Cycling Around Tasmania – From Bicheno To St. Helens

Previous Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

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bicheno-st-helens

Day 5 on the road from Hobart – having covered less than 200 kilometers in the first four days!  This day would be more ambitious thanks to the fact that there really aren’t any great accommodation options before St. Helens!  In terms of ocean views it would also be the best single day as the pix below will hopefully show.  And while the elevation chart above may look rather daunting with all those jagged peaks, the thing to remember is the very narrow range in elevation – i.e. only between 4 meters and 73. It was actually a very enjoyable ride!

The beach at the Denison River Conservation Area, about ten kilometers north of my  Bicheno Holiday Park tent spot, was my first of a number of spots to get off the bike and go for a little shoreline walk.  The path going down to the beach came complete with a reminder to be aware that the immediate shoreline is a bird breeding area.

coservation-area-sign-above-beach-near-bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

beach view south of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast

beach view north of Bicheno on Tasmania’s east coast

looking into the afternoon storm cluds near Bicheno

looking north into the afternoon storm clouds near Bicheno

Bicheno beach - Tasmania

Bicheno beach – Tasmania

Bicheno beach - Tasmania east coast

Bicheno beach – Tasmania east coast

I ended up spending a half hour at the most beautiful of the east coast beaches I had come across so far.  Back on the saddle I got to do a more inland stretch of the A3 before coming down close to the seashore again in the Chain of Lagoons area.

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno.jpg

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno – an inland stretch of the Tasman Highway

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

Another stunning beach area – and perhaps due to it being autumn – like most of the others I has stopped at, I had it completely to myself.  I sat on the rocks below and had an apple and some sugared water.  A look at the map told me i could have lunch at Scamander within the hour so back up to road I went for some more eye-popping beach views before the A3 turns sharply west to the junction with the A4.

East coast Tasmania - beach scene

East coast Tasmania – beach scene near Chain of Lagoons off Hwy A3

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania's east coast

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania’s east coast

a3-runnning-close-to-the-shore-just-south-of-scamander

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

Just north of the Four Mile Creek Conservation Area the road runs right along the shoreline for a couple of kilometers before turning inland to the junction with Hwy A4.  When I got to the junction the distance markers told me that I had cycled 50 kilometres from Bicheno since setting off four hours before. This was not the Tour de France!

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

As i cycled through Scamander I was looking for an eatery of some sort.  I finally found something just before I reached the bridge over the Scamander River. It was a takeaway with all the usual fast – and fried – foods.

Scamander News Agency and take-away

Scamander News Agency and Take-Away

Lunch done I had another 23 kilometers to do and I had some extra motivation. Some bad weather was coming in and I wanted to be settled in somewhere before the rain came tumbling down.  As I approached St. Helens, the first option I passed was the  Big 4 St. Helens Holiday Park.  It is on the south side of the town just across the bridge from the downtown area.  However, the thought of spending the night in my tent in a rain storm was an option I figured I’d pass on.

Over the bridge there is also a Backpacker’s hostel on the main street – Cecilia Street.  It is also downtown and it would put me closer to restaurants and grocery stores. Off I went to the hostel – only to find that it was shut down and had a “For Sale” sign on it!  Yikes! What now?  Cycle the 1.5 km. back across the bridge and up to the campground?  Across the street from the closed hostel was the Bayside Inn.  It was already starting to rain as I pushed my loaded bike across the Cecilia Street.

st-helens-tasmania-satellite-shot

 

Within a couple of minutes I had my room at the Bayside Inn – not in the new addition but in the original 1950’s motel structure on the side of it. At $80.for the night I was not complaining!  My bike and gear and i would be dry for the night! I rolled my bike inside the room and checked the facilities – a shower, a small kitchenette area complete with pots and utensils, wi-fi!  It would definitely do!

St Helens - the Bayside Inn - shelter from the storm

St Helens – the Bayside Inn – shelter from the storm

St. Helens Bayside Inn - the original motel structure

St. Helens Bayside Inn – the original motel structure

The rain came down all night and it was still raining the next morning when it was time to set off for Scottsdale.  By then I had come up with a solution to spending a morning or maybe more cycling in the rain up to my next day’s destination – I would just put my bike on the bus and miss the rain completely!

