Hidden Gems and Small Town Tales

There is such beauty in each of life’s perfect seasons … and such joy in simply uncovering and experiencing that beauty.

You’re welcome to join me on this journey of discovery as I explore the stories of life’s seasons and the people and places they belong to.

And since every story needs a beginning, let’s get started …

A Sugar Point Moment!

Mystical Little Lake Manitou

by Lisa Lysen 

Deep in the heart of Saskatchewan, Canada, nestled between Saskatoon and Regina, lies a little known magical body of water!

Little Lake Manitou has been shrouded in folklore and tales of mystical healing powers since its discovery almost two hundred years ago. Even the name Manitou, an indigenous word meaning Great Spirit, suggests reverence and honor.

Reportedly first stumbled upon in 1837 the legend goes like this:

In a desperate attempt to escape the horrors of a smallpox epidemic plaguing Canada’s early settlers and subsequently Indigenous people, a group of First Nations families left civilization to travel west through the unexplored country.

As they came upon the shores of an unknown lake, it became tragically obvious that some of their youths had contracted the deadly and very contagious disease.

With no hope at all for the boys’ survival, they saw leaving them behind as their only choice, thus protecting others from a terrible illness and certain death.

A shelter was built next to the lake and the youths, provided with as much comfort as possible were left to await their inevitable fate.

Hot, thirsty and alone they made their way together to the lake’s edge for a drink. The feel of the water on their hands and faces as they cupped it to their mouths was soothing and they were lured in a little farther.

As they stepped into the waters of Little Lake Manitou they relaxed and felt so comforted they couldn’t bring themselves to return to shore.

In spite of being weak, their bodies wracked with a terrible illness, they had no fear of drowning. The lake kept them buoyant and as the water quietly worked its magic, they floated and rested, eventually falling asleep in Manitou’s gentle arms.

They awoke several hours later, refreshed and feeling some relief from the agony of the disease that had been stealing away their lives and destroying their healthy young bodies.

After a few more days of bathing in the mystical waters, the boys were miraculously free of smallpox.

They quickly rejoined their people and returned to the lake to rejoice in what they felt could only be the work of the Great Spirit.

To celebrate the miracle of the young boys’ recoveries, what we now know to be the 3rdlargest body of saltwater in the world, was christened “Little Lake Manitou”.

Originally formed by glaciers during the latest ice age, Little Lake Manitou is a dying lake, fed by underground springs. It is 13.4 km 2 (5.2 sq. miles) in surface area with an average depth of 3.8 m (12 ft.).

A dying or terminal lake happens when there is no inflow or outflow. No creeks, streams or rivers connect to Little Lake Manitou. With its waters never being replenished and continuously escaping through seepage and evaporation, it is expected to one day dry up.

However, having no flow has resulted in Little Lake Manitou being very rich in minerals.

Salt levels are measured at half that of the Dead Sea, explaining why floating on the surface is so easy.

As well as being high in salinity, the lake is also abundant in naturally occurring magnesium, potassium, silica, calcium, and sulfate.  Copper gives Lake Manitou an intriguing reddish tinge and might be the reason many afflicted with arthritis find a dip in its waters to be so soothing.

But it’s not only those suffering arthritis who’ve reported feeling better. Resting in the lake for a few hours every day has been credited with curing eczema and other skin conditions over time, as well as with healing numerous types of infection, including gangrene. Bathing in the lake has been reported to have once cured an infection so severe that amputation would have been the next step.

Its soothing waters have been recommended to help with anxiety-disorders and stress-related illnesses.

Tales of healing power have earned Little Lake Manitou the reputation of being Canada’s Dead Sea and tourist attractions are being developed along its shoreline in the towns of Watrous and Manitou Beach.

A sandy beach, European-type spa, mineral baths, golf course, a historic “Dance land”, award-winning hotels, delicious cuisine, bird sanctuary, an “Artist walk” and shopping that highlights local artists are only a few of the attractions to be found.

From the event of its discovery in 1837 Little Lake Manitou has been a place where people go to heal and celebrate. And while no actual scientific studies have been done on the long term effects of taking a dip in the unusual copper-colored waters, many will tell you their personal experiences have been nothing short of magical.

Without a doubt, though visiting this charming little town with all it’s attractions and friendly enthusiasm is simply magical in itself!

Photo courtesy of Pixels Images

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Christmas in Carlyle – Charles Dickens Style!

