| Sep 28, 2006

Feature Article - September 28, 2006

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Feature Article - September 28, 2006

TheSalmon River Watershed:Jewel of EasternOntario

Book review by Jeff Green

In 1853, the Public Lands Act encouraged settlers to establish a “wheat and mixed farming culture in an area that the Canadian government described as having ‘excellent soil and a climate that can sustain a population of eight millions of people’”. (The Salmon River Watershed page 19)

Included in this territory was the northern portion of the Salmon River Watershed, which stretches from Cloyne in the northwest to Mountain Grove in the east and runs south through Erinsville and Tamworth in Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Counties .

As the new book by the Friends of the Salmon River points out, the predictions of the Public Lands Act did not take into account the Precambrian shield, whose rocks and thin soil cover precluded farming on anything but a subsistence basis.


The Friends of the Salmon River was created by about 20 people in April of 2004 at the secluded home of Aileen and Gray Merriam on Kennebec Lake, the major junction of inflows to the Salmon River. At that time there were few in the room who regretted the fact that the prediction of 8 million people had overstated the eventual population of the territory by almost 8 million.

In many ways the ‘Salmon River Watershed: Jewel of Eastern Ontario’ is a celebration of the fact that high density farming and industrial development failed to take root along the river and its watershed, leaving the waters clean, maintaining its variety of plant and aquatic life, and making it a great place for naturalists and canoeists alike to congregate.

The book was launched last Saturday at a well attended event at Beaver Lake Park . Plans for an outdoor launch had to be modified because of rainy weather, but canoeists and kayakers arrived undaunted from upriver to join the celebration.

The book contains chapters on the existing communities along the river, the bedrock, living processes along the watershed and white water canoeing. The longest chapter focuses on the human history along the Salmon and its feeder lakes and streams.

The first humans visited the watershed around 11,500 years ago, but they could not stay because of glacial ice. Later, Algonkian speaking peoples occupied some of the northern territories , and late in the 18th Century, Mohawks settled around Bay of Quinte . In the mid nineteenth century, settlers arrived and were encouraged to populate the region, spawning the predictions of large scale settlement.

Logging along the watershed took place in full force in the latter half of the nineteenth century, decimating what soil there was along the northern portion of the watershed. The logging industry also caused the disappearance of the salmon, which gave the river its name, from the southern portion of the river where they had once been abundant.

Settlers who came to the lands in the latter part of the 19th century struggled because of poor soil conditions and a predominance of rock, leaving the population stagnant or in decline throughout the 20th century. Two railroads, the old Nip and Tuck and the Kick and Push railways, came and went.

Few people living on the Salmon River watershed today make their living from the land, but the success of the Friends of the Salmon River and the contents of their first publication demonstrate their love of the watershed, and their commitment to maintaining it in the healthy condition that it is in today.

Along with a wealth of information about the ecology of the river, the book includes poems and full colour reproductions of artwork that has been inspired by the river.

Anyone wishing more information about the Friends of the Salmon River , to become a member, or to obtain a copy of the book, please contact Nathalie Sorensen at 542-0398. Copies are $15 each.

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