Eloise’s Wilderness Trek

img499Back in the mid 70’s, prior to becoming an English Teacher, Eloise ventured into Northern Ontario on a number of canoe trips. In this shot the guide is paddling while she fishes for the next meal. The canoe is piled high with all the camping gear and equipment.


The guide is multitasking, paddling and trolling for fish at the same time. We are on an unnamed pair of lakes that could only be reached by portaging the canoe and gear through the woods. A small island provides a perfect camping spot.


The tent is up, the cooking area erected, and the evening campfire site is ready. The island is about a quarter of a mile from the mainland and we are at least twenty miles from civilization.


Fishing for a big Northern is a daily activity.


At least we won’t go hungry this evening.


Future English teacher, substituting as camp cook.


This is what she looks like when the fish are not biting. Many a student of English experienced this look when things were not going well. (I am going to die when she sees these pictures!)

Journeys end – P5


Once again we portaged around rocky rapids and waterfalls, anyone of which would have made a good place to fish but we had to keep moving. The little motor was efficient and allowed us to bypass a couple of gasoline caches.


The supper hour passed and our hunger began to grow.  We were all tired of the long journey and looked forward to the end of the last portage.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This portion of the map shows how we had to zig zag our way north. Near the center of the map where we made a right angle turn to the right, it shows the dead end lake where we had to turn around and backtrack.

Eventually we came to the end of the journey and found VM waiting at the end of the portage with a larger boat. We happily got out of the canoe and into the roomier boat. Because it was about 7:30 pm I was handed the bottle of Scotch, having won my bet with William.


We just left the canoe  where it was and headed to the camp for a hearty meal.
VM was asking lots of questions which we answered but he knew all three of us well and quickly picked up on the frosty relationship between us.

After eating I went outside in order to leave the three partners to talk freely. I was not interested in rehashing the sore points of the trip. Soon I was asked back into the tent camp and told that we were allowed to speak our mind at the camp and anything that was said would remain in the camp.

I explained how close we came to tragedy on Goshawk lake and David’s behavior. He quickly said, “I was scared.”  I pointed out, “I was asked to go on the trip to prevent that kind of mistake but I was ignored and we all almost drowned in the cold water.”

In the ended everyone had their say and things cooled down. I left the bottle to the camp and it was opened during the discussions and helped smooth the way.  At some point David acknowledge I was right about the gas consumption and later put in his hour on the woodpile.


I took this shot the next day of William and David sitting with the plane drawn up on the wilderness beach a hundred miles north of Kenora.  The large tent camp is out of sight in the trees to the left. William and I went fishing in the morning and VM flew me back to Kenora in the afternoon.

While we were having lunch I was asked why I stuck to my gas and travel times  and how I managed to guess the right answers.  I pointed out that before we hauled the canoe to the starting point I had possession of it in Kenora for a few days and had a chance to give it a trial run. I not only learned it was great on gas but was going to be slow when loaded with three me.  There were lots of howls of laughter and complaints, but in the end  it had been a successful and safe trip.

William and I went fishing Sunday morning and he quietly admitted he thought the boat was sinking and he was going to drown. I realized that he had to stay silent or it would have damaged his relationship with his hunting partners. While fishing he took my photo at the rapids on Rowdy lake.


At the time of the trip/photo I was 33 years old. Today I am a few weeks short of my 83 birthday. All my companions connected with this trip have been dead for many years.







Gas/Time travel wagers – Part 4

img645 While we drove the canoe through the chain of lakes, rivers and rapids I though about the number of meetings we held the winter of 1967-68, to work out the details of the trip to Rowdy lake.. One of the earliest decisions agreed upon was that we would go in early spring of 1968. We had to wait until all the lakes and rivers were free of ice but soon enough to take advantage of the spring run off, which would improved passage through any rapids.

The most up to date map of our route showed we could make the trip in one day, but we would have to travel lite and keep moving as fast as possible.  We would start out early and carry sandwiches for one meal only. The major portages between the rivers and lakes were obvious, but very few of the rapids and falls were shown. Because our equipment was very limited we could move fairly quickly on a portage.  We carried no tent nor sleeping bags. Any unforeseen delays meant sleeping on the ground around a fire and going hungry till we reached our destination or back tracked to our starting point.

