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whitewater play novice paddlers 1 day
Rouge River
Sunday, April 28, 2002
length: 6.0km, 1 day
difficulty: novice

leader: Keith Nunn
participants: Keith Nunn,

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I was hot and cold on the prospects for a successful run all week, but woke up Sunday morning determined to go. The overnight rainfall had been about 18mm (by my backyard beer glass guage) so I was hopeful. Unfortunately, it turned out I was going to be on my own as Michel had sprained his ankle, robbing Timothy of a bow paddler.

I know, I know. Paddling alone, especially on an unknown river, is stupid. I'm stupid. Now let's move on...

There was enough water to avoid any real frustration. But I wouldn't have wanted to paddle with much less. (Fred, can you find out what the water levels in the Rouge were on Sunday morning so we can have a future reference?)

I made sure I was better than normally equipped and set out for the Finch Meander. It looked good from Old Finch (there's a great put-in here with a parking lot and everything), but I wanted to paddle the whole meander so I headed further up to the Sewells Road suspension bridge. (A decent put-in but no parking to speak of).

The Finch Meander is definitely worth the lousy parking. There are two long bends in the river. The first is fairly constant swifts/I and the second bend was a long class I/II. There was also a side channel at river right on the second bend. It was too shallow to run, but was clear and could be a nice little chute in higher water.

Then came the bailey bridge at Old Finch and below that the big question, "Is the zoo passable or posted?" The answer is, "both." The banks are thoroughly posted, but the river itself is great and no fearsome creatures are able to approach and eat you.

There are many swifts and class I through the zoo, but there are some more challenging obstacles as well. (I may have the sequence a bit scrambled beyond here, but this is my recollection.)

Shortly after you enter the zoo is a class II/III rapid (zoo gate). It's on a slow bend and offers a few good waves and many small eddies.

A bit further is a river-wide sweeper on a blind curve to river left.

Near the middle of the zoo is the one rapid I had to scout from shore. Around a sharp corner to river left is a jagged, river-wide line of rocks, which effectively forms a ledge. This is preceded by a number of rocks that make the approach awkward and is followed by something approaching a boulder garden. I eventually spotted the route and took it. I'd call it a class III, but I wouldn't touch it in a tandem boat, there's not enough manuevering room.

Further on past a few more swift/class I stretches is a nice class II on an S-bend with a strong central flow and nice eddies for ferrying, s-turns. There's probably a good wave here for surfing at higher water.

Another river-wide sweeper and you're basically through the zoo. Actually, I was able to sneak the sweeper with a zig-zag at far river right, but that could easily be plugged and certainly wouldn't be passable by a tandem boat.

A few more swifts and class I stretches, before I pulled the plug at Meadowvale Road. I was highly torn, because I could see more great stuff ahead, but I was tired and the temperature was dropping fast and the rain was just starting to fall as I got to the shelter of the bridge at Kirkhams Road, just before Meadowvale.

In general, this is a fantastic local river that I wish I'd paddled long ago. I think the whitewater is generally much better than the Credit and the scenery is wonderful. The only lack is a really good playspot like the dam above ADM milling on the Credit. However, there's still another 6km of likely whitewater I haven't seen.

There are many, many sweepers and strainers on this river through all sections. There is nearly always a good route, but this is not a river to make errors on. Almost constant manuevering is required in the rapids and on the corners to stay clear of potentially dangerous sweepers and strainers.

Anyone with a clear head and good boat control (solid novice) can handle this run and really improve their handling in a fun and beautiful environment. They should probably take an intermediate paddler to probe ahead. This is not a river for beginners, even if they have a skilled trip leader. Almost all rapids are portageable, but are so numerous, you'd be carrying your boat most of the time.

I plan to paddle this river again all the way down. Hopefully, more certain and precise water data can be had via Fred and may allow post-rain runs in warmer weather.


There's a tonne of general Rouge information at http://www.rivernen.ca/.

posted by: Keith Nunn

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