A Wildlife Lover’s Guide to the River Valley

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I am a self-proclaimed nature nerd. I love the natural world. Whether it’s going camping, going birdwatching in wildlife reserves, or stopping to watch the neighbourhood hares on my walk to work, nothing makes me happier than seeing wildlife. The North Saskatchewan watershed is home to many critters big and small. Almost every day I encounter magpies, squirrels, ravens, white-tailed jackrabbits, and chickadees. While these species may not be appreciated by everyone, they are all part of the incredible biodiversity of the North Saskatchewan Watershed! It’s the perfect time of year to get your binoculars, get outside, and get to animal tracking, before they fly south or crawl to hibernation for the winter.

 

 

Fish

Of course, there are many species living IN the North Saskatchewan River. Due to the presence of diverse fish, the river is a popular location for anglers. The North Saskatchewan is home to burbot, goldeye, lake sturgeon, mountain whitefish, walleye, northern pike, and sauger. There are fishing regulations on many of these species, so be aware of the laws before casting your line. If you are cooking up fish caught from the river, try not to eat them more than once a week due to high mercury concentrations. Fish are far from the only critters living in the river. While not native, there are also some edible invertebrates residing in the river: crayfish! These crustaceans are said to be delicious. They look (and apparently) taste like little lobsters.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo credit: USFWS Midwest Region. Flickr.)

 

Amphibians/Reptiles

As we move out of the water, Edmonton is home to a variety of amphibians as well. We can spot tiger salamanders, wood frogs, boreal chorus frogs, and canadian toads in parks across the city. Amphibians can be tricky to spot since they are usually quite good at hiding, many only come out at night, and they like humid environments that are often harder to get to. Reptiles also live in our watershed, including the red-sided garter snake, and the plains garter snake. If searching for snakes, you are more likely to find the red-sided garter snake in the river valley while plains garter snakes are found more often in open grasslands.   

 

                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds

When visiting the river at one of the many beaches across the North Saskatchewan, you are most likely to see animals floating on, diving in, or flying above the water. There are many beautiful common and uncommon species of birds living near the river. Almost each visit to the river I spot gulls, specifically ring-billed gulls. The Edmonton river valley is home to a huge diversity of bird species including woodpeckers, jays, grouse, warblers, finches, merlins, juncos, waxwings, kingfishers, and eagles. Researchers have seen significant changes to bird distribution, and species like peregrine falcons have returned despite almost being wiped out by the impact of DDT on their eggs.

                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mammals

Four footed friends also frequent the areas surrounding the river. Just last week a cougar was spotted in the river valley. Coyotes, skunks, porcupines, deer, moose, beavers, and raccoons can also be seen by the river. This may not be a big surprise since Edmonton’s river valley is the largest park in North America, and provides a natural corridor for species to pass through.

                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals rely on the river just as we do. Life without water is impossible for any living thing! Keeping the North Saskatchewan River swimmable, drinkable, and fishable does not only benefit us, but the other creatures that rely on it. A thriving ecosystem benefits all species within it, therefore our participation in protecting the watershed is good for animals, including us! Fall is a season of change in the animals kingdom, and as the birds prepare for migration, the bears prepare for hibernation, and the frogs prepare for cryogenation (yes they almost freeze in the winter), get outside and appreciate the other creatures living among us!

 

To report a wildlife sighting, call the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers at 780-427-3574 or the coyote information hotline at 780-644-5744.

 

 

Sources:

 

“Alberta Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy.” Saving Alberta’s Herps, www.savingalbertasherps.org/Species.html.

Amphibian Identifier. Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program. www.ab-conservation.com/downloads/avamp/aca_amphibian_identifier.pdf

Edmonton Master Naturalists. “The North Saskatchewan River.” Nature Edmonton, 21 July 2014, www.natureedmonton.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/the-north-saskatchewan-river/.

“Fishing.” City of Edmonton, www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/parks_rivervalley/fishing.aspx.

Marcellin, Josh. “The North Saskatchewan River Has Killer Angling Right in Edmonton.” Vue Weekly, 2015, www.vueweekly.com/the-north-saskatchewan-river-has-killer-angling-right-in-edmonton/.

