Gardiner Expressway or dominated by urban development projects. Here, the city looks as though it has been woven around the river; incorporating wonderful green spaces at almost every bend along its course.

The parkland serves a practical purpose. It is a tool for mitigating the damage caused by seasonal flooding. But the presence of all this green space along the river’s edge meant that people here enjoyed more free and easy access to the riverfront than I did my own waterfront in Toronto. The psychological barriers that I was used to didn’t separate water from city in quite the same way.

This view was the first hint of a perspective that would become clear to me on countless return visits to the city: Edmontonians take great pride in their river.

Looking down at that beautiful river and the city that wove around it, I found myself speechless. The uncharacteristic silence must have been worrying for my fellow passengers. Just before we landed, someone turned from the front. “Are you okay?” said a crackly voice over the headset.

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

 

Krystyn Tully is a director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. She’s also the co-founder and Vice President of our partner Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. She oversees LOW’s many programs, staff, and volunteers working to create a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Radio and Television Arts, Krystyn worked with Mark Mattson as a researcher at the Walkerton Inquiry. She is currently working towards her second degree in Public Administration and Governance.

On behalf of LOW, Krystyn has written many comments on licenses and legislative proposals that have contributed to better decisions and environmental protections. She has appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), and the Ontario Goverment Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. Krystyn has also been a two-time contributer to the Great Lakes Town Hall, an international organization dedicated to identifying and addressing common issues across our shared Great Lakes. For many years, Krystyn Tully was the Lake Ontario Advisor to Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network Fund, now Freshwater Future.

In addition to the day-to-day management of the LOW organization, Krystyn also takes the lead on several of our key ongoing issues alongside Mark. Krystyn oversees LOW’s Clean Water Workshop, a volunteer mentoring program offered to 20 law students each year.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project! To check out Krystyn’s Watermark and learn more about the Project, visit the Watermark Project Archive.

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Sarah Harmer’s Great Lake Watermarks – Lake Huron

Posted in: Inspiration, Recreation, Watermark | 0

Lake Huron

Here we were a few years ago starting a tour, my band mates and I, in the wee town of Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, a 5-hour drive northwest of Toronto. Lake Huron washes against both sides of this ancient spine. On the west side white sand and summer beach getaway towns. On the east side the crystal blue waters of Georgian Bay. The grotto is tempting, but rumoured to be ice cold. Up on the cliff we eat smoked whitefish caught just south of here off Cape Croker; the Chippewas of Nawash unceded First Nation. Nourished by the lake’s delicious offerings we trek this rugged Niagara Escarpment and kayak the misty waters at its base.

Sarah Harmer is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and activist.

Click here to check out this and Sarah’s other Great Lake Watermarks on the Watermark Project archive.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project, preserving our national water heritage through storytelling. To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Photo credit: Dustin Rabin

Watermark with Karen Percy Lowe

Born and raised near the Bow River in Banff, Karen has always felt a connection with water and passion for global water issues. An Olympic and professional downhill skier, Karen’s interest and concern grew when she was asked to ski with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Annual Waterkeeper Alliance fundraiser in Banff six years ago. Wanting to bring her passion to the watersheds of her home province, Karen forged a lasting relationship with the Alliance.

Two-time Olympic Bronze Medalist, recipient of the Order of Canada, and mother of five; she is now an active Waterkeeper Trustee, and dedicates ongoing time and support to the efforts of the Waterkeeper Alliance as President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

I ski-raced for a long time but now I am a mother of four and I do a lot of charity work – which includes being the president of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

Water has been a special part of my life for a really long time. I grew up in Banff, Alberta. The water was so cold there it took your breath away. I used to go canoeing a lot but I was a really big windsurfer. A group of us would take our boards and go to Jack Lake and windsurf. Growing up, I spent my summers by the water. My family would pile in the station wagon and go on trips, and my dad always insisted that we had to park the trailer by a lake.

There are two waterbodies that have made a big impact on my life. The first is the North Saskatchewan River. Twenty-five years ago I married Kevin Lowe. We lived in Edmonton and in New York for a few years and then found ourselves back in Edmonton when he was traded. This is where we raised our four children. My family has lived by this river for a long time. It is important to me that the river is protected because it is Edmonton’s source of drinking water. I want people to have drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River for generations to come. I also run a lot. There are a lot of great trails that run along the river. Years ago I was training for a marathon and I would run down one trail beside the river and back up on the other side. It really is beautiful.

The other water body that I am connected to is Shuswap Lake in British Columbia. We have spent our summers there since 1992. All my kids come – but so do other family members and it ends up being 20 people by the lake. My kids love going there. We swim, fish, jump off the dock, waterski, make waterski pyramids, have canoe races, and paddleboard races. When my kids were young I used to put them to bed and wake them up when it was dark so we could jump in the lake at night. It was a tradition. Its beautiful to be able to jump in the lake. I want my kid’s children to be able to experience that.

Every year I want to do one special thing when the kids come to Shuswap Lake. In the past, we have had seven people waterski behind the boat at one time, we made a water ski pyramid. Then the following year, we made a bigger water ski pyramid. We do it every year, so next year’s pyramid will be even bigger.

I got involved with protecting water when Kevin and I became trustees for Waterkeeper Alliance. We helped raise money and brought people we knew to the events. People kept asking me what was Waterkeeper Alliance, so rather than just explain it, I decided to walk the talk and do something. I wanted to do something local, so that people could understand what Waterkeeper was and see that the money was going local. It was a big project, but I just wanted to explain to people what we were doing and to help grow clean water in Canada. I wanted to protect the water we have since it is our drinking water.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project! To learn more about the Project and to check out Karen’s Watermark, visit the Watermark Project Archive.

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

The Watermark Project is Here!

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, in partnership with the National Water Centre and Waterkeepers across Canada, is proud to announce the official launch of the Watermark Project!

We often forget how water shapes our country, our culture, our lives. We forget how privileged we are to have access to more freshwater and ocean than arguably any other nation in world. When we forget, we become immune to the loss: the destruction and diminishment of Canada’s swimmable drinkable fishable waters.

As Canadians, we need to sharpen our memory. Our water is more than a necessity for keeping us alive, it is the thread that holds us together as a country. And that thread is best seen in our stories about being on, in or around water.

That is why we created the Watermark Project: to collect and archive Canadian water stories to demonstrate why swimmable drinkable fishable water matters.

When you think about your favourite body of water, what comes to mind? When you recall your most powerful memory of being on the water, what is it?  Everyone has a story – a Watermark – that connects them to a waterbody; provides them with another reason to protect it. That story often becomes the most powerful reason for protecting swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. And so it should.

Watermark’s are personal and powerful. Whether your Watermark is a positive or negative story about water, it is also valuable information about your environment, at a specific place, at a specific moment, with real people. In addition to being a powerful reminder of your connection to water, it also records and archives important information that can be used to protect water from future threats. Your Watermark is a ripple in a project intended to keep Canada a place where everyone and everything can safely swim, drink, and fish.

Recording and sharing your Watermark is an incredible personal experience. You can learn so much about yourself by submitting a Watermark, making that connection to a waterbody, causing that ripple. Help us protect your waterbody.

Try it. Build a force strong enough to cause a shift in our water culture so you can’t ever forget again.

Click Here to Discover the Watermark Project!

 

Reblogged from The National Water Centre

 

 

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