Monday, June 2, 2014

I love it when my sea kayak takes me to the beach - Rivière Rouge

It wasn't my idea. The wind and the current of the Rivière Rouge (Red River) were pushing us towards this long, white, soft, sandy beach, so I agreed with my kayak, "Hey, let's stop here." Why resist. There are so many sandy beaches along the shores of the Rivière Rouge, I have trouble choosing which one to visit. 

My kayak picked this one. 
Seems my kayak not only has good timing, but also good taste. It picked the nicest stretch of beach along our route that day.

A few minutes after landing on the beach, a big wind gust picked up and we had a sudden 5-minute sandstorm. Say what! 

Then the wind fell quiet again. Thank you kayak. How did you know? After the surprising wind gust, we continued on our way with a little extra grit in our teeth.

We were paddling against the current, launching from La Conception, Quebec heading upriver (NW-N) towards Labelle (about 15 minutes north of Tremblant, Quebec).

There's about 20 kilometers (12 miles) of winding, twisting river with current, and no rapids along this section. Paddling some distance against the current is a great way to get in shape and test your power strokes and torso rotation.

If you want to add more distance to your paddle route, you can include the stretch of Rivière Rouge from Brébeuf further south downriver.

If you don't want to paddle against the current, you can shuttle a car at a pick-up point downriver, and launch from upriver and go longer distances with the flow. It's fun and much easier.

You can also rent basic rec kayaks or canoes from a local outfitter with a shuttle service, like Kayak Cafe in Labelle, Quebec, and they'll pick you up at several points downriver.   

With big, lightweight, fibreglass paddle spoons and two high-performance sea kayaks and relaxed power strokes, we didn't have any trouble paddling against the current the first day of June with a moderate to light wind, and a few strong, sudden gusts. 

All the people paddling downriver from Labelle in canoes and sit-on-tops seemed to look at us in surprise, as if to say, ''Aren't you going the wrong way?" 

Nope. This is good training. And, we're wearing PFDs!

You don't need a kayak compass to navigate this stretch of river. There aren't any islands or big bays to confuse you, just farmland, cottages, trees, beaches, and mountain views. You can't get lost. 

But, I find it more interesting to always know the direction I'm going, and where the wind is actually blowing. The weather report doesn't always get it right. 

My kayak compass showed the true twisting and turning of the Rivière Rouge. We went NW, N, NE, SW, S, SE, E, and W. The compass readings are not necessarily in that order, I just remember, we did them all. Upriver or downriver, you'll have views in all directions. On windy days, you can test your skills and paddle strokes with headwinds, tailwinds, and crosswinds. Enjoy! You may visit a few extra beaches. 

After 2 hours of paddling against the current came the reward. Turning around and going with the current! But the wind had other ideas! It decided to make us work a little. No free rides!

The Rivière Rouge is a beautiful, clear river to paddle, with a slight red tinge from the sandy, shallow bottom. The bottom is mostly sandy - not rocky, and very shallow in many spots along the way. In the summer months, you may need to get out and carry or drag your kayak a bit. Watch out for fallen trees and the odd deadhead. 

The Rivière Rouge always inspires me to do a little impromptu yoga in the outdoors.
Just be extra careful paddling or swimming in this river in the spring (the water is cold) or after lots of heavy rainfall. The current, or an occasional cross current can surprise you. You can't swim against the current. You can swim or float with the current or swim perpendicular to the shore to get out of the main current and seek shallow footing where you see beaches. 

And, in the true spirit of a good kayaker who loves the water, I did pick up some Budweiser along the way! Although, it was not mine . . . 
Happy paddle trails!
The BaffinPaddler


  1. Enjoyed your post describing such a nice workout paddle capped with the adoption of an orphaned can.

  2. Thanks Al. When I saw it I thought of you and Penobscot Paddles, who also "brakes for trash", and I said, "We're going to have to go get that." Thanks for the continued inspiration to keep the water clean(er) :)