By Lisa Lysen

Magic and enchantment are scattered all throughout Saskatchewan, Canada any time of year but it’s hard to beat the old-world charm of Carlyle in December.

Every December this town of about 1400 people celebrates the essence of community, coming alive with holiday spirit.

And for two bewitching days Carlyle, Saskatchewan is transformed into a page from a storybook as it annually steps back in time to host Canada’s only Dickens Festival.

Brimming with a mix of creativity, nostalgia, and theatrics, Main Street proudly takes center-stage. Props, costumes, and townspeople turned thespian enthusiastically convert this pretty prairie community to a scene from the 1800s. 

With a little imagination, it’s very easy to believe you’re walking the cobblestone roads of long ago London!

A horse-drawn carriage ambles along, driven by a stately gentleman in top hat and tails. A lovely Victorian lady by his side offers rides to anyone who may be looking for a quaint little adventure or perhaps just feeling weary of walking.

But although a carriage ride is a charming accent to the day’s fun, walking is really where the fanciful happens!

Shopkeepers dressed in costume stand out on sidewalks, ringing bells and luring passers-by in to see their wares.

“Ye Olde Gang Market” showcases local artisans, its cheerfully decorated booths overflowing with unique crafts and handiwork.

“Tiny Tim’s Taste Tour” serves free holiday baking, chocolate, and other goodies all the way up and down Main Street.

There’s a contagious atmosphere of excitement that takes the crispness out of the winter air for a time as you stroll along.

But if carolers singing and music playing doesn’t do enough to warm things up for you there are street vendors along the way serving hot beverages, “bangers”, chili, baked potatoes, even smoked turkey legs!

Father Christmas or Bob Cratchit may stop to chat on street corners and Ebeneezer Scrooge makes his appearance, too. Bobbies are on patrol watching for the Artful Dodger and other “ragamuffins”.

Just a short jaunt off Main Street, around the corner and down the lane, a local church hosts afternoon Victorian tea. And stepping into this pretty little church for tea honestly feels like stepping into an old-fashioned Christmas card!

Handmade patchwork quilts hang on the walls over top tables adorned with jars of homemade jams and hand-sewn crafts. Adding to the fun, everyone entering is loaned a hand-decorated Victorian hat to set the mood.

Dainties, pinwheel sandwiches and all sorts of tasty treats are laid out and best of all, there’s Christmas pudding galore!

Further into the heart of town is Carlyle’s “Festival of Trees”, a very breathtaking sight! Another interesting venue worth checking out is the “Rusty Relics Museum”, giving a little insight into the town’s own history.

Back on Main Street, the community hall, all dressed up in old-world style is transformed to “Fezziwig’s Pub”.  A great bar menu and continuous live music make it an easy place to settle and enjoy.

Festive touches all over town lend to the holiday spirit that is everywhere.

Friday evening the Santa Claus parade escorts its famous guest into Carlyle. And as Santa arrives new activities are added to the celebrations.

The Dickens Festival is designed to be special for everyone in the family with plenty of children’s entertainment, including magicians! Saturday morning begins with “Breakfast with Santa”, photos and a free skate with the elderly celebrity.

But the biggest highlight of the Dicken’s Festival happens in the evenings, with Carlyle’s own musical version of “A Christmas Carole”. Local talent comes together to put on a great show that’s both fun and entertaining! And the story’s just a little different every year, too, as imaginative spins are creatively put on this classic tale.

The time, creativity, hard work, and community spirit that go into making the Dickens Festival a success each year truly represents what small-town magic and Saskatchewan are all about.

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A Beautiful Summertime Getaway …

Lundar Provincial Park!

By Lisa Lysen

The smell of wood smoke drifts in the air as twigs and logs crackle and light up the night sky. There’s nothing like a campfire after a day of swimming and relaxing on the beach!

Lundar Provincial Park, about an hour outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with its 32 electrically serviced campsites offers a little piece of paradise to anyone who appreciates a relaxing getaway.

The picturesque sites are always well-maintained, the park quiet and clean. Add to that a magnificent lake, sandy beach, playground, and volleyball nets and you have a perfect place for a family holiday.

Lake Manitoba is ideal for swimming, kiteboarding, tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. Bike and walking trails through Lundar Provincial Park and along the rustic shoreline lead to cottage country on either side.

A scenic walk along the area’s Interpretive Trail will give you an interesting hour or so of exploring bush and adjacent marshland. Deer are plentiful, as are birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, but be prepared to meet the occasional snake!  

