Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24 weekend trip Day 1: La Cave Rapids

 " We have reached Portage de la cave where there is a fall of 5 feet 9 inches in the stream. The water makes a tremendous rush through a narrow part not more than 100 yds wide, but it is tossed into great breakers it meets with no rocks" - William E Logan 15 October 1845

After the construction of the Holden dam in 1952 water levels were raised 22.9 meters flooding long sault rapids, mountain rapids,rapides des erables and la cave rapids. Forming la cave lake.

"We could shoot for just north of Temiscaming. That would run us about 170km" I wrote on our clubs email group. "We'll play it by ear" Charles replied. We departed for Mattawa the next day with the solid plan to turn left once we hit the put in. Truly my kind of trip planning.

Finding the launch site was more difficult than expected. We had started at the dam however the marked Portage road also had a “no authorised vehicle” sign. I called the workers inside and they didn’t have anyone handy to send out. I told the friendly lady we would check further up the road and come back if we didn’t find a public launch. After trying a few dirt roads that ended in rows of cottages and no access we finally went back to the Holden dam

Picking up the receiver a man said he would be right out. He came and told us we could just drive on up there and gave us Ontario dam safety and portage information. He followed us up and showed us the best place to park so we wouldn't get blocked in and wished us a good trip.

......We turned left.

23 degrees and a light breeze was a little warm in the drysuit; but a quick feel of the 5 degree water was a quick reminder of why I was wearing it.

Sandy beaches decorated by budding birch and flowering bushes hid the active rail line behind it. Water snake sunning himself  in the midday sun along the log strewn beach.

Golden sand soon turned to the shields reality of rugged shoreline with looming pine and cedar. Towering cliffs pushing warm fragrant air in pockets across my nose. Sweet smell’s of thousands of opening flowers and heats effect on the cedars made every breathy enjoyable. Snake river tumbled into a foam making the air cool 'neath the cedars.

The weather changed quickly pushing in from the north. We both discussed earlier as we watched cumulonimbus rise that we had a hour tops before....

-photo credit Charles Brazeau

Downpour! Honestly it made for a nice paddle. After a few claps of thunder the lightning subsided and the cool rain provided a nice cool down from the heat of the drysuits. At this point I didn't have to ask Charles if he was still good to go. I didn't have to worry about some bitter person wet cold and complaining at camp later. Having tripped with him many times before I knew he was as crazy as I am.

The rain didn't last long as we paddled along the shoreline. it had a more meditative trace on me as I paddled along listening to the tune of the rain on my hood. As quickly as it had came it passed on. Fog began to raise from the cold waters of La cave lake; smoke from the battlefield of seasons changing. 

We could have paddled strait up the river pushing the physical limits with kilometer goals; we didn't. Paddling along the shores watching for wildlife and taking it all in. I have no idea what would have caused such cool patterns in the rock face but I assume it's some form of sedimentary rock. Sites like this is why I kayak.

25 km in we decided to start looking for a camp along the shores. Charles stayed on the Quebec side as I swung across river to scout out that side. From previous trips along the river the best scenery is always on the Quebec side yet the best camps always lay on the Ontario shore.  I found a grassy field atop a small elevation with a nice sandy beach to land on. A quick blast of my fox whistle prompted a response about 2km across as paddles now turned my way flashed in the last light of the day. The sandstone was carved out all along the shore by some eager animals. Some half done; some quite deep inside.

Supper cooking under a few small showers.

I settled in early to my cosy tent overlooking the beautiful river. Charles stayed up a little later hanging the food from the bears and taking it all in. Before the sunset I was asleep. 


  1. Lee, your sexy rock is a "flow banded gneiss". You may be partially right in saying it was sedimentary but in a previous life. The rock was formed under great temperature and pressure so much so that it partially melted and turned to a taffy like consistency causing the minerals to melt and align in bands.

    Tony :-)

  2. Great pics and narrative. Can't think of a better way to spend a long weekend - we're envious! Heck FP, we even have spiders up here! Weird eh? ;-) D.

  3. CHeer's FP...Just watch out for our snow snakes!

    Tony thank you so much for the info. It's one of those things I wish I had knowledge in that it appears you do. I see so many cool things that always make me wonder. Thanks a ton for the info!

    Thanks a bunch Duncan! It was a great trip and just awesome scenery. A great time to reflect. I hope you enjoy the rest of the trip. day two is posted and working on day 3-4 !

  4. What's the name of the river with the rapids? And, were there more rapids above it, or did that appear to be it?



  5. Philip thats Snake Creek on the Quebec side. There is one other set of rapids as it tumbles in above however looks like a winding slow moving river up on the elevation.

    However the Kipawawa is just upstream with it's class 3-4!