by Susan Francolini
Rivers run deep in Mike Ryan’s veins. They have always been a part of his life. His appreciation of great rivers began when he was a boy and his grandparents lived by the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City. He has since traveled upriver and has been happily residing by the Ottawa River near Arnprior, for the past 20 years.
When Ottawa Riverkeeper began setting up as an organization, it advertized volunteer opportunities for Riverwatchers. That first year three people, including Mike, signed up. Today there are more than forty Riverwatchers.
Mike Ryan enjoys being a Riverwatcher and taking water samples to monitor water quality. When asked what he enjoys most about being a Riverwatcher, Mike replies: “I like contributing and helping out, which is easy since I am always out on the river. This is fun.’
Living on the river
Mike is fortunate as he lives at a very scenic location of the Ottawa River. “This area is used for recreation,” he says. “Pollution is not an issue as there are no major industries in this area.”
His home is next door to the Quyon Ferry. As the Quyon tributary empties into the Ottawa River across from Mike’s place, he has witnessed silt being deposited in the river. The river is narrow at this location and there is a dam upriver. Both these factors contribute to oxygenating the river, thereby inhibiting the water from freezing in winter.
Although Mike appreciates the beauty of the entire Ottawa River watershed, he has a special fondness for Pontiac Bay. It is part of the Canadian Shield and is not easily accessible by the river. Visiting this location is like going back a hundred years in time: the land is in its natural state.
According to Mike, the most impressive event he has witnessed on the Ottawa River occurred after a big rain storm. The heavy rain led to the Quyon River water level rising so dramatically in twenty minutes that it washed out an island and all of its trees. After the storm was over all that remained was a barricade of branches.
Mike believes that one of the most important things people can do to help the river is to pump out their septic systems to ensure their sewage does not spill into the river. He also believes that limiting the erosion of the soil is something people should be mindful of.
A dedicated Riverwatcher
In addition to being a Riverwatcher, Mike has made several other significant contributions towards improving the River’s water quality. The first is the website he has created for the Riverwatchers at http://ottawariverwatchers.ca. This website includes a map of the Ottawa River along with the location of operation for all of the Riverwatchers. Each Riverwatcher location is featured as an icon. The water quality is available by location and is accessible by clicking the location icon.
Mike also created a database that tracks the water quality samples of water taken by the Riverwatchers. In time, this database will be valuable as it will allow monitoring of the river’s water quality during the next 5, 10 or 20 years. This will be of great benefit to the scientific community and help monitor the overall health of the river.
In addition, Mike monitors the river with the assistance of two camcorders. He set up these camcorders, one pointed towards Quyon and the other downriver, to allow different parts of the river to be surveyed. You can view the Ottawa River in real time here.
Mike Ryan is a dedicated Riverwatcher. He appreciates the Ottawa River and makes many significant contributions towards improving the quality of the water. He also is an avid canoeist and naturist and appreciates the beauty of the Ottawa River. We are thankful and appreciative of Mike Ryan’s dedication in keeping the Ottawa River healthy for everyone’s benefit.