- distance: 30 km
- time: start – 8:15 a.m. ; finish – 4:30 p.m.
- portages/rapids: 1/17 + 2 DNRs
- – W-R5 C1T 1000m
- – W-R6 C1 20m
- – DNR Falls PRR/L 70m at exit Lac Pomponne
- – W-R7 C2 30m or LRR “Double Trouble”
- – W-R8 C2 300m “Bridge Rapids”
- – W-R9 C1T 30m
- – W-R10 C2T 225m
- – W-R11 C1 75m
- – W-R12 C2T
- – W-R13 C1T 40m
- – W-R14 C1 followed by swifts
- – W-R15 C1 30m
- – W-R16 C1 50m
- – W-R17 C2 50m “keel hauler”
- – W-R18 C1 30m left of island
- – W-R19 C1T 25m
- – W-R20 C1T 35m “rocks!”
- – DNR C3T LO 25m
- – W-R21 C2T 275m “Tall Pine”
- weather: sunny and cloudy in a.m.; overcast by noon and then gentle rain for rest of the day including setting up camp
- campsite: CRCS03 Wilson’s “Tall Pine” campsite at the end of the portage
Back in 2014 when Max and I paddled down the Bloodvein River system, we had spent a week in the headwaters section in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park on the Ontario side. When we got to Artery Lake we knew that a different sort of trip was about to unfold. We had that same feeling at the start of Day 3 on the Coulonge. Like the Bloodvein River from Artery Lake to Lake Winnipeg with its 80+ sets of rapids and falls, the Coulonge from Lac Ward on down has 65. And even more so than the rapids on the Bloodvein, there are more Class I and easy Class IIs to deal with as well as 40 kilometers of swifts and fast water. The Coulonge makes for an excellent river for beginner canoe trippers!
Our Day 3 menu is listed above, derived from the Wilson canoe tripping guidebook Rivers Of The Upper Ottawa Valley. The W in front of each Rapid # (ie.g. W-R5) is an acknowledgement of the source; we recommend that paddlers get a copy of the ultimate guide to the river. While it is 25 years old, it still is your best friend in pointing out the challenges of the river and getting advice on how to meet them. Perhaps one year soon an update will note the more recent changes to the roads, dams, and bridges as well as provide more up-to-date info on take-out options at Chutes Coulonge. There is certainly more development on the river – cottages, lodges, camps – than Wilson noted back in the early 1990’s.
We would see some of that new development this very day.
By 8:15 the canoe was loaded. I stepped back for one last shot of the campsite and parking lot while Max readied the canoe and then it was down Lac Ward. It was an overcast morning but there was no wind; we made easy progress – our typical cruising speed is about 6 clicks an hour – and, thanks to almost a kilometer of swifts, we sped up a bit as we went down the narrow channel between Ward and Pomponne.
There is a logging road bridge that crosses the river in the stretch between Ward and Pomponne. Just after I took the photo below and tucked the camera away, a logging truck with a full load came rumbling over the bridge – a missed photo op for sure! One kilometer later we were in Lac Pomponne proper as the river widened.
At the bottom of Lac Pomponne was our first portage of the day, a 70-meter carry on river right around a set of falls. This is what it looked like as we approached –
We spent about 15 minutes walking the portage around the rapids. This is what they look like from the put-in –
it was followed a few minutes later by W-R7 (see Google sat image above) which we lined on river right. Not far down from there was a flat area – the end of a lane – with a trailer. I went up to check out the camping possibilities and the state of the trailer.
A few minutes later a quick lining job got us around a bony set of rapids. Behind us was another bridge crossing the river. Nearby were a couple of newly-built cottages on river right with easy access to the road that runs by.
It was shortly after noon when we stopped for lunch at the following spot on river right. There was room there for a tent or two.
The overcast sky gave way to light rain by 1 p.m. and for the next six hours it would not stop.
The goal for the day had been the bottom of W-R21 which Wilson labelled “Tall Pine” Rapids; his map indicated a campsite at the end of the carry. As the list above makes clear, there were a number of swifts and Class I rapids to deal with – often by lining difficult short stretches – before we got there.
There was also W-R20, pictured below, with an initial ledge which we “lifted over” on river left before hopping in for a bumpy ride down the rest of the rapids.
It was still raining when we got to the take-out for W-R21 (“Tall Pine”). Rather than the 275 meters which Wilson noted, our gps track came out to 385. The trail itself was in good shape and there was indeed more than one tall pine at the camping area end of the carry.
We started off by setting up the 10′ X 14′ green tarp. Soon the tent went up underneath it. To create a bit more dry space we also set up the yellow tarp right next to it. We were pretty much soaked right through so the next thing was to get into our dry clothes and warm up a bit.
It had been another good day on the river even with the afternoon rain. We got supper going and then were treated to a surprise – the rain stopped and out came the sun and, as a bonus, a rainbow arched across the sky.