If we failed to show up at the rendezvous the plane could be used the next day to find us  and it could land on the closest lake to provide food or assistance.

Our route was easy to determine because there was only one chain of lakes and river available to us. It should not be difficult to find us if anything went wrong.

Many discussion evolved around how long it would take to make the journey and how many gallons of gasoline would be required.  Rather than carry and portage all our gas we solved that problem by filling a number of plastic gallon containers with gas then used the plane to drop them off in three places along the route. I flew with Dave a week prior to the trip and we hid one or two gallons on prominent island locations, on lakes that were large enough for us to fly into. This way we never had more than a couple of gallons to carry at any one time in the canoe or on a portage.

All the many discussions as to the length of time the trip was going to take were interesting and highly varied.  We never came to a common decision. Because of my canoeing experience I argued that it would be a race to get to the rendezvous before dark while William insisted we would be there by supper time. The winner would receive a bottle of scotch from the loser.

Another bet involved the amount of gas that we would use during the trip. David bet me an hour on the camp woodpile splitting wood that we would use all the gas we cached on the route while I was of the opinion that we would use a couple of gallons less.

As the miles and hours dragged on we all started to get hungry and at the same time watched the sun racing across the sky.  We ate the sandwiches at noon and picked up a couple of milk jugs of gas. It did not appear gas was going to be a problem but the diminishing hours were making William feel the bottle of scotch slipping from his grasp.

When I finished my turn at the helm I moved to the bow of the boat which allowed a person to lean back on a life jacket and have a nap. David was again running the motor.  Before and during the trip I had spent considerable time examining the map and the route.



When I wok up I felt refreshed.  I looked around me at the shore lines.  I did not recognize anything. As I looked at the shore that lay ahead I could not see any opening.  Half in jest, and half seriously I said, “How long have we been going the wrong way?”  William laughed heartily while David’s eyes darted around the shoreline and his heart sank.

We stopped the motor and closely examined the map.  It was obvious there was no opening on the north side of the lake.  About a mile back, David had failed to notice the river entered from his right. The lake we were on was called Wrong Lake. The hidden lake to our right was called Right Lake. Since the lakes were labeled this way on the map it was obvious prior travelers had had the same problem. David had obviously not been reading and following the map.

I was sorry for what I had said initially in jest.  There was no point in saying more. David was mortified, his face was beet red and looked like he  might die of a heart attack.

We soon were back on the right route and other than the hum of the motor there was deathly silence.


Sturgeon River portages – P3

Now we were on the Sturgeon river our travel conditions changed.  No more open water, no more high waves, and we were protected from the wind.

On the other hand we now faced impassible water falls and rocky rapids. Some portages were short and we simply dragged the loaded canoe around the rocks and shallows. Others necessitated removing the motor and all the gear.


While the scenery was breathtaking and the weather was improving, the inter-personal petty behavior continued. In one of our early winter planning meetings, before William was there, I was instructed that we all had to see that he, William, did not carry heavy loads or overtax himself as he was the oldest and had some heart issues. I agreed and had no problems with that.  I was the youngest, the biggest and the strongest and was willing to do more than my share.

When we hit the big water fall we learned the portage was about fifteen minutes in length. Once the canoe was out of the water David grabbed his pack sack, slipped it over his shoulder and headed off across the portage with out a word to either of us.

William unfastened the motor and head down the trail with it in one hand and the gas tank in the other. I stood there looking at the empty  16 foot canoe, then lifted it on my shoulders and followed. When I arrived at the end of the portage Dave stood there looking at William and his load, then staring at me with disgust on his face.

I never did find out what David was fuming about. The small motor and gas was certainly lighter than the canoe. William was a very positive individual and he was at least twenty years old than I was. He was not going to listen to me and he was certainly going to do his share on the portage.

I could not help but reflect that had this been 150 years ago, David and I would have settled the issue once and for all, right there in the wilderness.


