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Rouge River, Quebec

Sunday Jul 29, 2007
Kayak: Will, Scott, Ryan, Eric, Grayson, Matt
Organizer: Will
Difficulty: int-adv WW
Level: medium low
Gauge (cfs): 1850
Author: Grayson

Well, I guess somebody ought to submit a report for this trip because it was a good one! Six of us met for a run (or two) on the Rouge River in Quebec on Sunday. It's about a 3-hour drive from Burlington, and has a great mix of significant drops and fun play features. All the big drops are discrete, and can be easily scouted or portaged. Best of all, it runs all summer long! The section we paddled is only a 3 or 4 mile run, so most of us ran it twice Sunday. The level when we ran it was 52.5cms (about 1850cfs), which is a medium-low-ish flow. Photos and video clips at the below links.

Scott's photos

Ryan's photos

Grayson's photos

Grayson's video clips


Now, I've found no good online descriptions of the river, so I'll do my best to describe the section we paddled in detail below for any VPC paddlers who might want a little beta before heading up there themselves. DISCLAIMER: This might not be entirely accurate, but it's probably better than what you might find just by googling around. :)


1. Family Rapid: Class-II/III rapid with some small play features. Much of it is visible from the road to the put-in.

2. Elizabeth's Sill (aka Sister Elizabeth): Class-IV-ish discrete pool-drop. When you see power-lines crossing the river, and an obvious horizon-line ahead, that's Elizabeth's Sill. Scout river-right. Common line is to hit the small-ish eddy on river-right just above the drop, and then peel back into the current and aim for the large tongue to punch the mush at the bottom. It's a fairly violent hit at the bottom, with lots of squirly water, but nothing really retentive, and plenty of time to recover afterward in a big pool, so low consequence. Beware of rafts! They like to congregate below this drop to try and surf the mess at the bottom of it, and you can't always see them as you approach the drop. Look to people on shore or below the drop to signal when it's clear: vertical paddle means go, horizontal paddle means wait.

3. Reactionary, Forbidden Wave, Draino: Class-III/IV-ish features. I don't have great recollection of these, I think because they weren't that significant at the low/med water level we had Sunday and/or were easy to avoid, but I'll relay what I can about them. Reactionary (perhaps also called Corkscrew) is a corkscrewing hole near the start of the rapid after Elizabeth's Sill. Forbidden Wave (perhaps also called Hawaii 5-O) is a wave you'll want to steer well clear of, especially at higher flows. It's on river-right as the river makes a turn to the left and is pretty easy to avoid if you're aware of it. Draino is a hole on river-left/center a little above Mushroom that gets nasty at high water levels but is more tame and easy to avoid at lower levels. Stay right as you approach Mushroom to avoid Draino.

4. Mushroom: Class-IV-ish discrete drop. Scout river-right. As you approach Mushroom the river narrows a bit with rocks on both sides, and you'll see a pretty obvious horizon-line with only a surging plume of water visible not far beyond it. The surging plume is the Mushroom. Time to pull out on river-right to scout. The Mushroom is a surging dynamic wave that forms at the end of a long tongue of water. It looks intimidating, but the best line is actually to aim straight for it with some momentum to keep you going through it upright. Washing Machine is just below, so roll up quick if Mushroom knocks you over so you can make it into the huge eddy on river-left to wait for a clear shot into Washing Machine.

5. Washing Machine: Class-IV-ish discrete drop. Scout river-right. When you scout Mushroom, just walk down a bit further to get a look at Washing Machine too. The line is to punch straight through a meaty hole near river-right. River-left through center is big pour-overs that you'd do well to avoid. I think the hole you have to punch is actually more retentive at lower levels, and at higher levels gets more flushy but with more squirly water below it. Plenty of time to recover in the big pool below this drop. Getting recirc'd can be violent, but is typically short-lived as the hole will spit you out on its own pretty quick after flipping you over vertically a couple times (not that i'd recommend it). Look for the weak point in the hole and aim for that with good momentum and weight forward to avoid getting recirc'd. As with Elizabeth's Sill, the biggest danger at Washing Machine is rafts. They like to surf the hole right where you need to punch through it, and you can't always see them as you approach the drop. Luckily there's a huge eddy on river-left between Mushroom and Washing Machine where you can hang out and wait for someone to signal it's all clear.

6. Surprise: Surprise hole in the middle of some easy rapids not far after Washing Machine. Can catch you off guard if you're not paying attention, but it's nothing that can't be pretty easily punched. The river will funnel you straight into it as the main flow goes between a couple large rocks (i.e. I don't remember there being a way around the hole) but just know it's coming and it's easy to punch through. Not far below the Surprise hole there's a smooth and very friendly surf wave with pretty good eddy service that's well worth a stop.

7. The Seven Sisters: Class-V/V+ series of falls. Portage or scout river-right. When you see remains of an old bridge pylon type thing in the middle of the river, The Seven Sisters are just around the corner. There's a beautiful play wave/hole on river-left just before the river-right take-out eddy for the portage trail, but if you surf here just be certain you don't swim or it might well be your last. The Sisters are very serious class-V drops that some folks choose to run, but only in low water. You can easily get a good look at the first two, and they're quite impressive (see photos). The portage trail on river-right is very well trodden, and easy to find and follow. It'll put you back on the river just below the Sixth Sister, where the most obvious way into the water is via a fun 6 or 8 foot seal-entry. Ferry across some easy quick-water to river-left to scout or portage the Seventh Sister, which is the least intimidating of the seven, and probably more of a class IV+ rating at most levels. The common line is to boof the big tongue on the main drop to avoid the recirc below and either side of it, but that spits you straight toward a large rock downstream with not a whole lot of time to recover, so be sure you stay upright or roll up quickly to steer clear. Scott ran this line and rolled in time to miss the rock, the rest of us walked the drop. Matt said there's also an option of running a sneak route far river-right at somewhat higher water levels, but even then it's bony and not a lot of fun. Just as easy to walk it on river-left.

8. Exit Rapid: Class-III-ish rapid with some good play. There's a real nice play wave near the middle/end of this rapid. Dynamic and fast with pretty good eddy service. On warm summer days the rocks on river-left of this rapid bloom with hordes of sunbathing French Canadians. This used to be primarily nude bathing territory years ago, but it seems the full-nude bathers have moved upstream as the Exit Rapid banks have become popular with a younger bikini-clad crowd. Don't be surprised to see full-nude bathers at the lower Sisters drops.


conversion: 1cms = 35.3146667cfs

runnable: 25cms to 150cms+

best: 40cms to 120cms


This is the lowest section of the Rouge River before it flows into the Ottawa. It lies just west of the town of Calumet, in Grenville-Sur-La-Rouge, Quebec, about 30 miles west of Montreal. Use Google Maps or similar to get you to the intersection of hwy-148 and Chemin de la Riviere-Rouge (or click here). Just west of Chemin de la Riviere-Rouge (road sign might say Chemin Kilmar instead) on hwy-148 is a camp on the left (south) side of the road where you can park for your take-out (actually on the Ottawa, just after the confluence). This is on the east side of the hwy-148 bridge across the Rouge. The camp charges a few dollars per person for you to park there and take out. To get to the put-in, drive up Chemin de la Riviere-Rouge (aka Chemin Kilmar) and follow signs to the raft company called 'Propulsion' where you can park for $5 per car and then carry boats across the road to put in on some flatwater a little above the start of Family Rapid. Be sure to bring small bills for put-in/take-out fees because, while they might accept US Dollars, they'll probably have change only in Canadian Dollars if at all.

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