Canoeing The Ottawa – Day 5: Baskins Beach To Downtown Ottawa

Previous Post: Day 4: Baie du Chat (Arnprior) to Baskins Beach

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  • distance: 32 km
  • time:  start – 7:00 a.m. ; finish – 3:40 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 3/1
    • – PRL 350m “Deschênes” then side channel
    • – C1 680m “Remic Rapids” mostly swifts, rocky shallows
    • – PRR 1100m “Chaudiere Falls” Power Station
    • – PRR 600m along “Rideau Canal” to pick-up point
  • weather: overcast with intermittent sun most of the day; torrential downpour at the very end
  • campsite: CRCS15 -Cyril’s Stittsville pad – with shower!
  • topos: Arnprior 031F/08;  Ottawa 031G/05 (click on titles to access)

Our last day on the river – and we were up early. It was overcast and the first thing we checked was the wind direction; we were hoping for a nice breeze from the NW to help us along.  It was not to be – it was coming from the ESE!

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Baskins Beach at 7 a.m.

It was a Saturday and there were a few sailboats moving downriver with us.  After a bit more than an hour on the water we took a short break at Pinhey’s Point before crossing the river to the Quebec side.  Given the prevailing wind we were hoping to use the shoreline as a windbreak.

pinhey-points-sandstone-outcropping

sandstone layers lining the shore near Pinhey’s Point

The effort was worth it and all the way down to our first set of rapids of the day, the Deschenes, the wind was no longer an issue.  What was a issue was the shallow water, something that the cottagers dealed with by mooring their boats much further from the shore than usual.  The boat below was about 50 meters from the Quebec shore.

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boat mooring – and sea gull roost – some distance from the Ottawa River shore

Its owners could probably walk out to the boat.  We wondered how they dealt with all the seagull poop that the birds using it as a roost left behind.

seagulls chillin' on their Ottawa River roost

seagulls chillin’ on their Ottawa River roost

By this time we were paddling by Aylmer on the Quebec side, passing increasingly more expensive cottages, homes, and mansions.

paddling in cottage country - houses on the Quebec shore of the Ottawa

like paddling in cottage country – Aylmer houses  on the Quebec shore of the Ottawa

the Otawa River Shoreline - a mix of camps, cottages, and mansions like this one

an upscale weekend getaway on Chemin Queen’s Park in Aylmer

When we got near the Deschenes Rapids the Ontario skyline with its towers visible in the distance was  a reminder that our trip was almost done.  However, there were still a few more sets of rapids and a portage to do.  In our chat with Jim Coffey of Esprit Rafting back on the morning of our Day 1 on the river, he had recalled for us some details of those rapids from a Mattawa-to-Ottawa trip he had done years before.

the first towers lining the Ontario shore as we approach Ottawa

towers lining the Ontario shore as we approach the Deschenes Rapids on the Quebec side

The portage around Deschenes Rapids is on the Quebec side and makes use of a paved bike trail which runs along the top of the rapids. A dirt path leads down from the bike trail  to a side channel which would take us down the rest of the rapids.  In the satellite image below you can see the 350-meter carry we made.

Deichendes Rapids - a satellite view of high water conditions

Deichendes Rapids – a satellite view of high water conditions – our side channel is swamped!

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our Garmin eTrex 20 gps track for Desches Rapids and portage

the Deschenes Rapids - and the suburbs of Ottawa!

the top the Deschenes Rapids – and the suburbs of Ottawa!

the-broken-wall-at-the-bottom-of-the-deschenes-rapids

after our bicycle path portage we followed this side channel down

after our bicycle path portage we followed this side channel down

The water was occasionally low enough to force us to walk the canoe through .

heading down the side channel on river left at Deschenes Rapids

heading down the side channel on river left at Deschenes Rapids

After a few minutes we were down at the bottom of the side channel and rejoining the main flow. That would be it for the day as far as dealing with rapids was concerned since  all the others  we went through ranged from swifts to Class I.

the bottom of Deschenes Rapids as seen from the end of the side channel

the bottom of Deschenes Rapids as seen from the end of the side channel

The Remic Rapids were one set that proved to be no more than swifts and we slipped down easily after stopping to take some pics of the rock sculptures set up in the shallow water along the shoreline.

Balanced Rock Sculptures site just above Remic Rapids

Balanced Rock Sculptures site just above Remic Rapids

It is called Remic Rapids Park and the balanced rock sculptures are created on an annual basis by a Gatineau artist John Felice Ceprano.  I had bicycled past them on the bike trail a few summers ago; now I got to see them from them from the river.

whimsical rock art catches our eye on the Ottawa

whimsical rock art catches our eye on the Ottawa

Remic Rapids - shallow water

Remic Rapids – shallow water

While the rapids after Deschenes, we did have one major thing to deal with and we had no clear idea of what it would involve as we approached.  That would be the Chaudiere Falls dam and generating station.  We are still not sure if there is an easier way around the dam and G.S. on the Quebec side since we approached on river right.  (Any info on  a Quebec-side portage would be appreciated. Let us know!)

approaching the River Street bridge to Lemieux Island

approaching the River Street bridge to Lemieux Island

So there we were getting as close to the obstruction as we cold before we took the canoe out of the water and onto the park grass.  While Max went on a reconnaissance mission to see exactly where the bike path went, I moved the gear and canoe up from the water to the side of the park path.  That done I scooted up the hill behind the trail and saw the Canadian War Museum.  Given the complications of getting a car anywhere close to the river, I figured the Museum  would make a easy spot for our buddy Cyril to access.  It would be a “good enough” ending for our 400 kilometer paddle.

That thinking almost led to the portage around the Chaudiere Falls Generating Station and dam not happening.  Thanks to Max’s persistence it did.

our last obstacle - the Chaudiere Falls Generating Station

our last obstacle – the Chaudiere Falls Generating Station

Max came back about ten minutes later. He had walked as far as Booth Street in his wet socks and L.L. Bean boots and his feet were not happy.  When I mentioned the idea of ending the trip where we were, he could only say -“No way! We’re gittin’ ‘er dun!”   He figured we had been talking about portaging up to Parliament Hill since April so anything less would be unacceptable.

While he put on his dry boots,  I told him to relax while I set off to determine exactly what kind of portage we were looking at. With my Polar gps watch on, I retraced his steps to Booth Street and then crossed the street.  Past the Mill Street Eatery, through a parking lot and underneath another road, down a hill past a war memorial to Naval veterans, and right back down to the Ottawa River!  It was going to be an 1140-meter portage.

downtown-ottawa-portages

We moved the gear and canoe along the path in 250 meter sections so that one of us would always have our stuff in sight. ( As if anyone would actually take the stuff!)  Standing at Booth Street with a canoe over my head and waiting for the light to turn green was a memorable portage moment.  Max commented that all we’d need to do was trade in that canoe for a shopping cart and we could easily pass for two grizzled homeless geezers on their way to nowhere through the nation’s capital.

Portage Route around Chaudiere Falls G. S.

Portage Route around Chaudiere Falls G. S.

We eventually got to the put-in spot you see in the pix below. We just stood there and expressed the WOW concept in a number of different ways.  Wrapped up in our celebration at being at that spot was that great feeling that the bros. had survived  another excellent adventure! Wow indeed!  However, as is often the case, there was more to come.  We may have been close but it wasn’t over yet.

the portage around Chaudiere Falls - done!

the portage around Chaudiere Falls – done!

Not too long after we got there, the sky turned dark grey and it started raining.  It fell gently at first and then came the torrential downpour that had us taking out one of our tarps and draping it over our packs and ourselves.  It went on for about ten minutes and then it stopped but in the distance – thunder and lightning!  Back went the tarp into the duffle. We were getting a pretty dramatic end to our trip!  The Rideau Canal was no more than one kilometer away. We snapped a few pix and then pushed off for the bottom the locks, worried about that lightning.

the view from the put-in below the Mill Street Eatery

the grand view from the put-in below the Mill Street Eatery

rain over, getting ready to fdinish the trip

Rain over – Max putting away the tarp

Parliament Hill's Center Block - the Library and the Peace Tower in view

Parliament Hill’s Center Block – the Library and the Peace Tower in view

Once on the dock at the bottom of the Rideau Locks we moved our gear up to the grassy away as quickly as possible since the tour boat was heading our way with a full load of passengers.  In the pic below you can see our canoe already on the grass – just the two duffels and two Hooligan packs to go.

our packs on the dock at the bottom of the Rideau Canal

our packs on the dock at the bottom of the Rideau Canal

Back at the Deschenes Rapids we had given our friend Cyril in Stittsville a ring.  He had driven up Highway 117 with us two weeks before and drive our vehicle back to his place while we set off down the Coulonge.  Now he was going to pick us up at the end of our trip. We told him we would be somewhere on the Rideau Locks.

Now Max set off to see what exactly a portage up the locks would involve. Meanwhile, I moved the gear another 100 meters along.  And then in a flash – another intense and sustained torrential downpour, this one lasting perhaps thirty minutes.  The bags were somewhat wet but with the canoe on top they had been mostly sheltered.  We hadn’t even dried out from the first rain and now we were soaked again. This was not the end we had planned!

As for the eventual portage when Max returned – it would take us on the paved road running alongside the six canal locks past the Bytown Museum, past the Chateau Laurier’s basement level entrance, under  Wellington/Rideau Street to a spot behind the National Arts Centre.

 

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Cyril had  found a spot behind the National Arts Centre and, after checking with a stagehand to make sure it would be okay to leave the car there for twenty minutes or so, walked down the lane alongside the canal and locks to meet us.  Even better, he grabbed a pack and a duffel!

looking down the Ridea Canal from the National Arts Center

looking down the Rideau Canal from the National Arts Center

And that was it – a 600 meter or so carry from the dock at the bottom of the Rideau Locks up to and under Wellington Street to the canal side of the National Arts Center and we were done.  The original plan had been to put the canoe back in the canal and paddle up to Dows Lake but that had been eliminated the night before when we calculated the 32-km just to get to where we were.

While there is no way you could mistake our five days on the lower Ottawa as a wilderness canoe trip – with the possible exception of the half day spent in the Rocher Fendu section of the river on Day 1- it had still been a rewarding experience.  It was our introduction to a part of Quebec/Ontario we had not travelled before.  To do even a bit of a river that figures so prominently in the early history of Canada  by canoe was special.

On top of everything else, it has given us a reason to consider the upper reaches of the Ottawa for a future trip, maybe starting all the way back in the town we grew up in – Rouyn-Noranda.  The Kinojevis River flows from near the town down into the Ottawa, which then continues onward to the top of Lake Temiskaming and Notre Dame du Nord.  There is also the stretch of the river from Mattawa down to Pembroke and Morrison Island, the location of the most important of Algonquin communities four hundred years ago. Some time will be spent this winter staring at maps and dreaming about the possibilities and choices for another excellent adventure.

Stay tuned for further developments!

First Post: Canoeing The Ottawa River From Fort Coulonge to Ottawa: Introduction, Maps, And More

 

Canoeing The Ottawa – Day 4: Arnprior To Baskins Beach

Previous  Post:  Day 3: Portage Du Fort To Baie du Chat/ Arnprior

  • distance: 31 km
  • time:  start – 7:30 a.m. ; finish – 2:30 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/0
    • PRL 590m “Le Vieux Canal”
  • weather: Sunny all day
  • campsite: CRCS14 – “Baskins Beach”
  • topos:   Arnprior 031F/08Quyon 031F/09;  (click on titles to access)

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We set off early this morning. It was 7:30 when we pushed off from our Too Small Island campsite.  We were happy to be on a very calm Ottawa River with little wind to ruffle things up.  Ahead of us (as seen in the pic below) was the railway bridge.  The question mark of the day was the portage around the Chats Falls Generating Station.

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We did keep our eyes open for potential campsites on the islands we passed  on the Quebec side of the river but most had a sign indicating their status as protected areas. We realized that our previous night’s island campsite had been a lucky find since nothing we paddled by this morning came close to providing a decent flat space for our four-person tent. As the topo below shows  there is another camping option –  nearby  Fitzroy Provincial Park on the Ontario side below the generating station and just across from Pontiac Bay. However, it would have added another ten kilometers to our previous day’s paddle.