On the next street over (Circassian Street) from the Bayside Inn is a BP station.  It also serves as the pick-up spot for the Calows Coaches intercity bus that goes from St. Helens to Launceston.  Putting bikes on buses in Tasmania is a remarkably easy thing to do – unlike here in Canada.

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I even left on the front and rear panniers on the bottom side on the bike so the bike would be cushioned if the ride was at all bumpy. (I did put a piece of cardboard under each of the rented panniers so they would not get all scrubbed up and smudged from rubbing!)

map-of-tasmania

We left St. Helens at at 8:30 and at 11:00 I was in Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest town.  Thanks to my revised schedule, I was also there a day early. Since  I already had the next night at the Backpackers’ Hostel paid for,  I figured my best bet would be to see if they had a room available for this day too. They did – and that is how I got to spend two days in beautiful Launceston, in some ways a more interesting town than Hobart to the south.

Next Post: Checking Out Launceston, Tasmania

 

Cycling Around Tasmania – Swansea To Bicheno

Previous Post: From Triabunna To Swansea

Overnight the clouds and rain moved through the area and the next morning the sun was back out.  I would have a pretty easy day of it.  Well, perhaps make that “morning”  since I rolled into Bicheno shortly after noon, having covered the 42 kilometers in about three hours of leisurely cycling.  I am enough of a obsessive-compulsive Type A personality that I do remember worrying that I was not covering enough distance each day and that I was spending too much time being a tourist. Noon – and dun? Ya gotta be kiddin’!

swansea-to-bicheno

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swansea-to-bicheno

The A3 on this day strayed far from the beaches and I recall cycling past long stretches of farm fields on fairly flat terrain.  Some of the pix below convey the overall scene. There was one bit of climbing to do; it came up near Apslaw just after the road turn off but even it – compared to the 600 meter gains in elevation I would be doing  a week later on the West Coast – was no big deal. And, of course, if you are hurting on the way up, you’ll have tears flowing out of your eyes as you bomb down the other side of the same bump in the road.

The point I eventually clued in to was that the bump on the graph above is not a 2-D representation of the actual hill but rather an indication of how much altitude you will gain in a set distance.  The  road can only be so steep; what you should really be imagining is an extended series of switchbacks that takes you up from, in the graph above, 8 meters to 183 meters, over a five kilometer distance. While it still hurts, it gets done!

heading north on A3 from Swansea

heading north on A3 from Swansea

bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

panorama – bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

road sign on the way to Bicheno

road sign on the way to Bicheno

Tasmania’s east coast and its incredible beach vistas!  Well, not on the stretch from Swansea to Bicheno!  It is only when you get to Bicheno itself that you are back at the water’s edge. Getting there shortly after noon gave me lots of time to ramble along the seashore after putting up my tent at the Caravan Park.

stretch of road S of Bicheno

stretch of road S of Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

bicheno-satellite-shot

See here for the Google map view of Bicheno.

Central Business District Bicheno

Central Business District Bicheno

I put up my tent on the cushy grass surface in the Caravan Park’s camper section.  I was surrounded by over a dozen fellow bikers – but these guys = and their wives – were motorcyclists who belonged to the Ulysses Motorcycle Club. Billed as a club for “mature riders” I was looking at a bunch of guys who looked like they were in the retirement phase of their life journey – kinda like me!  There is a motorcycle museum in Bicheno which may have been the draw for these riders from the mainland states.  Given their friendliness and generosity with beer bottles, their slogan “growing old disgracefully!” was a bit of wishful thinking!  Later on I’d shoot the breeze and sip on the supplied beer with some of them – but first I had a veg-friendly lunch to find a beachfront to explore.

my tent at Bicheno Caravan Park

my tent at Bicheno Holiday Park

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

I would end up at Pasini’s, an Italian eatery with a lunchtime pizza that did not have cheese on it. In fact, it was so delicious that I went back again for supper and had the same thing!  Sometimes you have to take what you can get!

bicheno

Bicheno’s Foreshore Footway – my route from the campground

Along the shore is a path called the Foreshore Footway that provides some excellent view – all the way from the Blowhole at the south end.  I spent an hour or more ambling along and pointing my camera in various directions. Some of the pix are below!