Myroon, Alex. “Local Snakes Slither to Winter Homes.” Local News, 4 Oct. 2018. https://www.fortsaskonline.com/local/local-snakes-hunker-down-for-long-winter

Salz, Allison. “Edmonton Is Teeming with Wildlife, Says Naturalist.” Edmonton Sun, 15 July 2013, www.edmontonsun.com/2013/07/13/edmonton-is-teeming-with-wildlife-says-naturalist/wcm/2c0ddd6b-58b6-4515-9a1d-015f7ffabbd5.

Snowdon, Wallis. “’Just like Lobster’: North Saskatchewan River Crawling with Crayfish | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 Aug. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/crayfish-edmonton-north-saskatchewan-river-1.4230555.

“The Dependable Online Resource For Fishing In Alberta.” AlbertaFishingGuide.com, www.albertafishingguide.com/location/water/north-saskatchewan-river-downstream-drayton-valley.

Weber, Bob. “Birders Migrate to Edmonton, Home to Many Avian Species.” CTVNews, 26 Oct. 2015, www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/birders-migrate-to-edmonton-home-to-many-avian-species-1.2627986.

A Free and Easy Way to Manage Anxiety: Nature

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Deep breath in. Hold. Deep breath out.  

 

Anxiety, stress, nervousness. We all experience these to varying degrees. Managing anxiety can be challenging, but luckily a proven method of management is free and easy to do. Spend time in nature!

 

This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s a habit that is becoming less common and increasingly important. Spending time in nature is proven to reduce stress levels and increase happiness. Even taking a moment to look out the window and appreciate a tree opens up the mind to something beyond ourselves, and reduces our anxiety levels. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, so simple methods to combat it, like spending time in nature, are key.

 

Whenever I get down to the water, my breathing eases, my mind calms, and my shoulders relax. The benefits of nature are not just seen through personal experience, but proven through science. Research shows that the more one immerses themself into nature, the less they experience negative thoughts. When combined, nature and physical activity have additional health benefits. Physical activity in natural settings, also known as green exercise, leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes. There are some impressive health benefits to spending time in nature, and luckily Edmonton has plenty of nature right in the city.

 

In the North Saskatchewan river valley and along the many lakes across the prairies, we have an abundance of natural park spaces to explore. Getting down to the water is proven to be good for health and fortunately it’s easy to get to. Edmonton’s river valley is the largest expanse of urban parkland in Canada and offers a multitude of anxiety reducing, nature-filled activities! Autumn is a lovely time of year to enjoy picnics, hikes, or bike rides in the river valley to boost serotonin levels! Experiencing the river by kayak, canoe, stand up paddleboard, or motorboat can be both eye-opening and calming. When the weather gets colder and the snow falls, cross country skiing and skating become the perfect modes of river valley transport! Year-round, the river valley provides a unique and spectacular setting to take time out of your schedule and unwind. It may even help your mental health!

 

 

Sources

 

Barton, Jo, and Jules Pretty. “What Is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 44, no. 10, 2010, pp. 3947–3955., doi:10.1021/es903183r.

LaBier, Douglas. “Why Connecting With Nature Elevates Your Mental Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-new-resilience/201801/why-connecting-nature-elevates-your-mental-health.

Nigro, Sherry. “The Connection between Nature and Mental Health.” Nature Canada, 2018, www.naturecanada.ca/news/blog/mental-health-week/.

Whitley, Robert. “Why Nature Is Good For Your Mental Health.” Huffington Post, 2017, www.huffingtonpost.ca/robertwhitley/nature-mental-health_a_23028632/.

What’s a Watershed?

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Each and every one of us lives in a watershed. Many of us may not realize this, or may not even know what this means. Watersheds impact people’s lives and people have significant impacts on watersheds. In order to understand these impacts, it is vital to understand what a watershed is.

 

A watershed is also known as a drainage basin or a catchment. Watersheds include an area of land in which precipitation drains into a body of water. The rain that falls and the snow that melts in that area including the parks, streets, yards, and farms will flow into that body of water. In many cities and communities across Alberta and Saskatchewan, that body of water is the North Saskatchewan River. Therefore those communities all live within the North Saskatchewan Watershed. The North Saskatchewan Watershed is one of the 7 major watersheds in Alberta.