Every day a beautiful new masterpiece paints itself across the sky as the sun sets over the lake. And morning sunrises are equally enchanting. Heaven for anyone with a camera or just a love of nature!

But as secluded and far away from hustle and bustle as it all feels the towns of Lundar and Eriksdale are each only about 15 minutes away. There’s also a golf course just a short drive down the road, complete with clubhouse and restaurant.

And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, taking in the Lundar Museum can liven up a rainy afternoon.

For so many reasons, Lundar Provincial Park is a great getaway destination!

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Of Biblical Proportion

By Lisa Lysen

The picture in my mind’s eye never fades. It haunts me as I sleep. It appears before me at random almost every day, sending a shiver through me as I’m suddenly sent plummeting back to relive that ugly, terrifying morning.

The lake is angry; angry and fierce, alive with a power hidden from view on calm summer days. 

It’s June 13th, 2011 and it’s anything but a calm summer day at Sugar Point.

The air around us is cold, the sky dark and threatening, as though the early morning light will never be able to cast off the darkness of the terrible night. No wonder ancients believed they had enraged the gods when storms like this one struck.

My forearms are raw, covered with scratches and bruises and my whole body aches. I’m exhausted with physical exhaustion that robs all strength and yet driven by anxiety that defies a restful nights’ sleep. 

The wind is howling, the rain beating down mercilessly and despite our weeks of back-breaking hard, hard labor, the lake has finally taken total control.

It’s all too clear now that it had really only been playing with us all along, letting us build our little sandbag castles around our homes and our lives.

But now it’s obvious; the lake’s authority is absolute.

Once it decided to finally end all our games, we didn’t stand a chance against the incredible force and power. 

The destruction that occurs within mere seconds is ferocious and yet it’s difficult to not be awestruck by the supremacy at play as well. We are completely at nature’s mercy. 

The sandbags we’ve piled relentlessly for weeks on end to protect our futures, our homes, our cottages, our dreams are being flipped and tossed with a speed and force unimaginable unless witnessed.  

Devastation surrounds us.

A musty smell hangs in the dampness that envelops us, as grit fills the air, intensifying with each slam of one lifeless sandbag after another against the saturated ground.

Amid tears and panic, we try desperately to change the obvious course fate has chosen. We can’t allow ourselves to admit defeat although to a more rational eye it would be clear we are losing the battle.

In the grey of the morning and the pouring rain, amidst raging winds and monstrous waves, we frantically try to restore our dike as it is being torn apart before us.

Our bodies and now our spirits, too, ache. Our denial is almost as powerful as the dominance the lake is displaying.

But we know the fight is truly lost when the call comes for us to evacuate.

We had been living under the threat of a 24-hour evacuation notice for a month, maybe more. When the time finally hits we have less than twenty minutes to toss our valuables into the backs of our vehicles and flee. 

And flee we do, suddenly fighting against a fierce current flowing across what less than half an hour before had been a gently winding gravel road. Huge carp appear, swimming before us as we drive. We struggle not to float into flooded ditches we can no longer see.

***  ***  *** ***   ***  *** ***  ***  *** ***  ***  *** ***  *** ***

We’d been living on the shore of Lake Manitoba for five years, almost to the day when it happened.  In June of 2006, we sold our Winnipeg home to retire at the lake.

Sugar Point was, for us, a dream come true, a perfect balance, offering the beauty and solitude of lake life within arm’s reach of family and friends in the city.

Many times we had witnessed the strength and force of Lake Manitoba, but always from a safe, well-planned distance. Until the fateful spring of 2011, each of the homes in our small lakefront community had been a third of a football field or more away from the lake’s naturally shallow basin. We could wander down and sit on the beach to toast glorious sunsets or enjoy them from a hundred and twenty feet away on our decks.

Never did we suspect a decision would someday be made to bring the lake waters crashing almost into our living rooms. 

But, in the spring of 2011, after a series of unusually rainy summers, a merciless winter of unrelenting snowfalls and one final blow delivered in the form of a blizzard May 1st, a decision was made to offer us up as a sacrifice.  

A flood of enormous magnitude was threatening to crash hard upon the province’s capital. The city of Winnipeg was at risk. And, so with one quick decision, our quiet world was changed as the water was instead re-routed toward us. 

