Friday, July 29, 2016

MacDonald Island and The Snye

I was stuck at home for much of yesterday working around the house and fighting and winning a war against my washing machine so I wasn't able to get down to MacDonald Island as I had planned.  I wasn't sure if the weather was going to cooperate either but today I made up for the delay.  Officially I went down to do some birding but I also just really wanted to stretch my legs and enjoy the nice weather.  As it turned out, I spent much longer outside than I had planned but it was all for good.  After leaving Mac Island I headed over to a park and then to a sandy point where the Clearwater River feeds in to the Snye but since I also ended up taking a lot more photos than anticipated, I'll leave that part of my afternoon to another post.

The Snye.  The name always puzzled me when I first moved here.  I always heard it referred to as "The Snye" with a capital "T" and never "the Snye River."  As it turns out "snye" is not an actual name but rather a geographical term used to denote a side channel. Originally, it connected the Clearwater to the Athabasca with the main body of the Clearwater flowing north of Mac Donald Island and The Snye cutting south of the island.  In the 1960's, rather than build a bridge to the island, a short causeway was constructed at the western end of the Snye.    Under the causeway there is a small outlet under the water line so the water doesn't flood the road but there doesn't seem to be much of a flow.  The Snye lives up to its name in the geographical sense that it is a backwater though I don't see this in any pejorative sense.  Weeds notwithstanding, it remains one of my favourite places to spend an hour or three.
This photo is taken from the above-mentioned causeway.  This end of The Snye doesn't see as much activity as its eastern end which was fine with me since it meant more birds to see.....mainly widgeons and pied-billed grebes, both of which I don't see very often.

If there was one sore point during my afternoon it was this.  I'm not sure why the north side of the Snye has been so neglected.  It seems to have gotten worse since I moved here.  There actually IS a path in the weeds there....along with a park bench.  There was a time when you could cut up to the let in this photo and reach a nice grassy field but with the construction of the new stadium I found my path blocked by a chain link fence.

Honestly, some of the weeds were almost as tall as I am.  What a shame.  It's irritating to think that the city has money to burn on all sorts of things but can't do a little maintenance.  I realize things are a bit out of kilter due to the fire but this is just a tad ridiculous.  I do have some much better photos of the Snye that I will include in probably my next post.

I soon had other things to worry about other than chocking weeds as a woman called out to me that there had been a bear seen in the area.  Not wanting to cut my birding short but not wanting to end up becoming some carnivore's snack either I retreated to safer territory.

I crossed MacDonald Island to the Athabasca shore and cut in toward the bank.  I've always loved this area as it is one of the easier spots for me to access the river.  Looking back upstream the Steinhauer Bridge is visible though the photo turned out darker than I would have liked.

The next several photos are all looking downstream along the river as I walked the length of MacDonald Island toward the confluence of the Athabasca and the Clearwater.

This is a peek at Rocke Island which splits the Clearwater in to two separate channels where it empties in to the Athabasca River.

Looking downstream.  Other than a few ripples its pretty calm water this time of the year.

It's quite the distance to see this is a what a couple hundred gulls (herring gulls, I think) look like as they take off.  Mixed in among them I caught sight of a single sandhill crane amongst them.

 MacDonald Island Park.  If I'm not mistaken its the largest rec centre of it kind in Canada, certainly in western Canada.  I ducked in to escape the heat and re-fill my water bottle before heading out to explore more of the Snye (along the non-bear side, I should add) down toward the Clearwater River.  More of this in my next post.

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