North Saskatchewan River, AB - Lucas Schmidt
Ever since I can remember water has been a huge part of my life. It sparked from my childhood obsession with dolphins that soon grew to a love and respect for the ocean. Obviously having been born in Edmonton my interaction with the ocean was limited growing up, but the passion grew along with my passion for other recreational activities related to water. Trips to nearby lakes, dog walks in the local Millcreek Ravine, and visits to the river valley parks played a big role in my life. It opened my mind to the unique opportunity that Edmonton offers even if its no where near the ocean.
The first time I truly realized this potential was a couple years back while taking a canoe trip through the Edmonton area river valley. I was surprised and struck by the beauty and the fun that was so close to home. The water was clear, clean, and refreshing. The river cuts through lush green forest and over many years has carved out an impressive valley surrounded by large cliffside banks. It is beautiful and to experience such a natural setting in an urbanized area was super cool and rare. The Edmonton River Valley truly provides a natural escape from the rush and business of the city that surrounds it.
Since that canoe trip my summers have been filled with more river floats, cross-river swims, beach fires, and exploring new places to enjoy the river. One of my favourite spots is at one of Edmonton’s river valley parks called Terwillegar Park. The bank of the river rises abruptly creating a steep, 10 ft drop into the river. A perfect place for a little “cliff jump”. There is a nearby tree that you can climb and jump from as well creating more air time and making things a little more interesting. The water is about 5 ft deep so bracing for a shallow entry is helpful, although the riverbed is mostly sand here so that makes for a softer landing. Just a warning – not a place to dive in head first.
The river valley meanders through the very middle of the city. Although it physically divides our city in two, it seems to bring people together. Historically, this was a gathering place for Indigenous communities. The abundance of park space along the river today creates a communal gathering place for all residents and visitors and it’s cool to see it still carries that tradition.
I am currently a student at the UofA in a combined degree in Environmental and Native studies. Through my studies and interests i’ve recently realized the importance of protecting and sustaining the river because it gives our city life. I feel that if we use the river for our benefit, we have the responsibility to protect it and to keep it natural.
I am also the Swimmable Water Intern this summer for the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper Program, a Swim Drink Fish Canada Initiative. I am super excited to be given the opportunity to work with such a cool organization. I’m looking forward to spread the love and respect I have for the river here in Edmonton so that others can enjoy and acknowledge one of the greatest aspects of our city.