Total Distance: 16 km (Two vehicles or shuttle required)
Duration: 1 day (allow about 5 to 6 hours for the trip including breaks)
Number of Portages: One portage of approx. 400m, 20+ logjams/liftovers
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate due to the number of logjam lift-overs, only recommended in high water
Map provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada.
For the first half-hour or so, the river snaked in an easterly direction through a mix of cedar and maple forest. It was beautiful country, but the river certainly had several meanders and twists. This fact, along with the chewed up stumps -- evidence of beaver activity -- most likely contributed to the number of logs and jams in the river. When there were stretches of straight river, it was a pleasure to paddle.
By this point, most of the conifers had disappeared and we found ourselves in a swampy area with bare deciduous trees poking out of the water. It certainly lent to a creepy feeling, almost like we were paddling through a war zone.
We arrived at the point where the creek from Chandos met the river and the whole area was flooded over. Large stumps and silver maples were sticking out of the water and it was eerily quiet.
It was then when I happened to glance up and see a massive bird of prey perched on a treetop a few hundred meters up that creek. I wasn't quite sure whether it was a bald eagle or an osprey, but it was HUGE! I'm pretty sure it was a bald eagle. The picture below doesn't do it justice, but when it spread its wings and flew off as we approached, we could appreciate the size of that magnificent raptor. It must have had a wingspan of about six feet.
Heading back to our course and moving downriver, we had another formidable logjam to overcome by lifting over on river-left. We rounded a bend and then saw that the river, in the throes of spring flood, seemed to spread out all over the place. We knew the general direction of where we had to go but weren't exactly sure where we should paddle to leave this swamp. It was flooded in every direction as far as the eye could see!
We solved the problem by spotting and following the currents of water moving on the surface. Once or twice it led us to get grounded on mucky clumps but eventually led us to the outflow to the east. There, the river narrowed and we could make out proper river banks. The topography got a bit rockier and we were paddling through a beautiful mixed forest once again. It was there, next to a sweeper on a grassy riverbank, that we decided to stop and have our roast beef wraps for lunch. It was quite a pretty spot.
Just as we were wrapping up lunch (pun intended), the sun poked through the clouds to make the moment even nicer. Unfortunately, the sun also brought out the first evidence of our yearly little friend known as the black fly. Yes, there it was, barely into May, and the little critters were out already, and biting! They were early this year.
This motivated us to get back in the canoe and move. The river veered to the south and we meandered in that general direction for the better part of an hour or so. It widened somewhat and logs blocking the way were much less frequent there. With the sun out and travelling through the forest, this part of the trip was quite a nice paddle.
After about an hour, we came upon a nice sandy bluff and decided to pull up there to have a beverage and some trail mix.
Within 15 minutes past this point, we rounded a bend and heard the sound of rushing water. We knew we had come to a set of rapids. The site I used to discover this route stated that there was one set of Class three rapids near Glen Alda, so I assumed this was it. We paddled through the flow fairly close to the set, but upon inspection decided they were a bit rocky for our lightweight canoe and we decided to portage around them.
Soon after this, we could begin to hear highway 620 and knew we were approaching Glen Alda. Along one stretch there, we noticed a couple of tree stands perched about 15 feet off the ground, most likely used for hunting. It made us wonder if we were paddling past a hunting camp.
We passed some properties and eventually paddled under the bridge at Highway 620 through the town of Glen Alda. As the sun was out and it was a weekend, several people were working on their properties and we received some waves as we paddled past.
From there, it was only a couple of kilometres more to go before we would reach our take-out and we were moving at a relaxing pace. There, some of the river banks became quite high and had some sandy, dramatic drops to the river below.
Just when we thought we had this day trip pretty much in the book, we rounded a bend and saw a lovely house high on the river bank. Its owner was out on her deck watching the river. She smiled as she saw us approach and called out, "This might be as far as you go!" while gesturing downriver. We rounded the corner and saw what she was referring to. It was a series of logjams, the largest of the trip thus far, right at a spot where the river banks were steep on either side.
Unfortunately for the homeowner, she did not know who she was speaking to! We managed to get past the first one by climbing the bank on river-right and hauling the canoe up and then dragging it under the overhanging trees. We put back in, paddled another 50 meters and this time did the same thing on river-left. The last one, we managed to deftly sneak our way through the centre by coming in at an angle, standing on a log and hauling the canoe over. By this time, we had had quite a bit of practice at this, having done similar moves about 10 times earlier that day.
Within 10 minutes, we could see the bridge at Highway 504 up ahead and we were soon scrambling up the rocky slope of the construction site with our canoe and gear, heading for our car.
I have learnt that every river has a character to itself and the upper part of the Crowe is a character, indeed. It was an interesting paddle that had a distinct feeling and, despite the challenges of its sweepers and jams, I don't regret paddling it at all. It wouldn't be the first river section that I'd choose to return to and revisit, but I'm glad that I got the chance to paddle it with my wife, who incidentally is rapidly becoming quite a proficient canoe tripper. Hopefully, once this plague finally ends, she'll be ready for a long river trip further afield. I'd like to try other sections of the Crowe and am contemplating a trip from The Gut to Marmora, but that will be another time.