1:50000 Fed. Govt Topo view of the Chats Falls Generating Station area

1:50000 Fed. Govt Topo view of the Chats Falls Generating Station area

Ottawa River Islands in the Baie de Chat

Ottawa River Islands in the Baie du Chat

The dam and the generating station sat about four kilometers away after we paddled under the bridge. The Chats’ Falls Generating Station is one of a half-dozen that have changed the very personality of the river.  It had been constructed from 1929 to 1931 and, other than the obvious benefit of creating abundant hydro power for an industrializing Ontario, did the following :

  1. It raised the water level of  the Ottawa river above the dam and the Chats Rapids immediately above the falls as well as others disappeared with the rising water level.  Today this section of the river is a long lake – Lac des Chats  – which stretches from Chats Falls G.S. all the way upriver to Portage Du Fort.
  2. It destroyed a major natural wonder which regularly brought boatloads of tourists up the Ottawa  from Aylmer, Quebec to see the dramatic 35′ (11 m)  drop at Chats Falls and the many other different chutes stretching across the river.

Here is a map from 1845 which gives an idea of what what the Chats Falls area  would have looked like when the last fur traders were still making the trip up or down the river and when the lumber men were just beginning their period of dominance:

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See here for map source and more background info

 

The timber slide indicated on the map above had been constructed in 1835; on the island to the east of it was a portage trail, a leftover from the fur trade era. Some fifteen years later construction started on a canal to the west  of the timber slide (the extreme left on the map above).  Its purpose was to allow easy boat navigation around the falls. However, money problems led to the collapse of the project in the 1860’s and the canal was never completed.  In time it was referred to as “le vieux canal” and eventually when the dam and generating station were built in the late 1920’s the top of the canal was blocked with a wall of rubble and concrete. We did not know about  it when we passed by, but another canal above the rapids was indeed finished and then just left unused.  it would have been neat to paddle through – if it is still possible! (See the end of the post for a map and more info.)

Seeing the string of islands across the river helps make sense of visitors’ awestruck descriptions of the many individual chutes and falls of one of the most dramatic sections of the Ottawa River. The Anishinaabe (the Algommequins as Champlain called them) whose river the Kichi Sippi was would have known this area well and approached it with caution and respect.

Our biggest concern as we approached  was somewhat different.  We were focussed on portaging around the dam and the generating station! While obviously concerned with the safety aspect, we were also looking for the most direct and shortest route.   In planning for the trip we had come across a pdf file from the Ontario Generation (OPG) website and found the following:

official OPG instructions on how to get around Chats Falls

official OPG instructions on how to get around Chats Falls – the instructions start from down river and take you to the top.  See the end of the post for the web source of the information.

So – an 8.5 kilometer portage.  The yellow walking canoe icon on the map above shows the route.  The accompanying OPG description does the route in reverse – i.e. from downstream at Fitzroy.  We did wonder who was involved in developing this route and whether the person(s) who did had ever canoe tripped before.  While the OPG motto of “stay clear, stay safe” is good advice, the illustrated route takes it to a ridiculous level. How many paddlers have actually done this suggested haul? My initial guess of ” zero” had to be changed thanks to finding this account from an intrepid paddler. (See here.)   Let’s hope no one repeats his experience!

overview-of-chats-g-s-area-back-to-our-too-small-i-campsite

See below for the exact gps device generated portage route

There is a portage around Chats Falls G.S. It is a bit under 600 meters in length and is on the Quebec side of the river.  On the north side of Baie Black is the topo feature called “Le Vieux Canal”  already mentioned above.  On the left side of the “canal” runs a portage trail which takes you into Pontiac Bay.  One great thing about this portage option is that it lives up to the OPG  “stay clear, stay safe” motto and poses absolutely no danger to paddlers. It’s also nice that it’s eight kilometers shorter! Luckily, after I had googled my way to the above negative experience, I found this kayaker’s more positive one from 2005 –  (JOURNEY 51: “A DAM GOOD TIME!).  It made “Le Vieux Canal” portage sound do-able!

close-up-satellite-view-of-chats-generating-station-area

We paddled up the north side of Baie Black until we came to the concrete wall whose top walkway is pictured below and paddled to the far end.  We still didn’t know exactly what we would find – or if we would even find it at all!

the take-out point for the Vieux Canal portage to Pontiac Bay

the take-out point for the Vieux Canal portage to Pontiac Bay

The trail begins with a short walk back down the wall on the other side.  Behind the wall is stretch of broken rock and rubble which eventually leads to a flat and typical woodlands portage trail which follows the direction of “le vieux canal” all the way to Pontiac Bay about 600 meters away.  The trail is clearly well-used and is easy to follow.  Off the road that the trail comes to (it is called Chemin du Canal on the maps) are a number of cottages/homes.

the start of the trail leading down from the concrete wall at Le Vieux Canal near Chats Falls G.S.

looking back at the start of the trail leading down from the concrete wall at Le Vieux Canal near Chats Falls G.S.

the start of the trail leading down from the concrete wall at Le Vieux Canal near Chats Falls G.S.

looking down at the start of the trail leading down from the concrete wall at Le Vieux Canal near Chats Falls G.S.

We got to the take out point at 8:45; by 9:20 we were paddling in Pontiac Bay.

vieux-canal-portage-baie-black-to-baie-pontiac

Vieux Canal Portage – 590 meters from Baie Black to Baie Pontiac

One issue of concern: When we got to the Chemin du Canal at the far end of the portage we ended up walking down to the water through someone’s property.  (It may well have been the folks mentioned in the above trip report.)  The green broken line is a rough approximation of the last bit of the trail. Once we reached the road we followed it to the end and soon walked down to the beach.

satellite view of put-in area on Pontiac Bay

satellite view of put-in area on Pontiac Bay

There was a car parked in front so I figured someone would be home.  I rang the front door bell a couple of times to see if it was okay to put in on what I can only assume is their beach  – but no answer.  I shouted up to the open screen windows on the second floor – both in front and at the back of the house – but no response.  We moved the canoe and packs down to the water and finished off the portage as quickly as possible.

When we got into the bay we paddled along the shore for a bit to see if there was another portage take-out/put-in.  However,  the water in the bay was so shallow that we gave up on the idea pretty quickly!  Looking at the satellite map above it does seem possible to approach the portage trail by paddling or lining up the narrow inlet a bit and thus avoid the two properties on the point.

Note: if you have any information about this portage – and, in particular, the Pontiac Bay end of it –  which I could add to my description here I would really appreciate it.  It would provide any future paddlers with the right route to take so as not to upset waterfront property owners! 

By 10 we were paddling north and at the beginning of the bend which takes the river past Quyon on the Quebec side.  We took a last look at the Chats Falls G.S.some three kilometers behind us.  In our paddle across Pontiac Bay to the Ontario side we had also passed what looked like a resort.  A bit of research after our return revealed that it was actually a Tim Hortons summer camp for children- Camp des Voyageurs. Not clear is whether they have an actual facility for serving coffee or donuts.  Maybe that is where the folks whose property we walked through at 9 a.m. were?

looking back at Chats Falls G.S.

looking back at Chats Falls G.S.

Our path down the Ottawa River –  we were now officially in Lac Deschênes, some 15 meters lower than Lac des Chats – brought us to the Ontario side of the cable ferry to Quyon on the Quebec side. When we got home a bit of googling turned up the interesting explanation of the village’s name –

The village, already the site of the Sainte-Marie Mission, was founded in 1848 and derived its name from the Quyon River. Originally the town was spelled “Quio”, from the Algonquin word kweia (pronounced “quia”), meaning “Smaller River” or “river with a sandy bottom”.                  See here for the source

A bit more digging would probably reveal more Kitchi Sippi Anishinaabe roots of Ottawa Valley place names – a wintertime project perhaps!

a view of Quyon - St. Patrick's to the ferry landing - from the Ontario side

a view of Quyon – from Church of St. Mary’s to the ferry landing

Around 11:30 we pulled in at Crown Point for a lunch break.  Given all the “private property/no entry” signs we ended up setting up our Helinox camp chairman in a patch of shade on the side of Dunrobin Road.  The days of unclaimed land along the river we were paddling were long gone!

Lunch done, it was time to put on a few more kilometers and find a place to pitch our tent! The previous evening in looking at the Garmin Top Canada map on Max’s eTrex 20, we had noticed a campsite icon at Baskins Beach, another twelve kilometers paddle from our lunch spot.  Max’s iPhone provided us with internet confirmation that camping there was possible. (See here for the Facebook page … but keep on reading below to understand why the negative comments are undeserved.)

baskins-beach-campground-and-trailer-park

We got there around 2:30 and beached the canoe – and then walked right into a “discussion” the owner, Maureen Baskins, was having with people using the Royal Britannia Yacht Club property next door.  They could not understand why they couldn’t park their boat on her private beach and set up their chairs there. (The yacht club had rented out its property to the Aylmer Sailing Club for the weekend so there were a number of boats from the Quebec side there.)  It was clearly a conversation she has a dozen times a day as she explained that it is her property and for the use of those in the trailer park who pay to use it. The visitors were trying their best to give her reasons why she should make an exception for them; she was being as polite as possible in asking them to get off the property.

view from our tent at Baskins Beach

view from our tent at Baskins Beach

For a few moments she thought we were Part II of the same discussion.  When she found out that we were paddlers who had stopped at the beach for the night hoping to pitch our tent in the camping area, it became a new conversation!  She pointed out a number of good spots for our tent and, when I pulled out my wallet for a $20. bill, told me to put it away and insisted we stay for free!  Another day done and another generous helping of  Ottawa Valley hospitality.

baskins-berach-scene-after-dusk

We set up the tent and then the camp chairs and sat back and enjoyed our good fortune.  The  facilities – toilets but no showers – were on the other side of the road that runs through the property, as was the fast food shack (open from 4:00 to 7:00) where we spent the $20.!

The day had turned out remarkably well.  Still to go – one long last day to the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa.  Complications? There would be a few.  A few days previously Jim Coffey of Esprit Rafting in Davidson way up river had given us a quick run through of the rapids we would face in the final ten kilometers of our trip down the Ottawa from Fort Coulonge.  We were hoping that we have gotten all the details down correctly!

Portage Information at the Ontario Power Generation Website:

Note: I downloaded the above OPG info on the  OPG-recommended Chats Falls portage about six months ago but did not record the website address.  Just now I spent about 15 minutes at the OPG website trying to find the page where I got the information and nothing comes up. Starting off at the home page, I clicked into a dozen or so differenrt folders and windows – and came up empty.   I may be missing something very obvious – feel free to let me know – but surely information on portages around the generating stations could be given more prominence  and perhaps its own easy-to-see folder or link?

Update – I finally found it here by doing what I should have in the first place. I googled “ontario power generation portage around chats falls” .

See if you have any more luck finding portage information at the Ontario Power Generation website – start here!  Let me know how it went.

OPG needs to do a better job for paddlers using the Ottawa River. It could start by providing more accessible information on their website.  It could also rethink the portages it recommends.  We disregarded their portage advice for both the Chenaux and the Chats Falls Generating Stations and assume that other paddlers would do the same.

More Background on Le Vieux Canal :  Since I uploaded this post, a June 2014 Ottawa Citizen column by Andrew King was brought to my attention.- “Discovering the Ottawa Valley’s lost steamship route and railway (with video)”.  Had we known about the railroad and the completed section of the canal – and had we known how easy our actual portage would turn out to be – we would have checked out the various points out.

It has information about a rail line built in the 1840’s  to get around the falls from Pontiac Bay to a dock upstream of the falls. The canal project is also discussed. It turns out that we paddled right by the part of the canal which was actually completed.  The section that is labelled “Le Vieux Canal” on the topo map and in this post, he calls the Lost Passage. Here is the useful map which appears in his piece – it looks like a modern topo map which has been given that antique look.

lostpassagemap.jpg

A map of the steamship route from Ottawa, conceived of during the 1800s. 0607 col King images

Next Post: Day 5 – Baskins Beach To Ottawa (Rideau Locks)

Canoeing The Ottawa – Day 3: Portage Du Fort to Baie du Chat/Arnprior

Previous Post: Day 2: Baie de Letts to Portage du Fort

  • distance: 33 km
  • time:  start – 7:25 a.m. ; finish – 2:45 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 0/0
    • Lac des Chats – one big long lake!!
  • weather: Sunny all day
  • campsite: CRCS13 – “Too Small Island, Quebec” (see text for explanation!); room for perhaps 2 x 4-person tents or 3-4 2-person tents; hygiene facilities minimal
  • topos:   Cobden 031F/10 ; Arnprior 031F/08  (click on titles to access tif files)

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There was little drama on this day as we pulled our way 33 kilometers down river over about five hours of paddling.  It was the Lac des Chat day of our trip and that meant no rapids and no portages.  The lake ends another seven kilometers downriver from where we stopped but that would be tomorrow’s worry.  If we had one concern this day it was about finding a campsite?  While Fitzroy Provincial Park on the Ontario side has overnight camping getting there would have made the day a 45 kilometer one.  We were hoping for something a couple of hours -i.e. ten to fifteen kilometers- closer!