Bicheno shore -

Bicheno shore –

Bicheno trail above the beachfront

Bicheno Foreshore Footway just above the beachfront

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

Bicheno's rocky shoreline

Bicheno’s rocky shoreline

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

As I wandered back to the campground after my lunch at Pasini’s I passed by a shop selling water sports-related gear and supplies – but it had this unexpected item hanging in the window.  There were actually two of them – two dreamcatchers.  Long associated with Anishinaabe culture in my home province of Ontario in Canada, here they were! Okay, the hoops were plastic and not willow and the threads were plastic too and maybe the feathers were not eagle feathers  – but still!

It is quite likely that someone would be offended by this “thoughtless act of cultural misappropriation”.

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

The next day would be my biggest day yet.  Not only would I do more cycling. I would also do more of it on a road closer to the shore than had been the case.  The next post has the pix to prove it!

Next Post: From Bicheno To St. Helens

The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake

dewdney-sketch-from-stone-age-painting-1965

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.

trip-overview

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 true_north@mac.com  Images would be especially welcome!

missinaibi-1-cover

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 –

dewdney-p-90-of-indian-rock-paintings-of-the-great-lakes

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.

little-lake-missinaibi-picto-sites

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-sketch-of-little-lake-missinaibi-pictographs

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

little-lake-miss-pictos-2

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.

little-lake-miss-pictos

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)

picto-site-3-close-up

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)

grave-bay-entrance-picto-site-4

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.

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Triabunna To Swansea

Previous Post: From Richmond To Triabunna

For a full-screen map view, click on the More options prompt in the box on the top left.

triabunna-swansea-elevation-chart

A sunny morning in Triabunna – my fortified oatmeal breakfast and two cups of coffee done, it was time to hit the road for the ride to Swansea.  I said goodbye to my Aussie neighbour who was off to Maria Island and then checked in with the American cyclist who had arrived late the previous evening and set up his tent near the entrance.  He too was off to the island – but he was taking his bicycle, which he had rented from the same Long Haul Tasmania bike rental service that I had. He said was on his way to St. Helens and I would amazingly bump into him two weeks later in Strahan on the West Coast!  It turns out that by the time he got to St. Helens he decided he had spent enough time on the bike saddle.  So – he had the bike rental company pick him and the bike up in St. Helens and he returned to Hobart where then rented a car to see the island in comfort!

Meanwhile I would spend the morning on an inland stretch of the A3.  Not a lot of pix from the first couple of hours.  It is only when you come out at Mayfield Bay – thirty-four kilometres from Triabunna – that you get some nice beach views. I took very opportunity to get off the bike and walk down to the beach.  While it is still not the open ocean crashing in on the sand – I was cycling along the west shore of Great Oyster Bay – it was still a scenic treat.  [The best single day of east coast cycling would have to wait for a couple of days until the 74-km stretch from Bicheno to St. Helens.]

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania's east coast

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania’s east coast

sand-and-rock-on-tasmanias-east-coast

tasmania-east-coast-great-oyster-bay

A bit further down the road from Mayfield Bay – a very nice stretch of scenic cycling – was the Kelvedon Beach Conservation Area. It gave me a reason to get off the bike and frame something other than pavement in my photos!

Kelvedon Beach sign - Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach sign – Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

seashells on the seashore - Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

seashells on the seashore – Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

After Kelvedon Beach on to another conservation area – Spiky Beach.  There is a turn off that takes you down steeply a pot-holed gravel road to a parking lot from where you can walk there rest of the way down to the beach.  I cycled down and leaned my bike against a post and wandered down the water. Thanks to the 15mm wide-angle lens I used for the shot below, my rear wheel looks much bigger than the front one!