 

All precipitation in the North Saskatchewan watershed area drains into the river. This includes any trash, household chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, etc. that is outside. In great quantities these pollutants can threaten the swimmability, drinkability, and fishability of the river. The biggest threats to the North Saskatchewan River according to the WWF are pollution (mainly agricultural runoff), habitat fragmentation, and habitat loss. In many communities, including Edmonton, this river is our source of drinking water and where we dispose of our waste water. Therefore keeping the watershed clean is important for everyone living in the watershed. The communities upstream impact the river for those downstream, therefore it’s important that all of the communities living in the North Saskatchewan Watershed work together to protect it.

 

There are Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils such as the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, which work to protect the watershed along with governments, companies, and other water organizations. But everyone living in the watershed can participate in protecting it! We can plant native species in our gardens to soak up stormwater that would otherwise flow towards the river. We can reduce our use of fertilizers and pesticides which wash away into the river and negatively impact biodiversity. An easy activity to engage in is washing your car at a carwash instead of in your driveway. At the carwash they have filtration to remove chemicals like oils, antifreeze, and transmission fluid that would go down the storm drains and to the river when washing at home. Another great way to take care of the watershed is to clean it up! It’s very easy to join or organize a river valley cleanup by visiting https://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/cleanups. You can also Contact Us and we will help you plan a cleanup. Let’s learn about our watershed and help to keep it clean!

 

Sources:

 

“Canadian Watershed Reports.” WWF-Canada Watershed Reports, www.watershedreports.wwf.ca/#ws-10/by/threat-overall/threat.

Glave, James. “10 Ways to Help Your Watershed.” Houselogic, HouseLogic, 27 Sept. 2016, www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/save-on-utilities/how-to-improve-watershed/.

“What Is a Watershed?” North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, www.nswa.ab.ca/our-watershed/#section-whats-a-watershed.

Is the North Saskatchewan River Dirty?

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Many people living in communities along the North Saskatchewan think that the river is dirty. When I first moved to Edmonton last November I saw the colour of the river and assumed the same thing. The river was covered with ice and snow, but instead of the typical bright white snow that you see elsewhere in the city, the snow on the river was brown. I assumed that the water wasn’t clean, and many people that I have spoken to make the same assumption. But just because water isn’t clear, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t clean. So what is the state of the water quality in the North Saskatchewan River?

 

The birthplace of the North Saskatchewan River, also known as the headwaters, is the Saskatchewan Glacier in the Columbia Icefields. When I picture glacial waters, it makes me think of the pristine cloudy turquoise waters of Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, where I grew up visiting. Why is it that some bodies of water coming from glaciers look bright and colourful while others look brown?

Rivers born from glaciers often have high levels of sediment and silt. Much of the colour of glacial lakes and rivers are due to erosion. This occurs when glaciers break down minerals from rock, forming sediment, which makes its way from the melting glaciers into lakes and rivers. Some lakes display dazzling colours as a result of this sediment. Sometimes in rivers, the colours are more of a muddy-brown because of the speed and flow of water. This does not mean that the river is dirtier than the lake. The colour depends on the types of minerals in the water, how they are moving, and how the light reflects off of the water. In glacial lakes, minerals are suspended and this causes light reflection, which often displays vibrant turquoise colours. This sediment appears differently in rivers, and while there are parts of the North Saskatchewan that are brilliant blue, it often appears brown because these sediments are constantly being stirred up. This sediment is also the reason that we have beaches that form across Edmonton, such as the Fort Edmonton Footbridge Beach, the Cloverdale Beach (aka Accidental Beach), and the Terwillegar Park Beach. Last summer, we tested these sites, among others, for water quality, and many of them passed over 50% of the time.

 

The colour of a river does not necessarily indicate that it is clean or dirty. That being said, there are some potential threats to the water quality of the North Saskatchewan River. These threats include urban and agricultural runoff and combined sewer overflows which discharges pollutants into the river during periods of heavy rainfall. If you do ever see pollution such as trash or chemical spills, take a picture and report it on the Swim Guide app or website, or if you see an environmental emergency call the Alberta 24-hour Environment Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-222-6514.

The waters of the North Saskatchewan River are not dirty! Even when the water isn’t perfectly clear, it’s often clean. There are a wide variety of activities that we can take advantage of right on the river, including swimming, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, jet boating, and even gold panning. Before getting into the water, it’s always a good idea to check for any recent water quality updates on theswimguide.org. The North Saskatchewan River is not dirty, and we should go out and take advantage of this beautiful body of water whenever possible!