 

looking back to the Chenaux dam on the Ontario side

looking back to the Chenaux dam on the Ontario side

As we paddled down the long narrow channel from Portage du Fort we got a look at the road bridge and the Power Station behind it on the Ontario side. It was about 7:30 and we were on the water early, hoping to cover some distance in the cool of the morning.  The previous day the sun had sapped our energy in the afternoon.

satellite-view-of-the-chenaux-dam

As we paddled down along the shoreline we were struck by a couple of things. For one, the river seemed fairly shallow and we had to head out to the middle on a few occasions to find more than the minimum 7″ of water  that we needed.

a bit of rock whimsy just south of Indian Bay on the Ottawa - shallow water

shallow water warning – a bit of rock whimsy just south of Indian Bay on the Ottawa River

There was also a scarcity of decent campsites. The spot below is one of the ones we checked out. It would certainly fit the bill if it was later in the day and you wanted to stop. It was about 9:30 a.m. when we passed by so the visit was for informational purposes only!

potential emergency campsite on the Ottawa - island across river from Bonnechere River mouth

okay emergency campsite on the Ottawa – island across river from Bonnechere River mouth

potential-island-campsite-near-bonnechere-river-mouth

our Garmin gps track – potential campsite on the island

The image below pretty much sums up the photographic possibilities of paddling down the middle of Lac des Chat – or any vast expanse of water.  45% blue sky, a 10% ribbon of dark green, and 45% blue water.  It may be faster going straight down the middle but there is definitely more to see when you’re paddling along the shore. It also seems like you’re going faster as the shore visibly slips.  And there is often the shade that the shoreline provides.

the bump on the Ottawa River horizon that we paddled towards for an hour or two!

the bump on the Ottawa River horizon that we paddled towards for an hour or two!

We went from paddling towards that little bump on the horizon for an hour to getting close to the Quebec shore near Norway Bay.  Different photo ops presented themselves when we did so!  We started meeting more locals that we were sharing the river with. Not people though.  In fact, we did not see any other paddlers and very few boaters until we passed by Constance Bay near Ottawa on a Saturday morning.

fellow travellers on the Ottawa

fellow travellers on the Ottawa

off-she-goes

deer-on-the-quebec-side-of-the-river

we-get-a-good-look-before-the-deer-strolls-off

deer on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River at the west tip of Norway Bay

We took a brief break on the western tip of Norway Bay. It was about 11.  Just behind us was Pine Lodge, which had rooms and tent spots available.  Had it been 4:00 p.m. it may have been an option.  We figured that Norway Bay itself might have some possible camp sites or campgrounds but could not turn up any information. But even if it did have something available, it was not even noon.  Way too early!

Bristol/Norway Bay village on the shoreline

Bristol/Norway Bay village on the shoreline

WE paddled across the bay until we came to a long narrow island. Unfortunately it had a cottage on it.  Just behind it, though, was another even more narrow sliver of land with some trees on it.  It was not a camp site but given the shade the trees provided it would do for lunch.

Max working on the filtered coffee at our island lunch spot

Max working on the filtered coffee at our island lunch spot

After lunch we kept on paddling – and looking for somewhere to pitch our tent. We are very low impact campers – we rarely even bother with wood fires and if we do it will be sticks burning and not big honking logs!  We would have considered camping on one of the “aire naturelle” islands but really did not see any decent spots.  On we paddled, always with the thought that something had to come up.

out-of-bounds-for-camping-lands-on-the-quebec-side-of-the-ottawa

We were on the Quebec side, figuring the chances would be higher of finding something there than on the other side where a small town – Arnprior –  spreads out along the water. We did find out later that had we wanted to we could have paddled right up the mouth of the Madawaska to the Arnprior Quality Inn.

a view of Arnprior from the Quebec side of the river

a view of Arnprior from the Quebec side of the river

We rounded Pointe Ross and scanned the shoreline but did not really see a suitable spot for our four-person tent. And then, this –

our Too Small Island campsite on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River

our Too Small Island campsite on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River

our-scraggly-little-island-home-for-the-night-on-the-ottawa-across-from-arnprior

We passed the spit on the west side of Baie du Chat. There were  a couple of islands but both had cottages on the them.  Then we spotted a third island to the east; it was maybe 25′ x 50′.  We called it Too Small Island and knew we had found a home for the night!  Luckily,  no cottager had yet decided it was big enough for his Ottawa River getaway. There was a fire pit there and some garbage,  thanks to fishermen or passing boaters making use of the island for an afternoon pause.

too-small-sland-campsite-on-the-ottawa

It was 2:45 and we were done for the day.  We had put in at Portage du Fort at about 7:30 and had managed to knock off 33 km. going down a big long lake.  There’d be just a bit more to do the first thing the next morning.  We enjoyed the rest of a  very sunny afternoon sitting in the shade on the east side of our island, washing up and swimming in the river, and occasionally wandering around with our cameras and taking a photo or two.

our-too-small-island-east-side-patio-near-sunset-our-helinox-chairs-werre-set-up-there-for-hours

our Too Small Island east side patio near sunset – our Helinox chairs are just out of the photo on a nice flat ledge!

Pointing the camera south and making use of the zoom, Max scanned the shoreline for the source of the party noise coming from the Ontario side. It was Friday night on the Ottawa River.

Zooming in on the Arnprior water tower and a raucous waterfront party

Zooming in on the Arnprior water tower and a raucous waterfront party

Meanwhile on the west side of the island the sun was putting on quite the show!  it was time to carry the camp chairs 20′ over to the other side of the island.

looking west on the Ottawa River in Baie du Chat

looking west on the Ottawa River in Baie du Chat

a sunset view of the island just west of Too Small Island

a sunset view of the island just west of Too Small Island

And perhaps twenty minutes later, one last click of the button to capture the changing light.

Baie du Chat sunset - same, same but different!

Baie du Chat sunset – same, same but different!

We had put in a good day on the river and had been rewarded with a lucky campsite find and some beautiful weather and light to moderate wind conditions.   We hoped for more of the same the next day as we had to deal with the Chats Falls Dam and Generating Station. We hoped our  alternative to the 8.5 kilometre portage recommended at the Ontario Power Generation website would be do-able.  Time would tell!

Next Post:  Day 4: Baie de Chat/Arnprior to Baskins Beach

Canoeing The Ottawa – Day 2: Rocher Fendu To Portage du Fort

Previous Post: Day 1: The Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel

  • distance: 21 km
  • time:  start – 8:45 a.m. ; finish – 2:50 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/8
    • – O-R6 C1T 75m LRL then run
    • – O-R7 C1 1100 m Ile de Chico / “Mice Rapids” mostly fast flat water
    • – O-R8 200 m “Muskrat Rapids” mostly fast flat water
    • – O-R9 150m “La Barriere Rapids” fast flat water
    • – O-R10 ~200m “Long Rapids” flat water current
    • – O-R11 – “Flat Rapids” –  flat water current
    • – O-R12 – “Chute Mulroney” – flat water current
    • – O-R13 1000m “Rapides de Rocher Fendu” fast-moving flat water
    • – PRL 750m above dam marked take-out, across highway, through the park, then along Mill Street to Lakeview Hotel lawn.
  • weather: Sunny all day
  • campsite: CRCS12 – Portage du Fort: Lakeside Hotel – lawn area lots of room for multiple tents
  • topos:   Cobden 031F/10 (click on titles to access)

cr_d12a

cr_d12_baie-de-letts

So there we were at the start of Day 2.  We had done what we figured were half the rapids of the Rocher Fendu. Still to come – Mice; Muskrat; Long; Flat; Mulroney.  It sounded like a solid morning’s worth of work.  We  began with a bit of a walk down the Baie de Letts shoreline in search of some deeper water to put the canoe in.

looking up Chenal de Letts to our campsite

looking up Chenal de Letts to our campsite

Across from our camp spot on the Esprit Rafting pick-up area we saw the signs on the trees – as seen in the pic below.  We paddled over to see if they perhaps indicated a camp spot. “8 CHASSEURS/KEEP OUT”  they read. A private hunters’ club property –  so much for that!

camp site signs on Ile French on Baie Letts - not!

camp site signs on Ile French on Baie Letts – not!

Coming up at the bottom of Baie de Letts was our first set of rapids – ones with no name. We easily lined the top chute and then hopped back in for a ride the rest of the way down what was just fast water.  We didn’t know it, given all the names of upcoming rapids in our heads, but that would be the day’s biggest challenge until we got to the portage at Portage du Fort.

a Gatorade stop on the west side of Ile a Lawn

a Gatorade stop on the west side of Ile a Lawn

After an hour we stopped for a Gatorade/Cliffbar break. Thanks to the current we had done six kilometers without really pushing ourselves and other than the short bit we lined at the top of the first set of rapids at the bottom of Baie de Letts we had paddled down everything else. A couple of times we had to check the maps to make sure we were where we thought we were. You mean that bit of Class 0 was Muskrat Rapids?  It was mostly all fast water/swifts that we found.  Perhaps mid-August had something to do with it although  they supposedly maintain the water level on the river at a certain steady level at least for the summer months.

long strip out granite outcrop on the shores of the Ottawa River - Lac du Rocher Fendu

long strip out granite outcrop on the shores of the Ottawa River – Lac du Rocher Fendu

As we paddled past the long narrow strip of rock outcrop in the photo above, an image of the serpent associated with the underwater lynx Mishipeshu came to mind. In the Temagami area across the border in Ontario there is a are rock formations which are connected with elements of Anishinaabe myth.  The Grandparent Rocks on Lake Obabika and the Conjurer’s Rock column at Chee Skon Lake come to mind.  In this case, however, we were clearly trying too hard to imagine something that wasn’t there.  Missing, for example, was anything looking like the two horns the snake is usually depicted with.

We also wondered about evidence of the pre-European presence of the Kitchisippi Anishinaabe (i.e. the Algonquins) in the form of rock paintings and place names.  While Oiseau Rock up river near Deep River is a major Anishinaabe pictograph site, we had seen no evidence of them on the entire Coulonge River system.

What is also noteworthy was the degree to which Algonquin names have been replaced by new ones based on more recent non-Anishinaabe history. Perhaps it is an indication of the extent to which the Algonquin population was decimated by the Iroquois in the mid-1600’s at the same time that they were dealing with the  new diseases introduced by the French. Those who survived sought refuge at the Jesuit missions along the St. Lawrence River or were assimilated into other tribes. The period of control they had of the Ottawa River – to the point of being able to charge tolls to those passing through – was over.  This makes the current resurgence of Algonquin culture and dreams of nation – especially in Ontario with the recent land claim negotiations – all the more remarkable.

Max's flower shot of the day

Max’s flower shot of the day

looking up Lac du Forcher Fendu from our island lunnch spot

looking up Lac du Rocher Fendu from our island lunch spot

Another 9 km or so down Lac du Rocher Fendu  and we stopped for lunch on the north tip of a small island in Baie Miller.  Across from us was what looked like some sort of industrial site. You can see it on the topo below almost dead center.

lac-du-rocher-fendu-chute-a-mulroney-to-chenaux-gen-stn-12-5-km

Lunch done it was time to finish off the day with a paddle almost straight south to the Chenaux Generating Station near Portage du Fort.

When we were doing the pre-trip planning, we had visited  the Ontario Power Generation website where we learned this about the Chenaux Rapids and Portage-du-Fort:

Three hundred years ago, intrepid French voyageurs, making their way down the Ottawa River to the flourishing fur markets of Montreal and Quebec, undertook a long portage just above the swift rapids. They gave the rapids the name “Chenaux” plural for “chenal” or “channel.” Fearing the loss of their precious furs in the seething waters, they favoured the safer course offered by the rigorous trail through the wilderness. The arduous portage was called “Portage du Fort” (portage of the strong) from which the adjacent village derives its name. It was at this point that the adventurers shouldered their canoes and began the long trek overland.

The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario harnessed the Ottawa River to produce more electric power for the homes, farms and industries of Ontario and the Chenaux station was one of the post World War II developments.

