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Summer 2020

Date
Volume
2
Number
5

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.

The Thames River - Celebrating 20 years as a Canadian Heritage River!

 The Thames River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in August 2000, making this year its 20th anniversary.  The Thames and its watershed were designated based on the rich cultural heritage and varied recreational opportunities, supported by its diverse and unique natural heritage. 
 
The designation was several years in the making. The effort began in 1996 when Dr. Douglas Bocking, retired Dean of Medicine at Western University, assembled a group of interested individuals and agencies who shared his vision of seeing the Thames and its tributaries designated a Canadian Heritage River. There were and still are many separate activities and efforts by governmental agencies and community groups in the watershed to increase the appreciation, enjoyment and stewardship of its features. The designation of the Thames has provided an overarching theme to provide common purpose and direction.   

Dr. Bocking’s vision of increased awareness and stewardship for the watershed has taken root. Many projects have arisen, in part, because of this awareness. Below is a list of seven successful projects/outcomes:

1. The annual Thames River Cleanup was launched 20 years ago, right after designation, by watershed resident Todd Sleeper. He started the spring trash cleanup in his local community and soon expanded his efforts to the entire watershed, recruiting local volunteers to take on local reaches and bringing in local sponsors. The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) provided early support to get the event going. In 2018, Todd received an award from the UTRCA for his efforts. 

Volunteers with the River Rally clean up garbage from the Thames in downtown London Photo: UTRCA
Volunteers with the River Rally clean up garbage from the Thames in downtown London
Photo: UTRCA

2. A river revitalization project called Back to the River was spearheaded by the London Community Foundation in 2016, in partnership with the City of London and the UTRCA. The goal is to create an accessible, inclusive community space that provides opportunities for economic gains and environmental stewardship and to transform the downtown core near the Forks of the Thames. A design competition was held and the successful design, called Ribbons of Life, includes features such as a lookout structure, pavilion, walking path and others. Several steps in the process remain, but there is optimism that elements of the plan will be realized in the near future. 

3. Three books on the Thames have been released since designation. Richard Bain produced a coffee table book called The Thames: A Pictorial Journey. The late Dr. Michael Troughton, a member of the Thames Designation Committee, wrote The Thames River Watershed, A heritage landscape guide. Chatham historian Jim Gilbert published Looking Back, The Thames River, Ontario.

4. The City of London and the UTRCA recently spearheaded a major water management plan for the Thames River called The Thames River (Deshkan Ziibi) Shared Waters Approach to Water Quality & Quantity (2019). This project is a collaborative effort of numerous First Nations, federal and provincial agencies, conservation authorities, and municipalities. 

 

5. There has been renewed interest in paddling all reaches of the river since designation:
- Local enthusiasts created a website called Traverse the Thames.
- The UTRCA posts water level data for paddlers on its website.
- Ontario’s Kevin Callan, aka The Happy Camper, produced a YouTube series on his solo canoe journey down the entire Thames.
- A group of volunteers produced “Thames River Paddling Routes” to share detailed information to promote local paddling. 

6. The Springbank Dam in London has been decommissioned after years of debate. This historic recreational dam created a reservoir that was well used by paddlers and rowers in the summer, but its stagnant water and disruption of fish migration and endangered turtle nesting were serious concerns. When a gate mechanism broke in the newly-refurbished dam in 2008, debate raged over whether to repair it. After extensive studies as well as expert and public input, the increased awareness about the dam’s negative impacts on water quality and aquatic species helped sway public and municipal opinion to finally decommission the dam in 2018.

7. You know your river is generating positive attention when local micro-breweries name their companies or products after it! Forked River Brewing Company, based in London, and Upper Thames Brewing Company, based in Woodstock, are two examples. 

 

Spring is the best time to paddle the upper reaches of the Thames River Photo: UTRCA​​​​​​

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Facts about the Thames River that will make you say ‘Huh, Interesting!’

  1. The Thames River is one of Canada’s most southerly rivers. Most of the watershed is at the northern edge of the Carolinian Life Zone, Canada’s most biologically diverse zone. The long growing season and fertile glacial soils support a wide variety of species including more than 70 tree species.
     
  2. The Thames watershed saw several significant battles in the War of 1812 including the Battle of the Thames in October 1813, where the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was killed. His leadership of the Indigenous warriors was crucial to the colonial forces. Monuments near Moraviantown pay tribute to this legendary chief.
     
  3. The Thames River contains one of Canada’s most diverse fish communities, due to the river’s many habitats, nutrient-rich waters, and connection to the Great Lakes. More than 90 fish species have been recorded, including Walleye (Pickerel), Brown and Brook Trout, and Longnose Gar, supporting a popular recreational fishery.
     
  4. Indigenous peoples have lived in the watershed since the retreat of the last glacier, 11,000 years ago. Today, the First Nation communities within the watershed include Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Munsee Delaware Nation, and Delaware Nation at Moraviantown (Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewiit).
     
  5. The 110-km-long Thames Valley Trail is the watershed’s longest hiking trail. It follows the Thames and North Thames Rivers through forests, fields and along rural roads, as well as through urban areas. This popular trail links the Elgin Trail in the south with the Avon Trail in the north.
     
  6. Water in the Thames typically takes seven to 10 days to travel 273 km from the headwaters near Tavistock to the mouth at Lake St. Clair during the summer, and three to four days during the spring freshet.
     
  7. Lt. Gov. Simcoe named the river after England’s River Thames in 1793. The Anishinaabek People call the river Deshkan Ziibi (Antler River in Ojibwe / Anishnaabemowin). Historically, the river was also called Askunessippi (Antlered River) by the Neutrals and La Tranchée or La Tranche (the Trench) by French explorers.

Sunday, June 14th is Canadian Rivers Day!

This year, we are celebrating river heritage across Canada with our new website and brand new feature- interactive Story Maps. The launch of these virtual maps marks the end of a collaborative project with our partners across Canada to bring 28 of our rivers to you though a virtual experience. This latest tool allows all Canadians to experience the natural, cultural and recreational stories of our rivers through outstanding visual materials and descriptions of features and landmarks. You will be able to investigate the history of the Red River lot system, the wildlife of the Kicking Horse River, the Five Finger Rapids of the French River  and so much more!

These maps will continue to allow all of us to showcase all the amazing things we love and cherish about our individual rivers and this collective national treasure.  

Meet the CHRS River Managers: Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA)

Eastern Cottonwood trees, a Carolinian species, are common along the Thames River. (Photo: UTRCA)
Eastern Cottonwood trees, a Carolinian species, are common along the Thames River. (Photo: UTRCA)

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) acts as the lead Thames River manager for CHRS, in partnership with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA). These local watershed management agencies deliver services and programs to protect and manage impacts on water and other natural resources, in partnership with all levels of government, landowners and many other organizations. The Thames is unique in that jurisdiction is split between the upper and lower watershed, owing to political differences when the authorities were established by watershed municipalities.
 
The UTRCA’s mission statement is “Inspiring a healthy environment” and working with partners is a key approach. The CHRS program is a good example of a community partnership project. The idea of pursuing designation for the river came from a local citizen, who sought the help of the UTRCA and other citizens to make it happen. The extensive research contained in the Background Study makes it an excellent reference document.
 
The CHRS logo is used on Authority correspondence (letterhead), websites, promotions, funding applications, and elsewhere. Twenty years after designation, many residents know the Thames is a Canadian Heritage River and it is not uncommon to see the designation mentioned in local community events and programs.