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.