We had gone to the website in search of information about a portage around the dam and powerhouse.  While we didn’t find it at the OPG site, we did eventually google our way to this bit of OPG  information:

chenauxportage-du-fort-portage

Damn! That would be quite the hoof – 3.8 km.  Looking at the map the first thing that comes to mind is that paddlers who follow this portage route are getting off the river way too early. They are also walking on the side of a highway for over half the portage.  We had to wonder how that fit in with the OPG motto of “Stay clear, stay safe”.  Checking the math we saw that it only added up to 2.8 kilometers. At least it was 1 kilometer shorter than the stated OPG figure!

A look at some satellite views convinced us we could make it even shorter.

Portage du Fort Portage Options

Portage du Fort Portage Options

Rather than begin the portage at what is really a power boater’s boat launch and not the start of a canoe tripper’s portage, we figured that as paddlers we had more options.The first thought was to paddle into the long bay down from the boat launch on the OPG route.  It almost touches the highway 301 and we figured we could carry up to the road from there. We would still be staying clear and staying safe – and would eliminate at least half the length of the carry.

A closer look at the satellite image presented us with a yet better option –

portage-du-fort-paddlers-portage-route

And that is what we did.  We paddled past the boat launch, paddled past the long narrow bay and, staying close to the shore, came to the spot shown on the satellite images above. There is absolutely no danger here for paddlers taking out their kayaks or canoes.

The first thing we did notice as we approached is the Danger sign you see in the pic below. It is clearly aimed at power boaters and those with larger motorized craft who might be tempted to moor their boat here or use the spot as a boat launch or extraction point, ripping up the grass in the process or impacting the underwater pipeline. It is not directed at paddlers in 50 lb. canoes or kayaks.  And then we saw the sign to the left; it confirmed our analysis of the situation.  We were feeling much better!

a-welcome-sign-at-the-paddlers-take-out-spot-near-mill-street

FOLLOW PORTAGE ROUTE DOWN MILL STREET” it read!

That was almost as good a greeting as “WELCOME TO PORTAGE DU FORT, PADDLERS”.  We moved our gear and canoe up to the tree you see in the image above  and set about looking for Mill Street.

a portage instruction sign at the Portage du Fort take out spot

a portage instruction sign at the Portage du Fort take out spot

Across Highway 301 from the take out is a municipal park.  The rustic cabin in the image below is the municipal tourist information center. We dropped in – nobody home. Then we walked over to the roofed information board  with the maps on it and saw that Mill Street was the next street over.

Portage du Fort Information Center across from the canoe take out spot

Portage du Fort Information Center across from the canoe take out spot

Portage du Fort Information Board near Mill Street across from paddlers' take out

Portage du Fort Information Board near Mill Street across from paddlers’ take out

Well, so much for “portage of the strong”!  While it would still turn out to be a 750-meter carry, it had turned out so much better than the initial 3.8 km figure we found at the OPG site.  We walked down Mill Street towards the boat launch at the other end of the portage. We still did not know where we would be tenting that night but I was under the mistaken impression that the village had a campground.

Map of oPortage du Fort - portage route down Mill Street

Map of Portage du Fort – portage route down Mill Street

looking down at the canoers' take out spot off country road 653

looking down at the paddlers’ take out spot off Highway 301

looking down Mill Street to the Lakeside Hotel

looking down Mill Street to the Lakeside Hotel

Forty-five minutes later we were putting up our tent on the grounds of the Lakeside Hotel. You can see our tent in the image below, sitting underneath the tree canopy overlooking the banks of the narrow channel leading into the Lac Des Chats  section of the Ottawa River.

our tent up at the Lakeside Hotel underneath the tree canopy

our tent up at the Lakeside Hotel underneath the tree canopy

While there is no campground in Portage du Fort, a chat with some visitors from Renfrew that we met near the war memorial next to the Riverside Hotel provided us with a solution.  After jokingly pleading with them not to tell us anything about what was going on in the world  – one of them had just started on a Donald Trump news item- the topic changed to the hotel in front of us.  One of the aging baby boomers – just like us! – started reminiscing about the Lakeside back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was such a wild place that people came from all around from both sides of the river to party. He remembered fondly and maybe a bit hazily  that you could even drop in at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and there would still be people  dancing. “Why don’t you ask in the hotel if you can camp on their lawn?” he suggested. I had been thinking exactly that so after our brief chat I headed up to the hotel and the bar. No dancing at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday but a few customers sipping beer at the bar

I told them how we had gotten here and asked if it would be okay if we put up our tent for the night underneath the tree. The immediate response from the bartender – “Go right ahead. You’re more than welcome!”  When I pulled out a $20. from my wallet, the bartender asked me what it was for.  “For the tent space,” I said.  She insisted that we tent for free so I put money away.  Later that evening I did go back and leave the $20., explaining that if they wouldn’t take it as our payment for the tent space, then they could apply it to the next paddlers who showed up and let them tent for free.

In the meanwhile, we spent the afternoon doing a short tour of the village. the map above highlights some of what we saw. We walked up Main street to Church Street and back over to where we had taken out our canoe. Then we walked back along Mill Street to the Riverside Hotel taking some pix along the way.  We got the impression that back in the day there was more economic activity in Portage du Fort, enough to build some pretty grand homes and churches.

the war memorial at the corner of Main and Mill Streets - Portage du Fort

the war memorial at the corner of Main and Mill Streets – Portage du Fort

Next to the hotel is the war memorial obelisk you see above and behind it is the boat launch area where we would put our canoe the next morning. Across from the Riverside is a restaurant but it seems to be closed. A few meters further up Main Street is a coin laundry and then on the corner of Main Street and Church is Thompson Depanneur, a corner store with all the usual as well an outlet of the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec)We took the opportunity to pick up some cold beer.

Thompson's Corner Store and Liquor Outlet at the corner of Main adn Church Streets - Portage du Fort

Thompson’s Corner Store/Liquor Outlet at the corner of Main & Church Streets – Portage du Fort

The one open fast food place is the village is Jaks.  Burgers and fries and all the usual. It would provide us with the basis of that evening’s Indian Poutine – a large serving of fries topped with the contents of a pouch of Indian veg curry. (Tasty Bite is the brand; we take their various meals  along on all our trip thanks to the ease of preparation.  They do, however, weigh twice what a Harvest Foodworks meal weighs. I keep planning to make use of that dehydrator my wife bought but have yet to get around to it!

Jaks - the place to go for fast food in Portage du Fort

Jaks – the place to go for fast food in Portage du Fort

The village has two churches, both on La Rue de L’Église or Church Street. The Roman Catholic one is just after Jaks; the Anglican one is at the far end of Church Street and is just above where we landed our canoe.

St. Jacques le Majeur sign in front of church

St. Jacques le Majeur sign in front of church

the front of St. Jacques le Majeur/St. James the Greater

the front of St. Jacques le Majeur/St. James the Greater

Portage du Fort's Catholic Church - St. James the Greater

Portage du Fort’s Catholic Church – St. James the Greater

Walking past St. James down Church street to the water,  we passed by the following two landmarks –

Anglican Church hall on Church Street in Portage du Fort

Anglican Church hall

Portage du Fort Town Hall

Portage du Fort town hall

On the corner of Church Street and Highway 301 is the grand house you see below. It is definitely the village’s premier residence.

Portage du Fort's grandest building

Portage du Fort’s grandest building

The Connelly's House in Portage du Fort

The Connelly’s House in Portage du Fort

Across the street from the Connelly House is St. George’s Anglican Church.  It is closed and boarded up and perhaps waiting for someone to repurpose it as a home or as a restaurant.  In better economic times it may have happened already.

Portage du Fort's Anglican Church - St. George's

Portage du Fort’s Anglican Church – St. George’s

We walked back down to the water at the point where we had landed a few hours before and commented that things had turned out very nicely given the question marks we were facing as we paddled that last stretch across the river from the Chenaux G.S. and dam. This post should eliminate all the mystery for future paddlers while assuring them that landing where we did is not only perfectly safe but sanctioned by the municipality given the “FOLLOW PORTAGE ROUTE DOWN MILL STREET” sign.  We returned to our Riverside Hotel camp spot on Mill Street, taking time to look at stuff we had missed earlier thanks to the hauling we were doing.

Portage du Fort - residence

Portage du Fort – residence on Mill Street

residence on Mill Street - Portage du Fort

residence on Mill Street – Portage du Fort

Portage du Fort's the boat launch at the bottom of Main Street behind the war memorial

Portage du Fort’s the boat launch at the bottom of Main Street behind the war memorial

sunset view from the Lakeside Hotel Portage du Fort

sunset view from the Lakeside Hotel Portage du Fort

Coming up, a 30+ kilometer day on the Lac Des Chats section which  did not get us to the end of it!  But we would fluke another great campsite and score a beautiful sunset! And to think I used to dismiss sunset photos as cliché!

Next Post: Day 3: From Portage Du Fort to Baie du Chat/Arnprior

 

Canoeing The Ottawa – Day 1: The Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel

Previous Post: Canoeing the Ottawa From Fort Coulonge to Ottawa’s Rideau Locks – Introduction, Maps, and Planning

  • distance: 20 km
  • time:  start – 11:20 a.m. ; finish – 6:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 5/5
    • – O-R1 C4/C3 PRR 200m “McKay Rapids”
    • – O-R2 C3/C4? 150m PRL 150m “Iron Ring” / “S-bend”
    • – O-R3 – C3/C4? 100m PRR 100m “Butterfly”
    • – O-R4 – C3/4 PRR 150m PRR 105m “Garvins”
    • – O-R5 C2(T ) / C1 / C2T  500m [LRL / run / PRL 280m ] “Chenal Letts”
  • weather: Sunny most of the day, some clouding over in the p.m.
  • campsite: CRCS11 – Esprit Rafting campsite at “Baie de Letts”
  • topos:   Fort Coulonge 031F/15 ;  Cobden 031F/10 (click on titles to access)

Our first day on the Ottawa River was also our last day on the Coulonge.

The previous afternoon Dennis Blaedow of the Esprit Rafting team shuttled us from the top of the Coulonge Chutes to the Esprit Base Camp in Davidson where we tented the night.  The next morning Dennis shuttled us back to the Coulonge – but to the bottom of the Chutes section. As you can see on the map below we spent the morning meandering our way to the river’s mouth.

cr_d11a

By 11 a.m. or so we were sitting on the Ottawa. A few lines from T.S. Eliot bubbled their way through my mind as we entered the Kitchi Sippi!

This is the way the Coulonge ends
This is the way the Coulonge ends
This is the way the Coulonge ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
 Mind you, the dramatic chutes twelve kilometers from the end would definitely qualify as “a bang”! In the pic below we are staring at Ontario on the far shore and just about ready to turn left and head down towards the Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel.
the mouth of the Coulonge!

the mouth of the Coulonge!

Once we entered into the Ottawa for some reason photos stopped.  Within an hour we were in La Passe, having pulled up our canoe on the back lawn of the church whose steeple we had been staring at –  and using as a target! –  for most of the past hour.  We had a leisurely lunch in the shade while we leaned back in our Helinox camp chairs.  We both celebrated our Coulonge adventure and wondered about what the Rocher Fendu had in store for us. It said to be the best stretch of whitewater in eastern North America – the half-dozen rafting companies on the river are testament to thrills it provides.

the view of the church from our La Passe lunch spot on the banks of the Ottawa River

the view of the church from our La Passe lunch spot on the banks of the Ottawa River

the back of La Passe's Notre Dame Du Mont Carmel church

the back of La Passe’s Notre Dame Du Mont Carmel church

the front of La Passe's Catholic Church (with just a bit of keystoning included!)

front of La Passe’s Catholic Church (with just a bit of “keystoning” included in the image!)

looking back at Fort Coulonge from La Passe

looking back at Ft. Coulonge from La Passé – Paroisse St-Pierre spire visible on the far shore

One of the first things our research had  led us to was an account of a trip up the Ottawa by Max Finkelstein. One paragraph I had saved read like this –

finkelstein-on-the-rocher-fendu-stretch-of-rapids

overview-of-river-options-below-fort-coulonge

overview-of-river-options-below-fort-coulonge

Given that he was coming up river his choice of the Calumet channel makes sense. Out of the question for us was his Muskrat Lake portage route!  There were other choices too.  Here is what we had to choose from –

  1. The Calumet Channel –  the route taken by the voyageurs of old.  It would need some extra paddling and there is a dam at the bottom of the  channel at Bryson to portage around.  To access this channel we would have to hang a left just after La Passe.  This would have made a fine second choice.
  2. The Main Channel with its Class IV-V rapids and chutes  sounded like the most turbulent of the bunch, which explains its popularity with the rafting companies. It runs down the Ontario side of the inter-provincial border.  Given all the rafting groups coming down this channel, we figured we’d give it a pass.
  3. The Middle Channel sounded like the best choice, more direct than the Calumet but less hairy and less busy than the Main Channel.  We  would still get to see some classic rafting whitewater – mostly CIII and CIV runs – which we would portage around. We assumed there would be some good photo ops too!
  4. The Lost Channel sounded  like the quietest option.  It involves entering the Middle Channel but then turning right into a channel that runs parallel to the Main and Middle. Jim Coffey, the owner  of Esprit Rafting, did not recommend it given the low water levels in mid-August.

mckay-rapids-to-muskrat-rapids1

The Middle Channel route was the one we would do and Jim gave us a quick sketch of the various rapids and portages we would be facing.  He jotted down some details and we listened intently – and got most of the info!  It was 6:45 a.m. and he had already been answering emails from guests past and future for the past half-hour while we were having our oatmeal and coffee breakfast.

