The Ojibwe Rock Paintings of Killarney’s Collins Inlet

Related Post:  Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part Two

N.B. The post above is one of two on our mini canoe trip around Philip Edward Island. In it I devoted some space to the pictographs of the Collins Inlet site.  What you’ll see below is just the section on the pictographs, expanded and updated.  If you are interested in the logistics of the canoe trip, check out the post above – and Part One.


On the last day of the four we spent paddling around Killarney’s Philip Edward Island we paddled the western section of Collins Inlet from Mill Lake back to the Chikanishing parking lot. This “inside passage” from Beaverstone Bay all the way across the north side of Philip Edward Island was a favourite of the voyageurs of old, as it gave them a brief respite from the potentially turbulent waters of Georgian Bay.

Collins Inlet Pictograph Site

Just beyond Ambush Narrows, said to be the site of an Ojibwe ambush of invading Iroquois warriors during the Algonquian/Iroquoian War of the mid-1600’s, we paddled up to the Collins Inlet pictograph site.


On a twelve-meter (about 40′) stretch of the rock face pictured above and below are faded red ochre rock paintings left by Ojibwe shamans or vision quest-ers sometime in the last three or four hundred years. They are not easy to see and, in fact, we did not see all of them on our visit. The reason – we only learned about their existence afterward. We would have looked a bit harder had we known!

looking west the Collins Inlet rock face with the pictographs

looking west  at the Collins Inlet rock face with the pictographs

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great LakesTo understand the site and its images, I turned to two sources.  The first was Selwyn Dewdney and the 1962 first edition of his  Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes (Click on the title to access the text.) Dewdney visited the area in 1959.  The book has a sketch of the site and a brief description of the some of the pictographs.

discovering-rock-art-cover_300x454The other source was  Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders,  a study of a dozen Ontario Anishinaabe rock image sites by Thor Conway.  It was published in the fall of 2016 – i.e. after our trip.  Conway worked at the site on at least a couple of occasions in the 1980’s (1983 and 1989). I’ll use Conway’s organizational approach to examine the site more closely. He discusses the site in terms of four “panels” with each panel being a distinct collection of one or more rock paintings. Panel I is the furthest to the east and Panel IV is about twelve meters to the west.

As for Dewdney, of the more than 260 sites he would eventually visit,  the Collins Inlet site was #39.  He was there early in the summer in 1959, having been at Mazinaw Lake (#37, #38) in the days  just before. He would go from Collins Inlet up to Temagami to see the Diamond Lake site (#40) afterwards.

Here is Dewdney’s description of the site. He approached it from the west so the first panel he describes – one solitary image – is Panel IV in Conway’s analysis.

The Collins Bay site is in the conventional red again, on the rock-lined inner passage that the voyageurs used when Georgian Bay got too rough for comfort. Here is an animal head as bodiless as that on the Quetico Lake site. Here again is our ubiquitous—though somewhat battered thunderbird, and tally marks, I should judge, rather than the alternative canoe.

He includes the following sketch in his book (See pp. 92-93 for the sketch and text.)


And that is it for his treatment of the site.  Missing from his sketch is what Conway identified as Panel I; also missing is any discussion of the other images in the vertical collection of Panel II.

On our visit to the site, the image below captures all of what we were able to see. We saw Panel II with its four levels of pictographs, one on top of the other.  About three feet to the left of this vertical panel is what Conway labels as Panel III, a lone thunderbird image, barely discernible.

Collins Inlet Pictographs

Collins Inlet Pictographs

Panel I is not in the image, but to the right and down closer to the waterline.  Conway’s sketch of the image is accompanied by a quote from Joe Wabegijig of Manitoulin Island,  who first saw the pictographs in 1901 when he was twelve.   We learn of the Panel I image  that “…there was a head with horns also marked in red.”  Conway notes that it is possibly a  large head or mask but does concede that it may be something else entirely.

the main panel of pictographs at Collins Inlet

Panel II: the main panel of pictographs at Collins Inlet

Panel II:

This is the largest of the site’s panels.  Dewdney comments only on the bottom image.  I count twelve lines in his sketch.  As he mentions, an alternative explanation is of a canoe with riders, indicated by the vertical lines.  I’d go with the canoe.  A calcite vein interrupts the canoe but you can see the continuation on the bottom right of the image above with four more riders indicated.

This canoe image is a common one in the Canadian Shield pictograph country and is often interpreted as a war canoe with a number of warriors and as a symbol of strength and power. This could be why it appears so close to Ambush Narrows, given its association with a bloody Anishinaabe encounter with Iroquois raiders from the south.  Conway labels it as a canoe in his discussion of the panel.

Above the canoe is an image which most will assume is that of the Christian cross.  If it is indeed a cross then the question arises – is it really the Christian cross?  Some have argued that it is an ancient symbol used by the Midewiwin, the exclusive society of Ojibwe “medicine men” to indicate the fourth degree of attainment.  Others argue that the Medewiwin itself was a post-contact nativist response to the incoming Europeans and that it repurposed the cross, an obvious power symbol to the Europeans, and gave it a Ojibwe-related meaning.   See here for further discussion of this contentious issue!

Of the Christian interpretation Thor Conway concludes –

This is unlikely. When you look for identical images at other Ojibwa rock art sites, you will find almost every example is painted above or below an animal image. This remains an intriguing and, as yet unexplained clue.

In looking at it I thought that it looked like a stylized and simple representation of a bird, an eagle (a totem symbol)  perhaps or even Animikii, the Thunderbird. As opposed to a simple “plus sign”,  the image bulges in the vertical middle and the top of the vertical line seems to have a beak point to the right.  Dewdney unfortunately does not comment on this image or the ones above it in this panel.

Update: here is a version of the image I played around with in Adobe Lightroom, hoping to simulate the DStretch effect.  I altered the saturation and emphasized the ochre hue.  The result?  The beak looking to the right that I thought I was seeing is not there!


Above the Animikii or cross image is what appears to be the rather rectangular and headless body of an animal.  At the rear is an upright tail . Conway identifies it as a dog.  I thought it could be a crude representation of Mishipeshu, the underwater lynx.  To the left of the raised tail of the animal is a remnant of what could be a canoe image.

horned snake pictograph at Diamond Lake

horned snake picto at Diamond Lake

The zig zag lines at the very top of this small panel – well, again, who can say.  In Dewdney’s sketch they appear as indistinct smudges.  Of the jumble of lines Conway makes the following – a possible “shorebird track” and a canoe with paddler image. Bird footprints also  appear at the Diamond Lake site. They may be statements of clan affiliation. What also appears at the Temagami-area site is  the horned snake image. Perhaps the zig zag lines depicts a more horizontal version of  the two-horned snake (Mishiginebig  in Ojibwe) often depicted along with Mishipeshu.  Its head and horns would be at the right side – i.e. the part of the rock painting that Dewdney did capture. It is the horned snake image at Diamond Lake in Temagami that I thought of as I tried to make sense of the zig zag lines here.

N.B.  The analysis I provided above is likely off the mark! (Editor: Likely! Try 100%. While Animikii, Mishipeshu, and Mishiginebig are indeed figures from Ojibwe myth and were common subjects to be painted,  the human mind has a knack for finding , even  imposing,  meaning and connection even on events and markings that have nothing to do with what the viewer wills them to be!

Panel III:

To the left of the vertical panel is a lone painting seen in the image below described by Dewdney as “our ubiquitous—though somewhat battered thunderbird“.  Looking at Dewdney’s sketch of the image, he was not able to capture much of it the day he was there.  Perhaps the angle of the sun?   Animikii’s body is  a triangle shape; the beak on top faces to  the right.

Collins Inlet - lone Thunderbird pictograph

Collins Inlet – lone Thunderbird pictograph

Panel IV:

dewdney-quetico-lake-picto-site-animal-headA pictograph we did not see at all was the one Dewdney described as ” an animal head as bodiless as that on the Quetico Lake site“.  I looked through his sketches and found this one from the mentioned Quetico Lake site; it was of the head and antlers of a woodland caribou.

Woodland caribou in Killarney?  Conway includes interviews with a number of Ojibwe elders who have stories going back to the mid-1800’s when the caribou was in fact a part of the ecosystem of the area. A reader of this post was kind enough to send me a photo of the Panel IV caribou head.

Collins Inlet - Panel IV - caribou head

Collins Inlet – Panel IV – caribou head

He also sent a version of the image that had been processed using a pictograph enhancing application called DStretch.  Seeing what it does makes me realize that I need to get a copy of the app too!  What is really necessary are DStretch-ed versions of all the panels!

The antlers are not as dramatic as those on the Quetico Lake caribou head but other aspects of the representation correspond. Conway’s book also includes photos of the rice paper drawings he made on site of the caribou head – and of an almost vertical ocher slash located above the caribou head.  The bottom of this slash may appear in the image below.


And that is it for the Collins Inlet Pictograph Site.  Here is an overview shot I took of the rock face with the various markings indicated.  Missing from it are Panel I (somewhere to the bottom right) and Panel IV. ( It  is just to the left on the image I framed.)   Already knowing that they are there will hopefully make it that much more likely that you will see them!


As indicated above, there is some minor evidence of graffiti a few feet to the left of (or west of) the Panel III Thunderbird image. You can see the initials J.P. in the middle. Just above them is the year number 1939 and more initials.

Update: After looking over the photos I took at the site and taking into account information gleaned and received since our visit, I can now identify the four panels that Conway uses to discuss the site.  I’ve left in some of the tree growth in the rock face on either end to help as initial markers as you hone in on the various panels.


Collins Inlet Pictograph Site – enlarge with a click or two

These pictographs face south and are quite exposed. Given all the human activity in the Inlet since they were painted here with the mixture of ground hematite and fish oil some three to four hundred years ago or so, it is nice to see that their presence has been respected by almost all non-Anishinaabe passerby going all the way back to Samuel de Champlain in 1615 (though his trip down the Inlet may have pre-dated their painting).

