Triple Falls (oil on canvas 11 x 14 in.) Sold

25 September finds me painting at the base of the middle fall of Triple Falls on the east side of the Ivanhoe River, 40 km north of Foleyet, Ontario - another in our series of wild waterfalls threatened by hydro dams.

We left Fred below the downstream-most of the three falls, Hugh and Marigold the Dog and I following a forest trail around to its crest where we clambered over a high-stranded raft of drift logs worn smooth and blond, their surfaces slippery with
dampness. Here we passed a lichened tree root resembling a Thunderbird. Stepping carefully on fractured river-carved metamorphic rock painted by grey-green lichen and crusted with Rock Tripes, we picked our way along the shore to the second falls. Here I took photos of potential compositions. This fall is divided by a massive wrinkled and cracked loaf of a rock, and beyond the smooth flat water a glimpse of part of a third falls. There's my painting!

First we put up the tent-shelter on a sand bar, to protect the gear in case of wind or rain showers, and to crawl into to warm up. Hugh found a spot on a low rock island a few wading steps from the sand bar, where the top of the falls is at head-height and we can just see the distant third falls. So it's here that we've set up my standing easel, on stilts - pieces of drift wood bound to its legs with duct tape!  

I decide to paint the near half of the falls, including the massive central rock, with just the fringe-edge of the right half of the falls making it into the right hand side of the painting. I like the contrast and triangularity of the long sloping point of fractured gneiss that juts out between me and the falls. Several meters beyond it and slanting upward, a dying Spruce points into the scene, its tip hoary with lichen. Just to the left of the distant waterfall I can see another huge pile of drifted logs.

The day is cloudy and I feel chilled from facing the constant wind so I wrap Marigold's blanket around my jacket like a shawl. Two of the legs of the easel are tied to a log in case the wind becomes stronger. Hugh and I also rigged a curved stick of driftwood atop my easel for draping plastic around in case I need to abandon my painting during one of the brief rain showers that are so common these days. 

But it didn't rain! In fact the sky cleared behind me for half an hour or so, though in the direction I was painting the sky remained clouded. Once, for a few glorious minutes the sun found a hole among the heavy grey clouds, illuminating the falls. That's the way I have painted it, with the big dark central rock nearly obscured by bright mist. 

Marigold kept herself busy running back and forth between me and Fred, and Hugh went downstream to see what Fred was finding, and to catch a Pickerel for supper. Fred came back with both clam species he's been finding in the Ivanhoe - Lampsilis and Pyganodon - and a dragonfly nymph, flat and brown like a dead alder leaf, found where he caught Orconectes crayfish. He also found the shed skin of another dragonfly nymph (the longish shape more familiar to me) clinging where the transforming adult had crawled out of it onto smooth driftwood, and flown away.

When the time came to hike back downriver and through the forest to the logging trail and Hugh's four-wheel-drive truck, I'd gotten the falls painted, and the distant forest, leaving the sky and the near water to be finished from my photos. The sunset blazed out from a long low split in the clouds just as we came to the crest of a hill in an area of clearcut. The two-hour drive tracing a route through the network of logging roads seemed longer coming out than it had going in - it was a full day, and Marigold found that it really is possible to curl up and sleep in the passenger's foot well - all the way back!


  1. The most interesting thing we found was that on the coarse sand between the falls there were patches of Fingernail clams 10x25cm in size - a unique high-energy community that's only between the falls, and which will be lost if the dams are constructed.

  2. These waterfalls paintings are wonderful, Aleta. Having spent considerable time around such places, the paintings are strong visual reminders of the rock, moving water and surrounding forests. They also convey the feel of early autumn in northern Ontario. I marvel at how you managed to paint so close to the falls for many hours as I know how cool the air can be!

  3. I had the pleasure of watching Aleta finish these two paintings, and was blown away by her love for the work of creating these masterpieces. I watched her paint in the dark - believe it or not. Her technique is unusual but as you can see, very effective. Thank you Aleta and Fred for doing what you can to draw attention to these rivers at risk.

    Triple Falls, or Third Falls as Xeneca is calling it, is located on the Ivanhoe River, approximately 30 km downstream of The Chute, about 79 km west of Timmins and 49 km north of Highway 101. Xeneca has determined that The Chute and Third Falls are hydraulically linked, and so both will be included in their next Environmentally Report, which is rumored to be out before the end of 2012. Xeneca is proposing two options - one with a gross head of 14 meters and the other with a gross head of 10.5m. Either option will result in an approximate 72 km zone of influence that would extend from the Groundhog River confluence to about 6.5 km upstream of The Chute, and of this about 44 km or more will be headpond inundation. This development would also entail many km of access roads and transmission lines.

    Such extensive destruction - all to produce a few MW of power when Ontario has a surplus of power, and is projected to continue to have a surplus for many years to come. Large mills have moved to other provinces because of the high energy costs in Ontario, so jobs, investment and revenue have been lost because of the Green Energy Act and Green Economy Act. We all want green energy, but lets ensure its truly green energy and not the green-washed version this government is forcing on Ontarions.

    These modified peaking operating strategies result in numerous negative impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, so why is this type of project included under the Green Energy Act and FIT Program - when hydroelectric using modified peaking operating strategies is actually DIRTY ENERGY.

    For more information, check out my posting on The Chute. Thanks Aleta and Fred for all you are doing to help save Ontario rivers!


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