From La Passe we headed down river five kilometers  to the first of the day’s portages – around the McKay Chutes (or McKay Rapids) between Sullivan Island and Cedar Island.  [Note: a number of sources refer to it as  McKoy.]  The portage trail is on the top of Cedar Island and very obvious since it is used daily by the playboaters playing in the rapids here.  Looking back from the take-out we saw the spot on the mainland where they put in for the day’s fun in the rapids.

a rafting pu-in on the Ontario shore above the McKay Rapids

a rafting put-in on the Ontario shore above the McKay Chutes

mckay-chutes

The pix below show parts of the portage trail as well as the rapids we were avoiding.

looking back at the first bit of the Cedar Island portage trail

looking back at the first bit of the Cedar Island portage trail at McKay Chutes

the McKay Rapids - top end

the McKay Chutes – top end

While we were doing our best to avoid the powerful curling wave action, these helmeted warriors in their stubby mini banana kayaks were seeking it out!  It looked like fun – but not in an open canoe.

strategy session on Cedar Island/McKay Chutes

strategy session on Cedar Island/McKay Chutes

play boats at the bottom of the McKay Chutes

play boats at the bottom of the McKay Chutes

play boats looking for wave action at McKay Chutes bottom

play boats looking for wave action at McKay Chutes bottom

two different approaches to dealing with the McKay Chute

two different approaches to dealing with the McKay Chutes

As if to be reminded of the power of the current here, we were given an unexpected  360º spin as we headed to the right of the waves you see in the pic above.  Nothing like losing control of your boat thanks to the unseen currents at play. Yikes!

After the Cedar Island portage around the McKay Chutes, it is a pleasant 2.5 kilometer paddle to the next portage.  Islands all around – the gps device was consulted once or twice to make sure we were still on course! Had we turned to the right we would have entered the Main Channel. On the map below the route to the Middle Channel runs across the page from left to right and at the east end of Sullivan Island it also crosses into Quebec territory. We’d stay on the Quebec side almost all the way down to Portage du Fort.

The Ottawa River - Rocher Fendu section - Middle Channel route

The Ottawa River – Rocher Fendu section – Middle Channel route

Iron Ring – is it considered the top of S Curve? – came up next.  We pulled out just above the rapids on river left and scampered up the bank to find the portage trail.  150 meters and thirty minutes later we  were looking back at the bottom of the rapids.

iron-ring-rapidsbutterfly-in-the-middle-channel-ottawa-river

Iron Ring and portage on river left  – “Butterfly” coming up!

Some of that time was spent refilling our water bottle and taking a brief gorp break.  We also had some entertainment before we got to the portage. Three Esprit Rafting/Wilderness Tour rafts were coming down river and we watched them float effortlessly down the first chute you see a few pix below.

S Curve Rapids above Chute a Desjardins- Middle Channel

Iron Ring/S Curve Rapids above Chute a Desjardins- Middle Channel Rocher Fendu

looking up the channel from the S Curve Rapids

looking up the channel from the Iron Ring/ S Curve Rapids

another view of the drop at S Curve Rapids

another view of the drop at Iron Ring/ S Curve Rapids

Wilderness Tour rafts coming through Rocher Fendu's Middlle Channe;

Wilderness Tour rafts coming through Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel

Then it was time to do the carry. The trail is in pretty good shape with only a bit of deadfall to deal with.  Soon we were on our way to the next set of rapids – the topo map calls it Chute a Desjardins but the local Anglophone rafters call it “Butterfly” – 500 meters away.

middle-channel-part-2

"Butterfly"/ Chute a Desjardins in the Middle Channel - Rocher Fendu

“Butterfly”/ Chute a Desjardins in the Middle Channel – Rocher Fendu – portage river right

take out spot in small bay across from Butterfly Rapids (aka Chute a Desjardins)

take out spot in small bay across from Butterfly Rapids (aka Chute a Desjardins)

We watched the Esprit Rafting group do some body surfing down the chute here for a minute or two. Then it was time to knock off a pretty short portage.  We were moving on while the rafters were still playing  – and maybe having a snack break up river.  While we had portaged “Butterfly” on river right the rafters were obviously using a trail on river left to get from their rafts up to the top of the chute before they body surfed back down.  It would be an optional portage route for paddlers.

Less than a kilometer down river was another falls – Garvin’s Chute.  It is maybe the biggest of the series.  You can see why the rafting companies love this stretch of river – lots of action in a fairly compressed space.

garvins-chute

Garvin’s Chute – portage trail on river right

The stats on the gps track tell us that it took us fifteen minutes to do this short portage. It was now after 5 p.m. and we were getting a bit tired. Still to come – one more portage and then at the end of it a place to pitch our tent thanks to Esprit Rafting’s helping hand. As we approached Chenal  Letts the rafters came floating by, their body surfing diversion done.

Esprit Rafting group approaching Chenal de Letts

Esprit Rafting group approaching Chenal de Letts

After they zipped by we got back to the problem at hand.  This was the one portage whose details we could not remember.  First we went over to the island on river left, thinking there might be a portage there.  No such luck – just impenetrable bush. Then we paddled over to the other side and I recalled Jim saying something about a dry creek and how we should follow it along until we came to the portage trail.  Well, here was a creek. Okay, it wasn’t dry but maybe it was what he was talking about?  Down we went – about 15 meters. Clearly a bad choice. The description definitely did not fit.  We backtracked to the top of the rapids.

chenal-letts

The Satellite view of the Chenal Letts area – looks like an early in the season shot

We ended up lining a forty-meter section above and below the  chute and then hopped into the canoe for a one-minute ride down to what looked like a well-used take-out point. I hopped out and walked along the trail a bit.  There was the dry creek bed!  We were on the right track. We walked to the end and met the last of an Esprit Rafting crew that was packing up after the afternoon’s run down the Middle Channel.  All of the guests had already left in another vehicle or two.

chenal-letts-line-and-run-once-we-figured-it-out

The Garmin Topo Canada gps track of our Chenal Letts line and run – once we figured it out!

By 6:30 our tent was up and water was boiling and we were feeling a lot better than we had as we were walking back up that not-dry-enough creek at the top of Chenal Letts.  We made use of the two picnic tables to keep everything off the sand.  Nearby was a covered eating area, toilets, the works.  It was a nice way to end a long day that had started on the banks of the Ottawa at the Esprit Rafting Base Camp in Davidson.  We had been very fortunate to get Jim Coffey’s help with the various rapids and offer of a spot to pitch our tent for the night.

the Esprit Rafting take-out/pick up sport at the bottom of Chenal Letts

the Esprit Rafting take-out/pick up sport at the bottom of Chenab Letts – we tented by the trees

Next Post: Day 2: From Rocher Fendu To Portage du Fort

Canoeing The Ottawa River From Fort Coulonge To Ottawa’s Rideau Canal – Introduction, Maps, and More

First Post: Canoeing The Algonquin Heartland – From The Coulonge River Headwaters To Ottawa

The Ottawa – A Canadian Heritage River!

Well. it was about time! The Ottawa River was recently (July 2016) added to the list of Canadian Heritage rivers. It is the 39th river to be accorded the honour. You’d figure that it would have been the first or second one on the list – but better late than never. Oddly – or perhaps typically – the designation applies only to the Ontario side of the river! The official government news release put it this way –

From the head of Lake Timiskaming to East Hawkesbury, 590 km of the Ottawa River bordering the province of Ontario now joins the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS).

In time perhaps the Quebec government will hop on board so that the stretch down to Montreal, as well as the section on the east side of Ile du Grand-Calumet will be included. Then the Great River of Canada  – the Kitchi Sippi – will be fully recognized.

This August our canoe trip took us down one of the many tributaries of the river – we paddled the Coulonge River system for its headwaters in La Réserve Faunique La Vérendrye right to its mouth at Fort Coulonge.  When planning the trip,  we had decided since we were already there we might as well continue on down to Ottawa and the Rideau Canal locks.  It was a worthwhile add-on to our Coulonge adventure and one that fit in with a lifetime’s interest in the history of the river and its people.

It was also a part of our own history, since we had spent our formative early years in and around the mining town of Rouyn-Noranda in the Abitibi.  This was where our parents (occasionally called D.P.s or des maudits fros depending on who was talking) ended up from Europe after WWII.

ottawa-river-watershed

Uploaded to Wikipedia in October 2007 by Kmusser (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – here

A Bit of History: Warning – Retired History Teacher At Work!

The Ottawa River has played a central role in the economic and cultural life of Canada for a thousand years and more.

  • Since the early twentieth century it has been harnessed as a source of hydro-electric power that facilitated the industrialization of central Canada.
  • Down its waters to the lumber mills in Hull floated forests of trees felled by the lumberjacks on on both sides of the river.
  • With the arrival of the French it became the great highway into the interior of the continent from Montreal, bypassing the more southern route controlled by the Iroquois. Beginning with Champlain and Brulé in the early 1600’s a steady stream of European and native fur traders, adventurers, and Jesuits paddled up to the mouth of the Mattawa and then headed west to points beyond.
  • Before the European arrival it was already a major artery for the transfer of trade goods amongst the various Algonkian peoples and, just as importantly, the transfer of culture in the form of ideas and behaviour patterns.

What’s In A Name?

The changing nature of the river begins with its very name. The Anishinaabe people – the Algonquins we call them – who lived in the river’s watershed knew it as the Kitchi Sippi – literally, the Great River. It was a name they applied particularly to the stretch of the river from Mattawa to Montreal.

When Samuel de Champlain produced his first map of what he called Nouvelle France, he named the river after them. It was apparently in Tadoussac at a celebration of Anishinaabe warriors from various tribes that he first learned what he thought was their name. They had just dealt their Iroquois enemies a defeat.   On asking a Malecite chief who they were he was told that “they are our allies”.  Supposedly this translates as Algommequin in their language.  We can see La Rivière des Algommequins on an early 1600’s map; it goes all the way from Montreal to Lake Nipissing.  However, the name’s use would not last long.

close-up-of-champlains-1643-map-algonquins-noted

By the end of the seventeenth century it was referred to as the Ottawa River.  By then Algonquin communities had been all but wiped out in the brutal war against the Iroquois for control of the river and the fur trade.  The spread of diseases like smallpox from the European newcomers only compounded the tragedy. Of the 2500 to 6000 (estimates seem to vary greatly) Algonquins spread out in various communities before Champlain’s arrival  there were perhaps 1000 left.

Now the river came to be associated with another Anishinaabe people – the Ottawa. While they  did not live anywhere near the river, their role as traders (which gave them their name Odawa) brought them regularly down the Kitchi Sippi to Montreal from their Lake Huron heartland with their furs.

On The Ottawa River Today

We did not see any other paddlers on the river during the five days until we got to Ottawa itself and passed a canoe out for a day’s paddle above Chaudière Falls.  Given all the other canoe tripping possibilities  this is understandable.  Why paddle past a string of camps, cottages, and riverfront homes for five days when you can go on a real wilderness canoe trip! Algonquin Park and La Réserve La Vérendrye are not far away.

wilson-upper-ottawa-valley-2004Hap Wilson’s Rivers of The Ottawa River Valley does include a brief treatment of the river from Lake Temiskaming’s misnamed Devil Rock all the way down to Rocher Fendu. Included are overview maps of the Mattawa to Pembroke stretch and of the Pembroke to Rocher Fendu section of the river. Unfortunately, there is not any detail for someone contemplating a canoe trip on this section.

