River Rendezvous #40
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River Recreation and Education
~ Asher Kingery & Danielle Graham ~
               The definition of ‘river recreation’ is rather loose.  If you are near any kind of water and enjoying your time – you win.  You are welcome to push your heart rate or simply float on a tube.   How about walking a trail along a river or just eating ice cream in your car from the best parking lot view of the river?  Of course those count!  Watching water flow by is something that can draw people to the banks of a river and throughout a watershed.
        Just as ‘river recreation’ does not have a static definition, watershed education is not one-dimensional either.  Watershed Education is not solely about gathering water quality data or learning geography but rather, about experiencing the river in a holistic sense.  This is the idea behind expanding our programming past water quality monitoring to include annual conferences, macroinvertebrate sampling, River of Dreams, and River Explorers.  River Explorers, in particular, is an educational program that was created to get students in our River Watch program out on the rivers that they sample on. 
        While out in our fleet of kayaks, students take photos and make observations on wildlife, land use, water quality, and anything else that catches their eyes.  All of this is put together to create a “story map” on ArcGIS online to share the paddling adventure with the public.  We hope that helping students get out on the rivers in their watershed will lead to more members in the community recreating in their free time – a hobby that is especially relevant during a season of life where people find themselves increasingly outdoors!
       Whether you are a River Watch Student hoping to get back out on the rivers or someone trying to make the most of your social distancing activities, here are some good ways to approach this particular form of river recreation.  First of all, not all trips are appropriate for all skill levels of paddlers, but there is something out there for everyone. Second, ‘safety first’ is a requirement, not just a tip.  This is something that must be done every time for every activity in and around the river.  Know that there is a certain level of risk, so being aware of your surroundings (geography, water levels, weather, traffic, etc.) and being prepared with the basics is the start to an adventure, not an afterthought.  After getting safety basics down, here are some tips for beginners of any age:
  • Have the first experience be short and enjoyable.  Low expectations can be easily met.
  • Stay in shallow water--really shallow water.  Flowing water is powerful and must be respected.
  • Don’t buy any special equipment right away, simply enjoy the view or take a walk.
  • Choose days with a little wind to keep the bugs away.
  • Use gravel roads and park off the roads.  There are gravel roads almost every mile in the Red River Basin with hundreds of bridges.  These crossings are much quieter due to less traffic.
  • Your feet will get wet and muddy and you’ll probably slip going up and down river banks resulting in a few scratches, the tip here is to let that happen.
  • Reach out to ‘river people’ (people who have experience in and around the rivers of your watershed) with questions about specific activities and rivers – we, at IWI, are happy to be those people for you!
Though the educational programming at IWI doesn’t look the same right now as it does most summers, we hope our River Explorers program encourages people to make the most of it!  If you are looking for some trips to try out in the basin – check out the story maps below.

Read more about Asher's journey to becoming a 'river person' in our most recent blog.
River Explorers
Using ArcGIS Online, River Watch Teams compile maps with photos and commentary from their River Explorers Paddling Trips.  If you're interested in scoping out some of the tributaries to the Red River, take a look at the River Explorers Map Gallery at the button below.
View Paddling Trips Here
Even though programming has looked a little different this spring and summer, canoes launched in recent years continue to make their way to Hudson Bay! To view the latest River of Dreams sightings, click here.
Sara Forness, local science teacher, found a 2018 canoe while out on a recent paddling trip on the Maple River (left). Another 2018 canoe was found upstream from the previous find by a family out exploring, they cleaned it off and returned it to its journey (right).
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Social Media Highlights
Our IWI Facebook Page is in the middle of a round of "Meet the Staff" - head over to our page to hear some staff highlights!
IWI Staff participating in the annual River Keepers Golf Scramble.
Published by Danielle Graham & Asher Kingery 

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