campfire Nashwaak River from Stanley to Fredericton

Here we are, two springs later, picking up where we left off on the Nashwaak, except this time it's Biff and I. We put in behind the fire station in Stanley, the same spot where my two brothers, Shane and I, took out after our three-day run down from Nashwaak Lake two years ago.

Nashwaak River
Morning mist on the Nashwaak

Hey, the water's at a perfect level, down a few feet from the flood stage we ran it at two years ago. It's ten-thirty Saturday morning, our first trip in the new millenium. We promise our charming shuttle pilot, my partner Linda, we'll be home in Fredericton by five that evening, and set off down the river. This time, I'm using my wood and canvas Ogilvie, a 16-foot Chestnut clone meant for running salmon rivers and flicking flies at imaginary fish.

I was glad to be back in the boat with Biff. Last fall, we pushed and shoved my plastic boat down several kilometres of granite rock gardens, on the Nashwaak upstream under Narrows Mountain, banging our shins black and blue and bruising what little pride we had left I had left, anyway. This trip promises to be much more pleasant, high water, no bugs, and a well-stocked cooler.



Blue Nashwaak

There are no thrill-seeker rapids on this stretch, but the long stretches of Class I for the first section from Stanley to the highway bridge about seven km downstream are fine with us. The water's too cool to be risking a dunk without wet suits in any case.

The Nashwaak flows through the center of Stanley here, but there are no signs the community is just over the bank after the first turn or so under the Stanley bridge. No junked cars spilling over the banks, no effluent pipes, none of the industrial legacies of the 20th century to mar the view, just rocks, trees, and water. Several km downstream, the river makes a long loop to the left, against a steeply sloping sandstone cliff .

As you round the loop, you catch a glimpse of Pearl Falls sliding down the canyon wall on the right. High above, you can see the initial leap as the stream drops over the canyon lip. There it splashes onto a small ledge, where tree trunks and debris are wedged in tight, then it fans out in a frothy train to enter the Nashwaak maybe twenty metres or so below. Of course, it's best seen at freshet. We pulled in on the sandbar across from it to ease our thirst and admire the view.


Owl, mouth of the Nashwaak

After we ran under the Highway 8 bridge, the current slackened. It remains steady, pool and drop with few rocks, until Taymouth, then the long sweeping stretches of calm water begin. At several places, the stream branches into several channels, looping to visit every corner of the wide flood plain. Whenever we made it back to the main channel, the wind blew upstream, forcing us to dig deep with our paddles to maintain headway. It became more and more obvious we weren't going to make it to Fredericton by five o'clock.

This section is almost all farmland and golf course country, with a main highway paralleling the river. The views of the ridges can be hypnotic in the fall when the leaves turn color. Salmon fisherman patrol the pools later on in the spring and summer when the run is on, and sea trout and bass can be in the river at any time. Several times, beaver splashed beside us as we approached the river's mouth.

We watched an eagle swoop with a large fish hooked in its talons, uttering its high peep and screech, swerving to avoid the attacks of a crow determined to dislodge the hard won prize. Several times it seemed they would collide in mid-air just over our heads. We never did learn the outcome of their aerial skirmish, as they finally flew over the riverbank elms and out of sight. We still heard the eagle call, and saw its partner arrive to help fend off the unwelcome dinner guest as we floated away down the stream.

There is one more stretch of lively water above the Marysville highway bridge, where Boss Gibson's log driving dam was removed a few years back. A mill operated here in the ealy 1850s, and its wood waste wiped out the native Nashwaak runs of salmon and trout forever.


Remains of Gibson's Dam at Marysville.

Anyway, we finally pulled in just past the Fort Nashwaak motel on the Saint John River just as the sun was setting, and I was met by my understandably distraught wife. Actually, it could have been a lot worse, I'm fortunate she's very understanding and forgiving. I know I deserved a supper of hot tongue followed by cold shoulder, but I didn't get it this time, anyway.

This stretch is ideal for canoeists trying out a new boat, or for first trips with younger family members. I would split it into a two-day trip the next time. There is a fine camping spot on the right bank a few km past Taymouth, watch for a path up to a low knoll overlooking the river.

Thank you for coming with me all the way down the Nashwaak.

Mouth of the Nashwaak
The Nashwaak flows into the Saint John at Fredericton.
 

Right channel of the mouth of the Nashwaak.


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