The natural course the Assiniboine River takes flows through Winnipeg, which lies lower than the lake and in a flood plain. In order to redirect the water to higher land, a dam was opened at a diversion on the south basin of Lake Manitoba, enabling huge amounts of water to be dumped into an already swollen lake with no real plan for removing it.

In retrospect, perhaps it becomes obvious the decision would never have been made any other way. Permitting such devastation to occur in a densely populated area, allowing the flooding of a city of 684,000 people certainly had to be avoided at all costs.

When it’s your home and your dreams used to pay the price, however, the decision seems cruelly personal.

Thankfully our government took responsibility for their actions and offered assistance; although for many there can be no proper compensation for what was lost.

A number of years have now passed and the dikes have long since been removed. The beauty and peacefulness of the lake have returned. Trees are slowly beginning to grow, birds and wildlife are returning and the shoreline is looking more natural again, although huge chunks of driftwood and uprooted trees remain as a powerful reminder.

After much debate, it has been decided the money needed to create a channel at the north end of Lake Manitoba is worth spending. The lake will be able to be drained properly should water need to be dumped in again, thus preventing such devastation from ever re-occurring.

It’s comforting to know the channel is underway and will one day be finished.

Beautiful Sugar Point and our futures here are safe!

Storms can rage and we can watch them in all their magnificence and splendor from the safety of our homes, knowing deliberate flooding will never again be an option.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flood-pic1.jpg
Thank you, Barb for the use of this incredible photo!

For a little less drama-queen version of the flood, please visit my “Non-Fiction” page & check out 

“Losing Home – The Flood of 2011”

Thanks!

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Anatomy of the Flood

By Lisa Lysen

Published in “Cottage” magazine – April/2013

Sugar Point, with its modest population of fewer than 100 homes and cottages, is only one of many developments on the shores of Lake Manitoba.

Similar lakeshore communities, along with small towns, First Nations Reserves, resorts, businesses, century-old farms, and pasturelands are scattered around its shores and roadways.

To the south and approximately 60 feet lower, is Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg.

A city of 684,000, Winnipeg lies at the junction of two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine. Because the city was built on a flood plain, steps have been taken over the years to protect it.

The Red River Floodway effectively drains water away when the Red River rises. A diversion at Portage la Prairie redirects the flow of the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, which the Fairford Dam at the north end of the lake regulates.

It has long been suggested that in the event of extreme situations, a channel should also be created to assist the dam in draining excess water from the lake.

In spring 2011, weather conditions came together that saw the Assiniboine River flowing furiously through the Portage Diversion, which was already running at full capacity, into a swollen Lake Manitoba. Fairford Dam to the north was having difficulty removing water fast enough.

Cruelly, on May 1, a severe winter storm struck, depositing another 20 inches of snow onto a lake already struggling. Almost simultaneously it was discovered that faulty gauges in Saskatchewan had underestimated the amount of water about to inundate Manitoba by way of the Assiniboine River.

Without intervention, Winnipeg appeared in danger of flooding. A decision was quickly made and the Portage Diversion was altered to increase flow. Water rapidly began pouring into Lake Manitoba at a rate Fairford Dam could not handle.

And a deliberate flood struck Lake Manitoba.

One by one, homes and cottages were forced to evacuate. Communities and farmland were destroyed.

M.A.S.C. (Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation) and T.A.P. (Temporary Accommodations Program)—the government agencies upon which the task of dealing with flood victims has fallen—have an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 households registered as damaged or destroyed as a result of the 2011 flood.

Of those households, approximately three hundred are full-time residents, with the remainder being cottagers. Counted separately and in addition to these numbers, about seven hundred First Nations homes have been affected.

Taking into account the fact that the price tag attached to flood recovery has been astronomical and is still climbing, it’s hard to imagine that every Manitoban isn’t affected in one way or another.

Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba – 2018 – Post-flood with life returning to normal!

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Chip and Putt

By Lisa Lysen 

An edited version of this story, called “The Lundar Open” can be found in The Cottager magazine -March/April 2018 edition
https://www.facebook.com/The-Cottager-137410736323877/
 
“Fore!”

Now that’s not typically a word you associate with snow and ice, but then part of the charm of cottage living is that things here are seldom typical.

Although technically it’s spring, a frosty layer of white still covers a barren, frozen lake, spreading seemingly forever toward the distant horizon. Loose powdery snow gusts and swirls everywhere, powered by biting, cold winds.