You could argue that if any part of the river is worth doing as a canoe trip it would be this section of the river above Fort Coulonge to Temiskaming.  Below Fort Coulonge you have the Rocher Fendu section with its Class III-V rapids and chutes which will mean a few portages. After that the river becomes little more than three long narrow lakes – Lac du Rocher Fendu; Lac des Chats; Lac du Deschenes –  interrupted by  two generating stations with official portages of 3.8 and 8.5 kilometers.  Throw in a strong wind coming from the SW and you have to ask –  Who needs this?

a panorama version of the above shot - sunset on the Ottawa River near Arnprior

sunset on the Ottawa River in the Baie du Chat across from Arnprior

However, having done it, we can say that our time and effort were amply rewarded. Not only do we now have a better understanding of the modern version of this section of the great river, we enjoyed the paddling  and the portages turned out to be less than advertised.  We also got to experience that famous Ottawa Valley hospitality thanks to those we turned to for help and advice on our way down. Jim Coffey and Dennis Blaedow at Esprit Rafting, the manager and bartender at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Coulonge, Maureen Baskins at her river front beach Trailer Park and Campground …we met some really good people.

Given that there is surprisingly little material online to help future paddlers plan their own lower Ottawa River trip, we’ve put together some information that should make the planning a bit easier.  Read on and you’ll find links to the following –

  1. maps,
  2. info on where to camp/find a room  and
  3. info on the rapids and portages you’ll face.
  1. Maps:

When it comes to maps, the 1:50000 Federal Government Topographical Maps  are the best available.  You can download the ones below from my Dropbox folder.

Jeff’s Topos is the best website out there to access any of the Federal Government maps – you’ll find the ones listed above and all other Canadian 1:50000.  You can download them for free and print what you need yourself – or Jeff will sell you professional copies on a waterproof/tearproof material.

We also had the Garmin Topo Canada mapset installed on an eTrex 20.

Portage du Fort's the boat launch at the bottom of Main Street behind the war memorial

Portage du Fort – our tent under the tree  on the grounds of the Riverside Hotel

2. Where To Camp/Find A Room Along The Ottawa:

Finding decent campsites can be a bit of a problem. The closer you get to Ottawa the more likely the land is privately owned and already has a camp, cottage or house on it. However, there are still places to pitch a tent – and in some cases, take a room for the night.

Here is what we’ve come up with as a working list of campgrounds/nearby motels. If you know any of them not to be a good choice – or if you know of yet other ones – let me know and I’ll take it off or add it to the list.  I’ve highlighted the ones we used on our trip.

  • Petawawa – Black Bear Beach Campground
  • Pembroke – Riverside Park in Pembroke – 961 Pembroke Street West
  • Davidson – Esprit Rafting  Base Camp just north of Fort Coulonge
  • Rocher Fendu – Middle Channel – Chenal Letts  – Esprit Rafting take out spot. Contact Jim Coffey at Esprit for permission and directions.
  • Rocher Fendu – Wilderness Tours –  503 Rafting Road, Foresters Falls, Ontario  at the end of the Rocher Fendu section
  •  Ile du Grand Calumet before the Bryson Dam –  HorizonX  Rafting on Chemin Cadieux
  • Bryson Dam area – Motel Bryson – 400 meters from the dam on Highway 148
  • Portage du Fort – Riverside Hotel – we camped on their grounds after getting permission.No website but phone 819 647-5399
  • Bristol/ Norway Bay – camping at Pine Lodge ;  rooms also available
  • Arnprior – Quality Inn – 1/2 km up the mouth of the Madawaska
  • Baie du Chat/Arnprior – Too Small Island – free camping on the Quebec side of the river  – see the Day 3 post for specific info
  • Fitzroy Provincial Park – below Chats Falls Generating Station
  • Baskins Beach Trailer Park and Campground
  • Ottawa – just before Chaudiere Falls G.S. – Motel Châteauguay on Boulevard de Lucerne –  200 m portage
  • Ottawa- top of the Rideau Locks – Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa – 400 m portage from the river! Wouldn’t that be a buzz! Where would they store your canoe?
  • Gatineau-Ottawa  – just after the Alexandra Bridge  – Best Western- 200 m portage
  • And then it would be on to Montreal!
play boats at the bottom of the McKay Chutes

play boats at the bottom of the McKay Chutes in the Rocher Fendu section of the river

3. Info On Rapids and Portages:

See the day-by-day posts for the rapids we ran and or lined, those we portaged, and where we were able to put up our tent at the end of the day.

 Day 1: The Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel

Day 2: Rocher Fendu’s Chenal Letts  To Portage du Fort

Day 3: Portage du Fort To Baie du Chat/Arnprior

Day 4: Baie du Chat to Baskins Beach

Day 5: Baskins Beach to the Rideau Canal

the portage around Chaudiere Falls - done!

the portage around Chaudiere Falls – we got ‘er dun!

Get in touch if you have any specific questions that this series of posts does not deal with.  Also,  if you think any of the information we’ve posted is incorrect do let us know. We’d like the posts to be as accurate and useful as possible for any paddlers considering their own canoe trip down this stretch of the Ottawa River – the Kitchi Sippi  – La Riviere des Algommequins.

 

Canoeing The Algonquin Heartland (From The Coulonge Headwaters To Ottawa)

My brother Max and I grew up in the Abitibi region in northwestern Quebec and yet we hadn’t really paddled in Quebec since we left La Belle Province in our late teens for university.  We’re talking forty + years! This summer we thought we’d do something about that! A shuttle by our good friend Cyril from Stittsville near Ottawa to Lac Larouche in La Réserve Faunique La Vérendrye off Highway 117 (the Trans-Canada) got us started.

overview-of-la-verednrye-park-down-to-ottawa

an overview of our route from Lac Larouche to Ottawa

We spent ten days paddling the Coulonge River system and once we hit the Ottawa River, we kept on going through the Rocher Fendu stretch – we did the Middle Channel –  past Portage du Fort and Arnprior right to the foot (or maybe that should read “rear end”) of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Thanks to the P.M. sightings across the country, the joke was “Where’s Trudeau?”

The pix – in chronological order – that follow are some of the many that we snapped along the way.  Along for the ride were a couple of point and shoots – Max’s Canon SX280 and my Canon Elph 330 – as well as a much more capable Sony A77 dslr with a variety of lenses from ultra wide to fairly long.  Occasionally we made use of a tripod to help justify bringing it along!

We only met one other party of canoes –  five canoes to be exact – during our fifteen days on the water.  The eight girls in their mid-teens belonged to a summer camp and were led by a female and a male in their late-teens. It is always good to see a new generation of paddlers on the water.  Other than this group we had the Coulonge – and the Ottawa –  to ourselves!  We had expected to see more paddlers on an easily accessible river.

We did get to experience that famous Ottawa Valley hospitality.  Jim Coffey and Dennis Blaedow of Esprit Rafting went out of their way and smoothed over a number of complications and filled us in on Ottawa River rapids; the manager of the Lakeside Hotel at Portage du  Fort insisted we camp for free on their riverside lawn;  Maureen Baskins refused any money to camp at her beach property some 35 km. from Ottawa. We’ve got some “paying forward” to do!

Later this month we’ll have a more detailed day-by-day report of our trip along with maps and portage and rapid info.  We’re glad to have made the journey. On the ride  home to our Toronto/London base camps talk  turned to finishing off the Ottawa by paddling from our home town of Noranda in the Abitibi down to Pembroke or Fort Coulonge.

So many rivers, but always one summer less!

moon over Lac Grand on Day 1

moon over Lac Grand on Day 1

looking towards Lac D'arcy from the west end ofLac Desty

looking towards Lac D’arcy from the west end of Lac Desty

lunch time on Lac D'arcy

lunch time on Lac D’Arcy

Lac Ward campsite - and boat launch area!

Lac Ward campsite – and boat launch area!

gravel bar on the upper Coulonge

gravel bar on the upper Coulonge

the start of "Tall Pine Rapids"

the start of “Tall Pine Rapids”

a sunny end to a rainy Day three - Tall Pine Rapids camp

a sunny end to a rainy Day three – Tall Pine Rapids camp

morning mist below Tall Pine Rapids ont he Coulonge

morning mist below Tall Pine Rapids on the Coulonge

getting close to the flora on the Coulonge

getting close to the flora on the Coulonge

checking out Perly Falls (below Les Cascades du Batardeaux)

checking out Perly Falls (below Les Cascades du Batardeaux)

the Bros chillin' at the end of another day on the Coulonge

the Bros chillin’ at the end of another day on the Coulonge

moon over the Coulonge - Day 4 camp

moon over the Coulonge – Day 4 camp

sand beach on a meandering Coulonge section

sand beach on a meandering Coulonge section

curious Coulonge local checks out the visitors!

File under “Fauna”:  curious Coulonge local checks out the visitors!

boulder garden - shallow water at the confluence of the Corneille and the Coulonge

boulder garden – shallow water at the confluence of the Corneille and the Coulonge

humble sandbar fire ring on the Cologne below Chute Gauthier

humble sandbar fire ring on the Coulonge below Chute Gauthier

approaching Chute Au Diable on the Coulonge River

approaching Chute Au Diable on the Coulonge River

sandbar camp site on the Coulonge - we kept on going!

sandbar camp site on the Coulonge – people camp here?

the view from the sandbar back up river

the view from the sandbar back up river

our newly created campsite at the bottom of Die Hard Rapids on the Coulonge

our newly-created campsite at the bottom of Die Hard Rapids on the Coulonge

looking down river from Die Hard Rapids

looking down river from Die Hard Rapids

under the tarp in a torrential downpour that last 30 minutes

under the tarp in a torrential downpour that lasted 30 minutes

rocks and water in the rapids

rocks and water in the rapids

boreal forest floor - along the portage trail at Chute a l'Ours (Bear Falls)

boreal forest floor – along the portage trail at Les Rapides Enragés

Max gets a shot of me framing a shot of the bottom of Bear Falls

Max gets a shot of me framing a shot of the bottom of Les Rapides Enragés

the falls at the bottom of les Rapides Gallinotes

the falls at the bottom of les Rapides Gallinotes

perhaps our favourite Cologne camp site - the one at the top of Chute a L'Ours (Bear Falls)

perhaps our favourite Coulonge camp site – the one at the top of Chute a L’Ours (Bear Falls)

taking in the bottom of Chute a L'Ours

taking in the bottom of Chute a L’Ours

staring into the fire at Chute a L'Ours

staring into the fire at Chute a L’Ours

the first two drops at Les Chutes Coulonge

the first two drops at Les Chutes Coulonge – part of the 43 meter drop

another view of the Coulonge Falls

another view of the Coulonge Falls

our camp site at Esprit Rafting base Camp in Davidson near Fort Coulonge

our camp site at Esprit Rafting base Camp in Davidson near Fort Coulonge

sunset on the Ottawa from Esprit Point

sunset on the Ottawa from Esprit Point

the bottom end of the gorge at les Chutes Coulonge -

the bottom end of the gorge at les Chutes Coulonge –

flora and fauna in the sand on Cologne shores near Fort Coulonge

flora and fauna in the sand on Cologne shores near Fort Coulonge

the Marchand Covered Bridge - now closed - over the Coulonge

the Marchand Covered Bridge – now closed – over the Coulonge River near its  mouth

the top of McCoy Rapids - portage on River right across Cedar island

the top of McCoy Rapids – portage on River right across Cedar island

the top of Chutes a Dejardins (known locally as Butterfly Rapids)

the top of Chutes a Desjardins (known locally as Butterfly Rapids)

our tent site in Portage du Fort - thanks to the Lakeside Hotel

our tent site in Portage du Fort – thanks to the Lakeside Hotel

Portage du Fort's Catholic Church - St. James the Greater

Portage du Fort’s Catholic Church – St. James the Greater

Portage du Fort sunset

Portage du Fort sunset

deer on the east side of the Ottawa River near Arnprior

deer on the east side of the Ottawa River near Arnprior

a view from our island campsite near Arnprior

a view from our island campsite near Arnprior

dusk view from Baskins Beach

dusk view from our camp site on Baskins Beach – thank you, Maureen Baskins, for the incredible hospitality!

the Otawa River Shoreline - a mix of camps, cottages, and mansions like this one

the Ottawa River Shoreline – a mix of camps, cottages, and mansions like this one

the Deschenes Rapids - and the suburbs of Ottawa!

the Deschenes Rapids – and the suburbs of Ottawa!

after our bicycle path portage we followed this side channel down

after our bicycle path portage on the Quebec side we followed this side channel down

whimsical rock art catches our eye on the Ottawa

whimsical rock art catches our eye on the Ottawa -Ontario side

our last obstacle - the Chaudiere Falls Generating Station

approaching our last obstacle – the Chaudiere Falls Generating Station

rain over, getting ready to finish the trip

brief rain stoppage – getting ready to finish the trip

the view from the put-in below the Mill Street Eatery

the view from the put-in below the Mill Street Eatery – a torrential storm moves in!