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania's east coast

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania’s east coast

path to the beach east coast Tasmania near Swansea

path to  Spiky Beach on the  east coast of Tasmania near Swansea

swansea-and-great-oyster-bay-satellite-view

Like Triabunna, Swansea had a population of about 800 and its economy also  relies heavily on tourism.  I had planned to head for the Swansea Holiday Park and put up my tent but it had clouded over dramatically in the last hour as I approached the village. I figured that the Swansea Backpackers’ Hostel would be a better place to spend a rainy night – so that’s what I did.  I found it at the far end of town right next to the Barkmill Tavern and Bakery – convenient! After checking in and dumping my stuff in my room – it was a room with four beds but since the hostel wasn’t really busy I would have the entire room to myself. I also kept my bike in the room. Then I headed back “downtown” in search of a restaurant.

Swansea's main street

Swansea’s main street

Perhaps the end of high season is the explanation for the large number of local businesses with “For Sale” signs. Take a look at the following establishments – maybe one them will strike your fancy as an investment opportunity.  Even the Backpackers’ Hostel was up for sale! In fact, when no one answered my initial ringing of the doorbell i thought it might be closed. Someone did eventually come to the door – I was the first visitor of the day and a bit early!

I eventually found a meal at the Amos House’s High Point Café.  It was off-hour but the owner was good enough to make something – it may have been a pita sandwich with hummus and tahini.

swansea-ugly-duckling-closed-and-for-sale

closed and for sale

the-horny-cray-in-swansea-for-sale

For sale

swansea-bear-cottage-for-sale

swansea-all-saints-opportunity-shop-for-sale

another Swansea building for sale

another Swansea building for sale

Swansea's Amos House and Viewpooint Café - for sale

Swansea’s Amos House and Viewpoint Café – for sale

Swansea Backpackers - for sale!

Swansea Backpackers – for sale!

I cycled back to the hostel from the Amos House in the rain. Other travellers had arrived and I was able to put my German – as rusty as it is! – to use as I talked to a couple from Chemnitz and a guy from Hamburg who was motorcycling Tasmania. I would bump into them again a week or two later. Given that Tasmania as a total population of 500,000,  I guess it’s not that unusual!

my room at the Swansea Backpachers - with three empty beds

my room at the Swansea Backpackers – with three empty beds

It rained most of that night and I was glad not to be in my tent at the campground on the other end of the village.  By the next morning  the rain was stopped and I would have sunshine with a bit of wind as I made my way 43 kilometers up the coast to Bicheno and a tent spot at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park.

Next Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Richmond to Triabunna

Previous Post: From Hobart To Richmond 

Click here to zoom in or out of the Google interactive map.

richmond-to-triabunna

Leaving the  Caravan Park around 8,  I rolled down Richmond’s main street and stopped at the one open gas station and bought a bottle of sugar water for the ride.  In my brief chat with the attendant I learned that the Prossers Road that I was headed for was not the  best choice; he recommended the somewhat longer but paved B31 to C350 (Fingerpost Road)  and then along C350 to the junction with the Tasman Highway (A3).  So that is what I did.  The pix below show the relatively flat terrain for at least the first hour of the day’s ride.

richmond-to-fingerpost-road-c350

the road not taken – Prossers Road – on the advice of the gas station guy!

b31-c350-junction-richmond-tasmania

B31/C350 junction north of Richmond, Tasmania

looking east down C350 near Campania

looking east down C350 near Campania

pastoral-scene-on-the-side-of-c350-on-the-way-to-buckland

pastoral scene on the side of C350 on the way to Buckland

I got to Buckland for lunch, having done what would turn out to be the two biggest climbs of my east coast ride to St. Helens. From the top of Bust-Me_Gall Hill it was a rewarding downhill roll to the Buckland Roadhouse and a veggie burger and fries.  As the pix make clear there is not a lot of paved shoulder for a cyclist to claim as his own.  However, I saw maybe a dozen cars until I hit the A3 .  I pretty much had these secondary roads to myself while the nearby A3 – the main highway – was undoubtedly much busier.

