Posts Tagged ‘Landscape’

Covers v3-3c FINAL

Take a look at the final cover for Invisible Army!

(Ignore the printer’s marks)

Sets the right mood/image for the incredible story of the men and women who maintained and operated the Rideau Canal since 1832. Gone,but not forgotten  —  now.

I hope to have the book itself in local bookstores in the next few weeks, Chapters – Byward Market – has agreed to stock it. I’ll be canvassing other local bookstores to pick up this great local story.

If you have a favourite bookstore that you think might be a good candidate for this book, let me know. The Friends of the Rideau will be grateful.


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I dunno! Just as I think that I’ve come across some great new information, the Access issue strikes again. This one is a bit more Kafka-esque than usual.

I requested some volumes via a Finding Aid (FA) and got a prompt response back that I needed a file number for one of the requests. I noted that all there was in the FA was the volume number and a title, so I supplied it. I was then told that the file would take the usual 6-8 weeks, but that the other two volumes requested were on microfilm and available on the 2nd floor.

Then it seems to have occurred to someone that I was asking for material that seemed to be cleared for access but that hadn’t actually been cleared. So now I’m in limbo again. Are they really going to remove material that has been available for public access and give it the old “6-8 weeks” review?

Looks like it!


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Dad-sketch-5Looking for something to do next weekend ?
Plan a daytrip to Newboro Lockstation. Take #15 to Crosby and then follow the road to Westport. (You’ll get to Newboro first -just follow the signs to the Lock Station).

EVENT:          Newboro Boat Show

WHEN:           June 13th & 14th

WHAT:           Day Trip

HOST:            Rideau Boat Tours

START:          Saturday June 13 @ 10:00 AM

END:              Sunday June 14 @ 6:00 PM

WHERE:          Newboro Lock Station

See you there!

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May 29, 2009

 Courtesy of the RVCA

Canadian Rivers Day Cleanup


Sunday, June 14th is Canadian Rivers Day and to help celebrate our local creeks and promote clean water, the City Stream Watch program is holding a stream  cleanup on Sawmill Creek in Ottawa.  

From its headwaters along Lester Road, Sawmill Creek flows north through the community of South Keys and along the heavily-urbanized Bank Street before eventually joining the Rideau River at Billings Bridge.   Because of its urban watershed, a lot of garbage tends to collect along the banks and in the stream itself which can harm the important fish and wildlife habitat along the creek.  

The Sawmill Creek Cleanup runs from 9 am to 3 pm, with on-site lunch generously provided by the Monterey Inn Resort and Conference Centre.  If you would like a sandwich, please register by Monday, June 8th.   

We will meet at Heron Park and wade along the creek from there.   Heron Park is off Heron Road east of the Airport Parkway and west of Bank St.  From Heron Road, turn north onto Clover St., and the community centre and park is on the left side of the street.  We will park and meet there at 9 am.    Please bring your own drinking water, sun block, rubber boots, chest waders (if you own them) or sturdy footwear.  

To register or for more information, please contact Julia Sutton – City Stream Watch Coordinator at citystreamwatch@rvca.ca or  613-692-3571  x 1180.

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                                                                                                                                                          May 28, 2009

 Here’s a contribution from Charles Billington, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, with a well-timed update to your New Year’s resolutions.



            Now here’s a mid year resolution to consider: spend more time in the hammock this summer.   Read more.  Sleep more.  Leave the lawnmower and chainsaw in the shed.  Remove less vegetation.  In fact, let your shoreline revegetate itself.  Let nature take its course.  Relax.  Both you and your lake will be healthier for it.      

            After all, Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Those soggy shorelines you see along the creeks, streams and lakes of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys are mixtures of alder, bulrush, sedge, cattail, pickerel weed, Virginia creeper and mud sometimes called “wet scrub”.  These streambank areas are also known as the “Ribbon of Life” because about 90% of the plants and animals living in the water need these scruffy-looking areas at one time or another in their life cycle.  And they are as essential to the health of the river as your kidneys are to you. 

            Plants are right at home here.  Insects, fish, birds and mammals move in where the plants are.  These rich areas are nurseries, food cupboards, hiding places and hunting grounds.  They are a buffer against floods, wind and erosion.  They filter out large quantities of nutrients washing in off the land.  Vegetated shorelines are small pieces of ecological heaven with the best of all worlds: heat, light, water, land and food. 

            These fragile areas are under siege in the urban and rural parts of our local watersheds.  People cut and fill in and “clean up” and “harden” the shorelines with little thought for the health of the stream or lake.  Those types of old-fashioned practices have let us down badly.  Clean water, lots of wildlife and stable shorelines are at risk in many parts of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys. 

            That’s not to say that we can’t use and enjoy our rivers, lakes and streams.  We can but it does take a little shift in attitude towards the unique and fragile Ribbon of Life.  It costs nothing and it pays huge dividends in terms of a healthy river system for future generations.   

