I always have questions when I run a river for the first time. Perhaps the most pressing question is, 'Which side of the river is the portage trail on?'
On the Nepisiguit, for instance, I knew there was a fall at the pumphouse, where a small dam provided power for a nearby mill. So I asked a local, who seemed knowledgeable on the river, which side the carry was on. He told me it was on river right.
So when we arrived, we went river right and started looking for a trail. But we came up against a cliff on the bank and a gnarly-looking huck over the dam face. It was only ten feet or so, but with three boats and loads of gear, it wasn't manageable. So we had to pull off a dangerous ferry to the other shore, where the carry-over was quick and easy.
Same story on the Kedgwick. Our outfitter assured us the carry around the Falls on the North Branch was on river left. So after hugging the left shore, we saw no exit, and swung over to the right bank. There it was, a short carry, easily done by two of us hauling my boat along the bank. As you see on the video, my buddy Aaron did run the drop with ease (well, only grabbing the gunwales once, but who's counting?) But that's not the point.
I have to give our outfitter some credit though, he did advise me to run river left through the Depot Rapids. I bucked and splashed through left-side as he advised, and skirted the jagged rocks at the outflow. He did call that one right.
I'm reminded of an Ontario government publication of many years ago, which stated the portage trail around Thunderhouse Falls on the Missinaibi River was supposedly on river left, whereas it was actually on river right. I heard this story third hand, so maybe no one came to grief after all, I can't be sure.
The moral of the story: Don't take someone else's word where the safe route may lie. Stop and scout for yourself. Actually, our outfitter did tell us that too, maybe just to cover his stern.
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