My Restigouche River Run part 6
by: Irene Doyle
Today under a gorgeously sunny sky, I will be resuming my river run, starting at what is called the
Red Pine Lodge (Seen here in the top left corner of the picture). It takes its name from the nice tall pine that surrounds it. We have stopped here to take a look around, as it is so beautiful. As I stand on the lawn, I am facing three big camps for the guides, and the apparently odd fishermen that come in. A nice little icehouse is used to keep food and fish I guess. Two flagpoles grace the front of the lodges with a Canadian flag and a Quebec flag. We take a walk around and to the back of the lodges I see sheds and Pat tells me they are for the "choreboys" and wardens and the office is back here also. This late in the year and with the water as low as it is, the camps are closed for the season. We use the stairs that go down to the river to get back to our canoe. There is still one warden here.
As we head down and go around the corner another beautiful site awaits us. Two lookouts can be seen, one on top of the mountain and one about half way down oh I'd say maybe 200 feet from the top. These lookouts are accessible from l'Assention, Quebec. They overlook the whole river and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it. Pat tells me there is also a little camp up there that one can stay in overnight with permission, it has toilets, showers, picnic tables, everything you need for a nice stay. Down here though the water is nice and calm and I can see bottom very nicely. The shores are rocky and the trees look healthy, standing nice and straight and a beautiful green. The photo above I took from the top and late in the fall of course as you can see the array of colors. The camp can be seen at the top left hand corner of the photo and a brave or not so smart guy is standing in his canoe as he glides down the river. It is almost too nice an area to leave but we continue on down.
Now we are coming to the first bar and with the water as low as it is, extra care has to be taken as there are apparently large rock in the bottom here but again I leave that part to Pat. He also tells me there are usually 3 or 4 Bald Eagles in this area but none can be seen yet today.
We glide down this beautiful river, nice and slow to be able to admire nature at its best. Here I say we are gliding down the river as this area is called "looking glass" and it wears its name well. The water is extremely calm and crystal clear, the reflection is incredible. I also notice there are lots more seagulls here for whatever reason, maybe they are admiring themselves in the water?
Now we are headed into what is called upper grindstone, they call it that way cause there are a lot of rocks there in the bottom. When the water is as low as it is they even stick out of the water at places. When the water is high it is just as dangerous as you may not see them and hit into them so again you really have to be vigilant and careful when running this river.
We pass Upper Grindstone without a problem and we go down into what they call Grindstone itself the river is nice and clean and if you stop and look in the bottom you even see fish swimming down there, amazing! Oh gosh, my heart gives a few extra thumps at the sight of one of the grand dads of them all, the great Bald Eagle I spoke of earlier, he is circling over us. Pat says the natives would say he was watching over us, making sure we have a safe journey. He soars around and around and as if to give us a better look, lands on the shore on the opposite side of the river. I wish I had a good camera with me but being afraid of getting it wet I left the digital behind, after all it belongs to where I work and not mine to ruin J So the little black dot on the shore in this picture is our friend the gray-haired grandfather of all birds. I get Pat to cut the motor so we can admire this bird, I did remember to bring my binoculars and I get an eye-full.
We are now approaching another bad bar, and this time Pat warms me ahead of time that he will have to shut down the motor before we get to it and use the pole to get over it. With care and experience, we get over it and are on our way again. By now the sun is beaming down on us and its warming up real nice, gorgeous weather, super company mixed with this breath taking scenery, what a beautiful day.
This river was also used at one time, in the spring, to get the wood that was cut during the winter months to the mills in Atholville and Campbellton. Wood was cut in the winter by lumberjacks not timberjacks, with chainsaws and handsaws, not with the machines that tear up the countryside, as is it today. No clear cutting then, not even selective cutting, and men cut wood to make enough money to feed their families not to feed the ever rising demands of the mills. When spring arrived and water was high the men who worked "The Drive" would push or throw, the wood in the river or let it slide down a "sleuce" they had built just for the purpose of sending the pulp into the river from the top of mountains. They would then follow it down the river to make sure it got to its destination. Sometimes it would pile up in areas and dynamite had to be used to clear up the "Wood jam". These brave men would run on those logs on the river, can you imagine?
It was not that long ago either, my dad worked on "the drive", not on the Restigouche but on the Asmetquegan and the Nouvelle Rivers. I've included two pictures he took while there, can you imagine building that sleuce (picture on the left) seen here from the top? In snow, waist deep or deeper, bringing those logs to that point and putting them together to build the sleuce in the first place then getting the wood to it and letting it slide all the way down to the river below. And we think life is rough?
As Pat so wisely says, "Those were the good ole days". Wood coming down the river would clean the bottom but today the river is filling up from the bottom. Last year some people walked across the Restigouche from Atholville to Broadlands at low tide.
To be continued....