BC Rivers Day Last Sunday in September

B. McPherson

Pardon the sun spot. This scene was too good to pass up.
People in British Columbia celebrate the importance of rivers on the last Sunday in September. This annual event was started in 1980 spearheaded by Mark Angelo who became a missionary for rivers around the world. Around 77 000 people in BC were expected to participate in river activities yesterday. There was no agenda – picnic by a river, float down a river, pick up heavy duty garbage from a river – your choice.

I was privileged to be invited to participate with a group that was going to float down the Nanaimo River on Vancouver Island. A couple of kayakers accompanied those of us who were on an inflatable raft. This river has rapid and swift water in places, but we wisely put in where the river flattens out and drifted much like the autumn leaves.

The chum salmon were waiting in the deep areas for more water to come down so they could make their way to their spawning grounds. These mature salmon(aka dog salmon, keta salmon) can reach 15 pounds. Eagles, ravens and gulls were hanging about waiting for the post mating feast. Salmon breed only once, then die, bringing a rich bounty to the local wildlife and forest. 

Kingfishers and great blue herons were also looking out for their turn at the table. Larger wildlife was scarce which was just fine by me. Some people on shore reported a cougar in the area. It had mauled one of their dogs the day before.

Carrying the raft down to the river.
It had been many years since I had seen this stretch of the Nanaimo River. Some things remain the same as I hold them in my memories. Others have changed. Water levels are very low, too low for the fish to traverse the shallow areas. Many demands have been put on this life giving watercourse. The local pulp mill uses huge amounts of water. The City of Nanaimo obtains much of its drinking water from its upper reaches. Agriculture and industry take a share. So far the river has provided for all, but its bounty is not endless. Hard decisions need to be made before there is a catastrophic collapse of the system. We have just come through a dry summer and more of the same are predicted in the future.

Let’s all work to preserve these treasures where we find them. Float down a quiet stretch on a sunny autumn day and you’ll be a convert to the cause. We're already planning to snorkel the river next year.

For more information on BC Rivers Day check out the official web page, linked here.

End of a wonderful day on the Nanaimo River

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