Watershed Discovery Days: how Ottawa Riverkeeper staff explore the watershed!

At Ottawa Riverkeeper, we have a program that gives our employees paid days off to explore new corners of the watershed. These outings are opportunities for the team to learn about and connect with the waterways and land that they are dedicated to protecting.

Are you interested in learning more about the Ottawa River watershed? Well, we have some amazing spots to share with you. This past July, our Executive Director, Patrick Nadeau, paddled down the Madawaska River from Calabogie Lake to Burnstown Beach…on a work day! Why? Because Patrick loves the watershed and at Ottawa Riverkeeper, we have a program that gives our employees paid days off to explore new areas within the vast region. Known as Watershed Discovery Days, these outings are opportunities for the team to learn about and connect with the waterways and land that they are dedicated to protecting.

In fact, several of our staff members have seen beautiful locations around the watershed just this year. Chloe Hillier, our Director of Donor Relations, visited Petrie Island in the fall to observe a turtle release. Naomi Sarazin, now a member of Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors, paddled through the narrows of Lake Mazinaw. Mark Bernards, our Digital Content Creator and Graphic Designer, walked along Ottawa’s iconic, biodiverse Greenbelt in search of wildlife.

In hopes of inspiring you to embark on your own adventures, we have created an interactive map that shows all our staff’s Watershed Discovery Days. It shares what they learned, the highlights of their day, and some stellar photos, too. To learn more about Chloe, Naomi, and Mark’s adventures, make sure to read about their stories below.

A turtle release at Petrie Island

There was excitement in the air as a group gathered in preparation for a turtle release at Petrie Island. Chloe joined the gathering, choosing to spend a Watershed Discovery Day supporting the organization, Friends of Petrie Island, whose mission is the preservation of Petrie Island’s ecology, flora, and fauna. She learned that the group had been working on turtle conservation for many years. When a member located a turtle’s nest, measures were put in place to protect it from predators. Snapping turtles, painted turtles, and map turtles eventually hatch and are released back into the area where their nest was found. Chloe felt lucky to be one of 40 in attendance to watch the baby turtles make their way into the water.

The stories told on Mazinaw Lake

The sun was hot and the water was cold as Naomi departed from Mazinaw Lake along the shore of Bon Echo. Bon Echo is one of many Ontario Provincial Parks in the Ottawa River watershed. What drew her to this lake was knowing her ancestors paddled that same route hundreds of years ago. She was determined to see the stories they left for the generations to come. She paddled across Lake Mazinaw to an incredible site: the face of a sheer granite rock cliff. The cliff, known as Mazinaw Rock, extends 107 m up toward the sky and dives just as deep beneath the lake’s surface.

As Naomi drew near the rock she felt connected to all those who came before her. She read the stories left on the rock face and tried to uncover their full meanings. Mazinaw Rock is home to nearly 300 red ochre pictographs that the Algonquin people created as a form of communication and storytelling. Naomi searched for the one that represented a canoe. Her grandfather was a world renowned birchbark canoe builder, and she takes great pride and interest in learning more about this traditional art skill. Naomi loves all water sources and looks forward to visiting more lakes, rivers, and tributaries within Algonquin territory.

20 km of photos: Mark’s visit to the Greenbelt

Mark is always observing the world around him. He decided to spend his Watershed Discovery Day walking along a trail through Ottawa’s Greenbelt, travelling up and around the Greenbelt’s West end at Shirley’s Bay. Knowing that the Greenbelt is home to an impressive ecological diversity, Mark was keen to capture it on camera. He also knows that patience and attention to detail are crucial to success. Equipped with this knowledge, Mark set off, carefully observing his surroundings. A green heron soared. A yellow warbler took flight. A white admiral perched momentarily, displaying brightly striped wings. Over the course of 10 hours and 20 kilometres, Mark managed to document many animals in and around Shirley’s Bay, bringing the photos home to share with his colleagues and you.

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