Upper Petawawa River

Thumbs up for the Upper Pet!

Photo: Jeremy Laucks

River: Upper Petawawa
Level: 3.18m on online Town Section gauge
Paddlers: Jeremy, Me

Today I added another new river to my repertoire. I had attempted to run the Upper Pet on Easter weekend, but as with all things with Brent Cooper, the excursion ended up being a diversion and we didn’t get to run the river.
This morning, after a week of squirt, play, competitions and parties, we decided to run the Upper Petawawa. About an hour and a half into Algonquin Park and a hour plus hike in to the put-in lies a hidden gem. Well, it’s not really hidden, but because the logistics are a pain in the butt, not a lot of people run it. If you want to run the Upper Pet you need to reserve a whole day for shuttle and river-run.

Hiking in with my homemade harness

Photo: Jeremy Laucks
The Upper Pet is a class 4 drop/pool deal that flows into Travers Lake. In order to put in above a section of the best rapids, Jeremy and I had to drive up to an old railway bed and along it until the bed becomes blocked by a pile of rocks and a gate. From there, we gathered our gear and hiked along the railway bed the rest of the way. I think the hike took over an hour, but wasn’t checking my watch.

The best part about running the river today with Jeremy and taking photos, was that this was the first time that I had ever looked at and chosen my own lines, and then run them solo. I would shoot photos of Jeremy, then he would take the camera from me and I’d jump into the boat and pick my line. Usually before this I would always just follow someone else down each rapid. Today I had to decide for myself where I needed to be and pick landmarks to determine the right line. It was time to step it up a notch!

I don’t know the names of the rapids, but there were approximately 10 major drops along this section. The first one was just an easy ledge with various runnable lines. We got out to scout the third drop on an island in the middle of the river. We checked out the chute river left of the island and discussed the line, then went over to look at the right side. There was a fast narrow flume into a big hole. The water through the flume was smooth and green but really steep. I was nervous at first, but watched Jeremy run it twice and after he told me that it was a lot of fun and I’d really like it, I decided to give it a go. I set up fine, but maybe was a little late of my paddle strokes because I ended up side-surfing the hole for a minute before being shot out the back end. It was fun! YEAH!

Jeremy running the Flume

Photo: Me!

Me running the Flume
Photo: Jeremy Laucks

Another rapid we came across was a little canyon that came out of nowhere. There was a huge wave in the middle that Jeremy surfed, but also an enormous hole in front of it. This was my bad run for the day. It was hard to find the tongue through the top river-wide hole and once I did, it was too late. I punched through the hole, but got sucked back in after trying really hard to paddle out of the backwash. Once in, I did the only thing I knew to do, surf it toward the tongue and get out! The next part was a HUGE diagonal curler that went right into that nasty hole. The idea was to punch the curler. I punched it, endered and went right into the hole. I carped a few times, and finally got upright, but in the hole. I gasped a few breaths while being tooled in the hole. This time, I decided to get out of the hole a different way. There was no side surfing out of it this time as it was a frowny hole. I let the hole flip me over, laid on my back deck and let myself get washed out. I caught the eddy below and spent a minute belching from all that air I had gulped while in the hole!

Soon-to-be Jenny Beatdown

Photo: Jeremy Laucks

Jeremy sez: I want to surf that!

Photo: Me!

The last rapid just above the take-out was one I had looked at earlier in the day, but wasn’t sure if I was going to run it. It was a series of ledges, with holes. Basically the top ledge had one line that looked doable on the very river right side, the second ledge was doable anywhere from centre to right (which meant an immediate ferry over to the other side of the river), and then the third drop had a clear line also on the river right side. The middle section was oddly a corridor of whitewater between two walls of piled up rocks. Kind of random. I watched Jeremy run it, and still wasn’t sure if I could do it, as it mean precise lines and quick reactions. I finally agreed to do it with Jeremy, so there were no photos of this one!

It went fine and I don’t know what I was so aprehensive about. I made the first drop through, endered a bit, but got back on track and headed over to line up for the next two drops. What a great rapid, and a great run of the Upper Petawawa!

We ended the perfect paddling day with the discovery that my truck at the take-out had a flat tire that wasn’t there when I left it to run shuttle a few hours earlier.
The Hyundai comes fully equipped with a donut spare tire in the back! Awesome! Stupid Donut. Next on the to-do list. Buy an old wheel so I can have a full-sized spare. It drove well though.

I can’t wait to run this one again, it was definately a step up for me, at the high end of my abilities. I ran at least 3 rapids today that were bigger or more difficult than I had run before.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s