campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
More Carnage on the Nashwaak
by Mitchell

Mitchell, you and Alicia went for a trip on the upper Nashwaak after several days of heavy rain. How did you make out?

The Nashwaak is unnavigable for several kilometres after heavy rains.

My girlfriend and I decided to tackle the Upper Nashwaak from Gorby Gulch down to Stanley. I've been wanting to do this stretch for a while now but haven't had enough water until now and there was plenty of it. No one else was interested in doing this with us and because of my stubborness, we went in alone with our canoe and a couple hundred pounds of gear.

Little Basin, looking down the Narrows

The rapids before the Narrows were all quite short with large waves that emptied into calm pools below. We were able to eddy in at the top of each of them and pick our line through. Stopped at a couple camps and met some nice folks, who all agreed we were foolish for doing this. We were cheered on by groups of atv'ers as we went under a couple bridges along the way.

Entrance into the Gorge

We reached the narrows at about 3 and portaged around the rapids just before the narrows and the narrows itself. I am still in awe of how anyone could run this and make it through alive, at least with this much water. Now this is where the trip, which had been an exciting and great trip thus far, turns even more foolish.

Halfway down the portage trail.

As we were portaging through these rough trails, my velcro on the side of my canoe which holds my homemade spray deck into place, caught a tree and was ripped half way along the right side. Instead of setting up camp and fixing this properly, I knew our first nights destination was only an hour away and so I just duct taped this piece of velcro back into place.

We were just barely into the first set of Haydens rips when we were pulled to the middle into large standing waves that ripped the spray deck off one side and down we went. I was repeatedly hauled under water as I went through every wave and as I resurfaced to get a breath I was splashed in the face by the next and down again I went. My lungs were pretty near full as I entered a very short calm spot before the next drop.

Curling wave midgorge

I looked ahead to see Alicia clinging to the canoe but I didn't have enough wind to tell her to let it go and swim to shore. I noticed an eddy behind a rock on the right shore and swam as hard as I could to get behind it but I just missed. Luckily there was another right behind it and right on top of the next set of rapids.

I managed to get in and pull myself to shore where I threw up water for a couple minutes. I stood up to see where Alicia was but quickly fell back down as my legs could not support me at the time. I did notice she was heading down around the next set with the canoe in hand. Once I had enough strength, I began running and falling down the shoreline.

I wasn't sure where she was as I could not yet see around the bend. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard her yelling my name and as I emerged from around the bend I saw her on the other side with the boat and on top of the third set of rapids.

After we rested for a couple minutes I got her to empty the canoe and paddle to my side to get me. We canoed back across and set up camp immediately. Although we were both greatful to be okay, other than a few cuts and bruises, and to have the boat with most of our gear in it, I told her never to hold onto a boat again in that situation. Boats and gear are replaceable, people are not. All we lost was a hatchet and my spray deck. Alicia was much too timid to get back into the canoe in the morning so we lined the boat down to the mill rd bridge and hitched a ride into Stanley to get my car.

I would definitely do this stretch again but I would run it solo, at least in my 15'8 charles river anyway as the weight with two people and gear made it much less responsive than it normally is, and with a group of other boats. Luckily no one was hurt and a good lesson was learned here.

Mitchell, thank you for the excellent story and vivid photography.

Water level at the Durham guage May 20, 2006: 19.6.

campfire tales    Allie Jewett tells us about his first and last Bartholomew River trip.
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