Instead we put the canoe in the water, motor back on, and the gear loaded. We soon pushed off shore into the current and sullenly and silently sat and watched the shoreline slide by.

I now understand the stories I have read about canoe travel in the past and how men crammed into a small canoe got into knife fights and not all of them arrived at the distant destination.

English River Maze – Part 2


Once we crossed Goshawk Lake we immediately went ashore and David started a fire.    We soon got warmed up and our wet clothing dried. Note the fresh snow covering everything and which continued to fall to the north of us. William is back in the boat and ready to proceed. Note the square stern canoe and small motor.

We had an agreement that David would run the motor across Goshawk lake and I would then take over. In the distance you will note a log boom blocking our way. In 1958 when the White Dog Falls Dam was built this whole area was flooded. This was one of the areas in which the trees were not removed before the flooding occurred. It has taken years for the trees to rot at the waterline and fall over.

This results in hundreds of floating trees along the shore and tree stumps just below the water surface. Boat travel is restricted to a slow pace as there are multiple collisions between our propeller and the tree stumps. This slowed us down for a couple of  miles. The log booms kept the logs from floating out into the English River and floating to the intakes at the dam.KODAK Digital Still Camera

This map shows how we crossed Goshawk lake and then went ashore. Once we were dry and warm we had to proceed from the fire site through the narrows until we entered Umpreville Lake at the top of the map..

Once free of this section we had to cross the east end of Umpreville Lake then cross the English River which entered it at this location. From there we had to locate the Sturgeon River which flowed into the English River from the North. It was best described as a maze as the route was also confused by many islands and bays.

On the map below the largest section of open water near the lower portion of the map is the east section of  Umpreville Lake. The English River enters from the north and is marked. We then curved to the north east and continued almost east until the opening of the Sturgeon River, shown by a right angle bend near the top of the map.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

To make the journey even more interesting we moved north into thicker snow fall and visibility was again reduced to about fifty feet. Since it was my  turn to read the map and steer the canoe my companions began to question what direction I was going in.  We all knew it was going to be difficult to find the opening of the Sturgeon River.

David felt we were going too far to the east while William felt we had gone too far north. These questions, when added to our previous disagreement only increased the tension in the canoe.

Without getting too irritated I said, “It is my turn to navigate and if I fail to find the  Sturgeon River, then someone else can take over.  In the mean time the wind continues on my left cheek while the rising sun shows a slight glow in the snow fall to the east. I intend to continue in this direction until we meet the current of the English River. Once into that current we will follow the north shore to the north-east till we meet the current of the Sturgeon river which enters from the north.”

The rest of the trip was suffered in dead silence and the tension continued to increase as time passed. Finally after about a dozen miles, we hit the mouth of the Sturgeon and there were smiles all around.


Because this river was much narrower we were no longer bothered by the snow fall and restricted visibility.  The temperature continued to rise and the snow finally stopped. I took this photo as we entered the Sturgeon River and the current is obvious. The chance of getting lost was now diminished and we all relaxed. David in particular was not so intense and the rest of the trip looked brighter.



Goshhawk Lake snowstorm



Goshawk Lake, heading north, into the face of a spring snow storm

It was early May of 1968 and three of us were in an 16 ft. aluminum canoe crossing Goshawk Lake, forty miles north of Kenora, Ontario. As we pushed off from shore the  wind from the west started to pick up and to the north, the direction we were heading, it started to snow.

David was running the small motor, William was sitting in the front seat, while I sat on the floor of the canoe in the middle. We were off on an adventure to deliver this canoe to a temporary hunting camp located at Rowdy lake, fifty or so miles to the north.

We had about three miles to go across the lake, while the width of the lake was at least four miles. As we moved away from the shore the wind increased as did the waves. Because we were traveling parallel to the waves the canoe was rolling badly as each wave passed under the canoe. As the minutes passed I became concerned about the canoe filling with water and leaving us with a half mile swim in very cold spring water.