Conway does record a brief statement by  one elder from Manitoulin Island about a supposed attempt by Jesuit priests living in the Wikwemikong community – when is not stated –  to erase one of the images –

And the priest kind of doubted that this thing could be washed off. They [the priests] tried to scrub it, and done everything else try to get it off. Never took anything off of it. It’s still there. (155)

In the end we just appreciate the fact that we can sit in our canoe in the same spot that an Ojibwe shaman sat or stood in as he dipped his fingers in the powdered hematite/fish oil mixture and reached out to the rock face intent on drawing specific images taken from his culture’s mythological image bank.


In his 1959 season Dewdney continued the search to the east of the Collins Inlet site.  He writes –

Farther east, I had no success in finding “an astonishing serpent” referred to in Harmon’s Journal, presumed to be in the vicinity of Grondines Point. In ’59 I flew over the area, a complex labyrinth of small islands and shoals, all seeming to shelve gently into the water.

It may be that Dewdney was looking in the wrong place.  Daniel Harmon’s journal entries for May 26 to May 29, 1800 indicate that he was on the north shore of Lake Huron on May 26 near the Serpent River mouth.


Scratched into the lichen on a rock face near the mouth of the Serpent River was that “astonishing serpent” that Dewdney was looking for. See here for a brief article by Thor Conway in the March/April 1985 newsletter (Arch Notes )of  the Ontario Archaeological Society.

There is, however, another reference to a pictograph site in the Point Grondine area that Dewdney may have had in mind.  In 1850 J.J. Bigsby, an English physician and geologist, published a two-volume account of his travels in Canada in the 1820’s titled  Shoe And Canoe. Of his route up Lake Huron he  noted the following –


Source of quote here

A pictograph site in the immediate vicinity of Point Grondine  has yet to be found.  If  22 kilometers qualifies as “not far hence” then perhaps Bigsby was relaying an account he had heard about the Collins Inlet site. It is clear from the text that their route did not in fact take them through the inlet; he mentions the Fox Islands as their next landmark.


As for us, we were headed west!  As we paddled down the Inlet away from the pictographs our thoughts turned to something more mundane – fish and chips at the “World Famous” stand/restaurant in Killarney!   Now we were motivated to finish off our canoe trip and drive into town, a few kilometers from the Chikanishing Road parking lot.

Fish and Chips Place in Killarney

Fish and Chips Place in Killarney

Related Posts:

Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part One

Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part Two

The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake


Missinaibi Lake and nearby Little Missinaibi Lake are two of the more significant pictograph locations In northern Ontario. Both contain sites visited by generations of Anishinaabe shamans who created images (pictographs) painted with a mix of hematite powder and fish oil that they applied with their fingers on the vertical rock face, usually while seated or standing in their birchbark canoes. These images were an expression of their culture and its values; they offer an entry point to the traditional belief system of one of North America’s most widespread pre-European indigenous cultures.

Running rapids, inhaling the energy of the waterfalls we portage around, observing moose and bear and the eagles watching over us, stopping to embrace  majestic white pines, oohing over crimson sunset skies, listening to the sound of a loon breaking the evening stillness –  a canoe trip on the lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield has much to offer.  Often the most memorable highlight of all is the time spent gazing into the heart of Anishinaabe culture that we find painted on the rock face as we paddle by.

N.B. The drawing above is by Selwyn Dewdney and comes from his Stone Age Paintings, a brief study of Manitoba’s pictograph sites he did for the Parks Branch of the province’s Department of Mines and Resources. It was published in 1965.

Click on the View Larger Map prompt in the top left hand corner for a full-screen view.

In the summer of 2017 my brother and I plan to spend a day or two on Little Missinaibi Lake on our way to Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake.   We will be entering the top of the lake (i.e. the south end)  at Lookout Bay, having paddled down the Little Missinaibi River from our put-in point at Healey Bay on Lake Windermere.


120 km. from Windermere Lake (Healey Bay) to the Missanabie train stop via the Little Missinaibi River, Missinaibi Lake, Crooked Lake, and Dog lake

Until we generate some gps co-ordinates and snap some photos to share,  I thought I would bring together what  information I’ve found on the pictograph sites of Little Missinaibi Lake  from various print and internet sources.  If the lake is at all on your radar as part of a potential canoe trip, this post  will give you a good idea of where to look and what you will see.

If you’ve already been and  have any images or information you’d like to

  • share by inclusion in this post or
  • provide the url link to your own web page

contact me via the comments section below or at  Images would be especially welcome!


The 1:50000 topo map  (based on 1976 aerial photos!) ) put out by the Federal Government’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources  includes the Little Missinaibi Lake area . It is the  042 B 04 Bolkow map.  (Click on the link to access a downloadable copy from the government website.)

If you’ve got the Google Earth app installed, its satellite view would give you a much more recent look at the area.  ChrisMar’s waterproof 1:50000 Missinaibi 1 map is also a good investment as it covers both lakes and provides all the usual canoe-trip-specific information.

Sources Of Information About The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake:

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes

The oldest written source I’ve found on the Little Missinaibi Lake pictograph sites is in Selwyn Dewdney’s Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes. (Click on title to access the book.)  The work represents the first systematic recording and analysis of the Anishinaabe rock paintings in the Canadian Shield area.  In the first edition, published in 1962, Dewdney very briefly covers the three Little Missinaibi Lake sites he  visited at the end of the 1959 season.   The sites are #74, #75, and #76 in the list of pictograph sites in the appendices.

Here is p. 90 of the text –


In the early 80’s I paddled the Lake Missinaibi to Mattice stretch three times with my brother and other canoe trippers. On one of those summer trips we went all the way down to Moosonee; on another we flagged a train at the Moose River crossing.  While we vaguely knew about the Fairy Point pictographs, the weather (usually the wind!)  and our own ignorance about their significance meant that we spent little time at the point.  Our manual-focus Nikon SLRs (if we brought them along at all) were not usually out during the day and few pix were taken. Just being in the bush and the thrills and spills of the rapids were the biggest draws to guys in their late twenties!

wilsonIn 1994 Hap Wilson’s Missinaibi: Journey To The Northern Sky was published. It provided paddlers with essential information on rapids and portages that would ensure a safer journey down the entire length of the Missinaibi, still one of North America’s great remaining wilderness rivers.

Included in the book was a section on alternative routes to Lake Missinaibi, the river’s headwaters. As well as entry points at Michipicoten, Missanabie, and Barclay Bay, he detailed a route that begins at Boklow Lake near the Shumka siding,  a VIA stop on the CPR-owned rail line from Sudbury to White River. (See here for the timetable and  stops. ) This route takes you into Little Missinaibi Lake and the pictographs.

Wilson provides much more detail about the pictograph locations than Dewdney’s one-paragraph treatment.  Also, Wilson notes four – and not three – sites on the lake. On his Little Missinaibi Lake map he locates various selected features from north to south.  The four pictograph sites correspond to the letters A, C, E, and F.

discovering-rock-art-cover_300x454The most recent print source of information on the pictographs can be found in Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders.  Published in the fall of  2016, it is a major revision of a first edition from the 1990’s titled Discovering Rock Art In Ontario’s Provincial Parks: Sacred Landscape of the Ojibwa and Algonkians. Included in the coverage of twelve Ontario pictograph sites is a chapter on Lake Missinaibi’s Fairy Point and one on the Little Missinaibi Lake sites.

As the sub-title suggests, Conway highlights the stories and explanations provided by Ojibwa and Algonquin elders familiar with the pictographs and with the traditional worldview and myths of their people. It makes for an engaging entry into their beliefs and values and provides the necessary cultural context for the rock images.

Conway begins the chapter on Little Lake Missinaibi with a retelling of an encounter he had with a group of American fishermen on the lake.  Conway and his wife were doing archeological work at a site on the lake.  The fishermen were staying nearby in one of the two fly-in outposts located on islands at the north end of the lake near the outflow (see the map below for the locations).  They were clearly surprised to see anyone else on the lake; Conway was just as surprised by how little they knew about where they were!  He could be talking about me in my youth!  He writes –

These fishermen did not have maps or any background information about the area. What a loss it would be to visit the historic Missinaibi countryside so ill-informed. We talked about our rock research, the provincial park, and the nearby Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.


The Little Missinaibi Lake Pictograph Sites:

Dewdney on his visit checked out the three sites he had been told about. Wilson, thirty years later, notes the existence of four sites.  Another thirty years later and there are reports of further smudges and images. This post will focus on the four sites highlighted in Wilson’s canoe tripper’s guide.

We’ll start at the north end of the lake not far from the Air Dale island outpost. A trip report from 2000 posted at the Canadian Canoe Routes web site by Scott Warner describes the scene this way –

We pass the fly-in camp and begin to hug the right shore to look for the Pothole pictographs. You couldn’t miss them if you tried. The canoe easily fits into the pothole and we get lots of pictures…. Crossing the lake here we proceed to the next pictograph site which we find without a problem.

The Pothole pictograph site Warner is referring to is Pictograph Site #1 and #2 is the one they crossed the lake to visit.

Pictograph Site #1 (Site “A” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake): Also referred to as the Pothole by Wilson and Conway.  Wilson describes the site like this –

The most impressive rock site as all paintings are contained within a polished “pothole” depression, clearly depicted in the photograph.  (Wilson, p.51)

The photograph he refers to is on p. 52; it shows a small semi-circular cove with steep vertical rock wall. The photographer has scampered to the top of the rock to get nice shot looking down on the canoe with stern paddler sitting along the south side of the “pothole”.

With respect to the name of the site, Conway quotes an earlier visitor, the canoe historian Edwin Adney, who visited the lake in 1930  in the company of Cree and Ojibwa guides.

