Rideau River year in review

Despite low water levels, OOE’s river continues to charm

By Jamie Brougham

Paddler extraordinaire Jamie Brougham (stern) and his buddy Dave Best (bow) took to the Rideau Canal on Canada Day. Photo: Brougham family photo

Paddler extraordinaire Jamie Brougham (stern) and his buddy Dave Best (bow) took to the Rideau Canal on Canada Day. Photo: Brougham family photo

The Rideau River this year was excellent again: good for swimming, boating, and beautiful sights.

Between paddling down to Vincent Massey Park, seeing wildlife, particularly the swan of Brantwood, it was evident the river is an underappreciated natural resource.

Just the great exercise and refreshing environment it provides makes it an excellent social resource, right in our neighbourhood.   

Some personal highlights of the summer included paddling with a neighbour to see the annual Aboriginal Powwow at Vincent Massey.

Having the Brantwood swan swimming beside me as I paddled was dream-like. Once it followed me back to Brantwood beach and showed off for a couple of neighbours watching. It even got its picture in the Mainstreeter.

The water level this year was low. The last time I paddled in 2015 was Christmas Eve day.  It made me wonder what the changing climate will do to this beautiful waterway and the many across this country.

A few observations: since cormorants began hunting on the river, the big carp have disappeared. The fish were never anything pretty to look at, but I did always marvel at their size. I think the birds have pushed the small fish population down to the point it has affected the food chain in the river.

Over a longer period of time, zebra mussels have cleaned up the water of both the river and the Rideau Canal. I really never paddled the river too much years ago before the zebra took hold, but I can remember not seeing a foot deep into the canal and now it looks clean enough for swimming, too. Not that I would, but the water is certainly nicer when you can look into it.  

Then there are the geese. Because of the large number of goose droppings, they have replaced anything that was king of such a distinction before them. If not for their mess the geese would be great to have around. It is cool to be on the river when a bunch of them take off. They fly in formation resembling jets cruising over your head. It is magic to be floating beneath them.  

One of my greatest river experiences in 2016 was a special tour I took with my neighbour Dave Best on Canada Day, as we have done on that day for the last 16 years.

We paddled down the Rideau from Brantwood to the Ottawa River, up the Ottawa to the canal and then up the canal back home. We did it when our kids were younger. Now, we meet our wives for lunch at the Canal Ritz.

The two of us are a tourist attraction carrying the canoe up by the locks downtown. To add a little flavor to the day, when we paddle past the National Arts Centre we use broken goalie hockey sticks as paddles. It is great to provoke smiles. This year, I told some observers that the voyageurs who played goalie often used their sticks as paddles.

I hope the river becomes an even better social resource for our community. Ideally we will build a community cottage where people can come and enjoy the area next to the Rideau and have room for boats to borrow. In that way, everyone could get out there and experience the Rideau for themselves.

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Filed in: Environment, FP, Front Page

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