Earlier in the winter my partner in business, VM, came to me with a request. He and two other men owned a temporary hunting camp on Rowdy Lake.  It was a fly in camp and consisted of two large tents, one inside the other for insulation purposes.  It all sat on a large plywood floor and could be taken down and removed at any time.  Rules and regulations set out what was considered a temporary camp and this site followed the rules.

The camp had been in use for a couple of years for hunting deer and moose. A couple of aluminum boats and small motors had been flown in by bush plane but the canoe was too long for this form of transport.

The many swamps and small creeks could not be used by the boats when recovering downed game as the water was too shallow and narrow. The three owners of the camp had decided they needed a canoe to improve their transportation of moose meat in particular. It could not go in by bush plane so the only alternative was to take it in through a system of lakes and rivers that flowed from Rowdy lake. In other words the whole trip would be up stream.

My partner came up with the bright Idea that I should accompany the them on the trip north since I had considerable canoeing experience, which they all lacked.

We had been in a business partnership for four years but I only knew the other two men casually. I was about 35 years old, David at least 45 and William at least 55. We met a number of times to make the plans. My role in the trip was  rather limited so I played a small part in the actual plans of what we were taking and or the route north.

And now, here I  was in a cold northern lake traveling in a loaded canoe in an unsafe manner. I kept my mouth shut until we were in the middle of the lake and the situation was becoming critical. Finally I turned and said to David, “David, if you turn into the waves and increase your speed a little, I  think you would find the canoe would ride better and there would be less chance of shipping water.”

In an instant he exploded and yelled in what I took as a frightened cry. “Here we are, hardly off the shore and you are trying to tell us what to do! Then, like a child having a tantrum, he suddenly turned the canoe into the waves and increased the speed. In an instant the next wave climbed the side of the canoe and deposited about five gallons of cold water on us all. At the same time the sudden increase in speed caused the bow of the canoe to dive into the following wave, once again adding to the water in the canoe.

It was a very frightening move and I felt sorry for William in the front as he had no warning of the sharp turn and no doubt was seriously frightened when he was doused with cold water.

Almost as soon as soon as David swerved left he swerved back so once again we were rolling in the trough of the waves and creeping our way north to the distant shore.

I can remember sitting there in the cold water and considering my options. I was a good swimmer but cold spring water could bring on hypothermia very quickly.  If the canoe filled with water it would barely support three grown men from sinking.  I looked at the shore and guessed we were less than half a mile away to my right or east. it would be an easy swim in warm water. Under these conditions I would have less than half an hour to make the shore before I would be slowed down by the hypothermia.

I actually started considering loosening the laces of my boot and unzipping my jacket. I knew there was no way I could save either man by towing them to shore.  I was thinking rationally and certainly considering looking after myself, but finally decided to let the situation run its course. I was so disgusted by David’s behavior I probably would have tried to only save William.

It was at this  moment the snow from the North moved in over us, limiting our vision to the length of the canoe. The heavy thick snow seemed to dampen down the waves and at the same time David cut our speed by half. In this little world of snow we crawled forward with no idea where we were or where we were going. The snow built up thickly on our hats, shoulders and legs.

Eventually the far rocky shore came into sight and we all agreed we need to get a good fire going and get dried out before we continued. The mood was dark, each of us were very disturbed by the turn of events and realized it was not going to be a pleasant journey. Worst of all we were only three miles into a 50 mile trip.

David and I were not on speaking terms.  Things did not bode well for the rest of the journey, but I was ready to face it and make the best of it.






Bow River Valley – exit

Gravel bar & cut tree

As I stood on the gravel bar I realized I could use the tree that was lying across part of the river at the south end. I had to wade into the river to reach the tree but the water was only about a foot deep.  I saw the possibility of crawling on the tree to the west shore but many branches were blocking my way. I soon got my axe from the nose of the canoe, were it had been safely wedged in and survived the roll over.

I started to cut the branches off and then noticed that with each branch I removed the tree started to lift itself out of the water.  It was then then I decided to cut off the top ten feet of the tree that was heavy with branches. Once the top weight was gone the tree rose about a foot above the surface of the rushing current.

