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Paddling the Laurentians - Doncaster, Du Nord & Noire

Saturday-Sunday Apr 30-May 1, 2016
Kayak: Culley, Carleton, Matt, Will, Mike
Organizer: Carleton & Culley
Difficulty: flatwater
Level: medium
Author: Mike M

There's some good whitewater in the Laurentides north of Montreal.  For some reason a lot of folks think you have to go somewhere far away and exotic to find good whitewater - and promptly tell you about their $3000 trip to Norway or Chile.  Meanwhile us Vermonters scoff and then head an hour north to the border.  Why?  Because of the Quebec whitewaters.


The first river we did was the Doncaster.  I don't know exactly what the level was (there's some gauge rock somewhere), but if felt like a Quebec medium-low.  It's pretty similar to Joe's Brook in VT - long-ish slides and ledges, with easier boogie between - though it's shorter but a little steeper.  It even has a multi-part rapid halfway down you'll probably want to scout.  There were tons of Quebeckers around and of course they were all ridiculously friendly.  So friendly we just had to head up for another lap with about 20 of them.  It was crowded and a lot of French was spoken, but we did our best to blend in.  Will even roped a swimmer out.


The crowd sort of dissipated after that, but the two local A-teamers, Alex and Loic were game to hit the nearby Du Nord.  This is only about 20 minutes away, is a little harder and holds water a little better than the Doncaster.  Anyways, we got to the takeout bridge, looked at the poorly-conceived gauge and our two new friends called the level high.  Then they chattered in unintelligible French, pronounced the level medium and off we went to the put-in.


As soon as we left the put-in I noticed the amount of water in the riverbed and the way it boiled off ledges on the side.  By the time we made it past the massive holes in the first few rapids, I realized this was not un niveau moyenne (a medium level)... it was un niveau moyenne-sportif.  Nevertheless, our guides did a good job of running us through the half-dozen or so slides and ledges in the first half of the run (minus the waterfall, which our hosts ran, but not us) before we hopped out for a portage around a very marginal section that has everything wrong with it and could kill you in at least a dozen ways (yet apparently has been run).  Back on the water there were more rapids - another half-dozen or so primarily boulder gardens with fun juicy boofy moves.  This turned out to be a great run and 25 cms was a great solid medium level.  This runs a lot I'm told, and is sort of the Montreal version of the New Haven.


That evening we headed a little farther northeast to the Riviere Noire.  This area was surprisingly wild and it seemed like the vast semi-boreal spruce forest belonged up north of Quebec City, not 45 minutes outside of the second largest city in the northeast.  We found a great stealth campsite right at the Noire takeout and enjoyed a cold starry night's sleep.


The Noire the next morning was a lot of fun.  10 or 11 cms is a nice level - medium, maybe low side of medium.  It's only 2 or 3 miles long, I think, but there's a good-sized bedrock rapid every one or two tenths of a mile or so.  There was a pretty nice variety too - some ledges, small slides, a pinch with a bad hole we carried around, a big cascade we ran that probably broke my boat and some more good-sized ledges.  All of this was tough enough to be interesting but never that scary.  The last section was the best - the granite got really smooth (a rarity in Quebec) and a three great bedrock drops came back to back.


At the takeout there were yet more Quebec boaters - friendly as ever - wanting us to join them for our second lap.  Unfortunately we had to head home but that's not that far away.  From the Noire it was only 3 hours back to Burlington.

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