Trip Reports

Dumoine River, Labour day weekend

Dumoine River, Labour Day weekend -

2011: The 10th annual 'classic' Dumoine River trip - led by Dagmar!


On the evening of Thursday, September 1st we travelled on highway 17 to Pine Valley Campground, half an hour past Deep River. We set up tents there for the night. The shuttle picked us up Friday morning around 8 a.m.. It was a large van, he managed to get 4 canoes on the roof, all our gear in the back, and 8 passengers inside. The drive to the put in took around 3 hours through a maze of windy, bumpy back roads. There is something peculiar about paying a man $1000 to drop eight people off with a few bags of gear and four canoes in the middle of the woods and then drive away. The things people do for white water. We got dropped off just north of Lac Benoit, by an old rail bridge that crosses the river above a 300 metre long set of rapids.  Starting off with a set of rapids sets the stage for the top end of the river: constant pool and drop rapids for the next 15 km. At this point we were about 65 km from where the Dumoine empties into the Ottawa river, and another 2 km across the Ottawa river to the Pine Valley campground. From this point there are a total of 39 distinct sets of rapids in the whole run, some as long as a kilometre with one waterfall that can be lined on river right, and four necessary portages around other waterfalls, three of which are very short, the remaining one being 1.5 km around Grand Falls. It's a great bang for your buck river in that sense, though the last two days are mostly flat water paddling.

The water level was low. Bill and Cathy, who had done the river in early July this year, said it was almost a foot lower than when they had last paddled it. Dagmar, who has led this trip for 10 years now said it was probably the lowest she's seen it. In some ways this brought the difficulty class of the rapids down a notch since the current was not very pushy. In a stronger current some of the manoeuvres that were necessary would have been more difficult to pull off, and many of the waves and holes would have been bigger. There were less available lines, and the lines that were there were smaller, and sometimes just bump and grind routes. There was a lot of rock scraping, and occasionally canoes getting moored on rocks. On one of the more difficult rapids two of our canoes managed to hit a nice rooster tail below a ledge and above another, one canoe getting stuck for a while. That was probably the closest any of us came to tipping on the trip. On that particular rapid the line was right of centre, just skirting to the left of the rooster tail then down the next ledge, but we underestimated a sideways current below the first ledge that pushed the boats further right, directly into the rooster tail rock. We river scouted most of the rapids since many of them are class 1 - 2 and Dagmar knows the river very well. We scouted the more difficult ones.
On day 1 we did a short day of paddling, portaging once at a 3 foot ledge, to a campsite just below a rapid named Canoe Eater. It's about 250 to 300 metres long with a pretty good incline going around a slow 90 degree right hand turn in the river. It's also a big rock garden with a big rock face conveniently placed where most of the current is pushing you at the bottom on river left. In heavier water this would have been a difficult rapid with lots of spots to potentially wrap your canoe on a rock. On our run our bow clipped a rock near the bottom and brought us around backwards. A quick ferry into an eddy and a peel out fixed the problem but higher water would have been less forgiving. The campsite was below to the right, the shoreline leading to it lined with washed up logs from old logging days. The campsite is up a bit on a hill beside a small bog filled with pitcher plants. Bill caught several bass to supplement supper. This was a good warm up day, giving us a taste of the rock gardens and bumpy routes we would be seeing for the next several days.

On day two we paddled a little over 20 km to a campsite on a flat portion of the river below a rapid named Z. We portaged once at Little Steel falls. We ran part of the section below the falls, putting in at the second possible launching site and doing one of the more difficult/ technical runs of the trip. From Canoe eater to our camp for the night we paddled almost constant rapids, mostly class 1 to 2 stuff. It's a fast moving and enjoyable day, though its end marks the end of the constant rapids. Much flat water waits on day 3 and 4. Z rapid is a nice one. You have to follow a Z shape around a large rock ledge and need to line up carefully to make an eddy turn at the bottom or be washed into a rock garden below. It wasn't too difficult in this water level but still an enjoyable line to try.
On day 3 we covered 20 km, bringing us to a campsite partway down Red Pine rapids. Day 3 also included the big portage around Grand chute. Due to the shape of the valley you can hear the waterfalls coming for a couple miles up the river. The portage is 1500 metres on a pretty even trail. There is a smaller trail that follows the river which is good for getting a look at the waterfalls and gorges.

The big falls at the top are very large, probably 20 metres, followed by several smaller falls and chutes. We had lunch there after portaging our gear. Below the falls the river picks up again with a section of class 1, a few kilometres of flat water then Red Pine rapids. Red Pine is a set of 5 difficult rapids separated by small pools. Below the fourth set is an excellent campsite featuring a massive red pine and some impressive eastern white ceders. While day 3 and 4 have more flat water paddling than day 1 and 2, I must say I found the rapids below Grand Chute more technical, challenging and enjoyable than the stuff above. The fourth set on Red pine flows into river left around a rock ledge, turning towards river left at the bottom with a hole on the far right by a rock face. You need to eddy out towards river right to catch the campsite as the next set of rapids - a technical run over a ledge - is only 50 metres downstream. With the water level so low the eddy was easy to catch. We spent the evening swimming in the pool by the campsite. The rock face on river right is a great place to jump in as the water is very deep. It's also a good place to get some practice swimming rapids since the hole at the bottom is not sticky.

Day 4 is the winding down day, though the rapids you do get to run are some of the more technical ones on the river in my mind. The final set of Red Pine required going right at the top, eddying out, ferrying all the way to left to find a nice V through the ledge, then again eddying out below the ledge to ferry back across to right before jumping into some class 1 to 2 rock garden playground. After three days of shallow water and rock gardens my ability to read river features and different wave patterns had improved. I found myself picking out indicators of shallow rocks much more quickly than I had at the start of the trip. This helped give my paddling partner and I more opportunities to play around as we didn't have to concentrate solely on finding enough water to float through the rapids. We even found a couple friendly surfing waves to play on. The sightseeing highlight of day 4 is bald eagle cliff, a 500 foot granite rock face on river left. You can park your boats and hike up to the top, we did not do that on this trip. There is one short portage and one waterfall that can be lined on the left. After the final waterfall all that remains is a 5km paddle to the Ottawa river, then the crossing to Pine Valley campground. Crossing the Ottawa can be the trickiest part of the trip if the conditions are not favourable. The prevailing winds blow right down the river, and even on a relatively calm day the waves can be big. There is a campsite near the mouth of the river, a good spot to stay if you run into a strong wind that prevents the crossing. We were lucky, there was only a minor wind, but still enough to generate 1 foot swells out in the middle.