In the photo above, looking south, the gravel bar is in the lower left hand corner of the picture. The top of the tree is lying in the water at the south end of the gravel bar. The main part of the tree is obvious from the cut off end, and lacking most of the braches on the top side.  In retrospect, if  I had not made it to the gravel bar, the current would have swept me into the tangled web of half sunken trees on the right and I may not have survived.

Once my bridge to the shore was ready, I attached a long rope to the canoe which I moved across the reef to the west side.  While canoeing I wear leather canoe shoes. I had removed them while wading on the reef but once I got to solid land I would need my boots to travel. The boots had been wrapped in the tent and survived in a dry condition so I hung then around my neck to cross the tree bridge.

Once across the rushing current I soon had my boots on and then walked upstream and pulled the canoe across so it was clear of trees and branches.  With the canoe and all my gear safely on shore I decided that I needed to find my paddles, which had obviously been swept down stream.

Canoe in backwater #26

As I walked along the bank of the river I watched carefully for the paddles and hoped they might have snagged somewhere on the river bank. Eventually I managed to  find and recover one on the near shore.  Paddle in hand I continued walking and as I came around and bend in the river, I looked ahead and saw a huge log jam blocking the river.

The logs blocked the entire river from side to side and were piled at least ten feet above the surface of the river. Many were sticking up in the air at all angles. All the logs were larger than a telephone pole. The end were sawed off so at some time loggers cut the trees and sent them down the river, no doubt to the town of Banff.  Obviously a log jam occurred and these hundred or more trees piled up to block the river.

I spent about half an hour inspecting this tangled mess.  All the water was rushing under the logs and came out about thirty feet downstream in a white mass of boiling water. Had I not dumped my canoe when I did I would have come around the corner with almost no chance to paddle to the shore.  The canoe and I would at best been crushed against the log jam, and unable to get free.  At worse we would have been swept under the dam and pinned. We would have simply disappeared, never to be found.

It was at this time I felt much better about having dumped my canoe. I had no trouble convincing my self the canoe trip had ended, as I could see nothing but more uprooted trees all along the route past the log jam.

The next task was to recover my canoe and camping equipment. My only option left was to climb the mountain side up to the highway.  I left all my gear and struggled up to the highway and then hiked about ten miles into town.  After a hot supper and a good night sleep I returned to where I had left the canoe.

Canoe from high above #28

This the view of the canoe from half way up the mountain slope, sitting in a quiet backwater, far removed from the rapids.  Once down with the canoe I used the long rope that was tied to the nose. I ran the upper half of the rope around a tree up the slope.

When I walked back down to the canoe I dragged it up hill and at the same time pulled on the rope, which also prevented the canoe sliding back down the 45 degree mountain side. Once the canoe was up to the first tree I repeated the rope trick with another higher tree. It was slow going because the canoe contained all the tent and equipment.

After a couple of hours the canoe was up on the highway and soon tied to the roof of the car.

When ever I was asked about this canoe trip I rarely gave all the details. But as the years went by I could not help but think of things that happened that should have caused me to quit or give up.  Some might have quit when the canoe got stuck on the rock in the first five minutes. I had waited too long to canoe this river and I was determined to try.  It was certainly the adventure of a lifetime and gives me much pleasure when I think about it.

Canoe on the mountain #29

This is the last photo taken when the canoe was about half way up the mountain.  I managed to get three or four more years of  use out of the damaged canoe, before I had to cremate it.   In all, I wore out three canoes in my lifetime.

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.


Bow River Valley – Part 2 of 3

Bow river #14

Once I was back in the river I started to relax and enjoy the scenery and the wilderness of the area. A highway runs on either side of  the valley but hundreds of feet higher than the river and some distance away and out of sight.

During my journey I saw only one other person.  He was a trout fisherman standing hip deep in his waders in a rapids.  He was facing down stream and had just cast his line.  He did not see or hear me because of the noise the rapids made.  Because of the rocks in the rapids I was forced to stay in the deeper water near where he was fishing. As my canoe and I flashed passed him. I yelled a friendly “Good morning!” and left him standing, frightened, mouth hung open and a shocked look on his face. He was fully awake when I left him.

