Well, with the glorious weather today (Sunday), we decided to do this trip today rather than mid-week. We started at Everton, and intended to go to Eden Mills, on the Eramosa River. One canoe, two guys. It was fun and turned out fine, but we did have a bit of an adventure at the end...
We started at the bridge over the Eramosa River in Everton. A difficult put it behind the abandoned mill (or whatever that building is), as the snow was deep, and underbrush a bit tricky to get around. There was a downed tree along the obvious path right over a narrow section, but we avoided it since the falls below the dam at the bridge was raging... definitely can't put a canoe in that far up!
While putting in, one guy came up wondering himself about going down this early, asking questions. A young couple showed up with a canoe ready to paddle all the way down to Guelph (she was a canoe instructor she said, so comfortable with the risk). They put in a bit after us.
The first kilometer or two to the section before the camp at the pond was idilic... although much water flow, no white water at all and very scenic (lots of chunks of floating ice, but not a problem). Then came the swamp section above the pond, which I anticipated would be bad. It was... several downed trees that had to be navigated, some scratches from narrow sections against tree branches, etc.
The pond had an unfrozen channel for the complete length. At this point, with the tricky various lift overs so far (without any good footing and 3-4 foot water depth), the couple had caught up to us and we continued together. After the pond, there was a true narrow white water section (maybe CI to the right, worse to the left). They ran it successfully staying hard right, and we followed... good fun. From there, the river continued to flow very fast at all times with many swifts and a few standing waves, providing little warning as we meandored many bends. Many low branches had to be navigated at speed, and one small (snowmobile?) bridge was low enough that we had to virtually lie flat in the canoe to get under with the high water. The flow of the river didn't let up, there were many swifts, yet the depth was often only a foot or so above rocks... can't imagine running this in much less water, let this rate of flow left little time to decide things as you raced along.
Then we rounded a bend, and there was an old decreped snowmobile bridge right there (a bit before Rockwood), with a big cement abutment in the middle. I got a bit cocky, didn't back paddle to line up perfect to the right and we came a bit too close to the center piling. I pried away without hitting it, but that turned us just enough to screw things up, and bath time ensued.
I've never dumped like that, especially in cold water (just above zero, maybe 3C), but all went smoothly and quickly. We hauled the canoe to shore, secured it, and quickly got out the dry clothes in our dry bags. With the sun out, neither of us were really that cold, before or after (I was surprised how the 20 seconds or so in the water really wasn't that bad... maybe because we only got up to our shoulders at worst). The couple kindly returned the bow paddle that had floated off, and my buddy and I regrouped to consider things. After a bit of lunch, we decided it best not to continue, given no more dry clothes and extended time the trip was taking due to tricky liftovers (only 1/2 way at that point).
It was only an 800m walk to Rockcut/Rockwood up the trail across the decreped bridge. Amazingly, there are taxis in this small town, and we simply got dropped off at Everton, took the car back to Rockcut, loaded up, and headed to Eden Mills to get the second car.
So, a fun adventure with an unexpected twist, and a good learning experience. I had not thought the water would be running that high and fast, and indeed it wasn't for the first couple of kilometers. A dumb mistake (on my part) put us in the drink, but could have been easily avoided. I'm not sure what the rest of the journey would have been like, especially if going all the way to Guelph.
Surprisingly, my (new-last-season-ultra-light-kevlar) canoe took a few good scratches, probably from the liftovers and few trees poking out here and there. So much for thinking the high levels would mean no scratches since rocks would not be a problem! I need a different canoe for this kind of river trip, especially narrow winding fast moving swift to CI water (17'5" is too long, and my canoe has no rocker, so tough to steer).
Dan Pronovost and Dan Collens