Bow River Valley – Part 3 upset.

morning on tkhe bow river

I got off to an early start the next morning.  After a hearty breakfast, I soon had the tent down and all the gear packed and ready to go.  First I had to work my way back to the main river from the creek where I had camped. This is wilderness camping at its best. I had the whole river to myself.

Once back on the river the miles of mountain scenery began to slide by endlessly.  River, woods, and mountains, similar but never the same.

As the hours past, the river continued to wind and twist and as the curves got sharper it was very difficult to see what lay just ahead. The current at the bend of a river has a tendency to slow down on the inside and drop gravel, so it is shallow water.  On the outside of the curve the water speeds up to go the longer distance, eats away at the river bank which results in deeper water. The fast water undercuts the bank and caused pine trees to topple into the river, but still anchored on the shore.  These tree can hang just over the water surface and interfere with anything or anyone passing by. Staying in the middle of the river on normal curves is the best method.

Bow river sweepers #18

Eventually I reached an “S” curve in the river by entering a right hand curve.  At the same time I could see a number of evergreens hanging over or in the water on my right side. This  is a photo I took the next day.  We are looking down stream and a large gravel bar is on the left hand side of the river.

As I came around the bend in the middle of the river I tried to aim for the gravel bar where the water was slower, but the current swept me to the fast water on the right side. In my effort to go left, the current swung the back end of the canoe around to my right so I started to go down river sideways. It was at this moment I noticed a pine tree hanging right across my path as it leaned out from the right hand bank with the trunk about eight inches about the river surface. Only the tip of the tree was in the water.

I was paddling so hard I was afraid I was going to snap my paddle in half. I realized I was at the point of no return and I was going to hit the tree with the right side of the canoe. To prevent the side of the canoe from going under the tree and leaving me in the water, I leaned to my left and let the entire right side of the canoe take the blow.

The tree was big enough and firmly rooted to the shore so it easily stopped the canoe. The water on my left surged up, filled the canoe in seconds, causing it to sink and roll under the tree with me inside. I got out of the canoe and as I surfaced I saw a second pine tree waiting for me a short distance away. I followed the canoe and  I ducked under the second tree, pushed by the fast current, and came back up on the other side.

The canoe was upside down and pointed downstream. As I started swimming after the canoe, I noticed my hat bobbing in the water near by.  I reached over, grabbed the hat and put it back on my head.  It seemed the sensible thing to do at that time.

When I caught up to the canoe I grabbed onto the back end and rolled it up right in the water. The sides of the canoe were just showing on the surface of the river. Looking ahead I could see a large gravel bar in the middle of the river and managed to steer the canoe towards it. I crawled up onto the gravel and then dragged the canoe up high enough so it would not be swept away.

Two sweeper trees. #21

This photo was taken the next day, from the gravel bar, looking back upstream and the river bend I came around. The two small evergreen trees in the middle of the photo on the right hand side mark the river and current that swept me around the bend. The two trees in the foreground are the two that my canoe and I rolled under. As I stood up on the gravel bar it was at this moment the shock of the ice cold water hit me. I stood in the middle of the river shivering with the cold and the shock of the mishap. I am a good swimmer so I never felt concerned at any time.

My hands were stiff as I awkwardly removed my shirt and pants.  Once I had rung out most of the water I put them both back on. Still shivering, tipped the canoe and drained out the water. When I checked out the contents of the canoe and found I had lost both paddles, but everything else was still securely packed. I dug out the camera from the packsack and saw that it was still there but rather damp. I rewound the film back into the cassette then drained the water out of the camera.

Gravel Bar #23

This photo was also taken the next day from the river bank, looking upstream  and shows the gravel bar in the left side of the shot.  The tree in the foreground was still anchored  on the bank but lay just over the surface of the water and the top reached over the gravel bar.

The water was rushing past on each side of the gravel bar so fast, any attempt to swim ashore would have quickly swept me down the river and out of sight. Since I had lost both paddles I could not use the canoe. I was stuck on a gravel bar in the middle of a swift river and I needed to get ashore to dry land. I now had a new problem.


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