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

the top of the day's first bump - Black Charles Opening at 296 m

the top of the day’s first bump – Black Charles Opening at 296 m

at the top of the second of the day's two hills on C350 north of Richmond

at the top of the second of the day’s two hills on C350 north of Richmond

After lunch I continued on the A3, known as the Tasman Highway.  It serves as the alternative coastal route between Hobart and Launceston, the state’s two biggest towns.  Finally, as I approached Orford, I got to see some major water!

Orford sits on Prosser Bay. As I stood there and looked east beyond the bay across the Tasman Sea,  I imagined New Zealand’s South Island, specifically the West Coast highway I had cycled down a couple of years ago.

orford-tasmania-to-new-zealand-south-island-west-coast

1800 kilometers or more separate the two coasts but as raw and wild as N.Z.’s West Coast is, Tassie’s east coast would prove to be tame and gentle. [Click here to access my  N.Z. “Down The West Coast” post.]

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my first beach shot on Tasmania's east coast near Orford

my first beach shot on Tasmania’s east coast near Orford

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay.jpg

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

My introduction to the beaches of the east coast would be short. From Orford the road cuts inland across a small peninsula before running along the west shore of Spring Bay to my target for the day – Triabunna (population: 800) . Given the dependably mild east coast weather and the scenery, it is a popular tourist destination as well as a retirement community. Triabunna harbour serves as the home dock for a small fishing fleet  as well as the departure point for the ferry over to Maria (Mah-rye-ah) Island, a national park and nature sanctuary.

Just off of the A3 is the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park. I would make myself at home under the tree you see in the photo below.  My fairly lightweight Kelty Zen tent up and my gear put inside, I went for a walk down the two blocks that make up main street. At the local IGA (a grocery store chain) I got some fresh fruit, bread, and other consumables

satellite-view-of-triabunna-tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park -east coast Tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park

A couple of hours later  a solo motorcyclist pulled up and set up a hammock and tarp next to me.  He was from Melbourne and was on a one-week ramble in Tasmania and was headed over to Maria Island the next morning – without his bike, which he would leave at the Caravan Park.  We wandered down to the Fish Van; he oohed and aahed about the fried fish while I made do with an order of fries! It was slim pickings for a someone intent on being vegan in a fishing town!

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite shot

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite view

With more time – or without the commitments I had created by pre-booking my accommodation in a few of the upcoming towns – a visit to Maria island would certainly have been worth it.  Here is the enticing write-up in the Lonely Planet guide-book I had with me –

“Maria is laced with impressive scenery: curious cliffs, fern-draped forests, squeaky-sand beaches and azure seas. Forester kangaroos, wombats and wallabies wander around; grey-plumed Cape Barren geese honk about on the grasslands; and an insurance population of Tasmanian devils has been released and is thriving. Below the water there’s also lots to see, with good snorkelling and diving in the clear, shallow marine reserve.”

Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet   Tasmania.”

Sounds pretty neat, eh!   There is camping available on the island and bicycles (“push bikes”) are allowed. It looks like an enchanting spot to explore for a couple of days. Maria Island is just one of perhaps a half-dozen parks and nature preserves along Tasmania’s east coast around which you could fashion a fantastic two or three-week retreat. With your own tent and gear you’d be all set.  If you didn’t have a bike at the ready, the bus connections from town to town are adequate so there would be no need to rent your own vehicle.   It would only sit  around unused  most of the time!  Maybe there is another visit to Tasmania forming in my mind!

Instead, my next day to Swansea on the A3 would be a mix of coastal scenery, ending with a nice ride from the Rocky Hills to my room for the night at the Swansea Backpackers Hostel,  getting there just in time to beat the first rain storm of the trip. See the details in the next post!

Next Post: Triabunna To Swansea (51 km.)

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Hobart To Richmond Via Bonorong

Previous Post:   Doin’ Time In Van Diemen’s Land –  Tasmania By Push Bike!

 Day 1: Morning – From Hobart to The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Click on blue More Options prompt for full screen view of Google Map

hobart-bonorong

Sunday morning is my favourite time to start a bike trip.  Since I am usually starting from one of the biggest towns on my route, it means that I get to escape it before most people are even up.  It makes for traffic-free roads as I leave the city center.

