French River Delta
Friday, May 15, 1998 to Monday, May 18, 1998
route: Hartley Bay to Dalles Rapids and back (with a bit of poking about)
length: 4 days
offsite report: http://daver
As the plaque says, the French River is oneof the most important waterways in the history of the canoe. On the VictoriaDay Long Weekend (May 15-18, 1998), 11 of the VirtualVoyaguers paddled the Delta region of Ontario's French River. Thisis the account (primarily photographic) of that expedition.
We gathered on Friday evening at GrundyLake Provincial Park where we spent the evening organizing gear andpacking. Here we see Morgan, the youngest member of the Virtual Voyageurs(age 2 1/2), helping us pack. She thought that the food barrels were prettyneat!
One of the persistant conditions that one deals with on the French arestrong prevailing westerly winds. When the wind is up, you can't fightit and, as a result of this typical problem we tried to take a side routefrom Hartley Bay up the Big Wanipitae River to the forks and then downthe Little Wanipitae to the Main Channel not far from the Western Outlet.We planned to paddle to Georgian Bay down the Western Outlet and then upthe Main Outlet and back to Hartley.
The deeper soils of the mouth of the Wanipitae produce a dense deciduousforest with muddy banks. Quite a contrast to the bare rock and pines ofthe French.
The Wanipitae was a boon of wildlife, besides the Great Blue Heron seenhere, several canoes saw a Black Bear standing on its hind legs on theshore and surveying them as they paddled by!
The winds proved far too strong for us to paddle the Western Outlet, so we turned out boats eastward down the main channel and began to searchfor a campsite. The best sites seemed to have been occupied friday nightby fisherfolk with motorboats intent on staying put for the whole weekend!!!After a considerable paddle, which included some rather hairy open-waterwind-ferries, we found a site at the conjucntion of the main channel andthe Eastern Outlet. We settled in for a feast of pasta, wine and cobblerand some folks even went for a swim!! (O.K., so they were wearing wet-suite,but still!!!). The weekend as a whole was almost bug-free, an almost unknownphenomena for central Ontario at this time of year. In the evening we gatheredround the fire, baked bannock in the reflector oven and engaged in thatwonderful old paddler's tradition of telling stories (i.e. lying!) arounda campfire.
On Sunday morning we got up with the sun so that we could beat thewind and paddled down the Eastern Outlet to its juction with the Main Outletat the Elbow. From there we fought headwinds down to the Dalles Rapidsportage. Arriving about lunch-time, we left our boats cached just off thetrail at the upstream end and set up camp on a beautiful site overlookingthe powerful and impressive rapids.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, hiking, reading, snoozing and havinga lesson in Hydrology (river reading) with Tripper Dave. Stuart even founda brand new thermarest on the portage trail (unfortunately for Stuart,we met up with the original owners the next day and returned it!)
Dalles Rapids is a truly spectacular spot as these pictures show:
As the shadowsbegan to lengthen we tucked into an evening repast of beans and mash followedby a sumptuaous desert of brandied fruit to accompany a spectacular sunsetand another evening of wine and lies.?We fell asleep to the music of therapids, which was loud enough even to drown out the snorers!
Monday morning dawn bight, clear and CALM. We had a hearty breakfastof porridge, scrambled yellow stuff (some of which was rumoured to be eggs!)bagels, english muffins, fresh fruit and plenty of Just Us Coffee RoastersCo-op Dark French Roast Coffee, the best coffee know to humankind. We hada magic paddle back up the main channel and when we turned north towardsHartley Bay, we had a wonderful tailwind.
Keith, Morgan and Beth (in the Peregrine) and Cline and Marta (in theNova Craft)
Lisa and Stuart??????????????????????????????????????????? J and Kate
Blue skies, rocks, white pines and open water, this is the epitomy ofOntario Canoeing.
We arrived back at Hartley Bay about 2:00 pm and loaded up the vehicles.We all drove to the little rest-stop park where Highway 69 crosses theFrench River where we unpacked and sorted gear before starting the longdrive south. After the obligatory group pictures, we waved good-bye tothe French and vowed to return soon.