After about fifteen miles the river starts to narrow and deepen. The water slows down a little and the river begins to wander back and forth from side to side in the valley. The river bends make it difficult to see what lies ahead. This river wilderness has been unchanged for many hundreds of years.

Bow river camping #9

At this point I decided to set up  camp. The river has the occasional small creek leading into it from the valleys on either side. The spring run off was done so water leading into the main river had ceased.  This allowed me to paddle away from the current and set up camp in an ideal quiet spot. I soon had my tent up and the gear in place. After supper I took a few more camp photos then sat and relaxed.

Bow river camping (#12)

Sadly the dunking the camera later got ruined many photos, caused scratches and messed up the emulsion. However considering this was taken over fifty years ago, in now looks like an old photo.

distant camp

Just before jumping in the sleeping bag I paddled off into the distance to take this photo of my tent camp, almost hidden in a backwater creek. The smoke from the campfire is drifting off into the woods as I contemplate what lies ahead of me tomorrow.


Bow River, Banff Alberta – Part 1


Bow River #2

Photos were water damaged from the camera being in the river.

When I lived in the mountains of Banff, Alberta I was drawn to the river and vowed someday I would make a canoe trip from Lake Louise, to Banff, a distance of about forty miles down stream. The Bow River is fed by melt water flowing from the mountains and glaciers, all along both sides of the valley.

The opportunity came in August of 1961 when I was 26 years old. I had been planning it for a couple of years and finally bought a new Cedar strip canvass covered canoe. When the day arrived I was committed, no matter how the weather turned out, as my window of opportunity only gave me three days. I started out in Winnipeg and drove a thousand miles with the canoe strapped to the roof. I was venturing off on my own and had camping gear and equipment in order to stay out overnight in the valley.

Bow river #5

This is a typical view as the river flows down the valley with spectcular steep mountains on both sides and a never ending thick green woods on the banks of the river. it is a beautiful but lonely place.

Early one morning I put my canoe in the river near Lake Louise and headed down stream for Banff. My first challenge was to pass under a new bridge that crossed the Bow River. A lot of blasting had been done to construct the footings for the bridge and most of that rock had been pushed back as fill.

The river starts out wide, swift and shallow. The current is too fast to paddle against so the run down the river is exhilarating.  The swift current limits the work with the paddle to steering, and in particular to avoiding rocks and dead trees.

Bow river #6

As I passed under the bridge, between a bridge support and the shore I immediately became hung up on a rock. I tried to use the paddle to lift the canoe up and off but the rock was steep on all sides, leaving deep water all around.  After the ordeal was over I briefly saw the pointed rock sitting about a foot below the water line.

As I bounced the canoe and tried to slip free I heard the sickening sound of canoe ribs breaking. My desperate movements were causing the rock point to first break a rib, then puncture the canvass and cedar between the ribs. Because of the camping gear and supplies in the canoe bottom I was unable to see how bad the damage was.  I had not yet noticed any water in the canoe so I assumed the canvass itself had not yet punctured.

Here I was five minutes into my trip and I was hung up on a rock and causing serious damage to the canoe.  I eventually just sat there, paddle in hand, and watched the current racing by while listening to the odd car passing overhead on the bridge.

In the end my only options was to bounce the canoe violently up and down and move off the rock enough that the canoe finally slid off and raced off down the stream.  My concern for the extent of the damage was primarily focused on how badly the canoe was leaking.

Bow river rapids #1

I was also distracted by a rapidly approaching rapids and uprooted pine trees lying about. Once I was in calmer and less dangerous waters I ran the canoe ashore, unloaded the gear and inspected the bottom of the canoe. A total of five ribs had been cracked and in the space between the ribs the floor was puncture in four places. Turning the canoe over showed serious scrape marks in the canvas but no actual hole.

I had come too far to make this trip so I decided the canoe was still strong enough to continue but I would have to stay off the rocks. I pushed off shore and went on.