- distance: 14 km (missing about 2 km from power station in-take to power station out-flow
- 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.
Dennis dropped us off not far from the out-flow 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.