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 the explanation!); room for perhaps two 4-person tents or three or four 2-person tents; hygiene facilities minimal
- topos: Cobden 031F/10 ; Arnprior 031F/08 (click on titles to access tif files at the Govt of Canada website)
There was little drama on this day as we pulled our way 33 kilometers downriver 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 campsites 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!
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 campsite but, given the shade, the trees provided it would do for lunch.
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!
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!
We rounded Pointe Ross and scanned the shoreline but did not really see a suitable spot for our four-person tent. And then, this –
We passed the spit on the west side of Baie du Chat. There were a couple of islands but both had cottages on 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.
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.
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.
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.
And perhaps twenty minutes later, one last click of the button to capture the changing light.
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-kilometer portage recommended at the Ontario Power Generation website would be do-able. Time would tell!