Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Fish Cam

by Heather Mydosh
It's been an age since I've crossed the St. Mary's. Four years, I could see it out my bedroom window. Now it's been four years since I've seen it at all. I remember the marshes, the boardwalks on the Canadian side visible from my drivers' side door while crossing the Bridge, the look of it while munching at West Pier in the summer and sipping hot cocoa on Portage in winter. Now, my only remaining connection to it is the Fish-Cam. Currently, all it's showing me are some rather impressive sturgeon in a tank in the Fish Lab, but I eagerly await the time when unnamed researchers will pop the webcam back beneath the skin of the river and my privileged browser will once more track the movements of fish and particulate skimming past an artificial eye half a world away, and inquisitive fish will peer unseeing from my screen to inspect the books on the shelves behind me and the quality of Scottish air. That this live feed plugs one of my senses back into an aspect of a river I used to know, at least in a cursory way— a live feed from back where I used to live. What a curious thought: having left the river, the towns, the continent, I can still (albeit via technology) tap back into a life I've left and even while I was there didn't precisely have access like this. I could chill my toes, but now I observe the fish.

Moderator's Note: To view the Fish Cam at Lake Superior State University's Aquatic Research Lab, visit and select the Fish Cam link on the right hand side of the page.


by Jillena Rose

Friday signaled the official beginning of river watching season for many locals thanks to the yearly opening of a sixty-two year old institution on the river—Clyde’s Drive-In.

Clyde’s has been opening every spring since 1949. The owner—Clyde Van Duesen—opened for the first time in 1949. The Drive-In is wisely located right next to the Sugar Island Ferry, a long, white flat barge with a red-trimmed navigating tower that crosses the river several times a day taking people back and forth from work to home. Just to the East of the building is the entrance to Rotary Park, a small but picturesque place where campers and local parents bring their kids to play for a few minutes at lunch or the end of the day. Clyde’s has a built-in clientele. Island hoppers come to the ferry a little early so they can park their car, step across the lot to the restaurant and enjoy a burger or a fish sandwich while they wait their turn to cross the river, and park visitors who strategically plan dog walking time to coincide with lunch or a shake break. But Clyde’s isn’t only for the locals.

License plates from all over the country and provinces in Canada are not really surprising in the line-up of cars and trucks that skirt the edge of the drive-in. Car diners typically turn their backs to the building to watch the river go by. Clyde, I am sure, approves of this position. Three of the four walls of the restaurant are floor to ceiling plate glass. Clyde knew the main attraction of his location—the river and what travels on the river. For tourists and locals alike, this is a great freighter watching location. The Soo Locks is not quite a mile west of Clyde’s, so, whether a freighter is upbound or downbound, by the time they come into view of the long flat grill behind the counter inside Clyde’s, they are moving slowly, majestically through the shipping lane, a great photo opportunity for devotees and casual observers alike. And there have been some very avid freighter watchers who’ve selected this one spot to record the comings and going of the hard-working vessels that traverse the locks. The second bench facing the river as you enter Rotary Park has a sign on the back of it:

Donated by Friends and Family of Andy La Borde
Creative Photographer, knowledgeable of Great Lakes Vessels. From Milwaukee Wi.
Please rest your bones and salute 3 long and 2 short because Andy would appreciate it.

Clyde’s has helped shape a gathering place along a river and in a city that has been the gathering place for centuries of people who come to the river to move on, to record what they see, or to remind themselves of why they stay in this quiet little town. And Clyde knows the power of these gatherings better than anyone. He met his wife at the restaurant, not long after he opened it. She was a car hop. I met both of them last May at a Mother’s Day breakfast in the basement of St Ignatius Loyola Church in St Ignace, their home. They told me about how they met and talked about the restaurant. Clyde is eighty-one now. After the gathering at church they were going to go home. Clyde was going to make dinner for his wife—hamburgers on the grill.

They’re open for the season now, until some last grey Saturday or Sunday in November when, in the silent, almost empty parking lot, workers will clean the grill, empty the coffee pots and place boards over the plate glass until next spring. And the flurry of picture takers and island hoppers will turn inward to their cars to keep warm and hurry home to gather in their kitchens until Clyde’s opens again.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Add your work...

