Month: May 2012

Newsletter May 2012

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote:
“Methinks an island would be the most desirable of landed property, for it seems like a little world by itself; and the water may answer for the atmosphere that surrounds planets.”

What a beautiful description of the sense of intimacy and yet completeness that islands promote. They are like little worlds unto themselves, encircled in a loving embrace by the sparkling water that surrounds them, little ecosystems that are just a bit separate from the rest of the world- far enough away from the mainland to develop a distinct identity and exclusivity, but close enough for regular contact if needs be.

Here is our update as of May, 2012: Spring has been exceptionally warm this year, and the summer is predicted to be a hot one. We opened Fancy Free early this year since the season has been so advanced. The swimming season has already started, and although the water is still a bit cold, it will warm up quickly over the next few weeks. The female hummingbird has returned to Fancy Free’s porch and is sipping nectar from the beautiful flower baskets hanging there. Swallows have returned, and warblers, as well as the loons and ducks. The island is a cacophony of birdsong and lush growth, and the water is as inviting as always. The new swimming raft is sure to provide hours of fun on the water.

Annual repairs and grounds-keeping are taking place, and Fancy Free is once again “open for summer”! The anticipation of five months of island life on the Big Rideau is a delicious sensation. 

Attention, naturalists, photographers, and history buffs:  the Rideau Roundtable is preparing some wonderful excursions in the Rideau area to celebrate Environment Week. Max Finklestein, a legendary canoeist and friend of Fancy Free, is a featured interpreter: 

CELEBRATE ENVIRONMENT WEEK with TREASURES OF THE RIDEAU – the perfect voyageur canoe interpretive tour to experience the Rideau’s cultural and natural highlights.

The Rideau Roundtable is pleased to present Treasures of the Rideau tours in collaboration with the Rideau Canal Visitor Information Centre to celebrate Environment Week in Smiths Falls, Saturday June 2 and Saturday June 9, 2012.

Starting at 10 am at the auditorium of the Rideau Canal Visitor and Information Centre with an overview presentation of Ontario’s UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, The Rideau Canal, this will be followed by instruction in paddling the 34 foot replica Voyageur Canoe.  Visitors will experience the passage through the Detached lock, into the Swale, a provincially significant wetland. They will learn about the heritage and natural history of the area from our regular costumed Voyageur interpreters – wildlife biologist Stew Hamill, historian and teacher Jim Penistan and actor and natural history educator Andrea Howard as well as guest interpreters.  

Saturday, June 2, we welcome canoeist icon, biologist, author and environmentalist, Max Finkelstein, as our guest interpreter. Max is the retired Communication Officer for the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, Canada’s national program for river conservation. Max Finkelstein’s canoe explorations of Canada are modern legends. His expeditions demand ingenuity and courage. His book, Canoeing a Continent: On the Trail of Alexander Mackenzie, retraces explorer Alexander Mackenzie’s historic paddle some two hundred years ago across North America. Paddling the Boreal Forest: Rediscovering A.P. Low is another work that he co-authored with paddling partner Jim Stone. They traced the routes of the 19th century “iron-man” in the Quebec-Labrador border. 

Max will be leading the “Capital to Capitol” Voyageur Canoe expedition from Ottawa to Washington in September.    This goal of this 1800 km, 5-week long expedition is to draw attention to the need for collective efforts to restore our rivers and waters

The cost of these 4-hour Treasures of the Rideau, on Saturday June 2, including a morning on the water, lunch and discussion with Max Finkelstein, is $65.

The following Saturday, June 9, the guest interpreter will be naturalist/photographer, Simon Lunn. Simon has spent most of his life exploring and learning about the natural environment. With his considerable photographic, interpretive and presentation skills, he generously shares his experiences with others. A graduate of Acadia University, Nova Scotia in biology and wildlife conservation, Simon enjoyed a career spanning several decades with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Canadian Wildlife Service, and, for the past 30 years of his work career, Parks Canada. During that time, he worked and lived in park sites and other natural areas across Canada; worked eighteen years with the Rideau Canal as the Visitor Services Officer and prior to his retirement in 2004, as Ecosystem Scientist. Simon continues to contribute citizen science through various wildlife surveys, research, and also volunteers with the Rideau Waterway Land Trust. 

Simon will provide our participants with insights into the natural history and secrets of the Swale, a very important marsh that will be full of life and photographic opportunities at this time of year. 

Following lunch in a private dining room, Simon will share with the audience a slide show of the four seasons of the Swale, after which he will lead a hands-on photography workshop from 2 pm – 4:00 pm. This will involve an easy stroll to different spots along the canal between Smiths Falls Detached and Smiths Falls Combined Lockstation, and will provide participants with practical tips and suggestions on how to photograph what makes the Rideau Waterway so special. It should be an active, fun and memorable day that will include a search for the “falls” referred to in the town’s name!”

The cost of the whole day is $85, including lunch, the morning paddle and the afternoon photography workshop. 

Please visit: or call 613-269-3415 for reservations or more information about Treasures of the Rideau.