I was up and ready to go by 8:00 from my Narrara Backpacker’s room, having left behind a duffel bag with a change of clothes and street shoes and some other items (my own panniers which did not fit on the Tubus racks !) for my return in three weeks.

my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers' Hostel in Hobart

my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers’ Hostel in Hobart

Every time I end a bike tour I tell myself – “Never again with so much stuff!” Well, here I was – yet again!   The bike, the solidly built steel-frame Surly Long Haul Trekker,  weighed 15 kg. (33 lbs.)  and I had another 22 kg. (48 lbs.) of gear, most in the four Ortlieb panniers clipped onto their respective racks. [The  panniers themselves probably weighed about 3.5 kg. (8 lbs.)!]

The panniers I had brought with me would just not fit on to the Tubus  racks so the afternoon before I set off  I had to arrange for the Ortliebs to be delivered to the Backpacker’s hostel.)  My tent, poles, and sleeping bag were inside that plastic bag on top of the rear panniers.  My camera gear and wallet, sunglasses, sun cream, and cycling gloves  were in the handlebar bag.  In the map case on top of the bag I also had a gps tracking device – the Spot Connect – so the folks back home could follow me along!  Stuff, stuff, stuff!  I dream of the day I set off with a credit card and nothing more!

close-up of my loaded Surly bike in front of the Narrara Backpackers' Hostel in Hobart

close-up of my loaded Surly LHT (Long Haul Trekker) bike with 26″ wheels and Ortlieb panniers

The previous afternoon I had cycled down to the harbour and followed the first ten kilometers or so of the Intercity bike path that follows the River Derwent from the Harbour area pictured below all the way up to Clairmont, an easy if not terribly scenic first 15 kilometers.

intercity-bike-train-hobart-to-clairmont

See here for a downloadable pdf file of the path, as well as gpx and kml files

hobart-harbour-8-a-m-sunday

Hobart Harbour on a Sunday morning at 8:00

The bike path ends at Claremont, where it runs into Main Road, which  I followed all the way to Grafton.  Now on Highway 1,  I crossed the bridge and made use of some service roads to get to Highway C321. It was a bit confusing so I was relieved when I saw the direction signs at the Brighton intersection below!  My goal for the morning was the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. I figured it was only right that I see some Tasmanian Devils on the very first day of my tour.

the road to Richmond via Bonorong

the road to Richmond via Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

The sanctuary sits on top of a hill and I actually got off and pushed the bike up the potholed and dusty gravel road to the entrance. Storing my bike in a shed reserved for tools and equipment, I spent the next hour on a quick tour of the sanctuary, home to all sorts of animals I had never seen live before – wombats, quolls, koalas, as well as those Devils! I was also given a bag of kangaroo feed for the Foresters roaming freely in a fenced-off area.

a view of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart

a view of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart

While it would have been better to be there a bit earlier – the sun was almost directly overhead for most of my visit – I still got to see a few of the locals.  It was a nice diversion from an admittedly short first bit of cycling.

Bonorong local on the fence

Bonorong local on the fence

same-bird-different-angle-at-bonorong-sanctuary

wombat in the arms of one of the guides at Bonorong

wombat in the arms of one of the guides at Bonorong

a couple of Tasmanian devils sniffing about their enclosure

a couple of Tasmanian devils sniffing about their enclosure

Bonorong kangaroo with snout way too close to my lens!.jpg

Bonorong Forester kangaroo with snout way too close to my lens!

Bonorong kangaroo chillin' in the shade

Bonorong kangaroo chillin’ in the shade

Tasmanian devil tugging at a piece of meat and bone

Tasmanian devil tugging at a piece of meat and bone

The Tasmanian Devil above put aside whatever concerns it had about the heat and the sun to put on a little show for the visitors – and to get the raw meat that the park staff person made him play tug for.  I learned that the Tassie Devil is an endangered animal whose overall numbers are down as low as 10,000 because of a facial cancer than has devastated the population.

On a more depressing note – perhaps the single-most negative thing I can say about cycling in Tasmania – is that most days I cycled by  one or two dozen carcasses of wallabies, wombats, possum,  and Tassie Devils. While I had experienced a similar thing on South Island New Zealand it was lesser carnage and on fewer days.

