birchbark oldie     South Rusagonis Stream

The South Rusagonis is another of those small streams you never consider running so close to home your take-out coffee is still hot, yet small and ordinary as you drive over it on the bridge to work or some other boring place.

South Rusagonish
The brightest leaves have fallen by the end of October. Yet there is still a lot of color to enjoy, especially in the muted light of a blue autumn sky.

The put-in is just another five minutes drive down Regent Street (Highway 101) past Fredericton from its sister stream, the North Branch. You can also drive out the Leary Road and put in a few more kilometers upstream, but as the days in late fall are short and unpredictable, we (Biff and I) opted for the launch off the highway. The drive to the takeout is a mere eight kilometers ... the stream loops north and south in meanders to make the actual river distance about twice that.

South Rusagonish
A local resident who was out walking with his son was kind enough to take our picture. That's Biff in front and me in back.

The South Branch is wider than the North. The first half of the paddle is fairly placid, yet interesting. After you get past the farmer's fields at the highway, there are few incursions into the stream ... No houses are visible, no roads, a few paths, that's it.

On this day, the water was deep after several days of rain, and we were able to just drift with the current and enjoy the last act of Nature's fall foliage spectacular. Most of the bright reds and oranges of the maples had already fallen, but the birches and poplars still shone brightly against the muted blue of the sky and the dark green of the pine and spruce. A light breeze set the small yellow leaves spinning in the branches, a last defiant show of splendor before the trees go barren and the woods turn bleak in the rain and cold of November.

South Rusagonish
The first section above the bridge at mid-point is calm, scenic and restful.

South Rusagonish
Looking downstream from the same bridge, the current begins to pick up. There are rocky turns, some ledges and a fallen tree past a sharp turn in the second section.

As you pass under the bridge at roughly the halfway point, the pace of the stream quickens, and there are more and more quick turns and rock gardens. We kept a sharp eye out for sweepers. A fallen tree around a blind turn is perhaps the most dangerous threat on these small streams. There was a beaver dam that required a short carry, then shortly after, a fallen spruce spanned the width of the stream.

There was an urchin perched on the tree, who watched us flail with our paddles to get to the extreme left side of the stream and out of the maw of the tree's branches. Perhaps he was hoping to see carnage, but thankfully, we did not oblige him on this day.

As I made the second or third full-power sweep to point the boat around the tree, the wooden blade snapped in two mid-shaft between my hands. I still had the stump to work with, and we made it around no problem. This must be the third wooden paddle that's broken in my hands in this fashion. I guess if they're gonna break, it's gonna happen when you're working them their hardest. Unfortunately, that's when you need them the most. I'm not switching to metal and plastic though, it's too cold and artless.

As you approach the concrete bridge that spans the south branch at Rusagonis, the stream narrows and runs through a mini-canyon. There are at least four horizon lines in this turn, about every 30 meters or so. They are all runnable, at least at this level, and the last one is a smooth ledge about a metre and a half high of smooth-sloped pitted granite. We scraped down its face at a jaunty angle, and Biff pushed us off into the current as we reached the bottom. A friend of mine says people routinely fill their boats here in the spring freshet.

South Rusagonish
This picture was taken from the concrete bridge just before the takeout. You can see the last of the ledges.

Just one more looping turn and you come to the confluence of the North and South branches of the Rusagonis. We took out directly under the wooden covered bridge, after a paddle of approximately five hours.

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