Crazy Canadian Whitewater
by Jim Lewis
Click on the images to enlarge
From July 22 through July 30, 2000 several members of the NH AMC joined a week-long class III-IV interchapter AMC canoe trip to the Jacques-Cartier River in Quebec, Canada. The trip was organized and let by Bruce Lichtenberg from the NY-no.NJ AMC chapter. NH AMC members included Faith Knapp, Ruth Kelsea, Carol-Anne Eldridge, Tom Todd, Leslie Hollweg, Bruce Healey, Jim Lewis, Tom Quarles, Skip Morris and Mimi Quigley
The Jacques-Cartier River runs for approximately 177 kilometers through south central Quebec and is easily accessible for nearly all of its length, from its source in the Laurentian Mountains midway between Chicoutimi and Quebec, to its mouth 30 kilometers west of Quebec City.
The river is protected for most of its length by Jacques-Cartier Provincial Park in the north and by other publicly owned lands to the south (77% of the shoreline is publicly owned). Most of the river (123 kms) has been nominated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System for its outstanding beauty, its enormous recreational potential, and for its heritage value in representing the natural and historical evolution of Quebec.
The trip included a succession of day trips from a central base camp, Camping L'Egare, in Drummondville. Amenities at Camp L'Egare included hot and cold running water, electric outlets at the campsites, snack bar and an in-ground swimming pool
The camp planning and coordination was enhanced by almost everyone being responsible for a specific meal which was shared by the entire group. Everyone shared cooking and cleanup chores.
Sunday, July 23rd - Pont Rouge section
Class II-III rapids characterized this section with one particular set containing two huge keeper holes. Everyone had the opportunity to scout all difficult rapids and was given the option of portaging around them. Because this was the first run of the week a number of people swam in several different places. The only other problem encountered was the break-in of all Caravans parked at the take-out. Fortunately only money and credit cards were taken. That night we witnessed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in action, although they weren't mounted on horses.
During these rest stops we found the locals to be very interested in our activities. We attempted to answer many questions, although they spoke little English and we spoke little French.
Monday, July 24th & Thursday July 27th - Donnocana Section (easiest)
The Donnocana section was mostly class II rapids with many different and interesting water characteristics. The put-in was below "Black Hole Gorge", which was run only by Jim Lewis.
One of the most interesting spots was "Uphill Rapid", where the water actually ran UPHILL
In this picture the river is running from the right to the left. If you stayed in the wave train you would go uphill, over the hump and back downriver again. If you strayed to the right of the wave train you would be rapidly spun around and forced upriver, DOWNHILL again.
Those not prepared for the rapid transition found a chance to swim. Anyone making the rapid transition met a similar fate again at the opposite end of the section.
The next interesting point was Fossil Island, where we stopped to hunt for fossils. Fossils were plentiful and easy to find after turning over several dozen rocks and looking real close at each one. The water funneled around both sides of Fossil Island and you had a choice of runs.
The remainder of this section was characterized by many different topographical rapid and hole configurations. By the time we reached the take-out nearly everyone was tired from surfing each and every hole configuration imaginable. This was truly the most interesting and scenic section paddled all week.
Tuesday, July 24th , Friday, July and Saturday, July 29th - St. Catherine Section
The St. Catherine section of the Jacques-Cartier River was class III and IV with one Class V drop. The first class III-IV drop was Horseshoe, because of the shape of the ledge did resemble a horseshoe. Anyone crazy enough to try and run horseshoe could look forward to a sudden four-foot drop into a horrendous backwash leading directly back into the ledge. That would wreck your whole day!
Horseshoe is behind the green and red canoes at the left side to the left of the photo, where Skip Morris and Bruce Lichtenberg are hoping nobody goes that way.
Following Horseshoe Falls was a series of easy class II rapids ahead of the dreaded class V drop, which everyone portaged on the right. After completing the portage everyone was presented with a choice. They could paddle around a right bend down the left side of the island through an interesting class IV rapid approximately three hundred yards in length or paddle, "The Crack", which was a narrow four to six foot wide crack through the ledges.
The crack was classed as a III drop, but due to the intricate maneuvers required and the high risk of pinning a boat after a wrong move, could have raised it to a mild class IV. As before, everyone had an option of portaging both the next class IV drop and, "The Crack".
Wednesday, July 26th - Trip to Quebec City Wednesday was supposed to be an easy day of relaxation after three challenging days on the river. Again, disaster struck and one member had their wallet lifted in the Quebec City crowd.
Thursday, July 27th and Friday, July 28th The trip was split into two groups with half the group paddling the class IV Tewksbury section closer to Quebec and the other opting to paddle the Donnocana and Pont Rouge sections again.
Saturday, July 29th Several NH, VT and NJ folks paddled Pont Rouge section for a third time. There was an allure to the Jacques-Cartier River that made us want to stay.
The Jacques-Cartier River trip is an annual trip that has been led for the past thirteen years. Anyone with class III skills would thoroughly enjoy themselves. If interested, stay tuned for information about this trip in 2001. [Look for it in Outdoors and the WrapAround.]