Tasmanian Devil up close

Tasmanian Devil up close

My tour of the sanctuary done, it was back to the bike and another 18 kilometers to the Richmond Cabin and Tourist Park where I got a tent spot for the night.

bonorong-richmond

The elevation chart above shows an easy ride with a nice bit of gentle downhill at the end. On the way I passed the Coal Valley Golf Links on Middle Tea Tree Road (C322) where I filled my water bottles and sat in the shade for a while.  It was hot out there on the road!

pit stop on the way to Richmond from Bonorong

pit stop on the way to Richmond from Bonorong

The Tourist Park is on the edge of the village of Richmond, population 750, which figured large in the early history of the island as a military post and as a convict station. A few buildings – a couple of churches, the courthouse, a jail, a post office –  date back to the 1820’s and 1830’s. The Lonely Planet guide generously bills it as “arguably Tasmania’s premier historic town”.

That’s the campground in the satellite image below; my $15. a night tent spot was in the clump of trees near the centre of the image.  I joined a few other tenters though I was the only one who had arrived on a “push bike”, the Aussie term for bicycle.  Many had rented camper vans or cars.

richmnond-cabin-and-tourist-park

richmond-tasmania

Click here for if you want to see where I got the two above Google satellite images.

My tent up and gear stashed inside, I cycled into the village.  It was a Sunday afternoon about 4 and everything – what little there is! – was pretty much shut. I finally found a restaurant attached to a gas station at the far end of the village and – to no surprise – found very slim pickings for someone intent on keeping a vegan diet.  I ended up having a cup of coffee – with soy cream – and postponed supper until I got back to the campground. I did cycle down to the bridge crossing  the Coal River to see Australia’s oldest still-in-use road bridge.  In the satellite image above you can see the bridge on the top right hand side as it crosses the river.

Richmond Bridge over the Coal River

Richmond Bridge over the Coal River

Richmond, Tasmania - road bridge over the Coal River

Richmond, Tasmania – road bridge over the Coal River

Back at the campground, I rehydrated a serving of vegan-friendly Pad Thai noodles which I had packed as an emergency item for those evenings when  I couldn’t come up with anything acceptable. Here it was – Night #1 – and I was already using it!

Chatting with my immediate neighbours later that evening – a young couple from Chartres in France who had just finished a one-month stint of work on a farm in West Australia and were now doing some travelling – I listened as the Frenchman expressed a sort of bemusement at the fuss the locals make over a few buildings that were less than two hundred years old.  Given the way that the history of my home province of Ontario in Canada mirrors that of Australia and Tasmania, I also get the Aussie perspective. To really get excited about Richmond it probably helps a lot to be born and bred in Tasmania!

The east coast of Tasmania draws rave reviews from all who travel along its roads and take in the views of the Pacific shore as they walk its beaches.  I was looking forward to those beaches but I still had a bit of inland travelling to do before I got there.  The next post details the route –

Next Post: From Richmond To Triabunna

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-panorama-of-the-great-view-of-toronto

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

INTRODUCTION:

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.

overview-of-la-verendrye-park-down-to-ottawa

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.

close-up-of-champlains-1643-map-algonquins-noted

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.

ottawa-area-map-from-1714

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.

Maps:

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

wilson-upper-ottawa-valley-2004

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.

topo-maps-canada

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.

Logistics:

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-home-page-header

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-8-15-10-pm

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

cr_d10b

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.

esprit-rafting-in-davidson-and-the-mouth-of-the-coulonge-river

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

chutes-coulonge-take-out-and-put-in

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!

marchand-bridge-details

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.

cr_d10a

cr_d10b

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.

imagined-portage-routes-around-the-chutes-coulonge

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.]

coulonge-from-terry-fox-bridge-to-the-chutes

coulonge-take-out-above-the-generating-station

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.)

french-version-of-warning-sign

warning-sign-at-take-out-spot

 

 

 

 

 

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.

map-of-logging-camps-along-the-coulonge

river-walk-plaque

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.

virtual-tour-map-of-chutes-coulonge

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)