The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora
By G. U. Hay, 1896
With patches of meadow and terrace, near each other, yet separated by the river, and with precipitous hills rising on all sides, the upper Restigouche can never be a country of farms. The smallness of the terraces and meadows, the precipitous hillsides and wild scenery, are better suited for those fishing lodges, simply planned, all of them after the same pattern but in harmony with their surroundings, which we find farther down the river, perched above some salmon pool, and empty, except during the fishing season each year.
About 12 o'clock on the day following our arrival at the Waagan our guides left for home and we began the descent of the river. The prospect before us of a fortnight in the wilderness, the "paddling our own canoe" through those rapids of the curving gorges ahead, our independence of guides, the anticipation of the discovery of some new plant, sent the blood dancing in our veins with exhilarating flow as we seized our paddles and shoved out into midstream. The success of our expedition and our own safety depend on the careful handling of our canoe. Tenderly we lift it over shallows and guide it carefully and slowly through the swirling eddies as the river rushes past some precipitous bluff. Then, as we shoot out of the rapids and glide gently over some smoother current, we rest on our paddles and gaze for a moment on the wondrously beautiful scene around us.
But it is only for a moment or two. The eager and impetuous stream ahead of us is chaffing over pebbles and rocks, and we must choose the course that promises the greatest safety and the least labor. But it is done safely; and the caution and unerring instincts of the steersman were rewarded by not even the approach to an accident during the whole descent of the river.
Here and there, as if to lighten our task, little brooks and larger streams came dashing in with their supplies, and the river grew more expansive and deeper, but more headstrong. Our course at first lay among gently elevated hills well back from the river, not more than fifty to one hundred feet in height, but the river seemed bent on diving farther and farther into the recesses of the earth. The gorge deepened as we advanced, and the hills grew into mountains until they attained in places an altitude of a thousand feet and upwards.
The second day's run brought us to the mouth of the Gounamitz (Little Forks) about fifteen miles below the mouth of the Waagan. This is the first large tributary of the Restigouche and flows in from the north. The scenery about the mouth is very wild and picturesque, the cliffs rising from the river to the height of over one hundred feet. At the base of these cliffs we found growing that delicate and beautiful fern, the Cliff Brake (Pellaea gracilis), and the Asplenium viride, lichens and mosses in the greatest variety and abundance, giving promise of rare and perhaps new species had we taken the opportunity to collect them.
Patches of dandelion and ox-eye daisy and the song of a robin remind us we are not beyond the pale of civilization. Here we find a violet (Viola primulafolia), rare in this province. A mile below the forks of the Gounamitz is Boston Brook, evidently a favoured camping ground. Here we found growing in considerable abundance a vetch with yellow flowers (Lathyrus pratensis), the only place on the river where we noticed it.
Below Boston Brook the country changes to a marked extent from a hilly to a level country, but only for a mile or two--a good site for a frontier settlement. A short distance further down, just below Jardine's Brook, the Silurian ledges cropping out remind us of the Upper St. John and its flora. Here we find the first wild rose met with on the trip (Rosa Carolina), two anemones (Anemone Pennsylvanice) and A. cylindrica, the Painted Cup (Castilleia pallida var septentrionalis), Hedysarum boreale, the Poison Ivy, (Rhus toxicondendron) the Billberry (Amelapchier Canadensis), Lobelia Kalmii, and others--all Upper St. John plants.
Our fourth camping ground was near the mouth of the Kedgewick which here comes in from the north and is the largest affluent of the Restigouche. There is a fine stretch of meadow land here and a good farm, the first met with on the river, owned by Mr. Mowat. We went about half a mile up the Kedgewick, found several rare carices, and an evening primrose (Enothera Oakesiana). A little below the mouth of the Kedgewick on the right bank of the river is the fishing lodge of Col. Rogers of New York, who owns the famous fishing pool known as "Jimmy's Hole" where the water is from thirty to forty feet deep, a steep wall of white rock rising from the eastern side; and next is Soldier's Gulch, the best salmon pool on the river.
A little below on a picturesque little nook at a bend of the river we come upon the summer camp of Mr. Ayer, of Bangor, and two miles farther we reach Down's Gulch, a fine camping ground. Here we found the Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia Caroliniana), Tofieldia glutinosa, Hedysarum boreale, Astragalus alpinus, very abundant along the lower river, the purple fringed Orchis (Habenaria psycodes) the Rock Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) Anemone cylindrica, several rare carices and several species of juncus.
For the next ten miles we pass through some of the most striking and picturesque scenery on the Restigouche. The river makes sudden turns, and leaps tumultuously from rapid to rapid, vainly strikes against the base of a rocky eminence and recoils, seething and foaming, to take a great sweep to the right, and seek a sullen repose in the great black pool beyond. There seems scarcely room enough for the river in the narrow gorge through which it rushes, careering to almost every quarter of the compass. Salmon pools are frequent and very deep. The hills rise to the height of six hundred to eight hundred feet, and the presence of more deciduous trees, such as maples and birches, renders the foliage less sombre than farther up the river.
Opposite the frequent bends in the river are numerous terraces from thirty to fifty feet high, some of them, especially those at Red Bank and the mouth of the Patapedia, being of considerable extent and all in the most picturesque and beautiful situations imaginable, sloping down to the edge of deep pools and giving the opportunity to view from their vantage ground scenery that cannot be equalled in these provinces. Nearly all these terraces have fishing lodges built upon them owned by the Restigouche Salmon Club.
The Devil's Half Acre, as might be supposed is one of the wildest and most rugged spots, and is a precipitous bluff, whose rocky base is surmounted by calcareous slates, rising from the river to a height of some three hundred feet. His satanic majesty's preserve, however, was a very good botanical ground. The Buffalo-berry (Shepherdia Canadensis) Polypodium vulgare, Woodsia Ilrensis, Solidago squarrosa, Potentilla arguta, roses and pyrolas occurred, and several heath plants were seen here, although this family is somewhat rare on the Restigouche.
To be continued.....