The great close up shots of Parliament we had been framing in our heads for the past two weeks? While you can see the dome of the Library and the Peace Tower  in middle of the above panorama, that was it for photo ops.  A few seconds later it started raining – a torrential downpour that soaked us to the bone and went on for about 45 minutes.  Cameras tucked away, we shifted into survival mode and paddled to the dock where the water taxi and the tour boat pick up passengers.  It was not the ending we had envisioned – but we certainly won’t forget it!

Here is a shot I found at the Wikipedia site which shows the Ottawa as shot from the Peace Tower. Our put-in at the end of the 1150 meter portage was approximately where the red arrow is.

The portage had us crossing Booth Street and – a first – had me standing at the crosswalk underneath the canoe waiting for the light to turn green!  We had to laugh when one of us vocalized the image of a couple of homeless bearded geezers with assorted bags and a canoe – instead of  the usual shopping cart –  making their way through Ottawa!

River_Ottawa_(view_from_the_Peace_Tower_of_Parliament_Centre_Block)

See here for the image source – shot by Andrijko Z.

Yangon’s Botahtaung Paya and the Buddha’s Hair Relic

Previous Post: Sule Paya – the Stupa At The Heart of Yangon

An OOPS moment – this post is not quite done! I was working on it just before we set off on our 15-day canoe trip down Quebec’s Coulonge River and the Ottawa River … I set it to automatically publish on August 31. Well, I forgot all about the post and am recuperating from what was another excellent paddling adventure.  The pix are done but the writing is not.  Do check back in a few days for the finished text. Thanks.

after my visit to the Sule Paya I walked through Maha Bandula Garden to the Strand Hotel to enjoy a cup of coffee in air-conditioned comfort! Then further east down Strand Road to my second Buddhist temple of the day, the Botahtaung Paya.

humble Buddhist tree shrine on Strand Road in Yangon

humble Buddhist tree shrine on Strand Road in Yangon

elaborate legends which connect the site to the Buddha in the distant past, probably long before there actually were any Buddhists in the area.

the name comes from Bo (leader) and tahtaung (one thousand).  The leaders were military ones who acted as an honour guard when the strands of the Buddha’s hair arrived

entrance fee – 3000 kyats – open from 6 a.m. to 8 or 9  p.m. busier than the Sule Pagoda even at 1 p.m.

Google satellite image of downtown Yangon

Google satellite image of downtown Yangon

The story of the temple connects it to eight strands of the Buddha’s hair brought by monks from India. When is not clear -some accounts say during his own lifetime; others say 1500 years ago during the rule of the Mon King Sihadipa, ruler of the Kingdom of Thaton.  There to greet the monks were 1000 noted military leaders. It is not clear which ethnic group they belonged to  –  Bamar? Mon? some other?

was originally a Mon stupa called Kyaik-de-att  built to house the strands of hair

It is called a pagoda, a paya, a zedi …

stupa 40 meter (131′)  high    zedi?  paya?  pagoda?  stupa?  bell-shaped

view of the Botahtuang Paya

square base ?  96′ x 96′

once held eight strands of the Buddha’s hair – since distributed elsewhere

name of temple comes from the 1000 military leaders who accompanied the hair back to this spot from India at the time of the Buddha

destroyed in 1943 during WWII thanks to a direct hit during an air raid by RAF bombers intent on destroying the wharves along the Rangoon River

Botahtaung Pagoda terrace - dogs in the shade

Botahtaung Pagoda terrace – dogs in the shade

a recreation of the Bodhi Tree with a seated Buddha statue at Botahtuang Paya

a recreation of the Bodhi Tree with a seated Buddha statue at Botahtaung Paya

monastic residence on the Botahtuang Paya terrace

monastic residence on the Botahtaung Paya terrace

the rebuilt stupa is hollow – inside is a dazzling maze of gold-plated walls – during the rebuilding of the pedi after the war a relic chamber 20′ x 20′ x 6′ some say – others say a just a golden casket int he form of a stupa was apparently found that contained relics o fat eBuddha – a strand of hair and a couple of other bones. also relics including a strand of hair said to belong to the Buddha. Somewhere in the temple is also a tooth of the Buddha donated by the Chinese government in 1960

prayers at the largest of Botatuang Paya's shrine rooms

prayers at the largest of Botatuang Paya’s shrine rooms

Botahtaung Paya shrine room with resident cat

Botahtaung Paya shrine room with resident cat

nat pavilion in sw corner

Botatuang Paya - locked pavilion

Botatuang Paya – locked pavilion

  • Botahtaung Pagoda ,Yangon Myanmar – January 6 ,2013 : Bo Bo Gyi traditionally refers to the name of a guardian spirit (called nat) unique to each Burmese Buddhist temple or pagoda.

Botatuang Pagoda - window bars

Botatuang Pagoda – window bars

another shrine room with seated Buddha figures

another shrine room with seated Buddha figures

SE corner – turtle pool

an overview of Rangoon's Botatuang stupa

an overview of Rangoon’s Botataung stupa

one of the planetary posts around the Botatuang Pagods base

one of the planetary posts around the Botataung Pagoda base

Botatuang Pagoda planetary post close up

Botataung Pagoda planetary post close up

a visual retelling of the Buddha's story

a visual retelling of the Buddha’s story

passageway into the hollow stupa

passageway into the hollow stupa

a dead end in the maze of passages inside the Botataung Pagoda in Yangon

a dead end in the maze of passages inside the Botataung Pagoda in Yangon

The Eight-Spoked Buddhist Wheel with Swiastika centre at the Botataung Pagoda

The Eight-Spoked Buddhist Wheel with swastika centre at the Botataung Pagoda

1/10 of a second – iso of 400 …not a great setting

entrance to the chamber containing the strand of the Buddha's hair

entrance to the chamber containing the strand of the Buddha’s hair

The Buddha's Sacred hair Relic at the Botahtaung

The Buddha’s Sacred hair Relic at the Botahtaung

large terrace around the stupa with a pond and bridges. In the water are terrapin turtles. Feeding them is yet another way of gaining merit to ensure a better future life.

sculpture of Siddhartha Gautama being shielded by Mucalinda the naga or snake king from the rain

sculpture of Siddhartha Gautama being shielded by Mucalinda the naga or snake king from the rain

bridge over the pond with freshwater turtles

bridge over the pond with freshwater turtles

covered bridge by the terrapin turtle pond

covered bridge by the terrapin turtle pond

nuns entering the Botahtuang Pagoda

nuns entering the Botahtaung Pagoda

Sule Paya – The Stupa At The Heart of Yangon

When the taxi dropped me off at my hotel on the west side of downtown Yangon around 1 a.m. I was feeling somewhat spaced out. Being in the air or in waiting lounges for twenty-eight hours and passing through ten time zones on the journey from Toronto can do that to you!  My 12th floor room had a balcony which faced east to the downtown area and after a few hours of needed sleep, I stepped out to see this view – my panorama introduction to what would prove to be a fascinating city!

downtown Rangoon from my hotel window

Rangoon at dawn from my hotel balcony at the Hotel Grand United (Ahlone)

Yangon – made the official name in 1989 though some will still insist on calling it Rangoon, following the British pronunciation – is a sprawling port city of some five million and the gateway to Myanmar – again, still called Burma by some.  As Myanmar’s largest urban centre, Yangon is also the commercial heart of a country whose military rulers had until recently shut it off from the rest of the world.

It was only ten years ago that the political capital was shifted from Yangon north to the newly-constructed Naypyidaw  in the traditional Bamar (or Burman) heartland.   Things in Myanmar are changing now; the military has stepped back somewhat and recent elections resulted in the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party and new hope for better days.

elaborate roadside shrine on Bandoola Road

elaborate roadside shrine on Maha Bandula Road – a seated Buddha figure surrounded by offerings

My first day in Yangon would be spent walking downtown for a visit to the Sule Paya or Pagoda and then, after dropping in at the Strand Hotel for a cup of coffee, a further walk east to the Botatuang Stupa close to the Yangon River. I would then take a taxi back to the hotel for a mid-afternoon nap before ending the day with a visit to Myanmar’s single greatest Buddhist temple complex, the Shwedagon Pagoda four kilometers to the north.

shrine with mustachioed standing figure - or two!

shrine with mustachioed standing figure – or two!

As my walk started, I was struck by the life on the streets.  The sidewalks in particular had been taken over by food vendors and plastic chairs and tables filled the space.  Also difficult to miss were the numerous roadside shrines which, even as I walked by at 8:45 a.m. had already received fresh flowers and offerings.

And since this was my first visit to Myanmar, I would sometimes be left wondering exactly what I was looking at. Take the figure in the photo above.  I still have no idea of who he is and why he is there! He is lacking all the Buddhist symbolism I have learned to understand!   Is he a nat figure, nats being a part of the pre-Buddhist religion of Myanmar which was incorporated into Buddhism when it arrived from India? He does not seem regal enough to be a great ruler – and yet he clearly has his devotees who have already been there that morning to set the tone for another day.

colonial Rangoon map

Downtown Yangon is a relatively new city, having been created by the British as the administrative centre of their Burmese Empire in the mid-1800’s. While there already were a few villages in the area before their arrival, the British developed the land near the river.  Enlarge the map above and you will see that what is now downtown is the area crossed by four or five streets following the river’s course. Along the shore, dock after dock would have been lined with merchant ships and military ones that did the business of Queen Victoria’s empire.

To no surprise, most of the street names on the map above are British in origin. The one I walked down from the left side of the map to the middle was called Dalhousie; you can see that it ends up at the Sule Paya before continuing on the other side.  As the British planners laid out the street plan of their administrative capital, they made the Sule Paya the center or focal point.

approaching the Sule Paya on Mahabandoola Road

approaching the Sule Paya on Mahabandoola Road

The British street names are long gone though some guide-books still refer to some locations by their former colonial names. The street in the photo above was Dalhousie; it is now Mahabandoola (also Maha Bandula) Road.

In the distance to the east you can see the Sule Paya. The heat of the day had not yet kicked in so the three-kiolmeter walk from my hotel was quite pleasant. My initial impression of the city – i.e. the infrastructure – was positive. The city somehow works – just!   Having essentially been abandoned by the military rulers a decade ago, the city has been left with serious sewage and water, electricity grid, and road issues. But even if it is not Zurich, it is still not the chaos of New Delhi either!

getting close to the west side of Rangoon's Sule Paya

getting close to the west side of Rangoon’s Sule Paya

The paya has four entrances, one at each cardinal point, and sits in the middle of a traffic circle.  The base of the paya complex is ringed by small commercial shops selling everything under the sun, including temple offerings and other more-temple related items. In the shot below I am framing the paya from the SE with Maha Bandula Garden behind me.

View of Sule Pagoda from the SE

View of Sule Pagoda from the SE

I entered by the north entrance, after watching a woman with a cage full of birds provide visitors with an opportunity to earn some spiritual merit – the Buddhist equivalent of what I knew as indulgences as a young Roman Catholic Christian. Passers-by can do this by buying one of the birds and setting it free!  Not clear is if the birds later return to their cages or whether the seller must catch a fresh batch of birds for the next day.  Both locals and tourists were stepping up to pay for the release of a bird or two.

outside Sule Paya - a bird seller and her caged birds

outside Sule Paya – a bird seller and her caged birds

the Sula Paya stupa - most of it!

the Sula Paya stupa – most of it! Missing is the hti or umbrella

After buying an entry ticket ($4 US) and leaving my shoes with a shoe keeper, I walked up the two or three flights of stairs to the main terrace.  Thanks to my travels in Nepal,  I then did what I have learned any good Tibetan Buddhist would do – I walked around the stupa in a clockwise direction on the still-cool marble floor.  Watching monks and anyone Burmese walk in whatever direction they wanted soon had me thinking that it really did not matter here. By the end of the day and visits to two more temples I could confirm my observation – in Myanmar there is no correct direction to walk around a stupa!