To add an essay to the list, send it to
Thank you in advance for sharing your short creative non-fiction with others.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

People Watching

by Gregory Zimmerman
My professional and personal interests are centered on ecology of natural habitats. I feel more at home in a grassland, forest or marsh than in a big city. I don’t seek crowds of people. But I’m not a curmudgeon. Sometimes I want to see lots of people. A city festival without a crowd is a sad city festival.

Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan puts on a pretty good Fourth of July celebration (right after Sault Ontario has put on a pretty good Canada Day celebration. The parade draws thousands of people. Crowds of people go down by the St. Marys River to see the fireworks. One of my favorite spots to see the fireworks is the Kemp Marina. The walkway around the marina is designed for public access. You can get right out onto the river. A good number of people gather there to watch the fireworks. It’s enough people to have a festival feel, but not so many as to induce claustrophobia.

Another very enjoyable mix-it-up-with-people event taking place from Canada Day to the 4th is the annual pancake breakfast. It’s a funraiser to support local challenged children. For a couple bucks you get sausage, pancakes, orange juice and coffee, cooked and served in a barge outfitted specially for this occasion. The barge spends a few days on the Canadian side then is floated across the river to our side. It’s quite enjoyable and it’s nice to catch up with friends and acquaintances at this offbeat event. Along with Breakfast-on-the-Barge is the tugboat parade and race. Seeing a flotilla of tugs motor up and down the river together is unique to river towns.

These events draw nice crowds. People gathering at the river is a great thing and the river provides an excellent backdrop for it. The river is important for the ecology of animals and plants; it’s also important for the ecology of people.

St. Marys River Marshes

by Gregory Zimmerman

For me, much of the appeal of the St. Marys River is that its mainly natural river bank. Only a small portion of the river bank is, as the river scientists say, ‘armored.’ River bank armor includes sea walls, concrete, rip-rap, and other man-made structures. Through the twin Saults, the shoreline has been armored, but along most of the rest of the river, it’s still in a more natural state, serving as habitat for a wide diversity of plants, animals and other organisms.

Of the variety of habitats, the marshes are among my favorites. Maybe it’s that I moved here from the prairies and plains and still carry an appreciation for grasses and open sky. I like wide open views. It can be fun to be the tallest thing in the landscape.

Maybe marshes are a favorite because they represent a natural heritage in short supply in other places where people have filled them in for construction projects. Much of the St. Marys River shoreline is still in its ‘un-improved’ state. When I visit other rivers, I get a sad feeling when I see a lack of natural habitat. Where the Mississippi has been converted to a channel (that people think they’re able to manage), it’s something else other than the Father of Waters. The St. Clair River is diminished from its natural state in many ways, one of which is the fact that almost all of its banks are steel, concrete and rip-rap.

I recently visited the St. Clair River to learn of the restoration projects that will bring a mile of native habitat back. It’s an expensive proposition to put nature back. Here on the St. Marys River we have 60+ miles of that without having to spend millions. I guess that makes ours a multi-million dollar view.

When I stand on the bank of a marsh or paddle by and into it, I think my academic thoughts of the species and the valuable ecosystem services they provide. I think of the ecological processes at play and the need to conserve the marsh, preventing invasive species from taking over, encouraging good management practices to prevent the inputs of pollutants, preventing contaminated sediments from re-entering the system. All the kinds of things I teach classes in. But that’s not what really draws me to the marshes. It’s the view that draws me there. Where land gradually gives way to water, where land and water meet sky. Where you can gaze across miles of open space.

Whether for work or recreation, love to visit and re-visit my favorite marsh sites such as 9-Mile Marsh and Munuscong Marsh.

Purpose of Writing the St. Marys River

The St. Marys River is an amazing resource. It's rich in cultural and natural heritage. It enriches our lives. This blog is for you to post your creative non-fiction works that celebrate the river. Inspire others to appreciate our river and to work to conserve it.

Send your essays or other works to We will then post it with full attribution to you as a post on the blog.

Write the St. Marys River is a project of the Binational Public Advisory Council for the St. Marys River Area of Concern and Lake Superior State University. Visit for more information about BPAC.

Opinions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAC or LSSU.  Works are property of the authors and may not be published in any print or electronic form without the permission of the authors.