It was on the vertical rock sides of a natural perfectly semi-circular recess which the Indians proceeded to name in Ojibway and Cree, Rock Kettle and Little Kettle – Akikwabik (Ojib.) and Eshikwabish (Cree).  (quoted in Conway 231)

Dewdney’s brief treatment of the lake’s three pictograph sites included sketches of various images.  While he does not identify which of his three sites they are from – or if they are a composite made up of examples from all three sites – an examination of the images in Conway’s book leads me to conclude all of Dewdney’s image sketches  come from The Pothole.


Dewdney, from p. 90 of Indian Rock Paintings of The Great Lakes


a lower section of the Pothole pictograph site at Little Missinaibi Lake – see here for image source at Hawk Air Fly-In Vacations web page on their Little Missinaibi Lake  outpost.

Conway discusses this site extensively in his chapter on Little Missinaibi Lake. In fact, it is the only site that is dealt with.

He draws on his conversations with various Anishinaabe elders across northern Ontario over the past forty years, as well as the time he and his wife Julie spent there doing archeological work in the mid-1970’s.  He provides a list of some 72 different pictographs although elsewhere  he does mention 64 as the number. The difference in numbers may be because of the remains of  images painted underneath later ones which he also notes.

Three figures receive special attention in Conway’s coverage of Site #1:

  • the hunchback figure holding a stick, said to be connected with the Ojibwe mythical figure Bokwawigan
  • the so-called Dancer and what is either an unrelated slash of ochre or one impressive penis!
  • The Great Turtle, Mikinak, who is associated with the “Shaking Tent” ritual.  The image on the bottom right of Dewdney’s page of sketches does indeed look like a turtle. It leads Conway to suggest an interpretation of the Pothole itself as a sort of Shaking Tent, given Mikinak’s customary presence as a messenger and go-between connecting the manidoos and the shaman who has come for guidance or answers.
Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent

Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent – a painting by the great Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau

Picto Site #2 (Site “C” on Wilson’s map of the lake) is a bit less than two kilometers south of the lake’s major site.  It gets this write-up from Wilson –

The second pictograph site, unusual and interesting as the paintings have been accomplished while standing on the rocks instead of the customary canoe perch. There is also a prominent “conjuring rock” or pillar that often signifies particular deities. One morph drawing is similar to the “sun-face” found at Fairy Point.  (Wilson, 51)

Wilson provides a sketch of the overall rock face and of eight individual pictographs, including  a canoe with three paddlers, a moose, three or four thunderbird images, and the”sun face” referred to above.


Conway does not get into any of the pictographs at this site. From a chat with someone who recently visited this site, I learned that the photo above captures only some of the images that can be seen.

Picto Site #3 (Site “E” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake)

The site is located on the south-west end of the island indicated in the overview map above. Wilson deals with it in a few words –

…typical west exposure and barren rock face. (Wilson, 51)


He also provides a sketch of the rock face and of individual images.  There are three of them – a human figure with outstretched arms, a moose, and four oblique lines. The lines are often described as tally marks. A more recent visitor’s description included two moose figures and the lines but did not make mention of the human figure.  We’ll  see for ourselves when we pass by in July.

Picto Site #4 (Site “F” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake).

Grave Bay is a 1.6 kilometer long and narrow bay at the south end of Little Missinaibi Lake. This coming summer it will be the first pictograph site we see as we paddle the first five kilometers of the lake from the mouth of the Little Missinaibi River. Wilson has this to say of the site:

The fourth pictograph site, barely visible under layers of lichen, is located at the entrance to Grave Bay. (Wilson, 51)


And that’s it for Wilson’s  treatment of Site “F”!   There are no accompanying sketches to add to the words above.

A fellow paddler spent an hour last summer looking for this site on both sides of the small point on the west side. He came up empty.  Given Wilson’s cursory treatment of the site it is not clear what there is under those “layers of lichen”. If you’ve found something at this location and can clear up the mystery, let me know!

And that – for now – is what I have on the pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake.  In the coming months if more information comes my way I’ll update or add to this post. And sometime in July as my brother and I enter the lake from Lookout Bay we will make sure to set aside a couple of days to savour being in a space – much like Cliff Lake or Mazinaw Lake – that drew generations of shamans and vision questers to  a place held sacred  in traditional Anishinaabe culture.

The Last of Autumn’s Colours – A Walk Up Toronto’s Don Valley And Mud Creek

looking back down our street as we walk to Broadview Avenue

looking back down our street as we walk to Broadview Avenue

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day in Toronto – a gift I figured I’d acknowledge by grabbing my camera – and our dog Viggo – and going for a long walk up the Don River Valley and then over to the Brickworks and up Mud Creek.  I knew I’d catch the last of the fall colours,  since the leaves have already reached their peak.  In a couple of weeks from now we will be into that drab part of year – it goes from mid-November all the way to April! – when our city does not really look its best.

shooting up into the leaves

shooting up into the leaves

Broadview Avenue has one of the great views of downtown Toronto.  We passed by the Rooster Café and walked up the Avenue a bit to get a clear view to the west.  The Don River flows through that band of trees you see in the middle of the pic below.  We’d be walking up it for a couple of kilometers before a bit of bushwhacking would take us to another Top Ten  view of the city, the one from above the Brickworks off Bayview Avenue.

Downtown Toronto skyline from Broadview Avenue

Downtown Toronto skyline panorama from Broadview Avenue – click to enlarge and scroll

downtown Toronto closeup from the Riverdale Bridge

downtown Toronto closeup from the Riverdale Bridge

looking at Bloor & Yonge from Broadview

looking at Bloor & Yonge from Broadview

Back down Broadview Viggo and I went, passing the Rooster Café again.  We also walked past the Chinese elders who gather here each morning to do their Tai Chi and other exercise routines.  The folks below had pretend-swords in their hands and were waving them around in a coordinated fashion!

looking up Broadview to the Rooster Café

looking up Broadview to the Rooster Café

Sun Yat Sen and the Chinese tai chi parcticisioners at Riverdale Park

Sun Yat Sen and the Chinese Tai Chi crew at Riverdale Park East

a wave from one of the regulars at Riverdale Park East

a wave from one of the regulars at Riverdale Park East

Down to the Don River on the Riverdale Foot Bridge and then we headed north to Pottery Road, stopping occasionally to take in the river views or to have a water break.  Viggo was mostly off-leash given the scarcity of bicycle traffic and joggers on a Friday morning.  However far I walked, I’m sure he did an extra 30% as he monitored his pasture with serious dedication.

looking south on the Don River from the Riverdale Foot Bridge

looking south on the Don River from the Riverdale Foot Bridge

Viggo on the banks of the Don

Viggo on the banks of the Don – “Don’t jump in, Buddy!”

the Don River below Pottery Road

the Don River below Pottery Road

Luckily no ducks in the water when we passed by.  Viggo has been known to jump in and give chase – or perhaps that should be interpreted as herding.  Below he is watching some seagulls a few rocks over.

Viggo studying a set of Don River rapids south of Pottery Road

Viggo at a set of Don River rapids south of Pottery Road

At Pottery Road Viggo is back on leash as we deal with cars and traffic.  Across the bridge pictured below and then a bit of bushwhacking on a shortcut trail that takes us over Bayview Avenue and then up to the top of the ridge to the north of the Brickworks.  Slipping on the muddy slopes is almost always guaranteed – but so too is one of the great views of our city!  It is a fair deal – muddy shoes for a wow moment.

bushwhacking our way to the ridge above the Brickworks

bushwhacking our way to the ridge above the Brickworks

looking south from the top of the Brickworks ridge

looking south from the top of the Brickworks ridge

We had another water break on a flat rock I call Viggo’s Stone. To encourage him to drink up I crumple the doggy treat into pieces and he sucks it all up, intent on getting all the pieces. Then it is down and into the ravine.

the view from above the Brickworks

the view from above the Brickworks

A creek – Mud Creek flows down from north of Saint Clair Avenue.  There is also a multi-use path, the Beltline, which runs down along the creek.  On a Friday morning it is usually fairly quiet so Viggo is able to continue his explorations off-leash.  Meanwhile, I am looking around for cyclists and joggers while also pointing my camera at the various splashes of colour we walk into.

the Moore Park Ravine behind the Brickworks

the Moore Park Ravine behind the Brickworks

I love this little slice of Toronto.  I get the same feeling when I enter it as I do when I enter a temple, a cathedral, a place of contemplation. Thanks to the steep banks of the ravine, even the lighting is subdued – the images show that! – as we walk the path up to Moore Avenue.  Trail construction north of Heath Avenue means that we turned back a little early and headed back south, saying hello again to some of the same people and their dogs that we met on the way up.

a small stretch of Mud Creek below Heath Avenue

a small stretch of Mud Creek below Heath Avenue

Mud Creek view

Mud Creek view

Viggo focussed on a squirrel on the banks of Mud Creek

Viggo focussed on a squirrel on the banks of Mud Creek

Mud Creek above the Brickworks

Mud Creek Cathedral above the Brickworks

Mud Creek - fall view

Mud Creek – fall view

And then – a scamper up the muddy side of the ravine to get back to the ridge above the Brickworks. And predictably – another wow!


another Brickworks panorama of the Great View of Toronto

We made our way home and Viggo flaked out on the living room carpet. Given the 12 kilometers we had walked, he was okay with no mid-afternoon outing while I worked on my Spanish lessons.  However, at 8:00 p.m.  we were back out there for our nightly forty-minute patrol of the neighbourhood. If Viggo’s mornings are usually all about squirrels, then evenings are centered on raccoons.  We didn’t  see any last night.

