Speaker Biographies and Program Descriptions
Vern Fish is the former Executive Director of the Black Hawk County Conservation Board in Waterloo, Iowa. He has run wild rivers from the Mexican border to Hudson Bay and north to the Arctic Circle. He completed the Ontario Parks Northwest Wilderness Quest in 2018.
Vern is currently the President of the Friends of Wabakimi (wabakimi.org). He also serves on the board of directors of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Board and the Conservation Corps of Iowa/Minnesota. He is an elected commissioner on the Black Hawk County Soil & Water Conservation District.
The Big River is actually a little river that flows through a remote segment of the Wabadowgang Noopming Forest three hours north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. This small river is an historic canoe route with outstanding wilderness values. We explored this wild river with a paddle, bird book and an audio recorder. Waterfalls, rapids, rugged portages and species at risk can still be found along this challenging wilderness canoe route.
Birds are great environmental indicators. The two organizations, the Friends of Wabakimi and Ontario Nature formed a partnership to conduct a bird survey of the Big River Watershed. This survey was used as an argument to protect bird habitat and the wilderness values of the Big River canoe route. “This trip was a great demonstration of combining efforts and resources for a common goal of protecting natural spaces and species,” said Kristen Setala, Community Science Intern for Ontario Nature.
The Wabakimi Area is a vast, virtually-roadless wilderness that includes almost 10,000 square miles of land in northwest Ontario. More than 4,000 miles of historically and culturally significant canoe routes criss-cross this boreal forest. The gateway to this huge wilderness complex is Armstrong, Ontario which is about a three hour drive north of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Because of its sheer size and complexity, the Wabakimi Area is a daunting area to explore. Fewer than 700 paddlers enter this wilderness annually. Planning a trip may be more challenging than portaging the remote and rugged Ottertooth Canyon. The Friends of Wabakimi (wabakimi.org) is an international organization that was created in 2014 to advocate for the protection of this wilderness complex. To do this we offer a detailed planning map and five map volumes that provide portage and campsite details for this wilderness.
To help the first time paddler or the veteran voyageur plan a trip into this remarkable wilderness, we will share our experience and insight. Explore and protect Wabakimi with us!