Eramosa Day Canoe Trip, March 27 2009

You can navigate the map above, zoom in, and there are comments on the way point markers.


The Eramosa is a great early-season/run-off river for a bit of in-town fun (north of Guelph). At the highest water levels, it can be quite challenging due to narrow width, sweepers, and some technical CI and CII water. After the spring run-off subsides a bit, it's a very pleasant paddle with some fun technical swifts and CI, with a few bump-and-grind shoals along the way. You only have a month or two after the spring melt to run it, before it becomes too low. If the GRCA gauge at Eramosa and Watson Road reads less than about 5 m3/s, then I don't recommend paddling this section at all. If you run this section very early in the season, then bring a good saw to deal with small log jams and low branches. And, be aware that it's a bumpy ride at any time of year, so I don't recommend taking fancy or expensive boats that can't take a bit of bottom wear. Take note that if the GRA Watson Road gauge is reading 15 m3/s or more, then this is a very fast run, requiring quick reflexes: be ready for low-hanging strainers, at least one limbo-maneuver under a low bridge, and a couple technical CI-CII rapids.

Trip Details

Dan Greene and I hooked up at our planned end point in Rockwood. We had checked it out the week before at the various bridges along the way, and decided that the much lower water levels would make it easy to run this early in the year, albeit a bit of a bump-and-grind. The Grand River watershed levels already were 1/4 of the high marks from March 12th.

Dan Collens (yes, I know too many "Dans") and I had tackled the Everton to Rockwood section in 2008 in peak high flood in early April, and it was quite challenging. You can find the complete trip report of that adventure here: canoe_trip_eramosa_2008_04_06.shtml.

So, with the much lower water levels despite the earlier season start, Dan G. and I decided to tackle the same section of the Eramosa. The weather was spectacular for March, a beautiful sunny day hitting highs of 12C.

We parked at the old mill in Everton, and walked down to the access point 200m or so after the falls (which are very stunning... take a side trip and have a peak). The water levels seemed quite good here, only one or two feet less than less year's trip (the benefit of dams here and at Rockwood).

The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) maintains live water flow information for the full watershed in this region. The nearest water monitoring station is "Eramosa River at Watson Road". The reading was 4.92 m3/s of flow on this trip, and it was around 20 two weeks prior (the high point). When Dan C. and I had run the Eramosa in 2008, it was running around 15 or 20. For live GRCA data, visit here:

GRCA River Data

The first 2 km of this river are just fantastic: wilderness setting, remote, quite, and easy to paddle. Then comes a meandering swampy section just before the pond/camp, which can be tricky to paddle through. Follow the blue arrows painted on the trees, avoiding the left channel.

Part way down, we passed a vegation mat on a log. I guess this seemed wierd enough to me for March that I looked a second time, and saw that it was in fact a dead beaver belly up, partly out of the water! Sad to see, but it was clear all along this stretch that the beaver and otter population are doing well, amazing enough for an semi-urban area.

After the pond/camp, follow the narrow water channel on the left. You'll hear some real water ahead about 100m in, so pull over and scout it... this is a must in any water level. Both high and low, the water can make the narrow passage a bit tricky. Last year, the channel had to be run extreme right and would rate as a CII technical (with the GRA Watson Road bridge reading 20 m3/s, 4 times what is shown to the right). . This year, with much lower water, it was CI technical, with only a 2 to 3 feet section on the off-center right that was runnable, or you'd bottom out on an ugly section for sure.

From here to Rockwood, there are lots of fun bends and fast moving water. There's also a number of old walking/snowmobile bridges with center abutments you have to navigate carefully around. At the highest water level, these can be a difficult limbo-job in fast moving current. Generally, take the right side of most of these bridge abutments, if you otherwise are not sure.

In Rockwood, you can pull out before the bridge in town, and there's plenty of place to park in the park by the river. Dan and I made better time than we expected, so we shuttled the car at Everton down to Eden Mills and setup to run the remaining section from Rockwood.