 

 

Sources:

 

Dreger-Smylie, Brigitte. “How Clean Is the North Saskatchewan River?” North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, 6 Aug. 2015, www.saskriverkeeper.ca/how-clean-is-the-north-saskatchewan-river

Misachi, John. “Why Are Glacial Lakes Blue?” World Atlas – Maps, Geography, Travel, WorldAtlas, 16 July 2018, www.worldatlas.com/articles/why-are-glacial-lakes-blue.html.

“North Saskatchewan River Myths.” EPCOR, www.epcor.com/learn/river/Pages/myths.aspx

 

Featured image by Johntwrl at English Wikipedia

Can I Flush it?

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I’ve often wondered about the flushability of everyday items. I have watched people in movies flushing medications down the toilet, I have flushed my dead fish down the toilet (RIP), and I sometimes wonder whether flushable wipes are truly flushable. Are these seemingly normal habits good ones for our river? Most of the time I don’t think about what goes down my drain. What was once out of sight, was out of mind! But now I cannot stop wondering about what happens once it’s flushed. My mission is to find out what is good to go down the drain, and how to properly dispose of regular, everyday items. Here’s what I discovered.

 

Medications

 

The results are in: no drugs down the drain! I have always assumed that I should put expired medication down the toilet, but I have recently learned that they really shouldn’t be flushed. Scientists find large traces of medications in our bodies of water because they are being flushed and make their way into lakes and rivers. Medications are not always filtered out during the water treatment process. This can negatively impact the health of our waterbodies, as they can be consumed by fish. For example, many fish have been found to be changing due to exposure to estrogen from birth control pills. The male fish are losing their male characteristics, and this problem could wipe out entire communities of fish since they become unable to reproduce. So what should we do with our old, expired, and unused medication? We can bring them to the pharmacy or to a take-back program with local police. That way they can be properly disposed, and don’t make their way into our waterway.

 

 

Fish

 

While escaping down the drain might have worked out for Nemo, flushing is not the best way to send off our deceased pets. The fish we buy at pet shops are not typically local species that would benefit our waterbody. Most pet fish are exotic, ornamental species from far away. While they are beautiful, they can bring diseases and parasites that our local fish have never encountered. If these fish (dead or alive) are introduced to a local waterbody, they can endanger the entire ecosystem. Also, sometimes the fish we flush might not have actually kicked the bucket, and these exotic species can be extremely invasive. This means that these fish might be able to reproduce, evade predators, and hunt better than the local species, and affect the important balances of the ecosystem. What is the proper way to send off our beloved fish once they have gone belly up? They can be brought to your vet to be properly disposed of, you can bury them, or you can put them in your compost or garbage. If I could bring back my old fish Gill, I would make sure not to send him into our river!

 

 

Flushable or not

 

It’s right in the name: flushable. Once they disappear down the black hole of our toilet, do flushable wipes break down like toilet paper does? No! Wet wipes, even ones that say that they are flushable, are a big problem for our pipes. By doing a bit of research, I found out that a lot of the things that I used to think were okay to flush, are actually not! Even tissues, tampons, floss, band-aids, and hair should all be thrown in the garbage, and not flushed down the toilet! The only things we really should be flushing are pee, poop, and toilet paper.

 

 

How does it get to the river?

 

The water from our toilets in Edmonton go down the pipes to get treated at the Goldbar Wastewater Treatment Plant. Most of this water gets to the treatment plant before going into the North Saskatchewan River, but not all of it. On rainy days, our sewer pipes fill up, and instead of going to the treatment plant, they go straight into the river. This is due to our pipe system, known as Combined Sewers. There are 19 pipes in Edmonton that release stormwater, debris, and raw sewage directly into the North Saskatchewan River on days with heavy rainfall, corresponding to 2% of the city’s total discharge. Click here to learn more about these combined sewer overflows, (CSOs).

 

 

I’ve always known deep down that everything that I put down the drain or flush down the toilet doesn’t magically disappear. However, I don’t often stop to really consider what happens, and I know I’m not the only one. Everything that goes down the drains in Edmonton eventually impacts the North Saskatchewan River.  In order to keep our water clean for ourselves, for the plants and animals that depend on it, and for all of the other communities living downstream, we need to pause and reflect before sending anything down our drains.

