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 in my Dropbox folder)

cr_d13a

cr_d13b

cr_d14aThere 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 Chats day of our trip and that meant no rapids and no portages.  The lake ends another seven kilometers downriver from where we eventually stopped but that would be on tomorrow’s menu.  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 Chats – 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 by.  Another potential bonus in the morning is 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.  Better 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 and much too early to be stopping for the day!

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 sliver of an 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.  Such optimists!

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. But –  why spoil the illusion of a wilderness canoe trip while you can still pretend!

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

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