The Bonaparte River and its watershed play a vital role in the ecology and economy of our region; and on Saturday, September 24 that role will be celebrated at a Rivers Day event sponsored by the Bonaparte Watershed Stewardship Society.
“The watershed seems unimportant until it presents us with a wreck situation, and then everyone wants answers,” says Al Midgley, the society’s chair. He hopes the event will build interest in the watershed, so that people understand its importance.
He notes that a key part of the society’s sustainability plan is to promote familiarity and knowledge of the watershed, but that opportunities to do this are minimal.
The event will feature the official opening of the viewing platform beside the Bonaparte in Cache Creek park near the playground. Although it was completed in late summer 2015, it has not yet had an official unveiling.
“The original idea was to have a walking path along the river,” says Midgley, “but there was a lot of private property [bordering it]. So we decided to build the viewing platform instead.”
Those only familiar with the Bonaparte River as it flows through Cache Creek and Ashcroft may be surprised to learn that it is about 150 km long, with its headwaters northwest of Kamloops. The Secwepemc (Shuswap) people called the river Kluhtows, which means “gravelly river”.
The name “Bonaparte” first appeared on a Hudson’s Bay Company map in 1827, where it is spelled “Bonepates” (by 1846 the name was standardized on maps as Bonaparte). It is likely that the river was named after the great Napoleon Bonaparte, the military leader and Emperor of the French who died in 1821.
The viewing platform will serve as the focal point for education about the Bonaparte watershed, and will be opened at 1:30 p.m. on Rivers Day. Free bus tours—at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.—will take participants to see a few of the riverbank stabilization projects that have been undertaken over the past 16 years, and there will be an interactive, hands-on river display in the Cache Creek park.
Static exhibits will be set up to provide more information about the Bonaparte watershed, and video displays that will look at the major floods of 1990 and 2015 are being planned. It is hoped that the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans will be able to take part, and local First Nations will be involved in the day.
Midgley says that education plays a major part in the sustainability of river systems, and that the viewing platform is key. “It’s a reminder for generations to come of the river’s most important ingredient: water. People will take ownership if they can take part in something, and have the opportunity to get up on the infrastructure and look down at the ecosystem below.
“It’s a step in getting to know your watershed. If people take ownership of it, it’ll fly.”
Fore more information about the Rivers Day event, contact Midgley at (778) 207-7468 or by e-mail at email@example.com.