Down The Coulonge – Day 3: From Lac Ward To “Tall Pine Rapids” (Km 183)

Previous Post – Day Two: La Vérendrye Headwaters – Lac Grand To Lac Ward (Km.217)

  • 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.

cr_d03a

cr_d03b

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.

Lac Ward campsite - Day 3 morning view

Lac Ward campsite – Day 3 morning view

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.

Cologne logging road bridge just before lac Pomponne

Coulonge logging road bridge just before Lac Pomponne

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 –

ripples at the bottom of Lac Pomponne

ripples at the bottom of Lac Pomponne

We spent about 15 minutes walking the portage  around the rapids.  This is what they look like from the put-in –

bottom of rapids after Lac Pomponne

bottom of rapids after Lac Pomponne

lac-pomponne-bottom-falls-and-w-r7

Max intent on getting his paddle groove on

Max getting his paddle groove on

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.

flat open space just south of the rapids on river right - great for group camp

flat open space just south of the rapids on river right – great for group camp

one trashed trailer on the Coulonge south of Lac Pomponne

one trashed trailer on the Coulonge south of Lac Pomponne

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.

logging road bridge and rapids south of Lac Pomponne

logging road bridge and rapids south of Lac Pomponne

2nd-cottage-on-upper-coulonge

cottage-on-the-coulonge

 

 

 

 

campsite-on-the-upper-coulonge

Possible Campsite at N46° 57′ 41.1″ W77° 16′ 21.4″

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.

campsite-upper-coulonge

campsite at N46° 56′ 30.4″ W77° 15′ 29.5

The overcast sky gave way to light rain by 1 p.m. and for the next six hours it would not stop.

a newly built motel/lodge on the banks of the Coulonge

a newly built motel/lodge on the banks of the Coulonge – N46° 55′ 22.1″ W77° 16′ 09.1

motellodge-on-the-coulonge

gravel bar on the upper Coulonge

gravel bar on the upper Coulonge

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.

Start of rapids W20 - the set just before Tall Pine Rapids

Start of rapids W-R20 – the set just before Tall Pine Rapids

lining-past-the-ledge-of-w20-time-to-hop-back-in

lining past the ledge of W-R20 – we ran the rest

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.

looking at the end stretch of W21 (Tall Pine Rapids) from the portage trail

looking at the end stretch of W-R21 (Tall Pine Rapids) from the portage trail on river right

looking-from-tall-pine-portage-at-the-rapids-on-a-wet-afternoon

looking-from-tall-pine-portage-at-the-rapids-on-a-wet-afternoon

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.

max-looking-over-our-tarp-job-at-tall-pine-camp

Max looking over our tarp job at Tall Pine camp

tar over tent and second tarp as covered porch at Tall Pine

tar over tent and second tarp as covered porch at Tall Pine

max-tending-the-cook-stoves-at-tall-pine-rapids

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.

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

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

rays of sun and a rainbow after the big rain - view from Tall Pine camp

rays of sun and a rainbow after the big rain – view from Tall Pine camp

Next Post – Day Four: From Tall Pine Rapids (Km 183) To Km 157

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2 Responses to Down The Coulonge – Day 3: From Lac Ward To “Tall Pine Rapids” (Km 183)

  1. Vineca Gray says:

    I am humbled by your rigorous (and beautiful) treks. My efforts to become a strong paddler just hit a new level. At my GoodLife gym I do 2000k workouts a few times a week on a gorgeous Concept 2 rowing machine. Not entirely surprised that our gym has these machines. Silken Laumann (Canadian Olympiad) partner to David Patchell-Evans, founder of GoodLife.

    I look forward to the day that I get to test my strength on water…it has been about 30 years since I last paddled!

    Enjoy your posts always and this spectacular Canadian autumn! Vineca

    • true_north says:

      My bro and I have been doing these canoe trips most of our lives -we grew up in the bush of the Abitibi region some 400 km. north of here (i.e. Toronto). For us, it’s like going to summer camp! Given your weekly rowing workouts you sound like you’re ready to get out there again too! A highly recommended trip – with no portaging – might be a four or five day trip along the Georgian Bay coast to the south of Killarney. The only potential hazard is the wind. The campsites on the coast are fantastic. You could do it in a canoe with a fellow paddler or in a kayak. Killarney Outfitters would be able to make it happen – and it even does organized trips. See this post for more info. We liked it so much we’re thinking of a return visit!

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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