Wild Days! sponsored by the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society (SLSS) are free family nature walks held at various locations throughout the Slocan Lake watershed. In July & August 2019, three Wild Days! engaged families, community members, and visitors in the watershed for fun outdoor adventure and environmental learning. The 3-hour long programs encourage participants to explore and make sense of some of the small, wondrous creatures as well as large, spectacular features that surround our communities in the north Slocan Valley. This year marks the 5th anniversary of Wild Days programs!
Our 2019 Wild Days! funders included the Regional District of Central Kootenay Area H, Recreation Commission #6, Hills Recreation Society and Columbia Basin Trust; and co-sponsoring organizations included the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Okanagan Centre, Slocan Integral Forestry Cooperative (SIFCo) and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
Saturday, July 20 – Celestial Tour at Centennial Park, New Denver.
The first hour consisted of an engaging powerpoint presentation by Colleen O’Hare and Guy Mackie from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Okanagan Centre. They presented interesting information regarding planets, stars, galaxies and black holes; and revealed interesting recent discoveries as well as many of the mysteries still to be explained. They also touched on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The presentation was followed with a question and answer period, and our presenters received many questions from a wide audience age ranging from about 3 years old to 93! After a very cloudy day, we were very grateful for the clearing skies that evening which provided a great night of star-gazing. Participants were able to look through high-powered telescopes to see Saturn and its rings, Jupiter and its moons, and various other constellations. Our timing was perfect as we were also treated to a glimpse of the International Space Station as it flew over Centennial Park that evening. The gazebo in the park was a good gathering spot for both campers and locals attending the evening. Many stayed until the end to take advantage of the telescopes and expertise that Colleen, Guy, and Olaf Lutz had provided. Throughout the evening more people joined to look through the huge high-powered telescopes. This tour was co-sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Okanagan Centre.
Saturday, August 3 – Cool Rocks and Fire Smart, Bannock Point.
The tour began with a walk along the Bannock Point trail to the beach. As participants walked through the forest, Stephan Martineau from Slocan Integral Forestry Cooperative (SIFCo) discussed wildlife trees and SIFCo’s wildfire interface work
removing trees in the forest that were potential fire risks surrounding Bannock Point. Stephan used the analogy of thinning carrots in the garden to explain SIFCo’s approach to thinning forests in order to aid forest health and fire-smarting the forests in the Slocan Valley. He spoke about his approach to forestry through the lens of climate change – that fires and smokey summers will become the new normal. He told participants that it’s a matter of 1-10 years as opposed to decades before forest stands burn in the Slocan given the combination of warmer, drier temperatures and the unhealthy density of our forests and fuel loads. Also as we walked, local geology expert Richard Johnson, pointed out rocks, boulder fields, and a suspected glacial erratic along the trail. Once at the lake, Richard discussed how geological features formed at Bannock Point and along the lakeshore of Slocan Lake. We were actually standing on the Slocan Fault Zone that separated different geologies that run along the east side of the lake up to Hills. Marcy handed out a Geology Field Journal where participants viewed the geology graphic explaining the development of geology in our area. The kids walked around, collected rocks for identification with Richard or worked on the word search puzzle, while adults asked more in-depth questions about wildfires and geology. This tour was co-sponsored by the Slocan Integral Forestry Cooperative (SIFCo).
Saturday, August 10 – Wondrous Watering Hole at Bonanza Beach/Creek, Hills.
The morning started with ornithologist Gary Davidson taking us on a tour of the resident birds at Bonanza Beach and the confluence of Bonanza Creek and Slocan Lake. The area was teeming with birds and a spotting scope
was set up for viewing a variety of birds including several Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, a family of Bald Eagles nesting in Bonanza Marsh, a flock of Cedar Waxwings, Belted Kingfisher, young Mergansers, Mallard ducks, and the persistent calling of the Red-Eyed Vireo (aka “preacher bird”). We were treated to witnessing one of the eagles catching a fish and slowly paddling back to shore using its wings! This action provided a fortuitous segue to the second half of the tour, featuring fisheries biologist Michael Zimmer from the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Michael explained how salmon and Kokanee (redfish) spawn on bodies of water throughout the Columbia River Basin, including Kokanee in Bonanza Creek. He discussed the impact of hydroelectric dams throughout the US-Canadian Columbia River system on migrating and spawning fish such as Chinook and Sockeye salmon and White Sturgeon, and his research with ONA to restore and improve fish habitat. Michael shared that in July there was an important announcement that all levels of government and First nations had agreed to developing fish passage at key dams in the Columbia River to allow salmon to return to the Kootenays. This tour was co-sponsored by the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
A combination of seven experts led the tours this year: Stephan Martineau, Richard Johnson, Colleen O’Hare, Guy Mackie, Olaf Lutz, Michael Zimmer, and Gary Davidson. They represented a broad range of disciplines from astronomy to wildfire interface forestry to geology, to fishery biology and ornithology, all of which infused into each event interesting hands-on experiences and facts about our natural world – locally and in our universe.
This year a total of 116 people attended Wild Days!