May is the time to paddle your canoe

Keith &
Keith & Heather Nicol
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A large group of paddlers at a rest stop on Harry’s River in this undated photo.

As winter comes to an end the water stored in the snowpack in the hills in western Newfoundland begins to run off with warmer weather. Most rivers in this area typically have their peak flow for the year in May and last year at this time we wrote in this column about canoeing the Humber River.

This year let us focus on some rivers to the south of Corner Brook which are good canoeing beginning with Pinchgut Brook. This small brook connects Pinchgut Lake with Georges Lake and much of the year has very little water in it. But for a few weeks each spring it is just enough water for an exciting canoe trip. It is possible to do a couple of different trips on this short brook and the one we do the most often is the trip from Pinchgut Lake to the Trans-Canada Highway bridge. Allow about one hour for this four kilometre paddle and you can easily put in where the brook leaves Pinchgut Lake. If you are driving from Corner Brook there is a woods road heading off to the left at the south end of the lake and if you follow this for a short distance you will come to a bridge over Pinchgut Brook. Even in the high water of spring you will likely hit a few rocks so a plastic canoe is a good choice and most of the time the rapids are quite manageable for intermediate type paddlers. Watch for a private bridge part way down the river which might be hard to squeeze under in very high water and also be cautious in the final section before the highway bridge since there can be some large standing waves which have swamped unwary paddlers in the past. We usually pull out in the large clearing above the highway bridge. You can also paddle further down the brook to Georges Lake, but since the gate may be locked you will then have to paddle along the lake to a pullout on the Trans-Canada Highway.

For a longer paddle, we suggest a trip down Harry’s River. Like Pinchgut Brook there are a couple of options, but our usual trip is to head from the community of Gallants and paddle to Dhoon Lodge. This is a 17-km trip and is generally a very pleasant paddle with a few Class 1 and 2 rapids to make it interesting. In the past we have met canoers from Stephenville at Gallants and had a huge flotilla of canoes head down the river. If you want a shorter paddle on Harry’s River you can opt to put in at the end of Georges Lake and paddle to Gallants which is about 5-km. This section also has some rapids to contend with so you should have some experience handling waves and avoiding rocks before trying this section. It goes without saying that paddling in the spring means that the water is cold and even if the day is sunny and warm you will quickly cool off if you tip over. Some paddlers wear wet suits, but at the very least bring extra clothes in a water proof dry bag and fire starting materials. The paddling season ends quickly so now is the time to check out the rivers in this area.  

Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

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