This morning we headed across the River to Cabbagetown.  Last Saturday we had by accident met Viggo’s half-sister Scout (and of course her owner!)  at the small park just north of the Necropolis and they had played together so nicely.   I was hoping that our arrival this morning would coincide with Scout’s morning outing.  It was not to be – but I did see yet more nice fall colour in the immediate neighbourhood.

looking down Wellesley Street from Wellesley Park

looking down Wellesley Street from Wellesley Park

the end of Wellseley Street E. in Cabbagetown

the end of Wellseley Street E. in Cabbagetown

Hogarth Avenue fall leaves

Hogarth Avenue fall leaves

looking down Ingham Avenue from Hogarth

looking down Ingham Avenue from Hogarth

Withrow Park off-leash area for dogs

Withrow Park off-leash area for dogs

Logan Avenue from the soccer field bleachers

Logan Avenue from the soccer field bleachers

the front of our home.jpg

the front of our home.jpg

Already the leaves are starting to dry up and shrivel. A good wind or two and we’ll be looking at the bare branches – and we’ll be one step closer to the stage in the cycle that  our Icelandic Sheepdog Viggo really enjoys.  It’s the one with ten centimeters of snow!

See this post for the winter-time version of the same walk!  No colours but lots of white!

A Winter Morning’s Ramble Up The Don Valley And The Moore Park Ravine

Canoeing Quebec’s Coulonge River System – Introduction, Planning, Maps


Sandwiched in between Ontario’s Algonquin Park and Quebec’s Réserve Faunique La Vérendrye is the upper Ottawa valley, the core of the traditional homeland of the indigenous people known to us as the Algonquins. An early source of beaver pelts for the fur trade, from the early 1800’s onwards it became a region associated with the lumber industry. In time hunting and fishing camps were added to the Canadian Shield landscape.  In the past generation or two it has also attracted other visitors, including those with canoes strapped on top of their vehicles and with back seats filled with gear, canoe packs, and enough food for a week or two of downriver adventure.

wilson-upper-ottawa-valley-2004Hap Wilson’s 1993  guide-book Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley: Myth, Magic, and Adventure (and a 2004 reprint)  was my introduction to the various possible canoe trips in the region. As well as information about some rivers on the Ontario side, the book has a chapter on each of the three great canoe tripping rivers that tumble down to the Ottawa River from the boreal Shield on the Quebec side – the Dumoine, the Noire, and the Coulonge. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a decade waiting for my full attention!

Sometimes called “The Three Sisters”,  these three rivers have attracted paddlers keen on whitewater play and the feel of wilderness over the past few decades.  Since the mid-1980’s the rivers are no longer used for logging runs. Looking at the Google satellite images of the region and you can see that logging still continues with the rough logging roads taking the place of the fast-moving waters of the springtime rivers. These same roads also provide paddlers with shuttle access to various points on the river of their choice.

Why The Coulonge?

This August (2016)  we finally got to the Pontiac region on the Quebec side.  Having to choose one, we settled on the Coulonge.


The length of the river was for us a major attraction.  Of the Three Sisters it is the longest. Our 271-kilometer paddle started in La Vérendrye Park (officially named La Réserve Faunique La Vérendrye) where Highway 117 passes by Lac Larouche. Lac au Barrage, the official headwaters of the river system, is about ten kilometers to the west of the put-in at the boat launch on Lac Larouche.  La Vérendrye Road #28 takes you from Hwy 117 to a put-in on Lac Au Barrage if you would rather start right at the headwaters.

Another positive feature is the 260-meter (850 feet) drop that the Coulonge makes from its headwaters in Lac Au Barrage to the Grand Chute just before Fort Coulonge on the Ottawa River. It has extensive sections of fast water and swifts (estimated at 52 kilometers by Wilson) and 69 runnable rapids (70% of which Wilson grades as Class I).  Given that the more technical rapids are easy to portage around, the Coulonge makes for an excellent river to introduce “newbies” to the adrenaline-pumping aspect of canoe tripping.

Yet one more “plus” was this – the portages themselves are mostly around ledge-type rapids and as a result they tend to be short. Again, Wilson’s estimate for the total portage distance if all 19 are done is a mere 3.5 kilometers. This makes the Coulonge  a relative piece of cake compared to, for example,  the 16 kilometers of portage trail (and 32 kilometers of actual walking!) we had to deal with on our 350-kilometer trip around the perimeter of Wabakimi Provincial Park.


an extract from Chaplain’s 1634  map with the name “La Rivière des Algommequins”

Of interest to us since our immersion in the world of Canadian Shield pictographs some three years ago is this –  this region is the traditional heartland of the Anishinaabe people known to us as the Algonquins. With their great river as the core – they called it the Kitchi Sibi but to us it is the Ottawa – their traditional territories reached inland on the various tributaries that make up the Kitchi Sibi watershed. The Coulonge is right in the center of that world.

from Bonita Lawrence. Fractured Homeland. UBC Press. 2012.

from Bonita Lawrence. Fractured Homeland. UBC Press. 2012.

They were among the first indigenous peoples whom Champlain met in his exploration of the lands up the St. Laurence from Kebec. In a map from 1634 Champlain labelled the great river which runs through their lands La Rivière des Algoumequins and noted their presence on both sides of this river. Before contact with the Europeans in the early 1600’s this hunter/gatherer culture may have numbered some 3000 to 6000. (Estimates seem to vary wildly.)  Apparently the term Algoumequins or Algonquins derives from what Champlain heard when he asked his Micmac hosts who they were.  The term translates as “they are our allies” in their Algonquian language.

Mazinaw Rock - Dewdney's Face II

Mazinaw Rock – Mishipeshu and war canoes painted with ochre

The Algonquins are associated with such sites as Oiseau Rock, the dramatic pictograph site on the Ottawa River on the Quebec side across from Deep River.

The Mazinaw Rock pictograph site on the headwaters of the Little Mississippi River on Mazinaw Lake in what is now Bon Echo Park is yet another significant Algonquin cultural site.

The petroglyph site on the north shore of Stoney Lake near Peterborough, Ontario is a third site which drew generations of Algonquin shamans and vision questers before the arrival of the French in the early 1600’s.

Check out these two posts for more info and pix of the above –

The river would see its name changed perhaps fifty years after Champlain’s time and the decimation of the various Algonquin bands in the war against the Iroquois and by smallpox. With the loss of an Algonquin presence, the river’s use by the Odawa fur traders from further west to access Montreal would mean the river would come to be associated with them.


1714 map with Outaoua R. instead of Riviere des Algommequins – See here for full map. It seems to be an English copy of a 1712 French map.

Admittedly our trip down the Coulonge did leave us wondering about the extent of the Algonquin presence. There are very few Anishinaabe echoes to be heard along the river in the form of names of rapids and falls and other noteworthy landmarks.  It may be yet another example of the ethnic scrubbing of any Anishinaabe place names from the maps created by the Canadian Shield’s new masters. However, even this Anishinaabe website The Land That Talks (see here), while providing names for locations elsewhere in the upper Ottawa Valley, leaves the Coulonge untouched.

My brother and I were both born In Noranda on the west shore of Lake Osisko at what was  then the Hôpital Youville. Just two short portages away is the Kinojevis River; a tributary of the Ottawa which flows south to merge with the great river.   Another one hundred kilometers west and the Ottawa reaches Notre Dame du Nord at the north end of Lac Temiskaming.  Mattawa is still a few days’ paddle to the south.  Somehow travelling up Highway 117 to our put-in was like going home – while we were not quite up in the Abitibi the topography was very familiar.


  1. Hap Wilson’s  Rivers Of The Upper Ottawa Valley: Myth, Magic and Adventure


The obvious starting point for any canoe tripper planning to spend some time on the Coulonge River system is Hap Wilson’s  Rivers Of The Upper Ottawa Valley: Myth, Magic and Adventure.  Like his tripping guide-books to the Missinaibi, the Temagami area and Manitoba, it has remained the definitive and most reliable single source of information and advice since it was published in 1993.

My 2004 copy is a reprint and has the cover pictured here.  In the Preface of the reprint Wilson notes:

Aside from a few obvious changes to the appearance of the book, I present Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley  as it originally appeared when it was released a decade ago.

We take it as a good sign when a canoe tripping guide-book is still accurate and relevant a quarter century later.  If nothing else, we see our series of posts as a visual accompaniment for the Wilson maps.  These posts may provide potential canoe trippers with a better idea of what they will see when the set off on their own adventure on the Quebec side of the upper Ottawa Valley.  It is definitely a journey worth making.

2. Federal Government Topographic Maps (1:50000)

The 1:50,000 Canadian Federal Government topo maps are available for free download if you want to print them – or parts of them – yourself.  The maps can be accessed at this government site – here. All the maps for this trip are in folder 031 -open it and use the specific letters and numbers for each map to get what you want.  Even better – click on the specific map below for the direct link!

The 1:50,000 topos you would need for the entire Coulonge River system are the following:

  1. Lac Jean-Péré  031 N 02
  2. Lac Nichcotéa  031 N 03
  3. Lac Brûlé           031 K 14
  4. Lac Bruce          031 K 11
  5. Lac Doolittle    031 K 10
  6. Lac Duval          031 K 07
  7. Lac Usborne    031 K 02
  8. Fort-Coulonge 031 F 15

At $20. a sheet the cost of having professionally-produced copies of the maps quickly becomes very expensive!  It is also unnecessary.  We just printed our own copies of those parts of the topo maps relevant to us.  Kept inside a waterproof map case they served as our main map set in the canoe.

3. GPS Device  

We also had a Garmin eTrex 20 with a copy of the Garmin Topo Canada (version 4) map set installed.  We used it to create a daily track of our route, to record points of interest and potential campsites, and other details.  It also provides another perspective on those occasions – there may be one or two! – when you might be unsure about your exact location.


Since my Garmin Oregon 450 was out of commission for the trip (the rubber on/off switch broke through and needed to be replaced) I ended up taking my iPhone 4S for its GPS capability.  I had already downloaded the  David Crawshay ios app Topo Maps Canada along with the various 1:50000 topos.   You can find the app here at the iTunes site.)  There is a German-developed Android app which seems to do the same thing. See here for details.

