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Health of the Rideau River


A bank of the Rideau River in its natural state.
In its natural state, shoreline vegetation provides shelter and food to numerous animal species.

Save the Shoreline!

It is remarkable just how much what grows along the shoreline affects what lives in the Rideau River! In fact, the preservation of shoreline vegetation and the natural character of its banks is key to the health and biodiversity of the River.

Shoreline vegetation:
Bullet. Provides food and shelter, and nesting and breeding areas for wildlife.
Turtle on a fallen tree trunk.
Turtles need basking sites, such as fallen tree trunks; basking helps them digest their food.
Stabilizes the riverbank by anchoring the soil in place, thereby preventing erosion. During rain storms unanchored soil washes into the River. This decreases water quality significantly; many animals move away from these areas because the soil blocks gills and impairs vision, making it more difficult to locate prey and avoid potential predators. The eggs of fish and frogs become smothered and even suffocate.
Bullet. Acts as a filter, preventing some of the residential and agricultural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from entering the River.
Bullet. Buffers against shoreline erosion caused by motorboat wakes. A bed of cattails or arrowheads helps to dissipate the energy from the wave action.

Natural vegetation along the River. The strip of vegetation that is preserved here along the shoreline stabilizes the soil and filters leaching fertilizers.
Cattails Not Construction
The disappearance of natural vegetation through the development of shorelines is one of the main threats to the Rideau River. Happily, people can improve the shorelines by doing some simple things.

In residential and agricultural areas, manicured lawns or crops that are grown to the water's edge are not able to stabilize riverbanks. Structures such as retaining walls are often added in compensation.

Eroded bank.
Eroded riverbank.
These are poor alternatives to natural native vegetation because they eliminate the variety of habitats that is created by a diverse plant community. Artificial shorelines do not provide habitat, food or suitable nesting areas for the animals of the River. Ultimately, artificial shorelines reduce the biodiversity of the Rideau River.

If structures are absolutely necessary to stabilize shoreline, the best thing to do is to also add native plants along the River's edge.

Snails in their aquatic habitat.
Natural banks shelter a variety of animals.
The red-osier dogwood (Cornus stonolifera) and the meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) have roots that grow in a tangle, like a web, and so are particularly effective in preventing soil erosion. The virginia creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea) and the shrub willow (Salix eriocephala) are also suitable. [23]

Several of the most severely degraded shorelines along the Rideau River were damaged by mudslides caused by livestock walking in and out of the River. Also, the water is left muddy and contaminated. Shoreline fencing would go a long way to eliminating this problem.


 Health of the River  

Watch this video!
Developed shoreline along the Rideau River.
Shoreline development along the Rideau River.
(886 Kb, QuickTime)
A Project of the Canadian Museum of Nature
 Images: Canadian Museum of Nature, Ruben Boles, Jean Lauriault