Congratulations you awesome being. This is National Rivers to Oceans Week and this is our cultural heritage.
The immense cover of ice and snow that we call the Columbia Ice fields is the birthplace of some of our great rivers. The vast sheet of ice at the border between Jasper and Banff National Parks is an awesome place of remote grandeur. The spectacular, stark beauty of the masses of snow and mountain are a land unto themselves. A land of life in high altitude and cold. The streams from the melted ice are flowing with todays first water and cascading into rivers and waterfalls, avalanches and crevases. The ice fields are where some of our mighty historical rivers are born. The daily melt water is the first drop of water into a river system that flows throughout most of the country
The huge icefields cover 215 square kilometers and is 300 to 360 metres deep in some places. This massive sheet of ice provides us with clean, fresh, new water.
Water! Our national heritage was formed from these rivers. Great explorers ventured into our nation by these same rivers and lakes.
The historic Athabasca River, a fur trading route, is one of our national heritage rivers which starts at the Columbia Ice fields. The importance of the Athabasca river, with its designation as a Canadian Heritage River is its connection to exploration and the settling of the country. The rivers in Canada played a major role in establishing the country. Fur traders embarked on lengthy journeys of adventure and trade to explore, meet and negotiate trade with the indigenous peoples.
The fur trade was the most important industry in the country in the early years of settlement.
The Columbia Ice Fields are also the source of the North Saskatchewan River and the headwaters of the tributary of the Columbia River. This is the top of the Continental divide, where waters flow to the Pacific, the Artic and to Hudson Bay. The significance of this, is waterways all across the country. For exploration, the waterways provided access all throughout the nation.
The mighty St Lawrence River was the first river accessed by explorers from Europe. Jacques Cartier explored this area for France in the late 1400’s and made connections with the local people who resided near the shores. The St. Lawrence is an access route into the interior of the country. By exploring this route, Europeans were able to penetrate far into the nation and in doing so, discover the wealth and abundance of the land. The sea wealth for fishing and the forest for furs.
The river and lakes system is so vast it connects one province to another through historical waterways that were travelled frequently by early explorers.
Water! A wealth for our land. A country filled with lakes and rivers. The play land for sports. The abundance in fishing. The salvation of our populace. Our good fortune is to have water. Clean water. Unpolluted water. Water filled with life. Aquatic life, plant life, animal life and ultimately, our life.
written by Dr. Louise Hayes
June 11, 2013