Quebec Canada Paddling Trip 5/22/05 to 5/28/05

Paddlers: Greg Paul K-1, Craig Sowers K-1, Mike Huber K-1 & Jay Venable OC-1
Shuttle Bunny: Max Venable

In a word........WOW!! The whitewater opportunities in and around Jacques Cartier Park are astounding. As most of you know West Virginia offers some of the best whitewater opportunities anywhere in the USA simply because it sits on top of a high plateau, has a lot of gradient all over the state and receives a whole lot of precipitation which ends up in the creeks & rivers. You think West Virginia has got a lot of these ingredients try Quebec. There is a whole lot more of all three.
The two biggest drawbacks to paddling Quebec was enormous shuttles (way bigger then even West Virginia) and the language barrier. Even though I've planned this trip for two years and accumulated a library of guides, topo maps and personal paddling acquaintances the logistics were as aggressive as the water.
Max & I got to Quebec a full week before the group and established camp about 10 miles north of beautiful Quebec city and Appx. 20 miles south of Jacques Cartier Park. This location became our home base throughout the entire trip. For a full week I drug my poor wife across wilderness areas of Canada that were so remote that even the Moose needed topo maps. After 3 tanks of gas and hundreds of miles of tourtureous dirt roads we were able to cut or hit list of runs from 30 options to 4 choice runs.
Day 1 of paddling featured a 6 mile stretch of the Montmorency river. The section we paddled was at the far upper reaches of the river and was very creek like. The source of the water was ice melt from still frozen lakes at a 2800 ft elevation. The gradient on this stretch was appx. 80 ft. @ mile with continuous class 3 to 3+ boulder gardens resembling the Savage in Maryland or The Deerfield in Massachusetts. Along the way we did encounter 2 leggy drops in the 6 ft. + category with a great deal of eddy & ferry opportunities throughout the run. Looking back on this run it was a perfect warm up for what we were about to face on our next two runs. And believe me, we needed the warm up.
Day 2 was somewhat rainy, windy & generally too crappy to paddle so we used this day to hike, bike and do some tourist things around Old Quebec. Yes we ate French cooking the whole time and enjoyed the rich history & culture of the most beautiful and clean cities I've ever been in. After a week in this section of Canada Greg commented that he saw 1 beachball floating down one of the runs and it turned out to be the only debris spotted by any of us the whole time.
Day 3 the weather improver a little so the call was the Cache River. After we discussed run options with our Canadian Friend Sebastian he recommended this to us as aggressive, challenging and beautiful. We got all three. At a whopping 150 Ft, @ mile gradient, this run turned out to be the steepest creek I've ever run personally. The 7 mile run started on a 20 ft wide creek littered with boulders providing excellent eddy & ferry options. It ended in the last mile that way also. But Oh @#^* the middle 4 miles was a pure creekers heaven or hell depending on how you felt that day. It turned out to be heaven for all of us as it consisted of 3 to 6 ft ledges, boulder drops, tight eddys and must make ferrys the establish precise lines. With a lot of scouting and a little luck the whole group looked like the Canadian Slalom team. It was one of those days where everything was perfect and on that run we needed perfection. I cannot compare this run with anything I've been on . It really was more characteristic of steep western whitewater that just keeps coming at you. It was kinda like taking all the pools out of the Lower Big Sandy, doubling the gradient, cutting the creek width in half and reducing the cfs levels.
Day 4 was a day that I for one will never forget. We decided on the Du Goufrie river 75 miles east of Quebec. The gauge readings indicated high water, however, our Canadian advisor assured us that we would encounter a 3+ high water run that we could all manage. What we got was 5 miles of 125 fpm gradient with at least 3500 cfs flowing on a river that was up to its banks with no eddy opportunities as everything was covered.
It is characteristic that Canadian Rivers turn sharply and disappear into life threatening sieve's or waterfalls. Knowing this we were aggressive on scouting anything we could not see down. As it turned out, trying to scout this river was a nightmare since the only eddy's were very tiny calm spots on the edges which required grabbing tree limbs to stop and then trying to get boats and bodies into woods that were so thick that a human had to wiggle sideways just to take a step. Even with my bony ass it was a challenge. As we would look down this river all you could see was boiling churning water that just kept going as far as the eye could see. We all agreed half way thru the run that this was way more than we wanted and we all became very concerned that a swim in this relentless volume would have probably resulted in at least a lost boat. This was a real concern as we were miles from anything with no walk out options. However, in the true spirit of the Conewago Canoe Club we huddled together, worked as a real team and got down this raging torrent. Personally I felt compelled after completing this run to kiss the ground, kiss the feet of the other 3 maniacs I was paddling with and to kiss my wife. Not in that order of course as Craig's paddling shoes left a bad taste in my mouth. Upon reflecting on this run I can say that this run was way beyond anything I thought I or the group could personally handle, however,we did handle very well and truly discovered the upper limits of our paddling skills. It truly was a great team effort in the greatest teams sport in the world.
That run earned us another day off which we once again lavished in the food and tourist opportunities this part of Canada has to offer. We even ended the day with a lobster dinner cooked over charcoal with all the trimmings provided by our favorite shuttle bunny. What a woman.
Day 4 of paddling was a day of contrasts. As a group we wanted to go on a wilderness expedition in the class 2/3 category. After 100 mile one way shuttle, 30 miles of which were on dirt road, we got our wish. The Malbaie river is a well known river in this part of Canada, but the section we paddled was at the upper headwaters having a frozen lake as a source. The run was truly wilderness miles and miles from anything. For the most part we did get mostly class 2/3 water water, however, there were 2 noteworthy drops which were in the class 5/ 6 category. Words could not describe these chasm's so I'll leave that to our cameras and another day.
All in all we did have a great time paddling very aggressive & different water in a great location. There are literally hundreds of paddling opportunities in this area of Canada which we could have also chosen. Logistics dictated our runs but we could not had better choices over the 4 days we paddled.

Jay Venable

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