 

 

 

Sources:

Canada, Health. “Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs.” Canada.ca, 6 May 2014, www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/safe-disposal-prescription-drugs.html

“Combined Sewer System.” EPCOR, www.epcor.com/learn/about-our-drainage-system/Pages/combined-sewer-system.aspx

Racco, Marilisa. “9 Things You Should Never Flush down the Toilet.” Global News, Global News, 20 July 2017, www.globalnews.ca/news/3609987/9-things-you-should-never-flush-down-the-toilet

Rangan, Daksha. “Don’t Flush Goldfish, Officials Warn. Here’s Why.” The Weather Network, www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/alberta-advises-against-flushing-fish-down-the-drain-/53426

 

Introducing the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s new Outreach Coordinator… Sadie Caron

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Hello fellow Riverkeepers! It’s a pleasure to be a member of the Swim Drink Fish team in Edmonton. I am a former Calgarian and Montréalaise (Montrealer). Prior to my move to Edmonton last year, everyone kept telling me how gorgeous the river valley was, and everyone was right! The North Saskatchewan River is a beautiful body of water that flows right through the city and connects all Edmontonians. I immediately felt this connection to the river, going on hikes and bike rides through the many trails lining the river, and meditating along its banks. I’m always glad to see the busy parks and paths along the river valley, since it’s a perfect place to meet with friends and family and build a strong sense of community.

 

I have always loved water, my parents have called me a fish since I was very young. My grandparents used to live in a cabin right on the beach of Lac des Sables in Notre Dame Du Laus, Quebec, where I would play all day in the water with my family, swimming, fishing, and catching frogs in buckets (and releasing them of course). I also grew up going to summer camp in Tichborne, Ontario and learning how to canoe, kayak, sail, and windsurf on Eagle Lake. In high school on Vancouver Island, I was a part of the rowing team and would wake early to go out on the water, often meeting playful seals in Mill Bay, BC. My love of water continued throughout my years of study at McGill University, which brought me to Barbados for a field study semester. I was very lucky to go out swimming and surfing while also learning about the challenges of a water scarce country. Learning how people have come to adapt to water problems inspired me to work with water conservation, leading me to my position with the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

 

As with many of us Waterkeepers, I have a dream of a swimmable, drinkable, fishable North Saskatchewan River. I have a background in environmental education with the Biodome and the Biosphere in Montreal and with the Telus World of Science Edmonton which I will apply to water literacy education across the North Saskatchewan River watershed. I have a strong relationship to water, and I’m sure that you do too! Share your watermark (your own story of a memory on water) to contribute to an important database of stories of water history.

Enjoy September on these 5 Alberta Waterbodies!

September is the perfect month to get outside and get to the water. While it may be getting a bit more chilly, now you can dig your favourite sweater and toque out from storage, bundle up, and face the great outdoors. Spending time outside is proven to be great for social, physical, and mental health. This is particularly important as the school year starts up. Getting to the water is the perfect opportunity to gather with friends and family, it can improve your mood, it gets you moving, it calms the mind, and it’s just plain fun! There’s no snow on the ground. The lakes have not frozen. Now is the time to get outside!

 

Alberta is feeling the chill of seasonal change approaching, but summer is far from over. September is a prime time to get outside and take advantage of the many lovely walking and biking paths, the perfect water for paddling, and maybe even brave the cold water for a dip. While the City of Edmonton might not be moving forward with constructing a permanent beach along the North Saskatchewan River, that does not mean that Edmontonians cannot get out to the water. There are 22 major parks along the river, forming the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America, and an abundance of space for activities. For ideas of beaches to visit in one of the sunniest provinces, here are a few of the most popular beaches in Alberta. For more ideas, check the Swim Guide or read on.

 

File:Elk Island National Park Sunset.jpg 

Elk Island National Park

 

Elk Island National Park is located a quick 30 minutes away from Edmonton. If you like hiking, paddling, or seeing wildlife, this is a trip you might want to take this September. You can pack a picnic while gazing out on Astotin Lake, and if you have young ones with you (or the young at heart), build some sandcastles on the beach. There are also 11 hiking trails of various difficulties to immerse yourself in the fresh air. If paddling is more your scene, on the weekends you can rent a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard; if you have your own boat, bring it along for some quality time out on the water. Elk Island is also home to many different creatures of all different shapes and sizes, including bison, elk, beavers, and the tiny boreal chorus frog. You will have to keep your eyes and ears open to witness some of these amazing creatures.

