“Gin Clear”: the Upsalquitch River

October 16, 2010

The Upsalquitch River

May 8 – 10, 2010

the dawn of a new adventure

This trip began just as the one last summer down the Patapedia and Kedgwick Rivers did, at a campsite along the Restigouche River. Well, actually, it began on Friday night with a broken down trailer a half hour outside of Fredericton, a tow-truck, a trailer swap, and then the remaining five hour drive. But the trip began, in my mind, with this scene of my hammock hanging in the trees by the river on Saturday morning, with anticipation hanging in the air for the first paddling trip of the season.


We awoke to a beautiful sunny day, and had breakfast, which had been laid out for us by the earliest birds. Breakfast was a spectacle! The bubbling percolator was constantly being emptied and refilled, and there were oranges, pitas and hummus, and breakfast burritos.

We all hopped on Andre’s bus and Roland once again led us down to the 20 mile of the Upsalquitch. You wouldn’t want to start any higher than we did, except in very high water. This whole river was “new water” for me, but the top few miles, were new for almost everyone here.

Justin provides some entertainment for the bumpy bus ride

the "before" crew

So, sunscreen was applied, and boats were loaded. We’re going to the wilderness!

another beginning

And in this way, another trip begins.

We take to the water and begin to test out our new partners, and practice a few eddy ins and eddy outs. I have heard it said that the Upsalquitch River is “Gin Clear” and it is true that in certain light, the canoes seem to hover in thin air above the perfectly uniform granite marbles below.

We were all smiles as we floated downstream. The water slowly got deeper and faster, and the banks got wider and steeper. Nothing can quite replicate the feeling of entering the wilderness.

Although this was a new river for me this year, the scenes were very familiar. The steep banks lined with birches just waiting to pop. The water levels were dropping fast, so we were on the Upsalquitch earlier this year than we were on the Patapedia last year. The “popcorn” hasn’t quite popped yet.

My paddling partners

On the second day, we encountered many sweepers. This one was a very dangerous tree which was blocking a good part of the main channel. We considered dragging over the rocks to get around it, but instead, those of us who were more experienced paddlers ran the canoes down to safety.

super sweeper

snacking in the rain

Here, sitting in an eddy, we all held on to the other boats, and we were all relying on Evelyn to keep her grasp on the shore.

the rain can’t dampen our spirits

At the end of day 2, we found a nice campsite, with some wildlife. This bunny wasn’t so wild though.

We were also joined at this campsite by a caravan of jeeps and trucks, looking for some mud to tear up. But eventually, to our relief, they moved on.

Day 3 was met with more rain, and cloudy skies, but high spirits prevailed, and we hit the water again. We switched up partners and got back in that familiar rhythm of floating, and slowly paddling down, down, downstream.

these are the pros

Idle Time

This day was like any other on these northern rivers. Plenty of time to let your mind wander, never in a hurry and a million ways to pass the time.


We stopped just above some rapids to scout around the corner and decide how to run it. It wasn’t a difficult turn, but there was the potential of being swept by the wide, sweeping waves into the rock face on the other side of the river.

blind turn

wide sweeping waves

I need to put a canoe in there to show the scale of these standing waves. Watching these pairs float silently past reveals the incredible beauty and grace of the canoe.

standing waves


found art

Once we regrouped at the bottom, we carried on to find a good spot for lunch. With more idle time, Justin and Evelyn had a rock collecting contest, judged by Peter. I love this series of photos, because it really tells the story of the contest, even without the need for captions.

Justin is unsure about Peter's reasoning

Justin challenges the decision

Peter elaborates

Justin says, "If you don't like it, I'll take it back!"

In the short time on this river, the popcorn has started to murmur in the pan.



the “after” crew


2 Responses to ““Gin Clear”: the Upsalquitch River”

  1. Ryan Ward said

    A bunch of us were looking at making this Upsalquitch run this spring, looks like a nice easy run. I read your bit about the Loch Alva area, do you think it would be worthwhile to paddle down through that area in late summer after the mosquitos die back, or would the whole place be a bug infested swamp? I was thinking Robinhood lake to Musquash 2-4 days.

    • gypsyproductions said

      Hey Ryan,

      Great to hear of your Upsalquitch trip. I hope it is a wonderful time! I’m not sure about the Loch Alva in summer. I’ve only been there in the winter. I would imagine the upper parts would be awfully buggy. It’s sure worth a try though! I am sure it would be a beautiful place to be anytime of year. There will be some portages, but that sounds like a neat trip! Let me know how it goes.


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