The Falls at Soo Crossing (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

30 September finds me painting the falls at Soo Crossing, 3 kilometres east of Whitefish, Ontario. The falls beneath the railway trestle show whitely from where I sit on the bank of the Vermilion River beside the old bridge. The autumn colour of Red Maples on the glacier-carved granite hills seems to grow warmer as the evening grows cooler. We arrived here late in the day, so I've selected a small canvas and underpainted it greyish purple, the cloudy colour between bright ripples on the river. 

Fred is checking out the far shore of the river which he didn't reach yesterday, seeing a lot of trampling by Beavers and fisherpeople, but no deposits of clam shells that he could see in the falling dusk. A Spring Peeper breaks out into a few volleys of peeps. This fall calling is one of the things we record, but we're not really sure why they do it, or what it indicates about their populations. All across northeastern Ontario we've been hearing very little fall calling this year, which may reflect the impact of this summer's drought as
well as the freezing spring of 2010.

When he arrives at my side with our dog Marigold, I am losing my light for painting. As I pack up my paints we talk about this special place - now the proposed Soo Crossing hydroelectric site. Fred visited here yesterday, and  all around the basin below the falls he found evidence of heavy public use - bathing beach, boat launch, picnic areas, and paths all along the shoreline shared by fishing people and bank-inhabiting Beavers. All this would be both degraded and made dangerous by the fluctuations in water level by a "modified run of the river" hydro facility. It's interesting how Ontario's excess supply of hydroelectricity unifies the public opposition to these unnecessary proposed dams, but in the case of Soo Crossing we can see that people would directly lose a favourite recreation area.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting, in my current series, "Waterfalls Rapids and Dams" is available for $275 to support our work with the Ontario Rivers Alliance as we visit and study more rivers at risk. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me 


  1. I know nobody but me is going to be perplexed or enlivened by this, but the interesting things about the molluscan fauna of the Vermilion river is the presence of only two mussel species - the Fat Mucket, Lampsilis raiata siliquoidea, and the Floater, Pyganodon cf grandis, and the abundance of the native Mystery Snail, Campeloma dicisum. At every site we visited I did considerable scampering about trying to enlarge the list of mussel species, especially by the otherwise-widespread Elliptio, but here, as elsewhere, Lampsilis and Pyganodon were the only species found.

  2. Another thing about this scene is the almost violent intensity of the excessively-red Red Maples, Acer [no surprise] rubrum.

    We've seen this intense colour everywhere as we've come south from the northern range limit of this species north of Foleyet, and it continued until we got home in central Grenville county, the heart of the drought, where many Red Maples had lost their leaves before turning any colour at all.

    The leaves on the Red Maple on our lawn at home had begun to fall when we left home in early September, and the few that remain on the tree now are a sort of drab ochre colour.

  3. I love this painting Aleta! It is a very special place, and again you capture its essence and its unique character.

    Your thoughtful observations of its importance to the local community are in alignment with a couple that called me to share a collection of over 2,000 signatures they had collected on a petition to save the park. They also handed me a guest book signed by people from all over the world who come to Centennial Park over and over because they love the park. Centennial park is just across the little bay from the falls.

    A hydroelectric facility with a generating facility will sit on the little island at the base of the rapids, within meters from the public beach. This beach will not be a safe place for children or adults if the dam is ever built.

    Thank you for this special painting - much appreciated!


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