While battery concerns would limit iPhone use, it works nicely along with the paper maps if you only want the occasional confirmation of your location and do not want or need all the other stuff that a dedicated GPS device offers.


Figuring out how to get back to your vehicle(s) at the end of a down-the-river trip is often the biggest headache.  Recent solutions for some of our canoe trips have included:  a $2400. de Havilland Beaver pick-up on Lake Winnipeg to get us back to Red Lake;  and a trip down the Steel River system which amazingly ends up close to where it starts.

For the Coulonge, our friend Cyril in Ottawa made it easy.  He rode up with us to the put-in point at Lac Larouche off Highway 117 about 60 kilometers NW of Le Domaine and then drove the car back to Ottawa.  Then we spent the next two weeks paddling back to Ottawa with the knowledge that he was okay with coming to get us at Fort Coulonge or Renfrew or Arnprior if things didn’t work out.

Click on the More options prompt in the top left hand box to enter a full screen view of the Google map. The route indicated goes right to Lac Au Barrage, the actual headwaters of the Coulonge River system. We started about 10 kilometers to the east on Lac Larouche.

There are also some outfitters’ shuttle services available.  For example,  Jim Coffey’s whitewater rafting and canoeing company, Esprit Rafting,  is based in Davidson, Quebec just north of the mouth of the Coulonge. Its website  has a web page dedicated to canoe trip shuttles.  (See here.)  For the Coulonge, a number of possible insertion points are listed in the table below –

2 day put in • above Chutes a L’Ours 2 hrs $250
3-4 day put in • Rapides Enragé 3 hrs $350
5-7 day put in • Bryson Lake bridge or 
   Chutes Gauthiers
5 hrs $650
7-10 day put in • Meanders 8 hrs $950
10-12 day put in • Bridge above Lac Pompone 10 hrs $1500
12-14 day put in • Lac Barrage or 
   Hwy 117 (Lac Nichcotéa)
9 hrs $1350
 Note: The price includes the use of their vehicle.  

Obviously the more canoes and paddlers you have the lower the “per person” price goes.  A four paddlers/two canoe shuttle to Lac Barrage, for example, would cost $1350. / 4 = 340., not a huge price to pay for dealing with the biggest headache of  non-loop canoe trips, the logistics of  getting back to your vehicle.

All this shuttle talk brings back memories of  an early 1980’s trip down the Missinaibi.  It began with a ride on the Sudbury-White River train from Sudbury, where we left our car.  We got off the train just before Missanabi at the west end of Dog Lake’s Fifty Seven Bay.  Then we  did the Height of Land portage, and canoed down the Missinaibi  to the Moose Factory Island campsite.  One morning before dawn we paddled over to Moosonee and took the Polar Express back to Cochrane.

While I did the Ontario Northland train with the canoe and gear down to North Bay,  Max set off from Cochrane for Sudbury  to get the car.  He hitchhiked!  At 2:00 a.m. as the train pulled into the North Bay station, there he was waiting. We loaded up the car and headed down to Toronto, coming into town at dawn, having started our day 24 hours before on James Bay.  An epic shuttle!

Our Day-By-Day Trip Report – Maps, Satellite Images, Photos, Campsites, Rapids

  1. The Headwaters in La Réserve Faunique La Vérendrye

2. The Coulonge River from Lac Ward To The Ottawa River

  1. When we got to the Ottawa River we turned left and continued on down to Ottawa and the Rideau Canal Locks.

Other Sources:

The Canadian Canoe Routes site has a 2009 trip report by Robert Pavlis which covers the Coulonge from Lac Pomponne down to the Chutes Coulonge and has lots of excellent observations, especially about camp site possibilities. See here for the report. I only found it after the trip – it would have been good to have had a copy come along for the ride.

last-of-the-wild-riversA book we read in the early spring after we had decided to do the Coulonge was an ebook version of  Wallace Schaber’s The Last of the Wild Rivers: The Past, Present, and Future of the Rivière du Moine Watershed.  While the main focus on the book is the Dumoine River, Schaber provides all sorts of historical background and personal reminiscences to make it an enjoyable read for anyone interested in the upper Ottawa Valley in general. Along the way you also get the story on the origins of the famous canoe tripping company Black Feather and the canoe gear retail store Trailhead! The book added a bonus element to the seed-time part of this year’s canoe trip.


Black Feather, the wilderness adventure company started by Schaber,  has a massive list of offerings. [ I’m considering one of the their Nahanni trips in the next couple of summers.] It offers a Coulonge canoe trip – a nine-day one from Lac Pomponne to the Chutes Coulonge. (See here for details.)  It would make a great introduction to wilderness canoeing for someone who is short on time and is willing to spend a bit of money.  What they would get in return is a fantastic canoe trip where someone else takes care of all the details and experienced guides take them down a river they have done often before. They’ll know the story of the river and  all the great campsites and places to play in the rapids.


Esprit Whitewater (aka Esprit Rafting) does not just do shuttles up to various points on the river.  Their website also has a number of organized Coulonge trip possibilities listed: a two-day, a four-day, and a ten-day one like the Black Feather one. (See here.)  What you’d be getting is a trip guided by locals who are very knowledgeable and passionate about their rivers.  For first-timers a guided trip makes a lot of sense and would provide them  with the opportunity to learn the camping and canoeing skills which will soon have them organizing their own increasingly ambitious trips.

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 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


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 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.

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

Down The Coulonge – Day 10: From Chute A L’Ours (Km 43) To Chutes Coulonge (Km 15)

Previous Post – Day 9: From Rapides Enragés (Km 60) To Chute A L’Ours (Km 43)

  • distance: 28 km
  • time:  start – 8:10 a.m. ; finish – 3:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/6 + 1 Falls
    • – W-53 Swifts / C3–>C4 PRR 350m “Chutes a L’Ours”
    • – W-R54 C1 / C2 / C2 / C1 1000m “Guennette”
    • – W-R55 C2 300m… Notes Wilson: “be nimble or pay”!
    • – W-R56 C1
    • – W-R57 C1T RR Ledge
    • – W-R58 C1T 125m
    • – W-R59 C1/C1T several runs spread out over 2 km.
  • weather: sunny and very warm
  • campsite: CRCS10 Esprit Rafting – Esprit Point, Davidson; lawn area looking south-east onto Ottawa river.



As noted in the previous post, we started this day not really knowing how things were going to unfold.  Well, we knew that we’d be paddling about thirty kilometers to the Chutes Coulonge.  It was the part after that which was up in the air.  Months of research had not turned up anything about a portage around the Chutes Coulonge and the worst-case-scenario  of using the roads on either side of the river – all six kilometers of them – to get around them was not appealing.


We did have another option – a possible shuttle with Jim Coffey’s Esprit Rafting – that would be a lot less painful.  However, I had only made contact with Jim via email and the last time was in June.  I really should have given him a call before we set off at the top of the Coulonge.  What if he couldn’t do the shuttle!

We got on the water early – it was just after 8 when we set off.  On tap almost immediately were what looked to be the day’s two most challenging sections of river – W-R54 (the kilometer-long Guennette Rapids) and W-R55,  a shorter 300-meter CII right after that.

Sun rise on the Coulonge at the top of Chute a L'Ours

Sun rise on the Coulonge at the top of Chute a L’Ours

We seem to have been all business this morning since there are not a lot of pix  – in fact, none!  As for the rapids, a combination of lining and running and lifting over did the job.  They certainly did not seem to have quite the snarl that Wilson describes. The low late-season water levels are probably the explanation.  There was also a bit of scraping and bouncing off badly placed boulders in unexpected places – the usual indignities that our no longer new and scratch-free canoe has been subjected to over the past five years.

Around noon we passed this island  and decided to check it out as a potential campsite – it is an okay spot that would serve paddlers who had a day to kill while waiting for a shuttle at the Terry Fox Bridge just a bit further down.

We found a shady corner and had lunch there before moving on.

our Day 10 lunch stop - and okay tent spot

our Day 10 island lunch stop – and “okay” tent spot about 5 km up from the Terry Fox Bridge

campsite on the lower Coulong2 4.75 km N of the Terry Fox Bridge

campsite on the lower Coulonge 4.75 km N of the Terry Fox Bridge

Under the Terry Fox bridge and on to the Chutes..we passed a few residential properties and made easy progress.  When we passed the golf course on river right we knew we were getting close to the Chutes.

approaching the Terry Fox Bridge on the lower Coiulonge

approaching the Terry Fox Bridge on the lower Coulonge

the Terry Fox Bridge over the Coulonge

the Terry Fox Bridge over the Coulonge

the lower Coulonge below the bridge

the lower Coulonge below the bridge

Just past the gold course – a popular place for Coulonge trippers to leave their vehicles while they do the river – we approached the structure in the image below from river right.  We scanned the river right shoreline in search of what we hoped would be a portage trail. The warning signs helped us find it!

the generating station just above the Coulonge Chutes

the generating station just above the Coulonge Chutes

The Take-Out Spot Above the Pontiac Hydro Installation:

The take-out spot is about 1.5 kilometers down river from the golf course and is just before the hydro installation. [We would later learn that the structure covers the top end of a one-kilometer tunnel taking the water down to the actual generating station at the bottom of the gorge.]



Next to the partially visible signs pictured below was a landing and a well-used 70-meter trail which goes up to the gravel Chutes Coulonge road.  About 100 meters down this road is the gated entry to the Park.  We’d later walk down the road to  the Chutes Coulonge Park parking lot and the Park’s Ticket Office/Gift Shop/Administrative Building.

Any hesitation to use the trail was neutralized by the fact that we were clearly not the first to use the well-established trail and that the signs (almost completely hidden by the foliage) were undoubtedly  put there as lawsuit prevention statements by the managers/owners.

