Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The river's exploits

Grand Falls-Windsor, NL – Our map was refolded today to focus on central New-foundland, as we took to the Trans Canada Highway in just about every direction but west. The route on the map looks a bit like the letter M, beginning northward to skirt Sandy Lake, then southeast, then northeast and finally almost due south to reach Grand Falls-Windsor.

The lakes and trees we passed today were quite reminiscent of Ontario. Several times the road climbed to give us a wonderful panorama of mountains, covered in evergreens, and dozens of lakes, which for some reason are called ponds more often than not, no matter how big they are.
It was wonderfully sunny today and warmer than we’ve had it since leaving Ottawa. We are actually outside this evening on our lawn chairs, enjoying a lovely breeze. The Sanger Memorial RV Park here is right on the banks of the Exploits River, and beautifully laid out with trees and grassy areas.

It didn’t take us long to complete the 200 or so kilometers to our destination; in fact we got here by lunchtime, so after we had a bite to eat, we headed out to do some exploring.  The river defines the southern edge of town, and the TCH divides it into a northern and southern section. The homes look generally well-kept, and there are lots of parks and community facilities. A large paper mill stands, abandoned, by the river, telling of earlier reasons for the town’s existence.
Val earned himself some serious brownie points by waiting patiently while I sat in a local hairdresser’s chair for a much-needed haircut. The number of points climbed as he waited once again for me to pop into a grocery store for a few supplies.

Then we were off to see the Salmonid Interpreta-tion Centre, not far from the RV park, where we learned why so many vehicles were parked by the roadside on our way into town: it’s a salmon-fishing mecca!  The Exploits River was a natural spawning ground for salmon, but the activity was confined to the waters below the falls (which gave the town its name) because the rocks were too high for the salmon to climb.
Local townsfolk established the Environment Resource Management Association, or ERMA, to rehabilitate the river by attending to waste management, and clearing away abandoned beaver dams and old logging debris to improve the river’s flow. They also constructed a fish ladder and bypass to help the salmon reach the river above the falls, and established a fish hatchery. In 1978 there were about 1,200 salmon in the lower portion of the river; with their efforts, today the count is upwards of 30,000 fish!

The interpretation centre allowed us to view the fish traveling through the ladder through a Plexiglas wall, and we saw a video that explained the ERMA project from start to finish. We also learned that, unlike Pacific salmon that die shortly after returning to their birthplace to spawn, Atlantic salmon are able to spawn two or three times in their lives. Sounded fishy to me.

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