And at first glance, Lundar Beach looks as deserted as you’d expect on a blustery day such as this.

But a little closer look reveals movement; colorful, unusual movement, parkas topped with scarves and toques, gloved hands clutching bright yellow tennis balls and golf clubs, even a boat paddle or two.

Since the 1980’s when the Danielson family hosted their first game of Snow Golf, getting out onto the lake to play a round and welcome spring to the beach has been an annual event for this upbeat and fun cottage community.

Part of the challenge each year is that springtime in Manitoba is famously unpredictable. The last Saturday in March has sometimes been as friendly and welcoming as the cottagers who make Lundar Beach/Sugar Point their haven, other times as frigid and cold as, well, springtime in Manitoba.

But whatever the weather may be, it doesn’t stop the fun! Snow Golf is a tradition everyone looks forward. It’s a great way to get together after a long winter and “break the ice” so to speak. 

Hosts Renee and Barry Danielson, with the help of neighbour Scott Ward are careful to take precautions and make sure no actual dangerous ice is ever really broken.

Holes are drilled the day prior, carefully watched and always given a final inspection before the entertainment begins.

And whether its creativity or plain old cabin fever, a big huge part of the fun is planning the “golf course” each year. Imaginative homemade obstacles and improvised hazards are always being added to the venue, keeping things entertaining and interesting.

Snow Golf can look a lot like Snow Mini Golf, which captures the attention of players of all ages and makes it a great family event.

Some years donations of discarded Christmas trees have provided “forests” to maneuver, another year a toilet seat appeared! Did someone say that was the “turd” hole? Yikes!

Names are drawn from a hat, mixing up teams and making it easy for everyone to mingle and chat after winter’s hibernation. Most years that works very well but occasionally the wind has joined the party, grabbed the hat full of papers and scattered golfers everywhere!

A “concession stand” is set up where players meet to warm up over snacks and beverages and brag a little or laugh a lot as they compare games and scorecards.

And of course, a day of playing outside on the ice is always better with a big pot of chili waiting inside a warm and welcoming cottage!

An after-party where everyone can kick back, relax, and enjoy chatting about some of the great putts and drives of the day is as much fun as golfing on the ice.

It all paves the way for warmer days to come, setting the mood for summertime sunshine!

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For George

Because His Blue Jays are Bluer!

A home anywhere is made special by the people it entertains. Today I’m posting this for George and Kathy who have always made our home more special be being our neighbours and by becoming our friends. We’ve laughed lots over the years! They’ve encouraged us and given us opportunities to share and enjoy the experience of our book. They make great pizza! And who doesn’t love a neighbour who makes great pizza 🙂 Even better, they’ve shared their beautiful family with our beautiful family. 

Sadly, George has not always been as willing to share his birds with us … which has led to even more laughing! (Because they like us better … but don’t tell George … lol) 

Thanks to Wayne Dent for the beautiful Blue Jay photo, Pixabay free images for the Bittern and to Pat Dunlop for the amazing close-up of Pelicans!

SUGAR POINT’S

BIRD ESCAPADES

By Lisa Lysen 

Thank you InterLake Pulse magazine for publishing this article.

“Hey! You’re stealing my birds!” a voice bounces playfully across the deck, as a little hummingbird floats between yards. Good neighbours and humour always livens things up at the cottage.

But with all the birds in the Interlake, we’re in no hurry to send our visitor back, even with that cute comment.

An hour’s drive from Winnipeg, Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba offers the beauty and solitude of lake living within arm’s reach of the city. And a big part of what keeps things interesting is the birds coming and going as the months roll by. 

There’s beautiful plumage and colour all year long with constant seasonal change-ups of purple martins, robins, finches, flycatchers, barn swallow and grosbeaks, to name only a few of our treasured guests.

Each year in a quick, fiery blaze of orange and black Orioles make our home theirs for a short time, enjoying citrus fruits we put out. 

Sugar Point is on a migration route, giving this piece of Lake Manitoba an extra dose of charm. As much as possible,the landscape is left intact. There are bulrushes and rocky patches all along the beach, the rugged beauty often adorned with birds fishing, swimming or simply sunning themselves, enjoying the day!

The natural splendor of the shallow shoreline is a draw for swans as ice comes off the lake in early spring. They stop only briefly on their way north but enjoying their company for the time they share with us is pure magic.

And seeing them lets us know better weather is just around the corner!

