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CHRS Newsletter - Winter 2019


Calling All River Managers & Stewardship Groups!

This newsletter is brought to you by the Technical Planning Committee (TPC) of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) and is a forum through which heritage river managers and stewardship groups can share success stories and connect across Canada.

Previous volumes of the CHRS newsletter are available on our website.

Monitoring Yukon's Heritage Rivers

Park Planner, Brian Johnston, and Park Ranger, Alice McCulley, conducting an impact survey along the Bonnet Plume River
Park Planner, Brian Johnston, and Park Ranger, Alice McCulley, conducting an impact survey along the Bonnet Plume River. Photo: Government of Yukon

Yukon’s three heritage rivers – Tatshenshini, Bonnet Plume and Thirty Mile (Yukon River) – offer some exceptional canoeing or rafting experiences for independent paddlers and commercially guided trips.

As the manager for these rivers, Yukon Government keeps a close eye on the environmental impacts to the river corridors from recreational use. Every five to seven years, Yukon Parks staff conduct surveys of each of the shoreline campsites on the rivers (one of the more enviable jobs to get assigned!). Known as a Backcountry Recreational Impact Monitoring (BRIM) survey, a survey team assesses 12 considerations related to vegetation changes, tree damage, site alteration, trail development and sanitation. Photos are taken at each site and then replicated every time the survey is done. This year we have introduced drone photography to the survey as a way of monitoring the human footprint and expansion of trail networks. 

Vegetation change over a ten-year period (2006-2016) at a camp on the Bonnet Plume River
Vegetation change over a ten-year period (2006-2016) at a camp on the Bonnet Plume River. Photo: Government of Yukon
Vegetation change over a ten-year period (2006-2016) at a camp on the Bonnet Plume River
Vegetation change over a ten-year period (2006-2016) at a camp on the Bonnet Plume River. Photo: Government of Yukon

River traffic on the Tatshenshini and Thirty Mile rivers has been stable or growing for many years. In the case of the Bonnet Plume River, fewer paddlers are choosing this challenging river as a destination, so impacts are diminishing. However, the photographs over the past twenty years reveal fascinating visual evidence of changes to the landscape – possibly due to climate change. With each cycle of BRIM surveys, we help ensure that the values of our heritage rivers remain intact.

Saskatchewan's Clearwater River

Based on information provided by the Saskatchewan Clearwater River CHRS ten year monitoring report, June 2010.

Clearwater RIver
Clearwater RIver Photo: Colette Schmalz, Saskatchewan Provincial Parks

In 1984, a 187-km section of the Clearwater River in Saskatchewan was nominated to be part of the Canadian Heritage River System. Extending from the outlet of Lloyd Lake to the Alberta border in the province’s northwest, the river would become one of Canada’s first Canadian Heritage Rivers when it was designated in 1986.  In the same year, Saskatchewan’s Clearwater River Wilderness Provincial Park, which encompasses the river, was established. With the designation of Alberta’s Clearwater River in 2004, a cross-provincial heritage river was created.

Running through the bedrock of the Precambrian Shield and the boreal forest of Saskatchewan’s north, the outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational heritage values of the river abound.  The jack pine, black spruce, white spruce, poplar, birch, and balsam fir forests, along with the wetlands, provide a home for a wide variety of fauna. The northwest area has been inhabited by Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. The fur trade brought Europeans to the river in the late 1700s and, in more recent times, the river has been enjoyed by outdoor recreation enthusiasts who enjoy the wilderness experience offered by the river. 

Methye Portage Monument
Methye Portage Monument Photo: Bob Wilson, Saskatchewan Provincial Parks

A prominent cultural heritage value of the Clearwater River is Methye Portage (also known as Portage La Loche).  The 20-km Methye Portage is a primary link between the watersheds of the Churchill and Saskatchewan Rivers flowing eastward and the Athabasca, Peace, and MacKenzie Rivers flowing northward.   Used first by Aboriginal peoples, the Portage was then used by the fur trade for just over 100 years after Peter Pond’s travels to the area in 1778. In 1974, Methye Portage became a National Historic Site. 

The river manager for Saskatchewan’s Clearwater River is the Northwest Region of the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.  Communities in the area include the Clearwater River Dene Nation, the Northern Village of La Loche, and the Northern Settlement of Descharme Lake.

Preserving Public Access to the St. John River

In collaboration with communities along the St. John River, The St. John River Society has been working to preserve public access to the St. John River by maintaining a system of 13 heritage wharves that were originally built for steamboats.

As part of the CHRS's GIS Story Map Project, Kathy Fullerton--a resident of Long Reach, New Brunswick--shares why Whites Bluff Wharf is invaluable to her and her community.

Meet the CHRS River Managers & Stewards: Molly Demma

Molly Demma

Molly Demma is the Executive Director of The St. John River Society, a not-for-profit organization whose goal is the appreciation and wise use of the St. John River in New Brunswick and Canada’s 38th Canadian Heritage River. Molly’s background in resource recreation management drew her to the river two decades ago and her passion to better the area continues today.  Molly brings a strong background in management, project planning and environmental education. Before joining The Society, she was the Education Director for Ducks Unlimited Canada. Molly has had the honour of working on a variety of projects along the St. John River that highlight the natural and cultural heritage of this, the most storied river in Canada, to residents and visitors alike. 

Most recently Molly managed the national Canadian Heritage Rivers Celebrates Canada 150 Project in partnership with Parks Canada- a wildly successful project that saw 39 river organizations partner to celebrate Canada 150 on their Canadian Heritage River and impact over 100,000 Canadians with the message that rivers are important to Canada and Canadians and they are a sacred national resource that must be stewarded into the future.

Throughout all of Molly’s experiences she has focused on building capacity for communities, networking with volunteers and empowering people to increase their pride and sense of place in a way that is sustainable and manageable for them.

When Molly is not working, she can be found driving her kids to all their activities.