On a recent camping trip to Riding Mountain Park, my beau frère Éric and his fiancée Kaitlyn wanted to spend some time on the water. They brought a tandem kayak, while we brought our beater canoe.
Upon our arrival at the off-the-beaten-track Whirlpool Lake Campground, I spotted a large notice indicating that all watercraft used in the National Park must submit to inspection. Using an uninspected, permitless watercraft in the National Park is accompanied by a hefty fine. And for good reason. While we may be growing tired of hearing about Zebra Mussels and other aquatic-invasive-species, it is a very real, very significant problem.
After a pleasant, bug-free evening at camp, we made for Wasagaming to get our boats inspected and out on the water.
At the Wasagaming boat launch, we were asked a few questions to assess our risk.
"When was the last time you used your canoe?" "Where?"
We had last used our canoe for a Wednesday night paddle (just a few days earlier), and because we'd been paddling on the La Salle, it was necessary that we head into town for decontamination.
Paddle Manitoba members should be aware that the Zebra Mussels have been observed in the La Salle River watershed. While no Zebra Mussels have yet been discovered in the waterways that we regularly paddle, there is a risk that their larva (or veligers), which are naked to the human eye, could find their way downstream.
Members should take appropriate precautions to decontaminate their paddle craft before taking them on other waterways.
Being late in the summer, we waited about twenty minutes for someone to arrive at the decontamination station. Once she arrived, she fired up the sterilizer and started gathering our equipment. We placed our paddlecraft on the concrete pad, loaded all of our PFDs into a large cooler and placed our paddles on the ground. All of these items required decontamination, via the 60°C pressure washer.
Our PFDs were treated first and left in the insulated cooler for the duration of the process. Then she moved on to our paddlecraft, first the inside (so that they are sure to drain by the end), then the outside and finally our paddles.
In the end, once the decontamination was complete, we were each issued permits for the paddlecraft. One for our dashboard, the other to be carried with us anytime we were on the water with them.
This was a lot of effort just to spend a couple of hours out on the water in damp, uncomfortable PFDs. I probably wouldn't do it again (bring my canoe to Riding Mountain park for a weekend getaway).
Paddling in Riding Mountain?
- Riding Mountain has no established paddle routes. Some lakes may be paddled, but there are no backcountry sites along water routes, nor are there water routes.
- Plan extra time for getting your watercraft permit, and possibly submitting for decontamination.
- If decontamination is necessary (it likely will be, if you've paddled your watercraft in the past two weeks) - your PFDs will be soaked in 60° C water for around half-an-hour. Plan on paddling in a wet PFD, or plan on extra camping time to allow them to dry before you venture out.
Decontaminating your own paddlecraft
So how does a conscientious, environmentally minded paddler manage their own paddlecraft?
Unfortunately, it's not so easy.
To protect against cross-contamination, paddlecraft must either go through a proper decontamination station; or you must clean them and let them dry for a minimum of 30 days if you've been paddling in an area at risk for contamination.
On December 12th RMNP issued a press release saying that zebra mussel DNA had been identified from water samples taken at Whirpool Lake.
The lake and campground are now closed until further notice. For more on this story see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/whirlpool-lake-closed-zebra-mussels-1.4445042