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The power of water

At this time of the year, the snow begins to melt pretty rapidly in Eastern Ontario.  Temperatures can fluctuate by 20C or more in a single 24 hour period.  Add a little rain, and you’ve got a recipe for melt on a grand scale, especially considering the near record snow falls we had earlier in the winter.

It’s been melting here, and melting fast.  To give you an idea of how fast, here are two short Qik videos I made.  The first is from last weekend, and the second is from this weekend.

Thankfully, however, the excitement really isn’t in my backyard and my basement is still dry.  The real action is out on the rivers.  Ottawa sits in a valley (the aptly named Ottawa Valley) which drains numerous large and small rivers from all sides.  The Ottawa River, in turn, dumps into the St. Lawrence, and from there to the Atlantic ocean.  I live near the Rideau and Jock Rivers, both of which drain into the Ottawa.

At this time of the year, there’s a lot of water running.   In particular, today is the day that the meteorologists are predicting that the Ottawa and the Rideau will peak.  Here’s a few pictures of what it looks like that I snapped yesterday and today around town.

You may recall that I’ve previously posted photographs of the historic Watson’s Mill in Manotick.  These two photographs, shot this morning, shows all of the dams open as the Rideau River pours through the spillway.  It’s as if the dam isn’t even there.

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Yesterday we walked the dogs on one of our favourite trails, which follows the Rideau to the point where the Jock flows into the Rideau, and then follows the Jock upriver to Barrhaven.  I shot this video and photograph below the bridge on Prince of Wales Drive.  Ordinarily, the Jock is a lazy trickle, not the raging monster you see here.


The Jock has turned into a full blown white water experience.  And, in fact, today I caught sight of a group of white water enthusiasts shooting the Jock from Barrhaven on down to it’s confluence with the Rideau.


All this water, of course, is coming from the snow pack that is now melting.  Up in the forest above the Jock snow and ice are melting around the bases of the trees and then flooding into the river below.


Of course, there are upsides to all this water as well.  Spring is also the time that the sap starts to flow in the trees.  That means maple syrup.  And during our walk we stumbled across this old maple that someone had tapped.  The sap was definitely flowing.


The Rideau is actually a tributary of the Ottawa. 15 kilometres down river from the Jock, the river is split, at Mooney’s Bay, into two separate waterways — the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River. The Rideau Canal was built by Colonel John By after the War of 1812, and was designed to allow boats to make the descent to the Ottawa in safety, allowing them to reach the Atlantic without having to pass through the narrow parts of the St. Lawrence Seaway in and around the Thousand Islands… just in case our American neighbours should ever try to take the Seaway. Today, the Rideau Canal is a World Heritage Site, and used exclusively by pleasure craft.

At this time of the year, the Canal is not yet flooded and the locks are nearly dry.


However, across the way at Hog’s Back, it’s a different story.  Hog’s Back is a natural set of rapids that was dammed by Colonel By in order to raise the level of the Rideau along the entire stretch of the river.  He was successful, increasing the level of the river by a stunning 12 metres, or 45 feet.

On a summer day, this is what Hog’s Looks like (picture by Gordon Wolford). 


Here’s what it looked like today.


It’s amazing to me that the trees, which are ordinarily on the bank of the river, haven’t been swept away by the torrent.


This short Qik video I shot will give you an idea of how quickly that water is moving.

All photographs shot on Nikon D50 DSLR, or Nokia N95 camera phone.  All video shot using Nokia N95 camera phone.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Geoff April 13, 2008, 10:33 pm

    Alec – Those shots of Hogsback are incredible. There is just no way to make people appreciate how much water is coming through there if you haven’t seen it in the summer! Folks, that space between the two rocks is a gorge that people climb down into to get close to the water. Just guessing, I’d say the water level must be 8-10 meters above normal.

    Thanks for posting!

  • Alec April 14, 2008, 5:50 am

    I think you’d have to be a much better photographer than me to really capture the effect of the hogs back Geoff. The challenge is size of the image. What I couldn’t show was the 250m downstream where the river has completely broken it’s banks. Most of the trees are in the center of this mass of flowing water.

    BTW – each of the images above is a 480 px wide “thumbnail” which clicks through to the original photograph at full size.

  • Mum April 14, 2008, 11:08 am

    Great shots Alec! Brings me back a few years.

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