The signs have the “Hydro Pontiac” logo on the top left. It may manage the site for  the current owner, Brookfield Renewable Power, a company whose Quebec holdings include more than the Coulonge Chutes G.S. (named the Joey Tanenbaum G.S.) and its 17 MW capacity.  (See here for a list of its holdings.)








A fingers-crossed phone call from the take-out point to Jim Coffey at Esprit Rafting to alert him to our arrival put the next stage of our trip – the shuttle – into motion.  We had decided to scrap the road portage idea and saw an additional “plus” in chatting with Jim; he would be able to fill us in on the rapids of the Rocher Fendu stretch of the Ottawa.

Luckily, he remembered the correspondence we had exchanged earlier in the year – he had been down in the Caribbean for some of it!   Within an hour Dennis Blaedow arrived and we were on our way to the Esprit Rafting base camp in Davidson, a short twenty-minute drive away.

From The Chutes Coulonge to Esprit Rafting Base Camp in Davidson

From The Chutes Coulonge to Esprit Rafting Base Camp in Davidson

The Double Shuttle Plan:

The plan was this – spend the night on the shores of the Ottawa River at Esprit Point and then get shuttled back to the Coulonge by Dennis the next morning.  We would put in at the bottom of the chutes and finish off our Coulonge River trip right to the mouth of the Ottawa River.

Amazingly Jim offered the shuttles to us for free – he said he was inspired by our plan to paddle right down to Ottawa itself. He said we could pay the usual $15. a person for tenting at Esprit!  We did insist on paying for the shuttle service and on our departure the next morning left $150. for him to donate to whatever charity he wanted!  We were just relieved at how well everything had turned out – from a big question mark to a fantastic exclamation mark!

As for Dennis, as well as working with Jim  for Esprit for the past twenty-five years as the ultimate shuttle master, it turns out that he is on the board responsible for the running of the Chutes Coulonge. Well, not just on the board – he is the current Director.  His knowledge of – and passion for – the upper Ottawa valley and its river and rafting routes and other attractions made our two rides with him a blur thanks to the great conversation.

Jim and Dennis would be the first of a half-dozen generous and welcoming Ottawa Valley people we would meet as we made our way down river to Ottawa.  Never having visited before, we finally got to experience what people were getting at when they talked about that special Ottawa Valley vibe.

The Chutes Coulonge:

Before Dennis arrived, we had a bit more than forty-five minutes for a quick visit to the Chutes down the road.  We stashed our canoe and gear at the top end of the trail and set off for the Chutes; the entrance was about ten minutes down the road. Just past the top of the trail and before the park gate we passed the gated entrance to the Brookfield property:

The Generating Station gate on the Park road

The Generating Station gate on the Park road – just before the gated entry to the Park itself

Chutes Coulonge Parking Lot- special section for canoe trippers

Just before the Park ticket office, we walked through the park lot and noticed the sign “Parking Canoers “. At the office our question about the sign got the response that canoe trippers who are shuttled to the beginning of their Coulonge river trip have their cars left here. This was interesting to hear – obviously they would use the same take-out point  and trail up the road as we had to get to their vehicles.

I did wonder how that golf course just two kilometers up river feels about losing in its canoe trippers parking business since fewer canoe trippers are leaving their vehicles up there.

As for the Park itself, while the Chutes themselves are the obvious main attraction, there are a number of exhibits dealing with the lumber industry and forestry to put everything into historical context.  Here is a bit of what we rushed by in thirty minutes. (You could easily spend a couple of hours taking in the falls and the exhibits.  We saw what we could since we wouldn’t be back the next day!)

boat used to tug the log booms on the river

winch boat used to tug the log booms on the river

a collection of boats the logger used

a collection of boats the logger used – a red pointer boat and a cedar strip canoe

Walking on a boardwalk which recreated the Coulonge and its logging camp locations provided us with a neat review of the river we had just spent the past eight days paddling from Lac Pomponne on down.



The main attraction is definitely the chutes themselves and we hurried past all the plaques and info boards to get to them.

Chutes Coulonge - the concrete first drop.

Chutes Coulonge – the concrete first drop.

bridge crossing the Coulonge gorge provides great vantage point

bridge crossing the Coulonge gorge provides great vantage point

the first two drops at Les Chutes Coulonge

the first two drops at Les Chutes Coulonge

another view of the Coulonge Falls

another view of the Coulonge Falls

The main lumber era feature was the 915-meter wooden log slide on the river  left side of the falls.  Down this slide the logs would come tumbling each spring after the Coulonge ice had broken and the river men had driven the results of their winter’s work down stream. Almost a century ago it was replaced by a concrete slide still in place although it has not been used since the last log drive in 1982.

the Coulonge Gorge below the falls

the Coulonge Gorge below the falls

Turning around, we looked down the half-mile or so gorge to the bottom. Not visible is the Power house, a building we would see the next morning when our Esprit Rafting shuttle dropped us off at the bottom of the canyon and we paddled back into it as far as we could.

the zip line as it crosses the gorge below the main falls

the zip line as it crosses the gorge below the main falls

As it turned out, that was not very far!  The bottom is an impassable boulder garden and the late summer lack of water meant a hike would have been necessary.


I really did not see how the chutes were producing hydro power as we looked at them from the various vantage points.  It was only when I checked out the Chutes Coulonge website and found a virtual tour of the park that I found this explanation. It connected the building we saw at the take-out on top of the chutes to the one we would see the next morning when Dennis dropped us off at the bottom of the gorge section so we could finish off our Coulonge part of the trip.

There is a green building at the very end of the canyon that is the Hydro Pontiac Power house. This was completed in the spring of 1993. Just inside the gate, on the left as you entered the park [see my photo up above] is the entrance to the 1800 ft (549 m) underground tunnel. The water is diverted down that tunnel directly to the power house where two turbines generate a total of 16.2 megawatts which could supply 8000 homes with electricity.

Our too-quick tour of the Chutes Coulonge done, we hurried back to the gear we had stashed just off the side of the road at the top of the trail from the river.  Waiting there was Dennis!  Within an hour we were putting up our tent on the Esprit riverfront property.

our campsite at Esprit Rafting base camp in Davidson

our campsite at Esprit Rafting base camp in Davidson

image taken from CBC news article on the fire

image taken from CBC news article on the fire

Missing from any of the photos we took of the Esprit property was the almost century-old pine lodge that had served as restaurant/bar and the social heart of Jim Coffey’s Esprit Rafting business.  On May 20 of this year (2016) it burned to the ground. Nearby a few other buildings were also damaged but luckily the gear and the Youth Hostelling International facilities and tenting area were not affected.

We spoke with one of the river guides who was there that night; he told me that, as shocked as they were,  they took to the water the very next morning – a busy Saturday – with a full roster of rafts and guests. [See here for a CBC Ottawa news article from the next day which describes the sad event.  You can watch a  CTV news clip here.]

Jim started the venture in 1992 and made it a success, thanks to his positive way of handling people and the random stuff life throws his way , as well as an excellent staff, people like Dennis Blaedow.  It doesn’t hurt that just downriver from Davidson is the Rocher Fendu on the Ottawa River, perhaps eastern North America’s  premier whitewater rafting destination.

Esprit is one of three or four local companies on both sides of the river that have made it quite the thrill-seeker draw with their rafts both large and small.  The next day we’d get to experience the Middle Channel of Rocher Fendu for ourselves, relying heavily on the notes that Jim had provided as we sat there with our topo maps on the table!

a view of some of the Esprit property in Davidson

a view of some of the Esprit property in Davidson

Trailers, YI International tents, and the tents of visitors like us can be seen in the photo above – just a small slice of the Esprit property.  A visit to the point on which the lodge used to be revealed little except a few charred pieces of wood; the area had been cleaned out after the fire.  In its place stood a large open event tent with tables and chairs.

I turned away from the scene of the fire to the Ottawa River and the setting sun. The next day would mark an end and a  beginning – we would finish our Coulonge River trip and start off on our four-day paddle down the Ottawa River.

Sunset on the Ottawa River at Esprit Point

Sunset on the Ottawa River at Esprit Point

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

Down The Coulonge – Day 9: From Rapides Enragés (Km 60) To Chute A L’Ours (Km 43)

Previous Post – Day 8: From Die Hard Rapids (Km 81) To Rapides Enragés (Km 60)

  • distance: 16 km
  • time:  start – 9:00 a.m. ; finish – 1:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/4 includes 2 Falls
    • – W-R49 C1 “Tri-Play”
    • – W-R50 Falls PRR 100m / C1 275m / Falls PRR 150m
      • or PRR 600m “Gallinotes”
    • – W-R51 C1 50m
    • – W-R52 C2 250m
    • – W-53 Swifts / C3–>C4 PRR 300m “Chutes a L’Ours”
  • weather: Sunny with some fluffy clouds, very warm!
  • campsite: CRCS09 at head of portage with a great view down river – wonderful “front porch” perhaps the best campsite of the trip,



early morning view of Rapides Enragés from the bottom

getting up close to the Rapides Enragés

Max framing me and the Rapides Enragés shot is the one below!