Taking a walk along the same bewitching shoreline in summer can suddenly take a very scary horror movie twist when a booming “Baah-RONK” echoes from surrounding reeds. Especially when frogs and all those gentle marshy sounds go deafeningly quiet!

As much as it may sound like a swamp monster, the bittern actually looks more like a harmless reed from a distance. A dull brownish color, it stands with long neck stretched upward, beak pointed toward the sky. Bitterns eat small aquatic creatures hence the sudden quiet when one starts talking.

Birds, Bird, Bird River, Bittern, The Small Bittern

Sugar Point Trail mid-summer is an enchanting sight. Bulrushes sway rhythmically beneath yellow-headed blackbirds. The bright yellow, dark black contrast against wheat-colored reeds and greenery spreading out over fields paints a spectacular prairie scene. 

Red-winged blackbirds join in, adding a cheerful pop of color to the mix. Blue herons fish in ditches and sand hill cranes feast on crops in bordering fields. Many varieties of woodpeckers can be seen climbing trees everywhere.

Over the summer we watch families of ducks and geese grow up. We also host pelicans and eagles. Sandpipers and plovers bounce along the beach and there’s certainly no shortage of seagulls.

Killdeers practice their broken wing routines leading real and imaginary predators away from nests and hawks frequent telephone poles watching for movement that might become prey, as do ravens, magpies, even owls.

Starlings chase crows across the sky, a reminder that there’s a constant battle going on within the bird world.

As fall becomes winter the bird scene changes drastically but stays colourful and entertaining just the same.

Chickadees, blue jays,cedar waxwings, wrens and nuthatches take turns at the feeders with juncos and finches. Sparrows join in, hopping up and down, chattering. Before long the snow is covered with tiny footprints and scattered shells.

Whatever the season, it’s great laughing with neighbours and enjoying the bird escapades at Sugar Point.

 

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Rusty Crayfish

By Lisa Lysen

An edited version of this, called “Bait Becomes Bully” was published in “The Cottager” magazine – Mar/Apr/2019. Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Cottager-137410736323877/

Unedited, it goes like this:

“You get a line … I’ll get a pole! We’ll go down to the crawdad hole …”

Granted, Northwestern Ontario may not be your first thought as you hum this tune, but you can certainly find crayfish boils happening on the shores of Sioux Narrows just the same.

It’s important to know, though the shore is legally the only place this activity is permitted if what you’re serving is rusty crayfish. And if you’re serving recently caught crayfish, they’re likely to be the very predatory and quite tasty rusty crayfish.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries, “Under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, it is unlawful to transport any type of crayfish overland whether they are alive or dead and regardless of the intended use. This regulation ensures that there is no risk of new introductions to other waterways because they haven’t left the water’s edge”.

Nevertheless, native to the Ohio River, rusty crayfish are making their way north and creating many ecological problems along the way.

The spread is thought to be caused primarily by crayfish being used as bait, although turning unwanted pets loose and emptying aquariums into rivers and lakes may be partially to blame as well.

But whether they’re being moved intentionally from one body of water to another or transferred unknowingly, they are travelling and they’re destructive little creatures. 

Ontario’s MNRF advices “The rusty crayfish’s large size, aggressive eating habits and rapid spread have had serious impacts on native species.”

Moving from south central and south eastern Ontario, causing trouble in Manitoulin Island and Magnetawan River, they were first spotted in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario and in Lake of the Woods in 1960. In 2005 the Ontario portion of the Winnipeg River became home to rusty crayfish and in 2007 they appeared in Falcon Lake, Manitoba.

While trapping for consumption on the shore is legal in Ontario, as long as they are not transported, it should be noted it is illegal in Manitoba without a permit. A permit may be obtained by phone or email and will take 2-3 days to issue.

Looking and tasting like mini lobsters with black-tipped claws and a splash of rust on their upper shells rusty crayfish are among the most invasive of their species.

And since they’re bigger than their counterparts, growing to 5”, sometimes even 8” in length, with a much more aggressive outlook on life, they tend to dominate the scene quickly.

They prefer “fight” to “flight” and will stand their ground against predators. With huge powerful claws raised overhead in defensive stance it’s easy to imagine they are quite a daunting force in the aquatic world.

And while this may save rusty crayfish from being devoured it sadly makes their more passive relatives much more tempting prey. In many areas rusty crayfish have either completely replaced native species or left numbers severely depleted.

The diminishment of other crayfish populations isn’t the only consequence of a rusty crayfish invasion, though.

