This past weekend, I had the pleasure of floating down the Columbia River from the Athalmer boat launch in Invermere to the bridge near Radium Hot Springs on a stand-up paddleboard.
The journey was a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a warm, mid-May afternoon, with plenty of fish and exotic birds keeping my friend and I company as we soaked in the sunshine and solitude. Once at the bridge, we met up with our pre-arranged ride back to Invermere and after strapping the boards down to the roof of the SUV, we headed back home along Highway 93/95.
Coming up the hill south of the village of Radium and approaching the first lookout, we were suddenly flagged down. Why the attendants at the invasive mussel inspection station were telling us to pull over had me momentarily confused until I remembered we had two watercraft strapped to the roof of our vehicle.
I had to admire their diligence. While there are a lot of boats on the road, there are as many if not more SUPs, canoes and kayaks being hauled around. Stopping each and every one that poses the threat of introducing invasive mussels to the Columbia Valley’s waterways is a daunting job.
Though we informed them we had simply travelled down from Lake Windermere, we were still subjected to their list of questions, as well as a thorough inspection. The two attendants were very friendly, but didn’t let us go until they were satisfied that there was zero evidence of contamination.
One can only imagine how challenging their job will become over the next few months, spending day after day on the side of the highway, protected from the elements by just a small tent, dealing with impatient drivers. No doubt there will be lineups of cars as visitors flood the valley for the summer’s long weekends and tempers will be sky-high.
Next time you drive by, give our local inspection station attendants a wave and friendly smile to show your support — as small as they are, invasive mussels pose a huge threat and these folks are the only line of defense we have in making sure the mussels don’t make it into B.C.