A leisurely 9 a.m. start to a day that would end four hours later! On the menu were two  upcoming sets of rapids – Wilson’s R49 (“Tri-Play”)  and R50 (Gallinotes). Staying with the main flow of water on a river with late-season water levels, we were through R49 in no time.

our canoe below Gallinotes Rapids first falls

our canoe below Gallinotes Rapids first falls

The Gallinotes set of rapids and falls (one at the top and one at the bottom) required a bit more work. We did the 100 meter carry around the first set of falls and then paddled down to just above the second set where we did another mini portage.   According to the gps track were at the top at 10:20 and were paddling away an hour later.

the initial falls at Rapides Gallinotes

the initial falls at Rapides Gallinotes

Gallinote Rapids - first falls

Gallinote Rapids – first falls

The Gallinotes’ bottom set of falls, while nowhere as dramatic as the ones at the top, did have some rock outcrop that we walked along as we framed some more shots of the rapids.  A short gorp and gatorade break here and we moved on.

the bottom set of falls at Rapides Gallinotes

the bottom set of falls at Rapides Gallinotes

rock outcrop at the bottom of Rapides Gallinotes

rock outcrop at the bottom of Rapides Gallinotes

the bottom of Gallinotes Rapids

the bottom of Gallinotes Rapids

Just past the swifts below the Gallinotes Rapids we paddled by the point (just above Km 55) where some canoe trippers portage into the Coulonge after a shuttle from Fort Coulonge or Davidson to Lac Jim.  That leaves the pressed-for-time paddlers two or three days back to the Chutes Coulonge (Km 12) and their vehicle. They do get to do a series of swifts and easy rapids as they head down to one of the river’s nicest camp spots, the one at the top of the Chute A L’Ours (Bear Falls) at Km 43. [We rank the site #1 of the ones we stayed at. Perhaps we should let Canoe Trip Advisor know!]

beachfront property on the Coulonge - Km 53

beachfront property on the Coulonge – Km 53

Not far down from the sandbar campsite we went through a series of swifts both above and below the confluence of the Coulonge and the East Coulonge.

the East Coulonge River mouth - and some swifts

looking up the East Coulonge River mouth –  some swifts above and below the junction

A last set of supposed CII rapids which we ran down the middle and it on to our goal for the day – the campsite at the top of Chute A L’Ours.   The approach involves going through a set of swifts to the take-out just above a sand beach on river right some distance above what Wilson rates as CIII -IV.

Chute A L'Ours from the bottom

Chute A L’Ours from the bottom


The image below is the view from half way down the Chute A L’Ours rapids; you can barely make out our tent on river right just above the beach front.

perhaps our favourite Cologne camp site - the one at the top of Chute a L'Ours (Bear Falls)

perhaps our favourite Coulonge camp site – the one at the top of Chute a L’Ours (Bear Falls)

Chute A L'Ours campsite

Chute A L’Ours campsite

front porch view at Chute A L'Ours on the Coulonge River

front porch view at Chute A L’Ours on the Coulonge River

We spent the rest of the day – a beautiful sunny one – relaxing, sipping on cups of filtered coffee, and walking the various trails, including the portage trail to the other end.  Cameras, tripod  and our handy little saw came along for what was a combination of picture-taking and trail maintenance.  The other end of the portage also had some nice campsites – but none quite like the one at the top of the rapids!

taking in the bottom of Chute a L'Ours

taking in the bottom of Chute a L’Ours

Max framing a shot at Chute A L'Ours

Max framing a shot at Chute A L’Ours

the bottom right shoreline of Chute A L'Ours -

the bottom right shoreline of Chute A L’Ours

The tent site is nestled in a stand of pine and birch. One majestic pine dominates the scene but given the erosion of its root system  you can see its inevitable fate as time erodes its foundation.








In our rambles down the various trails around the campsite we did come upon a thunder box, a rare find along the Coulonge.  It was only the second we had seen, the first being on our Lac Grand island at the end of Day 1.

staring into the fire at Chute a L'Ours

staring into the fire at Chute a L’Ours

The Chute A L’Ours campsite made for a perfect last night on the Coulonge River.  Coming up was a big question mark – What do we do when we get close to the Chutes Coulonge?  We had not found out any information about a portage that would take us around the 30-meter drop and the gorge below.  The one contact i had made – Jim Coffey at Esprit Rafting in Davidson – had offered to arrange a shuttle round the falls if we needed one. However, I hadn’t gotten back to him before our departure.  We figured we’d give him a call when we got the top of the Chutes Coulonge.

We were hoping for the best!

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

Down The Coulonge – Day 8: From Die Hard (Km 81) to Rapides Enrages (Km 60)

Previous Post – Day 7:  Km 99 to “Die Hard” Rapids (Km 81)

  • distance: 20 km
  • time:  start – 9:15 a.m. ; finish – 1:15 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/2
    • – W-R47 C1 50m
    • – W-R48 C1 100m PRR 475m “Enragés”
  • weather: Initially overcast then graced with a torrential downpour. Sun in the p.m. – go figure!!
  • campsite: CRCS08 at end of lane from logging/access road; room for multiple 2-person tents and perhaps 2 or 3 – 4-person tents.

See Wilson Map 10 insert for portage and campsite location


Across from our Die Hard campsite was a stretch of beach that looked like it might have a campsite above it.  We paddled across to check it out. While we found  a couple of artifacts on the beach there was no campsite or even a level spot to make one.

beach - complete with toilet facilities - on river left below Die Hard Rapids

beach – complete with toilet facilities!  – on river left below Die Hard Rapids

At about 10 a.m. it started raining.  At first it was stop and start drizzle and perhaps in response to our “Will you make up your mind already!” it started pouring heavily.

the rain starts coming down - softly at first

the rain starts coming down – softly at first

It was such a torrential downpour that we pulled into a small cove and pulled out the 10’x14′ tarp and covered the gear in the middle of the canoe as well as ourselves.  We sat there  and listened to the rain drops battering the silnylon but at least we were mostly dry.

looking out at the downpour from under the 10'x14' tarp

looking out at the downpour from under the  tarp

under the tarp in a torrential downpour that last 30 minutes

looking back at Max under the tarp in a torrential downpour that lasted 30 minutes

Thirty minutes later it was over – reduced to a few occasional sprinkles – and we continued on our way down the river.  We were impressed by the kilometer after kilometer of deep sand banks.  It really drove home the character of the Coulonge River as the result of a channel cut through a massive glacial sand deposit thanks to the end of the most recent Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.

the sand banks of the Coulonge before Les Rapides Enragés


By 12:30 or so – we had not even had lunch yet! – we came to the top of the portage trail around the Rapides Enragés. We did the carry to the other end of the portage and found a wide open clearing at the bottom of a lane that  came down to the river. On the plus side, we were surrounded by some beautiful white pines and the river was a short walk away.  We were a bit taken aback when a teen male on an ATV came ripping down to the open area where our tent was but after he turned around and left that would be it for unexpected visitors!

Rapides Enragés cap site - tent up by 2 p.m.

Rapides Enragés cap site – tent up by 2 p.m.

old white pine by our Rapidés Enragés camp site

old white pine by our Rapides Enragés camp site

our closest encounter with Coulonge wildlife

our closest encounter with Coulonge wildlife

Tent up and lunch done we put some stuff out on the rocks to dry.  Later we walked back up to the top of the rapids.  Along the way we left the trail to get closer to the cascade of water coming down the right side of the island in the middle of the rapids. Here is some of what we focussed our lenses on as we enjoyed the short (at least for us) day and the extra time to just sit or walk around  and enjoy the river and the rapids.

looking up at the Rapides Enragés from the bottom

looking up at the Rapides Enragés from the bottom

Rapides Enragés main channel - final chutes at the bottom

Rapides Enragés main channel – final chutes at the bottom

rocks and water at Rapides Enragés

rocks and water at Rapides Enragés

boreal forest floor - along the portage trail at Les Rapides Enrages

boreal forest floor – along the portage trail at Les Rapides Enrages

view of the falls on the right channel of les Rapides Enragés

view of the falls on the right channel of les Rapides Enragés

Up at the top of the rapids is a side set of waterfalls.  I took the above shot at 1/80 sec. and then put on both a polarizer and a neutral density filter to slow things down a bit for the shot  below – 1/3 sec – to get a smoother look to the water tumbling over the rock.  I now wish I would have made the contrast even more dramatic with an initial 1/400 or so shot!  More than anything else I just remember the feeling of sitting there on the side of the rapids with my tripod and thinking – “We are so lucky to be here – to be able to be here!”

view of the waterfallls on right channel of Rapides Enragés

view of the waterfalls on right channel of Rapides Enragés

The next day we would again follow our new Coulonge rule –  that is,  Thou shalt camp by rapids and waterfalls.  To do so we would make even less progress – a mere 17 km. The reward was the best campsite of the trip – the one at the top of Chute A L’Ours/Bear Falls!

Next Post – Day 9: From Rapides Enragés (Km 60) To Chute A L’Ours (Km 43)

Down The Coulonge – Day 7: Km 99 to “Die Hard” Rapids (Km 81)

Previous Post – Day 6: Km 121 to Km 99 (across from Carmichael Creek)

  • distance: 20 km
  • time:  start – 8:15 a.m. ; finish – 1:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/3 + 1 Falls
    • – DNR Falls PRR 300m “Chute au Diable”
    • – W-R44 C1 75m or LRL “Petite Chute du Diable”
    • – W-R45 C1 100m
    • – W-R46 C3 175m LRR “Die Hard”
  • weather: Overcast and cloudy in the a.m. with sun appearing in the mid-p.m.; still a warm day!
  • campsite: CRCS07 “urban renewal project” : A site well away from put-in beside the portage trail right side. The ground was covered with some grass and other debris and growth – with only some sand!! Flat with room for our 4-person tent.



An early-ish start this day – 8:15. We left our parking lot campsite behind, determined that the rest of our campsites would be more like the ones we liked – a sheltered spot on a rock outcrop with a scenic view of the river and some distance from a road.  We’d hit two out of three over the next few days.  This day would be one of the “hits”!

bridge pillar - but no bridge - at Km 94

bridge pillar – but no bridge – at Km 94

The first landmark which came up was the bridge seen in the pic above – at least, the one pillar in the middle of the river that is left of it!  Wilson noted the following –

There is an operating lumber camp at mileage 94  [actually kilometer]  equipped with a radio phone (1992). The road will be there for some time but the camp may only be temporary. (Wilson, p.91)

The only thing that’s left of the bridge is the pillar in the middle of the river.  Wilson’s comments date back a quarter-century, long enough for the road also to have been abandoned.  We did not go up to see if there were any visible remains of the lumber camp.

approaching Chute Au Diable on the Coulonge River

approaching Chute Au Diable (Km 90) on the Coulonge River

Four kilometers down from the remains of the bridge across the river we came to the day’s one portage, a 250-meter carry on river right around Chute Au Diable.  The photo above shows the rapids from the top with its CIII rapids leading to a chute at the end.


