Down The Coulonge – Day 11: From Chutes Coulonge (Km 13) To The Ottawa River (km 0)

Previous Post- Day 10: From Chute A L’Ours (Km 43) To Chutes Coulonge (Km 15)

  • distance: 14 km (missing about 2 km from power station in-take to power station outflow
  • time:  start – 8:45 a.m. ; finish – 11:20 a.m.
  • portages/rapids: 0/0
  • weather: Sunny all day, some clouding over in the late p.m. when we were on the Ottawa River
  • campsite: Esprit Rafting take-out spot at Baie de Letts in Rocher Fendu’s Middle Channel
  • Natural Resources Canada topo map sheet: Fort-Coulonge 031 F 15


We had arranged an 8:00 a.m. departure time with Dennis the evening before so set the alarm for 6 a.m. to make sure we’d be ready.  We walked up to the cottage that serves as a spot where the river guides gathered for breakfast. Lots of coming and going and chitchat going on!  It was 6:15 and in a back room Jim Coffey was already at work on emails.  We made use of the kettle and the kitchen supplies to prepare our usual oatmeal breakfast and filtered coffee.

That done we went to see Jim with the day’s maps. I had dug up some information on the rapids and falls of the Middle Channel of Rocher Fendu and just wanted to confirm some details with him.  He had also made a canoe trip down to Ottawa a few years ago and recalled for us some details of the final section from the Deschenes Rapids through Chaudiere Falls to the Rideau Canal. We definitely appreciated the time he took to confirm and correct the info we had.

We were off at 8. It was about a twenty-minute drive to the bottom of the Chutes Coulonge. Watching Dennis acknowledge the driver of one passing vehicle after another, we joked that he would seem to know pretty much everyone on the road. He didn’t disagree!

The satellite image below shows at least the first bit of the ride with the chutes being somewhere beyond the top right of the image. The total distance is about 10 kilometers.


sunrise on the Ottawa at Esprit Rafting base camp

sunrise on the Ottawa at Esprit Rafting base camp

Dennis dropped us off not far from the outflow station you see in the photo below. It sits at the end of the gorge section about 1.5 kilometers below where we had taken out our canoe the afternoon before.

the Generating Station building below the Chutes Coulonge

the Generating Station building below the Chutes Coulonge


the entrance to the Coulonge gorge from below

the entrance to the Coulonge gorge from below

We paddled up the gorge a short way but soon saw that we wouldn’t be going very far.  Lack of water meant we were looking at a rocky walk if we wanted to go further up. Another day and we may have done so but waiting for us were the portages of the Rocher Fendu section of the Ottawa River.  Back we went – past the outflow station and on down the Coulonge to the Ottawa.

looking up the Coulonge Gorge from the bottom

looking up the Coulonge Gorge from the bottom

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

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

As this post’s first map above makes clear, the Coulonge does some serious meandering in its final ten kilometers.  Surprisingly there are very few signs of development along the tree-lined banks and sandy shoreline.

Soon we came to the Marchand Covered Bridge, which dates back to 1898 and stretches five hundred feet (152 meters) across the river. A key Pontiac country landmark, it is famous for being one of the few remaining bridges of this type in Quebec.  Its barnyard rusty red colour certainly makes it stand out!

the Marchand Covered Bridge over the Coulonge near its mouth

approaching the Marchand Covered Bridge over the Coulonge near its mouth

the Marchand Covered Bridge - now closed - over the Coulonge

the Marchand Covered Bridge – now closed – over the Coulonge

view of the bridge from river left

view of the bridge from river left

Unfortunately, it is closed to traffic.  For the past half-century, another more modern cement bridge downstream of the Marchant has handled the heavy vehicles that the Marchant was never meant to deal with. Not clear is how long the bridge has been closed or if it will ever open to light traffic again.

staring into the Marchand Covered Bridge - malheuresement fermé!.jpg

staring into the Marchand Covered Bridge – malheureusement fermé!


And then we scampered back down to the river and our canoe.  Over the next thirty minutes, we’d finish our Coulonge River trip. In the pic below we are just about to pass Coulonge Beach on the left; on our right is Île à Arnold.  And on the far shore on the other side of the Ottawa River?  That would be Ontario!  We had done the Coulonge…but there was little time to celebrate.  We were already thinking about the next bit and in particular, the possible complications of the rapids and falls of the Middle Channel of Rocher Fendu.

the mouth of the Coulonge!

the mouth of the Coulonge!

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

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

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7 Responses to Down The Coulonge – Day 11: From Chutes Coulonge (Km 13) To The Ottawa River (km 0)

  1. Jeff Ward in Vernon BC says:

    A group of us are planning a canoe trip in Wabakimi next August. We are all experienced wilderness travellers. We are thinking about the Flindt River to Wabakimi Lake and then out on Caribou/Little Caribou Lake. how many portages are there between Flindt River Landing and Wabakimi Lake. we want to minimize the number of portages we do.