            It is time to start respecting our alders.   Leave the natural vegetation along the shore alone.  It has been there through thick and thin for the past 10,000 years and is in perfect harmony with the river environment.  If it’s already gone or substantially changed, let it grow back by not mowing within five metres of the shoreline (ten metres is even better).  Mother Nature will do the rest.    

Avoid using fertilizers and other chemicals on your property.  Common sense tells us that liquids do find their way into either the groundwater (which we drink) or lakes and rivers (which age faster with chemical boosts).   Check that your septic system is up to scratch.   Check with your municipality, Conservation Authority or Parks Canada about permits needed for any shoreline projects such as docks.    A good first step is always the helpful folks at the LandOwner Resource Centre at 613-692-3471 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 28 or ext 32 (or info@lrconline.com). 

            The battle for healthier waterways will be won by thousands of people staying in their hammocks longer on the shorelines of every lake, river and creek in Eastern Ontario.  Power to the people indeed!

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Dad-sketch-5Flash! The great wall of the Rideau is being rebuilt and for only $2 million –  read all about it this morning in the Ottawa Citizen. Minister John Baird is positioning this expenditure as necessary to remain attractive to tourists –  something like Botox ?

I recall reading that the post-WWII Department of Reconstruction paid then-big money to rebuild thousands of feet of concrete wall along the canal and around Dow’s Lake. This was aimed at stimulating an economy just making the transition to peace-time industries and looking for employment for returning soldiers.

When the Canal Basin was abandoned and filled during the late 1920’s, the original thousands of feet of concrete wall went up. There was 1455 feet worth from Connaught Place to Laurier Avenue on the west side; over 6100 feet of concrete went up on both sides of the canal from Bank to Bronson; 655 feet on the north side of Dow’s Lake, and a further 3000 feet planned to join this small wall to the rest of the canal.

The late 1920s was the flourishing era of the new concrete technology – it quickly pushed out the original stone masonry of the canal lock structures. Stone in the necessary sizes had become scarce, and thus expensive – concrete was one-third the price and didn’t need skilled masons, stone-cutters, etc.

Hartwells, Long Island, Burritt’s Rapids, Old Sly’s, Beveridges, Beckett’s Landing, Nicholson’s, Smiths Falls Combined, Chaffey’s, Jones Falls, Ottawa Locks – all had facilities reconstructed in concrete over this period.

I guess that we can’t go back and replace the “heritage” concrete with stone now, even if we could find it and the skills (and the money) to do it. It just wouldn’t qualify as “shovel-ready”.

Sic transit gloria mundi ……

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Dad-sketch-5I’ve gathered a lot of names of men who worked as masons, stonecutters, quarrymen, derrickmen, grip men, engineers, and blacksmiths for my new book on the Rideau Canal. In the early 1900s, repair work on the locks meant finding a source of large enough stones to replace those that were cracked, broken, etc., by ice, wayward steamers and clumsy barges.

This was an on-going preoccupation of the Superintending Engineers, and various quarries had been used over the years – for example, at Elgin. Hard to believe, but eventually the quarries ran out of rock that could be quarried and cut to the proper size – really big.

Anyway, eventually business shifted to the Westport quarry. I have a picture of a mason gang at Westport – stripped to the waist, not much shade, lots of loose rock lying around, a derrick in the background. Great stuff! But …. just where was this quarry?

It couldn’t be north of Westport – that’s the Foley Mountain area –  red granite. We’re looking for limestone – sandstone. OK – the quarry must lie south or west, but where? It had to be close enough to transport these big stones by teams down to the docks where they could be loaded onto scows and floated to the repair site.  

So…. when in doubt, ask Ken Watson – webmaster of the great Rideau web site, www.rideau-info.com

Horrors! Ken didn’t know – so I asked Margaret Brandt of the Westport Review-Mirror. Sure enough, she “dug” around and came up with a location that she passed on to Ken. He had the bright idea of looking for the location on Google Earth and found it. Then he e-mailed the Google Earth file to me, so that I could “fly” over it. A white/gray quarry sure stands out against the green forest.

On my next trip down to the cottage, I think I’ll stop by and take some pictures to go with that old-time gang. Margaret gave me the phone number of the current owner.

 Incidentally, the Westport quarry itself started to run out in the early 1920s. It was closed and all the machinery – derricks, steam engines, buildings, etc., were hauled away to Brooks Bay on Sand Lake, where a large deposit of fine gravel was located. Here concrete blocks were poured and finished – replacing the hand-cut stone blocks. Almost no men were needed – a foreman, a concrete finisher, some labourers, and a camp cook. Cut the cost of stone blocks by two-thirds.

When the first dredge, Rideau, was scrapped a year or so later, the engines and so on were removed and the hull and superstructure were towed to the concrete yard by the new dredge, Tay. The hulk was beached and used as living quarters for the men. Your grand-dad knew all about recycling, sonny!

Or, as an old lady once told me when, as a teenager, I tried to show her up, “Don’t try to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs!”

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