Copyright: Heidi I. Koehler
It's been very sunny in Merritt for quite some time with a brief intermission of snow last week but May is now quite warm.
My husband and I walked along the Coldwater River towards the end of April and witnessed a young man tear off his outer wear and run into the swiftly flowing water. There were friends- some of them female- to impress and it carries on a fad that the teenagers were into over the winter. Merritt's idea of polar bear swims and aboriginal spiritual cleansing rituals.
I don't recommend doing this unless you know the water quite well and even then, make sure someone is with you to make sure you get out. I'm a good swimmer myself but I foolishly went into the Coldwater at another location against my better judgement two summers ago and thought I was going to drown- my sister almost did. We did it because 'other people were doing it' so it looked fun. The water actually moves very differently at depth than it does at the surface and creates a turbulence/whirlpool effect that can- and did- pull us under. Only the fact that the current was so swift is what propelled us to the shallows where we could come up for air.
So, with that warning out of the way, I will say that the Coldwater River where it flows through Merritt COULD be an ideal location for summer swimming HOWEVER:
The river needs maintenance desperately....unfortunately the very notion of tampering with a river in BC is akin to butchering a Holy Cow. The lower photograph clearly show the erosion over the Claybanks- as they are called- properties are slowly but inexorably being eaten away by the waters which form a gouging arc. Fish habitat is the usual concern but there are very few salmon coming up this river to start with. I actually think that carving out a new channel to funnel the main stream's current further north would create additional spawning ground not to mention reducing (at least temporarily) the amount of additional clay and soil dropping in which would also slow down erosion of the southern shore.
Erosion of the banks is not the only issue; sediment build-up is also occurring especially on the Nicola River as it enters town. There is a yearly expenditure for sandbags to curb the flow from the street and back into the water which is great for the local gravel company. I would love to see this part of the river dredged- oh the horror! and a permanent structure put in place to prevent street flooding.
The panorama below is of the Coldwater River in Merritt.