I would soon be told, however, what did matter – and by an agitated Frenchman no less!

inside the Sule Paya

inside the Sule Paya – panorama – enlarge with a click

The central stupa – some 45 meters (144′) high – has a octogonal base with each of the sides being  7.3 meters (24′) long. The eight sides coincide with the eight “days” of the Buddhist week in Myanmar – well, the usual seven with Wednesday being divided into two to make for a total of eight.  Knowing the day of the week you were born on is essential as it determines where you will be praying and seeking merit at the pagoda. Each day has an area – a planetary post –  at the base of the stupa dedicated to it. The woman below is in front of the shrine associated with her birth day.  In some of the pix that follow there are images of other posts and petitioners offering gifts and praying.

prayer at one of the Sule Paya's eight planetary posts

prayer at one of the Sule Paya’s eight planetary posts

An essential part of most Myanmar Buddhist shrines is a recreation of the Bodhi Tree, the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama sat until he became The Awakened One, the honorific title Buddha meaning “He who is Awake”. I would find out that in Myanmar the overwhelming majority of statues of the seated Buddha depict him in a pose (or mudra) known as Touching the Earth. It represents the very moment that Siddhartha defeated decisively  the temptations of Mara to forsake his mission.

a Bodhi Tree at Sule paya

the base of a Bodhi Tree at Sule Paya

worship at Sule Paya

prayer  at another planetary post at Sule Paya – bells left as gifts by merit seekers

Sule Paya - late morning visitors

Sule Paya – late morning visitors

You will notice that all those engaged in prayer in the presence of the shrine Buddhas have their feet tucked behind them.  This is the way it is done in Myanmar. It was also something that I did not know until that Frenchman I mentioned above made it clear to me that my seating posture – I’ll call it an awkward  quasi-lotus position! –  was disrespectful.  I was too stunned to reply and only later did I think of something I could have said – “Disrespectful – no. Can we agree on “not knowing” instead?”  And so did the Buddha begin his mission to dispel ignorance and nurture wisdom and compassion!

merit seekers at a Sule Paya shrine

merit seekers at a Sule Paya shrine

Near the north entrance of the paya is a replica of a royal barge. Attached to a rope which you pull to wince the boat with your prayer card up to the top of the stupa where the card is dropped off. In this way your petition will be that much more likely to be seen and acted on!  I did not find out the cost of this act of merit seeking but continued on my walk around the stupa, looking into various shrines on both sides of the terrace.

prayer card delivery system at the Sule Paya

Air mail – prayer card delivery system at the Sule Paya

Sule Paya shrine room with seated Buddha figure and offerings

Sule Paya shrine room with seated Buddha figure and offerings

Yangon's Sule Paya - another of the eight planetary posts

Yangon’s Sule Paya – another of the eight planetary posts

top half of statue on the Sule Paya terrace

top half of statue on the Sule Paya terrace

Again, as I stared at the figure above I wondered what his story was. Unlike anything i had seen in other Buddhist societies, he may represent a temple or shrine guardian if that is stylized armour on his body and a helmet on his head.  The strands of gold handing from his ear lobes do have a Buddhist ring to them and perhaps indicate royalty.

monk prays at one of Sule Paya's shrine rooms

monk prays at one of Sule Paya’s shrine rooms

a view of the Sule Paya terrace with central stupa ion the right

a view of the Sule Paya terrace with central stupa ion the right

I visited the paya  before noon on a work day and was one of very few tourists walking around. As the images above show, there were also few locals.  Something to keep in mind if you are planning to visit  – during the day the stupas and temples are mostly lacking the atmosphere that hundreds of  monks and worshippers add to the scene. That evening I would visit the Shwedagon Pagoda close to dusk and – as luck would have it on an auspicious  full moon day.  The atmosphere was electric! It was also a lot cooler and the stone floor was no longer hot to step on.

roof trim detail at the Sule Paya in Rangoon

roof trim detail at the Sule Paya in Rangoon

two egg-shaped faces at Sule Paya shrine

two egg-shaped faces at Sule Paya shrine

Another mystery that Google search has yet to provide me with an explanation for – who do these two egg-shaped heads belong to? Who is that figure standing in between them and what is his story?  And what is it about clocks – most not working – at Myanmar shrines?

a seated Buddha figure in the Touching The Earth mudra at Yangon's Sule Pagoda

a seated Buddha figure in the Touching The Earth mudra at Yangon’s Sule Pagoda

The Sule Paya sits in the center of the Yangon created by the British some 150 years ago. As it stepped out, I faced City Hall, that white European structure you see below. Not in the image but just south of it is a park, once called Fytche Square with a marble statue of the Queen at its center.  The park is now known as Mahabandoola Park  and the Queen has been replaced with an obelisk celebrating national independence! (Maha Bandula was the commander of Burmese military forces who died fighting the British in the 1820’s.)

Yangon City Hall from the steps of the Sule Paya

Across the street from the Sule Paya  and to the left of  the city hall in the above photo is a Bengali Sunni mosque.

Yangon mosque next to the Sule Pagoda

Yangon mosque next to the Sule Pagoda

My visit to Sule Paya had lasted about an hour and was my on-the-ground  introduction to  Buddhism in Myanmar It was another of the many instances when the intellectualized and philosophical  Buddhism that I thought to be the “real” Buddhism did not coincide with any one of the actual real-world Buddhisms of those who live it every day in their own way.

If there is a reason to travel, I guess that would be it – to be provided with opportunities to unlearn what you think you know.  Sule Paya makes for a good first temple to visit on arrival in Yangon but it pales in comparison to the awe-inspiring Shwedagon. An upcoming post will take a look at this religious site – one of the Buddhist world’s greatest.

Next Post (coming soon): Shwedagon: Myanmar’s  Most Majestic Buddhist Site

Myanmar’s Inle Lake: Things To See And Do – Day Two

Previous Post – Myanmar’s Inle Lake: Things To Do – Day One

On our first day in the Inle Lake area we did what most do – we spent the day boating around the lake and paying shore visits to markets, temples, and crafts cottages. Day Two would be a bit different. With our hotel in Nyaung Shwe as the starting point, we spent the morning bicycling down as far as the hilltop Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery just south of the Hupin Inle Resort, making a number of village visits along the way.

Then, after a return to our hotel for a brief rest, we bused in the opposite direction to spend a couple of hours chilling and sipping a variety of locally-produced wines at the newly-established Red Mountain Estate Winery.

Scroll down and you’ll see pix of a pleasant day watching everyday life in the villages and crafts cottages at the top of Inle Lake.

Nyaung Shwe with roads west and east

Day Two’s routes west and east from our Nyaung Shwe hotel

The bicycles we rented were fairly clunky Chinese ones that at least looked like mountain bikes.  Not finding a frame large enough, I made do with a smaller bike and raised the seat as far as the post would allow.  After heading west from town on a flat dirt road  past fields like the one in the pix below, we came to a T-junction and turned left(i.e. south).

fields on the side of the road from Nyaung Shwe to Khaung Daing

fields on the side of the road from Nyaung Shwe to Khaung Daing

At the junction was a sign pointing in the direction of the Hot Springs, one of the big attractions on the north west corner of the lake.

the road to the Khaung Daing and the hot springs

the road to the Khaung Daing and the hot springs

We stopped for a few moments and stocked up on cold drinks for the ride.  The bottles in the photo below are filled not with carbonated water but with gasoline, enough to keep a motorcycle going for a few more kilometers!

shaded eating area - corner store on the way to Khaung Daing

shaded eating area – junction store on the way to Khaung Daing

We did get off our bicycles for a visit to a sugarcane factory and watched the production process which took place outdoors in an open environment that would fail strict cleanliness rules.

sugary treat production in Khaung Daing village

sugary treat production in Khaung Daing village

containers over oven fires

containers over oven fires

Back on our bikes it was past the Hot Springs or at least the temple-like building into which the water from the hot springs has been piped into a swimming pool as well as a number of private bathing areas.  Not going in may have cost us a interesting cultural experience!  I contented myself with reading over the rules and regulations posted for the patrons’ benefit.

the entrance to Khaung Daing's claim to fame - the hot springs

rules and regulatons at Khaung Daing's Hot Spring

On our morning ride and walk through the Intha village of Khaung Daing we also saw  more locals involved in large-scale food production. I the pic below is what I assume are pressed tofu sheets drying in the sun.

sheets of tofu out to dry at Khaung Daing cottage

sheets of tofu out to dry at Khaung Daing cottage

Apparently the village is famous for its split yellow pea tofu, a different spin on the usual soybean tofu.

Khaung Daing - drying mats cover yard

Khaung Daing – drying mats cover yard

Khaung Daing - beans drying on mats in the sun

Khaung Daing – beans drying on mats in the sun

A hilly ride further south eventually brought us just past the Hu Pin Inle Khaung Daing Village Resort and a large parking lot which sits at the bottom of a series of steps leading up the hill to the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery.  Some of us walked up the steps to check it out.  While we did not find anyone up there, we were rewarded with views of the north end of Inle Lake.  Given the heat and humidity the haze did reduce visibility as we framed different photos.

looking north to Nyaung Shwe from hilltop monastery by Hu Pin resort

looking north to Nyaung Shwe from hilltop monastery by Hu Pin resort

The monastery interior was fairly humble and had the usual inner shrine with a seated Buddha figure.  Following me around was the little bhikku you see below – a  curious grey and white cat.

Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery - central shrine

Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery – central shrine

monastery cat - Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery S of Khaung Daing

monastery cat – Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery S of Khaung Daing

Back outside I took the pic below of the stupas on a hillside to the north of the hilltop monastery. The combination of the afternoon haze and the fact that the camera iso was still set at 1600 from inside the monastery made for the fuzzy – let’s call it Impressionistic! -painting below!

stupas in the hills west of Nyaung Shwe as seen from Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery S of Khaung Daing

stupas in the hills SW of Nyaung Shwe as seen from hilltop Monastery S of Khaung Daing

On our way back to Nyaung Shwe we did stop for a few moments at the Hupin Inle Resort before returning to our hotel, another Hupin property.

the entrance to the Hu Pin Inle Lake Resort

the entrance to the Hu Pin Inle Lake Resort

some of the Hu Pin Cottages on stilts on Inle Lake

some of the Hu Pin Cottages on stilts on Inle Lake

Nyaung Shwe

looking down on main street Nyaung Shwe

looking down on main street Nyaung Shwe

cottage with geese by a Nyaung Shwe canal

cottage with geese by a Nyaung Shwe canal

A popular diversion in Nyaung Shwe is to hire a bicycle or a tuk tuk and visit the winery to the south-east.  For $2. U.S. you can sample four different wines produced at Red Mountain Estate. Strolling around the vinyard and checking out the state-of-the-art European vats and other equipment is a clue that the investors are serious about establishing wine production here.  A couple of the wines were not bad – I guess “a work in progress” would best describe this stage of the winery’s development.

the four wine glasses of the afternoon wine tasting at Red Mountain Estate

the four wine glasses of the afternoon wine tasting at Red Mountain Estate

the iron oxide rich earth that gives the winery its name - Red Mountain Estate

the iron oxide rich earth that gives the winery its name – Red Mountain Estate

Other than the wine sampling, the real attraction is the view of Inle Lake in the late afternoon as the sun begins to set behind the hills on the west side.  The tables were filled mostly with Europeans in their twenties living the good life on the cheap in this “Venice of Burma”!

Red Mountain Estate wine tasters savouring the late afternoon

Red Mountain Estate wine tasters savouring the late afternoon

looking towards Nyaung Shwe from Red Mountain Estate Winery

looking towards Nyaung Shwe from Red Mountain Estate Winery

the scene at Red Mountain Estate near Nyaung Shwe

the scene at Red Mountain Estate near Nyaung Shwe

Something we did not do was visit any of the temples and shrines in Nyaung Shwe itself, except for the monastery just north of the town.  Perhaps, after three days of Bagan stupas and temples, and another three in Mandalay doing pretty much the same, a visit to Inle Lake is a reprieve (even if not 100%) from more of the same.

The next morning we would fly back to Yangon from the regional airport at Heho, a short drive from Nyaung Shwe.  Our quick tour of some of the highlights of Myanmar over, folks would be heading back to the U.K. in a couple of days.

I had arranged to stay in Yangon for another four days, and would use that time to get to know Yangon a bit better as well as visit the once-capital of Pegu (Bago), some 70 kilometers NE of Yangon, a more recent once- capital!  Soon to come –  the attractions of Yangon. In the meanwhile, take a look at these posts for pix of Bago and its religious momuments –

A One-Day Tour of Bago, Myanmar – Checklist of Must-See Sites

Bago’s Shwemawdaw Pagoda – Myanmar’s Tallest Stupa

Bago’s Hintha Gon and the Rebuilt Kanbawzathadi Palace

An Afternoon In Bago – Visiting the Reclining Buddhas

An Afternoon In Bago – the Mahazedi, the Shwegugale Paya, and More