September 27 is World Rivers Day, a celebration of the world’s life-giving waterways which are needed for communities and watersheds to thrive. First celebrated in 2005, and developed by Canadian river advocate Mark Angelo, World Rivers Day is now celebrated by millions of people around the world.
Here in Canada we have 25 major watersheds, consisting of 8,500 rivers and 2 million lakes, from the majestic wild rivers like the Mackenzie River and Yukon River to the urban rivers like the Humber River in Toronto or the Bow River in Calgary that wind through our cities. We celebrate our rivers but we also need to recognize that they are under pressure.
For example, climate change is causing melting glaciers, shifting precipitation patterns, and increasingly intense and frequent droughts and floods that are impacting river flow and affecting our freshwater species. Around the world, freshwater species have declined by 76 per cent over four decades. In Canada those species include the Lake Sturgeon, a fish that has been around since the age of the dinosaurs, but is now facing extinction.
By many measures, Canada is a water wealthy country. It is home to 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater. However, only 6.5 per cent of Canada’s freshwater is renewed annually. Furthermore, there is a lot of variability across the country. While the majority of Canadians live in the southern part of the country, most of our freshwater flows north. Canadians need to be water stewards to protect the rivers, lakes and watersheds at the heart of our Canadian landscape.
Need more reasons to protect our rivers? Take a look at these eight great rivers put together by WWF-Canada’s freshwater team and tell us what your favourite river is to fish or paddle on!
The Eight Great Rivers as picked by the WWF-Canada Freshwater team
1. St. Lawrence River – Quebec/Ontario
“The St. Lawrence is big and powerful. It is part river, part lake and part estuary and as such it is a truly unique environment supporting a variety of ecosystems and all that entails.” ~ Catherine Paquette
2. Ottawa River, Ontario/Quebec
“I’ve spent several summers white water rafting along this river. Its a mix of amazing thrills and majestic wildlife.” ~ Heather Crochetiere
3. Skeena River, British Columbia
“The Skeena is one of the most majestic and important rivers I’ve had the pleasure of fishing in and paddling on. Its the second largest salmon river in Canada, which means it is important to countless species, not just us humans.” ~ James Casey
4. The Bow River, Alberta
“I have many memories from when I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Calgary. “The mighty Bow” flows through the city, and in and around many areas where we’d go hiking, making sure to always stop along the way and admire grandma’s favourite view of the river.” ~Emily Giles.
5. Rideau River, Ontario
“Some of my favourite memories are connected to the Rideau River and the surrounding watershed where I’ve spent so much time at our family cottage. Now, with my own curious and adventurous one year old on the scene, continuing that tradition has become that much more special.” ~Eric Mysak.
6. St. John River, New Brunswick
“The St. John River is my number one as I’ve come to learn about and appreciate its rich and diverse natural and cultural history. It is the river that I have the most experience with, having canoed, kayaked, stand-up paddle boarded, swam, camped, paraskied and worked on for quite some time.” ~ Simon Mitchell.
7. Grand River, Ontario
“Southwestern Ontario is home to my favourite river, the Grand. Growing up in Galt, my grandpa and I used to fish for bass in the “honey hole”; a top secret spot on the Grand. I was also lucky enough to work on the Grand for my first job as a fisheries technician. To me, the Grand is home. It supports so many people and it is beautiful.” ~ Rebecca Dolson.
8. The French River, Ontario
“I spent many summer days paddling the French river in central Ontario. This river near Georgian Bay provides a chance to see wilderness in the “near north”, only a couple hours north of Toronto. Running rapids, campfires on the edge of the bay, all told a great adventure!” ~ James Snider.
Learn more about Canada’s watersheds and our work to assess the health and threats of them at watershedreports.wwf.ca