    • true_north says:

      Jeff, I just spent an hour going through the maps and counted 34 portages on your proposed route. BTW – you’ve come up with a great intro to Wabakimi; you may well be back for a second helping!

      Your single best resource for this trip – rapids indicated, portages and distances; campsites is

      Volume Three of the Wabakimi Canoe Route Maps

      It costs $30. (including shipping) and helps support the volunteers who not only put the maps together but first cleared the portage trails and campsites which the maps highlight. It is both an investment in essential information and helps pay the costs to have the crews do their work.

      It has all the possible routes you might consider to get from Flindt Landing on the Flindt River over to the take-out on Little Caribou lake (about 6 km by road from Armstrong Station) . A shuttle can be arranged with Clement Quenville or with Mattice Lake Outfitters.

      Here are all the possible portages you may face. As I mentioned, thirty-four in all.

      In listing them I am somewhat shocked because on paper it sounds like way too much carrying and no fun at all! It was not that bad. Most carries are short; a number are not necessary. It varies from year to year. The key thing is being organized and making your carries as efficient as possible. Given your experience I am sure you’ve got the routine down well.

      Heathcote Lake into Heafur Lake 50 meter portage

      North of Heafur Lake – three short portages – (25, 150, 35 m) you may be able to line on or two of them.

      Flindt River to Flindt Lake – two short portages of 66 and 125 m

      If you go via Flet Lake two portages of 220 and 170

      North end of Flindt Lake – 115 m portage

      Four more ports (85, 240, 90, 120) – before you get to the south end of Big Island

      North end of Big island – two ports – 50; 182

      About 2 km north of N end of Big island – three ports of 284; 259;55

      Just before you enter Tew lake – 4 (123; 335; 179; 31)

      From Tew Lake to Wabakimi Lake – four portages marked 164; 124; 99; 131

      From Lower Wabakimi into Smoothrock Lake – – portages of 233; 470; 251; 309

      From Smoothrock Lake (Caribou Bay) upriver to Caribou Lake via Caribou River – 46; 57; 66; 140

      From Caribou lake into Little Caribou – 254 m portage

      Little Caribou – maybe 2 km from the take out point – 50 m portage. You may be able to walk it through

      See the last couple of days of our 2010 trip down the Allan Water River and then back up to Little Caribou Lake for some specifics on the last two or three days of your route – there are also some useful links there to other trip reports including the one we found most helpful by Ken Kokanie.

      If you have any more specific questions feel free to email me. I may have the answer!

  2. Phil says:

    Hello True North!

    Thanks for sharing this so many years ago!

    I’m not sure if you remember this path, but is the Chutes Coulonge Park area completely impassable by water? Or did you take in and out because the water was too low during the time you went in the year( if so, what month of the year was it?).

    Not sure if you’re still active here, but hoping you might be able to shed some light. We actually bought a little piece of land not to far from the golf course up the river and was curious to see if we can take our kayaks down to Mansfield et Pontefract ‘s local beach.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    • true_north says:

      Phil, the stretch of the river from the intake station to down on the bottom at the power station is not paddle-able. There is a dam up at the top that you are not going over! From the power station at the bottom back up towards the dam was pretty much dry when we were there in August.

      We got shuttled from the top to a point by the power station by the folks who run the whitewater rafting company out of Davidson – Esprit Rafting. The post has all the details and maps. Most people just end their coulonge canoe trips above the dam. Their vehicles are usually waiting for them at the golf course or at the Park parking lot.

      Not sure where the beach you are referring to is located. On the Ottawa River? If so, you will be putting that kayak on top of your vehicle for a short drive to the beach.

      • Phil says:

        Thanks so much for responding!

        The beach is after the dam if you continued along the Coulonge River what looks like after the dam from what I can see the maps, not too far from the Marchand Covered Bridge (by the way, this just reopened this year after going through many renovations).

        The little lot of land we own is maybe about 400 meters from the golf course. I was looking at your post # 9 maps and locations, and thinking it would be nice to drop our kayaks around the 35km just after the Wilson Rapids you described.

        My partner and I generally go on flat waters and are definitely not technical kayakers. Would you think if I could find a drop in along the 35 km mark that the waters are not too fast moving that a beginner could traverse? We’ve been kayaking for about 2.5 years now, and haven’t don’t any “rapid” style water.

        Any suggestions or thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated!

        Thank you!

      • true_north says:

        According to our map, From Km 35 on down to the Terry Fox bridge is a series of continuous swifts. Swifts are Grade 0 rapids…just fast-moving water and fun to ride.

        While the Coulonge water level can be very low by late summer, you should have a blast going down if the water levels are okay. You will need to arrange a way of getting back to your vehicle at the end of the ride; paddling upriver may not be that much fun!

  3. Phil says:

    Hello True North!

    Thanks for the advice and thanks for documenting this so well! You’re quite the adventurer!

    Good luck in your next travels!

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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