The Story of Ontario’s Wabigoon River: NRS Releases New Life Downstream Film

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With a thriving fishery, Northern Ontario’s Wabigoon River once nourished the Grassy Narrows First Nations. It’s also rich in whitewater as it flows for over 200 kilometers on its way to the English River, feeding a full-on adrenaline obsession, with countless cascades, waterfalls and rapids, for kayakers up to the task. But today, with its populations of walleye and pickerel doing more harm than good, the Wabigoon raises issues of wonton recreation vs. the importance of protecting clean waterways.

Throughout the 1960s, the Dryden paper mill dumped nearly ten tons of mercury into the Wabigoon River. As a heavy metal, it sank to the sediment and ignited a detrimental chain of ingestion.

NRS Wabigoon Film
Running a drop on the Wabigoon.

As a mother and a grandmother, Judy Da Silva has witnessed firsthand the consequences of the Wabigoon’s devastation. From Alzheimer’s to Kennedy’s Disease to the loss of a resource and a way of life, the physical and spiritual health of her people continues to suffer.

Drawn to its whitewater, a group of kayakers never thought to ask about the Wabigoon’s history. And then, one day, they did. The result is “Life Downstream,” a new film from NRS offering a powerful look at the intersection of recreation and livelihood and the reminder that to truly know a river requires questions most paddlers never think to ask.

Life Downstream offers a powerful look at the intersection of recreation and livelihood and the reminder that to truly know a river requires digging deep into its bigger picture.

The Wabigoon River in a Nutshell

The river begins at Crocker Bay at the northwest of Raleigh Lake, flows northwest over the Raleigh Falls, then under Ontario Highway 17 and the Canadian Pacific Railway transcontinental main line at the settlement of Raleigh. It continues northwest, takes in the right tributary Little Wabigoon River, then turns southwest back under the CP line and Highway 17 at the settlement of Taché.

NRS Wabigoon FIlmThe river takes in the left tributary Mennin River, flows over Walker Falls, and takes in the right tributary Melgund Creek all near the settlement of Borups Corners, enters Dinorwic Lake, and flows into Wabigoon Lake, where it takes in the left tributary Crooked River. The Wabigoon River exits the lake at the northwest at Dryden, and flows northwest, through Wainwright Township dam and generating station (operated by Regional Power, a subsidiary of Manulife Financial), takes in the left tributary Eagle River, passes under Ontario Highway 105 at Upper Falls, then under Ontario Highway 609 and the Canadian National Railway transcontinental lmain line and over Quibell Dam the latter three at the settlement of Quibell. It then heads northwest to Clay Lake, takes in the left tributary Canyon River at Canyon Stretch, passes through Segise Lake, and reaches its mouth at Ball Lake on the English River, which flows via the Winnipeg River and Nelson River to Hudson Bay.

Link to film: https://youtu.be/9OBBxnx6gmo

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