Chute Au Diable – P river right 250 meters

the view from just above Chute Au Diable's falls

the view from just above Chute Au Diable’s falls

the put-in at the bottom of Chute Au Diable - hunter's camp/cottage on opposite shore

the put-in at the bottom of Chute Au Diable – hunter’s camp/cottage on opposite shore

The portage trail ends up just around the corner from the falls themselves. Across the river we saw what looks to be a new cottage.  We paddled back to the falls to get a better looking then continued downriver.

a view of Chute Au Diable from river right

looking back at Chute Au Diable

Given the scarcity of rock on the river banks – except for the occasional rapids/falls sections – we had to paddle up to the chunk of rock on river left. Max had to chuckle as my brains and my eyes switched into “pictograph hunting” mode, sucked in by some red lichen that formed what looked  like paintings.

Other than the Oiseau Rock site on the Ottawa River, it is noteworthy how few pictograph sites exist on the Quebec side of the Algonquin world. One could argue that the great period of rock painting in the Anishinaabe world only came after the almost-annihilation of the Ottawa Valley Algonquins by the Iroquois and by the diseases introduced by the Europeans from 1600 onwards. However, the existence of the Peterborough Petroglyphs and the pictographs of Mazinaw Rock, both of which are older than the Ojibwe paintings of northwestern Ontario, would seem to contradict that notion.


a “wow” moment on the Coulonge – some rock outcrop not a part of a set of rapids

When we came to Petite Chute Du Diable (R44)  we lined through the very bouldery river left, opting to spare our kevlar/carbon fibre boat of yet more scrapes and dings.  Here is a shot of Max looking back at the top of the rapids.

looking back up at the Peitie Chute Du Diable - we lined it

looking back up at the Petite Chute Du Diable – we lined it

Just after our little living job we spotted some bright red flowers on the right shore and went over to check them out.  It proved to be an agreeably shady  spot to stop for lunch so out came the Helinox chairs and the water filter and the butane stove.

lunch stop - red flowers catch Max's eye

lunch stop – red flowers catch Max’s eye

We didn’t know it at the time but we’d only end up paddling another hour after lunch before calling it a day.  The reason? We found – that is, created – a campsite at Die Hard Rapids that had more of what we like.  Before that we paddled by the sandbar site at Km 83 as shown in the pic below. Again we figured that the actual site must be in the bush behind the sandbar – and again, we came up empty in our search.  This would be the last time we would bother!

sandbar camp site on the Coulonge - we kept on going!

supposed sandbar camp site at Km 83 on the Coulonge

the view from the sandbar back up river

the view from the sandbar back up river`

We moved on to “Die Hard” Rapids, lining and running the various bits mostly on river right or straight down the middle.  There was some scraping and bumping involved in our less-than-elegant trip through the Die Hard boulder garden.

Later on that afternoon we found the portage trail around the entire set of rapids on river right.  After we got to the bottom of the rapids we decided that this would be where we would stop for the day.  The only problem was there was no obvious campsite.  We were in the small bay on river right and looking back up river to the scene you see in the pic below.  We ended up creating a serviceable tent site tucked in the bush and then stumbled upon the portage trail as we scouted the immediate area. That evening we walked the portage and cleared away most of the deadfall and debris. We also put up some prospectors’ tape at the start and end of the trail.


setting up the tripod for a shot of our Die Hard tent site

setting up the tripod for a shot of our Die Hard tent site…

our newly created campsite at the bottom of Die Hard Rapids on the Coulonge

Die Hard tent site - not totally sand

Die Hard tent site – not totally sand and with some tree cover

Given the previous night’s location in a parking lot at the end of a side trail that we shared with a pick-up truck, we had decided not to pass up the chance to camp in a spot more closely resembling a wilderness tent site!  Ending the day at 1 is not our usual – but given the scarcity of sites, we realized that pushing on might lead to a repeat of the night before. A good call too as we would paddle twenty kilometers the next day and not see anything as good as our tent spot at the bottom of Die Hard!

So – we spent about fifteen minutes to create a campsite – the biggest task being to cut a path from the sand beach to the actual tent site nestled in a stand of birches and pines a few feet in.

dusk view - looking down the Coulonge from Die Hard Rapids

dusk view – looking down the Coulonge from Die Hard Rapids

One quality of a better campsite is the opportunity it gives you to ramble around the neighbourhood a bit.  We walked the portage trail and up along the shore for a couple of hours, pointing our cameras in various directions and enjoying the views.  The next day would provide us with even better photo opportunities as we got to know our Rapids Enragés tent site.

a 1 p.m. stop means lots of time to play with our cameras

a 1 p.m. stop means lots of time to play with our cameras

the bottom of Die Hard Rapids from river right - promising sand beach on the left

the bottom of Die Hard Rapids from river right – promising sand beach on the left

Next Post – Day 8: From Die Hard (Km 81) To Rapides Enragés (Km 60)

Down The Coulonge – Day 6: Km 121 to Km 99 (across from Carmichael Creek)

Previous Post – Day 5: Km 157 to the Coulonge/Corneille Confluence (Km 121)

  • distance: 22 km
  • time:  start – 9:45 a.m. ; finish – 3:30 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/4 including 2 Falls 
    • – W-R40 C1 50m (access via Corneille River)
    • – W-R41 C1/Falls/C3 to C2/Falls PRR 475m “Gauthier”
    • – W-R42 C1T 250m “Wolf”
    • – W-R43 C1 75m
  • weather: Sunny with wisps and occasional clouds; hot!
  • campsite: CRCS06 River right; steep climb up embankment, room for multiple tents of any sort; more if there are no vehicles expected!  😦
  • See Wilson – Map 6, Map 7, Map 8 (top) and Chute Gauthier close-up map  for details



As meandering as the previous 30 kilometers of the river had been, this day would see us travel southeast in an almost straight line for the entire day.  One portage – 475 meters on river right around Chute Gauthier – and a couple of easy CI rapids and that was it.  We had as our goal the campsite noted on the Wilson Map 8 at about Km 99.  Other than a spot near the end of Chute Gauthier,  there were really no other decent stopping points before our eventual campsite (and it was mediocre).

a stretch of Chute Gauthier

a stretch of Chute Gauthier

As for Chute Gauthier, we made use of the portage trail on river right after an initial set of CI rapids at the top.  We were down at the bottom the second set of falls about forty-five leisurely minutes later. While it is possible to run and line certain sections, given the low water level those options seemed more trouble than just picking up the canoe and gear and getting it done.

Gauthier Chute on the Coulonge - rapids before falls

Gauthier Chute on the Coulonge – rapids before falls

Chute Gauthier (W-R41) - the final falls

Chute Gauthier (W-R41) – the final set of  falls at the bottom of the rapids

After the Gauthier Falls the swifts and fast water made for a very nice average speed of 8 km/hr.  Past the CI Wolf Rapids and on to a possible campsite indicated on the Wilson map at Km 102 on the north end of an island. When we got there we found a sandbar.  Thinking that the actual campsite must be on the island just behind the sandbar, we did a bit of bushwhacking to find it.  No trail- no clearing – no nada – we concluded that the campsite – such as it was – was the sandbar!

a supposed sandbar camp site at Km 102

a supposed sandbar tent site at Km 102

The P which Wilson affixed to the tent symbol – we would only find out after we got home and checked out the legend page – stands for Poor, a fair assessment of the spot. It may be okay in an emergency; otherwise,  you’d  have to believe that better was just a bit further downriver!  The trouble is that for long stretches of the Coulonge that sandbar is all there is to choose from.

humble sandbar fire ring on the Cologne at Km 102

humble sandbar fire ring on the Cologne at Km 102

We went on a bit further, finally stopping at Km 99 when we noticed a sandy vertical gash  in the otherwise green shore line on river right.  As we got closer the faded prospectors’ tape caught our eye. Across from the steep trail going up to the top of the sandy bank was a hunters’ camp/cottage.

Day 6 Camp site - River Right across from camp

Day 6 Camp site – River Right across from camp

Day 6 Tent Site take out across from the camp

Day 6 Tent Site take out across from the camp

A fifteen-foot scamper up the 45º sand bank brought us to a flat open area that serves as a parking lot for the owners of the camp across the river.

the short steep path up from the river to Camp 6

the short steep path up from the river to Camp 6

We weren’t thrilled to see that we would be camping at the end of a side road alongside a Dodge Ram 150 and a trailer. M for mediocre the Wilson map rates it.   On the plus side it is a flat, open space and it was better than almost anything else we’d seen this particular day.  After our afternoon-long search for a nice campsite, it would have to do. The lesson we learned here – and which we would apply for the last three nights of the trip – was this: on the Coulonge River the best campsites are in those bits of the river with rock outcrops and accompanying rapids.

Day 6 Campsite at Km 94-

Day 6 Campsite at Km 99-

Occasionally we would focus on the sounds of the generator from the camp across the river and of the owner practicing his moose calls.  We hoped for another sunny day as we continued our way down the river the next day. We had already picked out the bottom of a set of rapids as the target campsite!


Our first six campsites on the Coulonge – from best to worst

  • Coulonge-Corneille confluence – Day 5
  • west end of Lac Grand island – Day 1
  • Pine Tree Rapids – Day 3
  • Km 157 – Day 4
  • Lac Ward – Day 2
  • Km 99  –  Day 6

Next Post – Day 7: Km 99 to “Die Hard” Rapids (Km 81)