 

Wabamun Lake Provincial Park

 

Is it possible to go swimming in September? Absolutely! The Wabamun Lake Provincial Park Beach is another quick trip from Edmonton for a day full of activities. The beach has plenty of space to play in and out of the water. If you prefer birdwatching, you may be able to spot herons, bald eagles, hooded mergansers, and more. It’s also a great location for fishing, many anglers rave about the pike and walleye in Wabamun Lake.

 

File:MalignelakeSpiritisland.JPG

Maligne Lake

 

For a Rocky Mountain Adventure, why not trek to Maligne Lake. There are many lakes and rivers to choose to visit in Jasper National Park, so why not visit the largest? The 22km long lake is a fantastic spot to go paddling or for an epic hike. They have easy and difficult trails to take you to the tops of mountains. There are a variety of campsites at the lake, as well as many other sites around Jasper. There are a variety of activities that are still available in the surrounding area including horseback riding, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, and even traction kiting.

 

Mill Creek Ravine

 

Flowing right through Edmonton, the Mill Creek Ravine is a stunning location for a hike, for mountain biking, or for a dog walk. It’s a popular site for dog owners since there is an off leash dog park. But there are also sites for picnicking, so bring a snack to enjoy the beauty of the creek. The paved trails are accompanied by bridges to cross over the water with ease. This is a great location to escape from the hustle and bustle while still being located right in the city.

 

Accidental Beach

 

While it may not be the most accessible of beaches, the sand has returned once again this year. This year Accidental Beach (also known as Cloverdale Beach) did not have as many people come by, but it is still a great spot to visit with friends and family. Last year’s water testing showed high levels of E. coli, so bathe at your own risk. But the view of downtown from the water is reason enough to visit this accidental sandy beach.

Did you know? Edmonton’s River valley parks system is Canada’s largest stretch of urban parks

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For years and years I’ve grown up here and have taken the Edmonton River Valley and Parks for granted. Only in the last couple of years have I really begun to appreciate the incredible opportunity and beauty that is right in front of me. Whether it’s been swimming, walking, biking, or snowboarding, endless fun and enjoyment seems to be everywhere thanks to the long stretched-out natural playground that meanders through the city.

 

 

Edmonton’s River Valley is made up of 20 major parks and has over 160km of maintained pathways (not counting the abundance of unmarked trails). This makes it super easy to access the river valley from almost any point. Cliffside lookouts, mature forest, and sandy beaches are all found right in the city, not to mention an extensive amount of single track bike trails, two ski hills, and so much more. There is no doubt that the river valley system here is a true spectacle and unique to a large urban landscape.

The park system is continuous, allowing one to walk/bike/ski beside the river throughout the length of the city. The River Valley Alliance have plans, already underway, to extend and develop the continuous park system from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan.

 

 

Edmontonians seem to take advantage of the valley. If you visit one of the parks you constantly see people going for a jog, walking the dog, having picnics, canoeing, or watching the sunset. It’s great to see people using the valley and being thankful for the endless opportunity and healthy lifestyle that the river valley provides for our city.

When looking at a satellite image of Edmonton you will notice a pronounced band of green cutting through the middle of the city (the river valley). Smaller veins of green (ravines), extend out north and south connecting some of the far reaches of our city back to the river.

 

 

The North Saskatchewan River Valley is the beating heart of our city. It gives Edmonton life and creates a way for Edmontonians to connect with nature and each other. This intricate and beautiful system of forest, trails, parks, and water truly make Edmonton a unique and special city to live in and proud to be a part of.

 

 

 

Set Sail on the North Sask.

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There’s nothing quite like seeing Edmonton from the water. Floating down the river by boat, canoe, kayak, etc. provides a very different perspective of our city and is sure to make one appreciate the river valley in a new and astonishing way. There are many different river access spots here in Edmonton, below are some of the main places to set sail.

 

Boat Launches

There are two vehicle boat launches in the City. One is in Laurier Park and the other is at Capilano park. Both offer vehicle and motorized boat access. There is limited parking available at these boat launches. Launches are generally open from April to November but are subject to change due to weather, ice, water level, and emergency situations.