They have quite a taste for underwater plants, snails, leeches, clams, fish eggs and insects. With an appetite that sees them wolfing down more than double what their smaller cousins will eat their decimation of aquatic areas has been equated with that of clear-cutting forests.

And although they do move slower in winter months, they don’t hibernate.

The overall environmental effect is huge. When plants, insects and aquatic life needed to sustain the eco-system of a lake changes everything changes. And once an invasion begins, rusty crayfish numbers are virtually impossible to control.

Females have the ability to store sperm until conditions are perfect. They produce anywhere from 80 to 200 offspring at a time, sometimes up to 500. And so introducing a single female can populate an area quickly.

Even something as seemingly innocent as carrying aquatic plants from one place to another can start trouble.

As well, rusty crayfish flourish in fast-flowing water as easily as in standing pools or shallow ponds and have surprisingly long lifespans, living 2-3 years on average.

To help curb the spread it’s recommended to:

  • Always drain anything containing lake water
  • Thoroughly clean and dry all water equipment
  • Never empty an aquarium into a lake or river

Since it’s difficult to find environmentally friendly methods of controlling these destructive crustaceans without affecting other aquatic life, prevention and awareness may be the best tools for fighting them.

Introducing bass and sunfish as natural predators, to a lake or region taken over by these undesirables may help to a degree. And trapping has also proven effective.

The Ontario MNRF says: “Crayfish, including Rusty Crayfish, can be caught under a recreational fishing license. If people wish to eat them, they can cook them on-site, on the shoreline where they’re caught. There is no limit on the number of crayfish you can possess if the intended use is consumption”.

So, a crawdad boil just might be a deliciously fun way to help heal the environment a little while enjoying time on the shore!  

Prepping your “catch of the day” is very important, though. Crayfish must be purged before cooking.

For this, heavily salt the water your freshly live-trapped crayfish are kept in.  As the water discolors, rinse with fresh until it remains very clear. As with mussels, crayfish shouldn’t be used unless they’re alive. Once cooked, any with straight tails should be discarded.

And once that’s done … a pot, a packet of spices tossed in with corncob, onions, potatoes, sausage, a few lemons for extra zest and of course, crawdads … you’ll be creating tasty cottage memories in no time!

You might even find yourself humming a few Louisiana Bayou tunes.

Yum! Thank You Dallis for the photos and the very delicious experience!

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I’ve written a story about Costa Rica and the wonderful experience we had visiting this beautiful country. It’s just been published on Travelista’s website. 

Discover Costa Rica – A Tropical Adventure

by Lisa Lysen

Thank you to Travelista Club for publishing this article on your website!

“Welcome to Costa Rica – Slow Down and Relax!” …  better words could not have greeted us on our way to charming Playas del Coco, Guanacaste Province, one of Costa Rica’s oldest beach communities! And with warm tropical air casting a spell to melt any lingering thoughts of Canadian snowbanks, things already felt magical! Although for us, the magic had begun before we’d left home. This, our first trip to Central America, was a gift from our daughter and son-in-law. They were excited to show us all there is to fall in love with, in this Latin-American paradise. And as we were soon to discover, that’s quite a list!

Costa Rica Is Best Known For:

  • Some of the prettiest beaches in the world, both white and black sand
  • Tropical jungles, rainforests, waterfalls, beautiful flora, and fauna
  • Mountains and 67 volcanoes – some of them still active!
  • Exotic cats (like Ocelots and Jaguars)
  • Monkeys! There are so many monkeys!
  • Creepier creatures, too – crocodiles and 22 varieties of venomous snakes
  • Sloths (one of my favorites … it’s just crazy cute how slow they are!)
  • Coffee (another favorite … I’m kind of a sloth without it … but not quite so cute!)

First Stop – our condo units!

Where To Stay In Playas Del Coco:

Because tourism is one of Costa Rica’s leading industries, there’s no shortage of beautiful accommodations. Of the many in Playas del Coco, a few near downtown minutes from Coco Beach area:

  • Pacifico Beach Club
  • Hotel Coco Palms
  • Green Forest of Coco Beach Studios
  • Bendicion

Clean and upscale, with all amenities, our condo was perfect! Beautifully landscaped grounds showcased tropical flowers, plants, and trees to remind us we’d left the ice and snow and cold behind. Whimsically winding pools, connected by fountains and hot tubs made relaxing in the warm Costa Rican sunshine so very tempting and so very easy.

