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George River history
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ALL ABOUT CANOES
August 4, 1997
Peter Brewster writes:
AT THE CONFLUENCE OF THREE CHANNELS, GEORGE RIVER: This is where the
George becomes a river.
Until now, we have been travelling through a series of small and
large lakes, connected by swift little riffles and a couple of small chutes as
the river gathers steam.
This, if you will, is the point of maturity. You can look at the flow
and see the huge river that we'll ride north. The boy becomes a man; the George
becomes a major waterway.
The process has been rather like watching Ontario's Hwy. 401 on an
early weekday morning. Commuters trickle onto the main highway from secondary
roads, joining the growing rush until at Toronto, with all 16 lanes just
cooking along, you have full flood.
We are camped high above a stunning, boiling chute of white water, at
the end of a hot, buggy portage of about 600 metres, preceded by another hot,
buggy portage of about the same.
We hauled most of the gear around, but Geoff elected to line and run
some of it with the 20-footer partly empty. Definitely less sweaty, as the day
is considerably warmer than yesterday and we did not have ice pellets for
At the end of the first portage Peter Scott and I had a most humbling
experience that, thankfully, did not turn into disaster but could easily have
Put it down to a little carelessness, perhaps a little rustiness of
the first day on whitewater. Either way, we both knew how close we'd come to a
nasty dump and exchanged glances that said it all.
We were putting in after the first carry, and were a bit too close to
the main flow. In the brief seconds it takes to settle into the boat, the river
sucked us backwards into the flow. A considerable amount of water came over the
gunnels, enough to make the canoe wallow and be unresponsive. Once water starts
moving INSIDE the boat, you have to move fast...but the water won't let you. We
eased back into the eddy saying prayers and breathing heavily. Bailing
But it didn't ruin a good day. The paddling was much easier with
gentle winds, and the feel of moving water makes your blood quicken and paddle
lighten. A bald eagle cruising above a small bay was a bonus, as were a pair of
ospreys on a nest. No caribou today, but the rafts of hair the herds shed as
they cross the river could be seen floating in the eddies.
Geoff took time out to work below a rapid with a rope and heavy
magnet. The gamble, a longshot, was that this was where Dillon Wallace dumped
and lost his gun in 1905 It didn't pay off, but trying was the thing.
Below the campsite, where the falls bottoms out, two more channels
come together. On our 1983 trip we arrived here by one of those channels,
taking it as a shortcut (and it likely was). We also avoided the portages. But
today was a day to seek history if we could find it.
The wind has dropped, and the bugs are really quite spectacular. The
smell of onions cooking comes to me well-laced with the delicate tang of Deep
Woods OFF! Tonight we'll sleep well.
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