Capilano Boat Launch

 

River Access points (Hand/carry boat launches)

If you’re adventurous and don’t mind a bit of exploring then there are countless places to access the river (though some are difficult to find and are challenging to negotiate with a canoe). Here are some spots that provide a safe and easy way to access the river.

  1. Terwillegar Park – There is access at the main beach area where all the dogs swim. It’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot with a canoe but it’s a good place to access the river upstream.
  2. Fort Edmonton Park – Right before reaching Fort Edmonton Park, drop off your canoe, kayak, floaties at the entry point underneath the Quesnell Bridge. You can then find parking for your car in the large parking lot.
  3. Whitemud Park – Located close to the Whitemud Equestrian Centre.
  4. Emily Murphy Park – You can drop your boat off at Groat Bridge on the west side of the park near the river and then park your vehicle in the parking lot.
  5. Louise Mckinney Riverfront Park – There is a public dock which provides easy access to the river for boats and for leisure enjoyment. The dock is located on the westside of the park down by the river.
  6. Dawson Park – There is a gentle sandy hill that you can walk down to reach the water.

 

Future Developments

The city has plans to improve river access by building 7 new public docks and improving carry on boat launches as well as improving Capilano’s main boat launch. This will provide increased water access and allows for a natural way to get more people to connect with the river.

To learn more about this project and updates on completion visit the City of Edmonton website.

 

Edmonton Riverboat seen from Louise Mckinney Park

 

Remember, as users of the River we are responsible for its health and conservation. It’s important that we enjoy and use the river – this also means looking after it and making sure we can enjoy it in the years to come.

 

What you should know about the “dreaded” Swimmers Itch

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What is Swimmers Itch?

Swimmers itch refers to a swim rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasite larvae. These parasites lay eggs in, and infect waterfowl and certain water going animals such as muskrats. The feces from these animals contain the eggs which hatch into larvae. These Larvae then infect a certain species of snail where they multiply and are released again. The parasitic larvae then search for a host such as waterfowl and occasionally humans. If they come in contact with a human they can bury under the skin which causes the allergic reaction and rash. Lucky for us, the parasite cannot survive in humans and dies quickly after it comes in contact with our skin. However, they leave us with a nasty rash and irritating itch.

Swimmers itch usually occurs in freshwater such as lakes and ponds but can still be found in saltwater as well.

 

How to know if you have/had swimmers itch

If you recently went swimming and now have a rash, itching/burning feel on your skin, or red bumps/blisters you may have swimmers itch.

The severity of the allergic reaction varies depending on the person. Some may react a lot and some not so much.

 

How to treat it

Although swimmers itch may sound and look like a serious condition that needs medical attention it usually does not. Most of the time symptoms go away within a week on their own. Here are some things you can do to help treat it at home.

  1. Use Calamine Lotion
  2. Apply cool clothes to compress on skin
  3. Take lukewarm baths with baking soda or epsom salts
  4. Use anti-itch cream

Note: Swimmers itch is not contagious so it cannot be passed from person-person.

Although it may be hard, try to resist the temptation to scratch the affected area. Scratching may cause infection which can lead to longer recovery or sometimes medical attention.

 

How to Avoid the Itch

Choose swimming spots carefully – Look for advisories and warnings before going swimming. You can also visit http://swimmersitch.ca for current swimmers itch reports across Canada.

Swim in Deeper Water – The snails that release the parasite tend to be in shallow, marshy, warmer water. Try to avoid these areas when swimming and if you’re a strong swimmer, head to deeper water where there is less of a chance of being infected.

Rinse off after Swimming – Rinse off your skin and swimsuit with clean water right after swimming. Drying with a towel will also help lower your chances of getting the itch.

Don’t encourage the wildlife – Best not to feed any waterfowl or any wildlife that is around the waterbody. Droppings from certain animals are part of the swimmers itch life cycle and can lead to increased outbreaks.

 

 

Since these parasites are so small and unpredictable it’s difficult to determine when and where an outbreak will occur. You can help by reporting – If you or someone you know gets swimmers itch you can report where and when it happened to swimmersitch.ca to inform others before they choose a place to take a dip.

All this being said, don’t let swimmers itch stop you from getting in the water. In the majority of swimmable waterbodies around, the chances of getting swimmers itch are unlikely, and even if you do come across it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s good to become educated about it and to be aware of the risk but it should not scare you away from finding a place to swim.

 

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