And Playas del Coco’s location is perfect for enjoying life as a beach bum! Scenic walks lead to the Pacific Ocean for snorkeling, diving, fishing, sunset cruises and more. A little more walking reveals the heart of Playas del Coco, alive with music, food, tantalizing smells, atmosphere, and all-around enchanting Costa Rican culture. Accessible by car as well!

But we soon discovered there was even more fun waiting just outside Playas del Coco.

Best Things About Guanacaste Province, Near Playas Del Coco?

Eco-Adventure Parks

With breathtaking ocean and jungle views, zip-lining from mountain-top to mountain-top in Costa Rica is an amazing experience! And as if the exhilaration of zipping through the air 60 seconds/mile isn’t excitement enough, we actually exited our adventure by dropping onto a suspension bridge hanging over a pond filled with crocodiles!

But zip-lining is only part of what Guanacaste’s eco-adventure parks offer. There are off-roading ATV tours, a zoo featuring tropical birds, monkeys, sloths, and wildcats. Butterfly gardens! And educational enclosures with reptiles, snakes and some of the cutest, if also most poisonous little frogs you’ve ever seen.

Zipping mountain to mountain!

African Safari Parks

Hectares of Costa Rican countryside have been set aside for African safaris, complete with zebras. giraffes, warthogs and more! We had a blast!

What does a giraffe say when it whispers “sweet nothings” in your ear?

Explore Guanacaste

A picturesque journey by car unveils so much beauty and even more adventure surrounding Playas del Coco. Monkey trails alone are an adventure! Waterfall tours and kayaking venues dot the landscape. And for scuba enthusiasts, there are leatherback turtles, rainbows of colors in tropical fish and maybe even some sharks to keep things interesting! For me, simply relaxing in the peacefulness of the secluded sandy beaches was pretty irresistible.

Costa Rica has some of the prettiest beaches in the world!

Deep-Sea Fishing

When the 4 of us boarded a fishing boat and, along with 2 crew set out to experience the Pacific Ocean, it was a perfect dream come true – gentle waves, blue skies, tropical sunshine, and a soothing, salty breeze. I never expected by day’s end to be telling my first ever fishing story … and describing what it’s like to reel in a 60+ pound monster! We’ve heard it’s pretty rare, but thanks to an amazing crew and no doubt some beginner’s luck, we each caught a Mahi-Mahi … although, with or without a catch, our day on the ocean would have been magical!

The Best Of It?

From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, the friendliness and welcoming ways of the people we met rivaled the charm and beauty of the intoxicatingly beautiful country we were visiting. And we had no trouble finding someone to chat with us in English wherever we went. That might be because we did lots of touristy things. One tip I’m taking back for next time, though is to learn at least a little of the language!

What Languages Are Spoken In Costa Rica?

  • Spanish is the official language, spoken by almost everyone
  • Costa Rican slang is called “Pachuco”
  • Costa Ricans are “Ticos” (males) and “Ticas” (female)
  • Travelers are “Gringos” and “Gringas”
  • You also hear Jamaican Patois (Mekatelyu), a Creole-English language
  • There are many dialects of ancient, pre-Columbian indigenous languages
  • Plautdietsch is spoken in areas of Mennonite settlement
  • You may hear “thou” instead of “you”; a remnant of “olde” English brought to Costa Rica by Quakers
  • Immigration continues to introduce new languages to this tropical paradise

Costa Rica’s natural beauty depends on being an eco-friendly, environmentally-conscious culture. Because of this and because so much nature abounds, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Things To Remember In Costa Rica:

  • Don’t feed the monkeys. It’s against the law.
  • Or touch tiny frogs. Some are venomous and that’s just nasty!
  • Don’t forget bug spray. Mosquitoes and insects love Costa Rica, too!
  • Don’t remove sand dollars, seashells or flora, and fauna. It’s illegal.
  • Don’t forget sandals on the beautiful black beaches. They get very hot!
  • Or closed-toed shoes for jungle tours! There are ants – not toxic, but annoying!
  • Don’t underestimate the power of rip-tides or high surf. Drowning is a danger.

Black sand beaches – very beautiful and very hot! Remember your sandals!

Our visit to Playas del Coco, Guanacaste Province, and Costa Rica was simply enchanting. We had a beautiful holiday … a gift I will always cherish and a memory I can’t begin to express enough gratitude for!

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