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PostPosted: November 13th, 2020, 2:45 am 
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Joined: June 15th, 2020, 8:48 am
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Hi everyone! My cousin Bill and I paddled the entire French River in late October, 2020. We began the trip from the southwest corner of Lake Nipissing, and paddled all the way down to Georgian Bay. The trip was 172kms total and we did it in 8 days.

Day 1 - Lichty's Marina to crown land site at Hay's Narrows = 17.25kms
We began our trip from Lichty's Marina at the southwest corner of Lake Nipissing, hitting the water around 11am. The staff here were great to deal with and I would highly recommend launching here! We began our paddle with an unseasonably warm day and a pleasant 10km tailwind as we headed out into Lake Nipissing. The fall colours were full and beautiful, and the maze of small islands just out from the mainland gave us lots to look at. Once we were away from the bit of development near the launch, the land quickly gains more of a desolate, isolated crown land look. We felt more alone the further we went along, and we continually becoming more and more excited for the adventure before us.
Our initial plan was to camp at a crown land spot at Lafleche Point, but we were making great progress, and chose to continue to Hay's Narrows, where the lake really begins to open up to it intimidating full size. We found a good spot here to camp, which looks to have been an established camp at one time. The remains of concrete steps and foundations were here, but caused us no grief;instead the mystery of what once here only captivated our imaginations.
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Day 2 - Hay's Narrows to Site 107 in Hunter's Bay = 20.5kms
We woke to very strong winds out of the southwest that were gusting at times to over 40kph. We took advantage of the strong tailwind, however it did create difficulties for us. The southern shore of Nipissing has many deep bays, so it is not efficient to always tuck along shore to avoid the massive wind. Whenever we would paddle the more direct way across a big bay, the strong wind would hit the stern of the boat and try and spin us sideways into the massive waves. We battled many times to maintain a straight course. We paddled through some rainshowers before reaching Canoe Pass, our narrow entrance into the French River. The southwest wind was now a full on headwind. We remained leeward behind islands as much as possible, but entrance into wider bodies of the river had to happen. We were heading directly into 3-4 foot waves at times, but my trusty Nova Craft Prospector kept us stable and dry for the most part. We stopped at Gibraltor Point to try and find pictographs I had heard about, but the wind made that all but impossible. Exhausted, we set up camp at site 107 to escape the wind. As the evening drew in, the winds died, and the skies treated us to a marvelous sunset.
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Day 3 - Site 107 to Little Pine Rapids = 32kms
With the strong southwesterly headwinds now diminished to around 15km, we began the push to see how far we could make it. We were into the Dokis area of the French River now, and only a few scattered cottages present made this section feel more remote than you'd think the popular French would be. Both of loved the beauty of this area! We came to the 575m portage around Chaudiere Dam, a fairly easy walk. Be cautious, about 3/4 of the way through, the portage crosses a gravel road. The put-in at the west end of the portage is just downstream of a small rapid, which we paddled into to get a feel for it, anticipating the many rapids yet to come on our journey. It was a thrill! We continued towards Cradle Rapids, which takes a turn south as you are approaching from the east side. Be cautious here... what you approach looks simple, but as you get closer you see the full torment of white water downstream. We hit the simple run as close to the western shore as possible, and quickly paddled hard to move out of the current that was quickly sucking us into the heavy stuff. We made it ok, but not without some anxiety.
Later in the day the weather quickly turned, the headwind became violent, and a storm hit. We took shelter on an island and waited about 30 minutes. After the storm passed, the calm that was created was absolutely brilliant.
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We were motivated to continue even though the day was getting long. We reached the start of the Five Mile Rapids section, with Little Pine Rapids being our first challenge. We chose to run them, and it was a straight and fairly easy run (bear in mind, water level during this trip was higher than normal, and approaching levels normally seen in the spring). We found a camp site just downstream of the rapid that had a sign, but no number. We happily took it, as it had been a long day. That evening, we got hail, followed by more spectacular skies. The beauty of this campsite on this evening ranks as one of the most memorable of my life.
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Day 4 - Down the 5 Mile Rapids to Site 417 = 7.5kms
Hard rain greeted us when we awoke, causing our day to get off to a late 11am start. We paddled down to Big Pine Rapids, and easily chose to portage river right.
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Next was Double Rapids, which was nothing. The next section gives you a choice; you can run either the Ladder, or Blue Chute. After scouting both, we decided to run the Ladder. There are 2 sections of this, with the main tongue of the second smaller section being further to the right of where the first section goes. We knew after running the first main tongue, that we would have to move to the right quickly to catch the tongue of the section section. Well, in trying to do that, the back end of the canoe tipped, and Bill went into the water! He quickly was able to get back in the boat (and without totally tipping us). I paddled us through the second section on my own as Bill had lost his paddle. After the rapid was done, we recovered Bill's paddle and retreated to shore so he could change clothes. Things could've been worse I suppose, but my trusy GoPro and all the footage I had recorded with it was gone...ripped away by the current when the boat tipped. Thankfully I had been using my main camera for the duration of the trip and still had that footage!
After taking a time out to refocus and calm down, we continued on.We portaged Big Parisien Rapids, ran Little Parisien Rapids, and portaged around Crooked Rapids. At the end of our last portage there was a campsite, 417. There was a pile of dry, split, and stacked firewood sitting there! We took it as a sign, and camped there. The sun shone on us that afternoon for the first time since Day 1, and we had been growing tired of always packing our gear wet. We spread all our gear out over rocks and clotheslines to dry. We were relieved, and began to feel the joy of tripping once again.
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I've reached the maximum number of pictures I can share, so the rest of the report will be found in Part 2.
We filmed this trip and I'm working on a full documentary to tell the story of the adventure and to share some history of this area. A link to the trailer for the documentary is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp5nMEf7UQA


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PostPosted: November 13th, 2020, 8:57 am 
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Joined: November 6th, 2019, 11:01 am
Posts: 74
Location: Toronto
Awesome dude, can't wait for the vid and to see how the fishing was!

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