While you can paddle under the bridge in Rockwood, there's no where to go (except over the 10m falls, which I don't recommend!) So, we portaged the canoe on the west bank (right side) down "Valley Road", a gravel path beside a hydro station. After 200m or so, we were able to scoot into the bush along the bank and put in just before the fenced entrance to Rockwood Conservation Area.

All of this trip had new sections of water one of us hadn't explored yet. For me, I hadn't paddled through this lovely little canyon park. It reminded me of Elora Gorge, just more compact and completely accessible in a canoe. Luckily, the lake was only 1/2 frozen still, so we had no problem paddling across.

After the lake, we pulled up and portaged around the dam and carried on the Eramosa River. From here to Eden Mills, there were many more very low shoals with much bump-and-grind bottoming out of the canoe. Good thing I had the beater ABS boat, not my fancy 38lb, 17'6" kevlar Temagami Swift with integrated gunnels! But there was still a lot of fast moving water, and it was modestly challenging to plan the most effective route through the narrow and shallow sections.

It was part way down this section in a shallow sandy section that we saw our first fish of the trip. Normally, the Grand River and tributaries are full of carp and bass, providing infinite amusement with kids in the boat. But this early, I guess they don't stay in the open water much. So, seeing something large dart by, we turned and followed. It turned out to be a quite large pike (1'6"), possibly guarding a nest. I had heard that pike were in the Grand River, but had never seen one to date.

The pond before the dam in Eden Mills was completely melted, so we had no problems pulling over to the east bank (left side).

The week prior, Dan G. and I had paddled from the first bridge south of Eden Mills into Guelph, at the intersection of the Speed River and the Eramosa. This was a pleasant and easy low-water trip. So, we can now say we've paddled the whole navigable section of the Eramosa River!

In summary, an awesome early spring trip, easing away the winter blues as we wait for canoe season proper to open!

Ermamosa #3 - April 12, 2009

Dan Greene decided we could not let another nice-weather day go by, while the Eramosa was still running over 5 m3/s. This weekend, it was running 7.1 at the Watson Rd. bridge, so we decided to run the complete Eramosa River, from top to bottom (Everton to Guelph at Victoria St. near Boult St.).

Having run every part of the river except a small 1 km section from Eden Mills to the first bridge south, this would be a little more work for sure! In total, we paddled and lugged about 20km from 9:30am to 3:30pm.

Our only challenge of the trip was a brief episode of temporary, involuntary moisture just before the entrance to Rockwood Conservation Park. The put in we chose was just before the final rapids, allowing us a little fun ride for the start of this leg. We had run this small section on the prior trip just fine. But, there is an ugly monsterous boulder smack in the middle, which requires some work to get positioned to the right of it, given the left-bank entrance to the river. Last time, we had furiously back-paddled to get into position, and had successfully skirked the rock-of-doom. Alas, we got a bit more cocky this time, and decided we could angle in directly for this run. Well, the bad judgement combined with the extra 50% water flow did us in, pinning us on the rock before we could position on the right of it. Seconds later we filled with water, and then bounced our way down to the bottom of the flow.

Embarassed, given Dan and I thought we knew what we were doing, we dried off, changed clothes, then paddled off to retrieve the one lost paddle and bruised egos. Of course, an older couple on the bank watched all this entertainment, looking worried or simply confused, no doubt wondering what kind of fools would paddle in the frigid waters in early April. They finally walked on, once I stripped down to change my underwear, thankfully. You don't often see a full moon in the middle of a sunny day!

In Eden Mills at the put out, an older couple was walking by, staring at us like all the other gawkers I imagine as simply in awe of our fortitude to brave the early-season waters. So, my bubble of ego-swelling was keenly burst when a third in their group rounded the corner with paddles and life-vests in tow! These seniors had put in at Rockwood in canoes, and were carrying on in the same direction as us down river! As we paddled off from the hearty seniors, Dan and I solumnly swore that we'd be doing the same thing in our sixties (and maybe 70s) some fine early Spring day.

The rest of the paddle was uneventful, but an excellent easy run back into urbean river-territory. Pulling out at park near Victoria St. and Boult, Dan and I drove back to my car in Everton, talking up our next day-trip in the Grand River Shed.