WWF-Canada Blog:
Freshwater


St. John River Summit 2014 a success!

It was a spectacularly misty morning as we headed off in canoes and kayaks down the St. John River to the mouth of the Madawaska River, joined by a local paddler in his hand-built traditional Maliseet birch bark canoe. Our river flotilla kicked off the start of the St. John River Summit 2014, held at the headwaters of the St. John River near Edmundston, New Brunswick and Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Quebec.

Launching into the misty St. John River © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Launching into the misty St. John River © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

In the afternoon, river experts and enthusiasts gathered on the banks of the Madawaska for a trade fair showcasing the work of a wide range of groups that support healthy rivers. From source to sea, there was learning and discussion about a broad range of river issues.

Trade fair participants and public engaging along the Madawaska River, Edmundston, NB. © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Trade fair participants and public engaging along the Madawaska River, Edmundston, NB. © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

This year’s Summit was a collaborative effort by the WWF St. John River Advisor, the Société d’aménagement de la rivière Madawaska et du lac Témiscouata (Madawaska River and Lac Témiscouata Development Corporation) and the Organisme de bassin versant du fleuve Saint-Jean (St. John River Organization) and supported by the Congrès mondial acadien (World Acadian Congress). It brought together a diverse group of representatives and the public to experience, learn, and discuss the largest watershed in the North-east.

Discussing and sharing stories about the St. John River during a break in the Science Conference © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Discussing and sharing stories about the St. John River during a break in the Science Conference © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

So what happens at a river summit? In presentations, watershed experts discussed local concerns such as fish and lake eutrophication (the oversupply of nutrients resulting in explosive growth of plants and algae, and often resulting in a significant decline in water quality).   The natural and cultural history of the St. John River was also discussed – the reason for the river’s recent designation as a Canadian Heritage River.  Ongoing research by the Canadian Rivers Institute was presented for the Mactaquac Aquatic Ecosystem Study that will help inform decisions about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station.

Handmade Maliseet birch bark canoe and participants at the summit © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Handmade Maliseet birch bark canoe and participants at the summit © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Summit participants said they gained a better understanding of the St. John River and insight into how leading research is contributing to our collective understanding of the river’s health.  A Summit highlight was the evening lecture by Serge Bouchard – an anthropologist and Quebec radio personality who delighted us with an oral history of the First Nations of eastern North America, focusing on the role of the ‘Wolastoq’, the St. John River.

Wrapping up with Family Day at the Parc national de Lac-Témiscouata, (Lac-Témiscouata National Park) kids and parents had the chance to try out the latest technology for water sampling.  Participants collected and identified bugs, took water samples from the river and discovered the region’s unique natural environment.

Getting kids started towards a water career - bug (benthic macroinvertebrate) identification during the family day © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

Getting kids started towards a water career – bug (benthic macroinvertebrate) identification during the family day © Simon J. Mitchell / WWF-Canada

WWF congratulates the partners and participants that made the St. John River Summit 2014 a great success! This event is part of WWF’s work to bring together diverse knowledge and interests in river health. Through experiencing, learning and discussing, we share our collective knowledge of one of Canada’s great heritage rivers – its story, past, present and future.