Posted by: kimmeroo | May 26, 2012

Pukaskwa River – Day 4

Day 4 was a mentally challenging day. You know when you have a decision to make, but you keep on putting it off until all of a sudden you reach the point where you have to decide? That was day 4. There is a section of river called Ringham’s Gorge. This section is roughly 1.25km long, and is largely un-scoutable.   It can be bypassed by a long portage. The gorge starts with a portage around a falls. The route description we had said that this was followed by a fairly easy CII rapid, then 1.25km of continuous rapids that are ‘fun’, but with the warning that of course you must be cautious, especially at the end where you need to stay right through a ‘demanding’ chute or you’ll get slammed into a rock face. Okay, first of all, what the heck does ‘fun’ mean? That is quite possible the least useful description of rapids I have ever heard. After the chute there is another rapid, and then a series of 5 drops, all of which we would need to portage (kayaks could run some of the top ones, and probably real whitewater canoes too). Other info we had to base our decision on was that one of our friends had run the river with a novice paddler in the bow and had successfully run the gorge at low water (and one of the boats had stayed left and hit the wall, so it’s not a do or die move), and another friend guided a low water trip where they ran the gorge. So it sounded doable, but the unknown factor still freaked us out a little bit.

The easy decision was that at the very least we would portage our gear and run empty. The portage followed a high ridge, and partway through we found a spot where we could scramble down the hill to check out the gorge. We were able to see the first of the drops, and the bottom of the rapid leading up to the drops. The reassuring part was that the rapid didn’t look that bad, but in particular there was a nice, big pool between the rapid and the drops, so easy to get to shore.

We finished the portage and had lunch, still undecided but leaning towards running it… final factor would be the weather. If it was raining and nasty (it looked a bit threatening out) when we got back to the canoe we wouldn’t run it. However, the weather was holding, so we went for it.

The description we had didn’t quite seem to match the gorge, but maybe the wording was just a bit funny. Anyhow, the section of continuous whitewater really wasn’t as long we expected. We could see the whole thing from the top, including the chute at the bottom.

The first section was pretty awful. The water was so low that we were just pinballing down and trying not to get broadside on any rocks. We ended up on river left, and needed to get to river right to scout the next section, but there were so many rocks that we couldn’t pick out a line. We ended up doing a big diagonal charge (our favourite move on this river, and no that’s not a technical term; the water was typically too low to make use of the backferry that we usually use) and bumped our way over to where we wanted to be. From there we were able to get out and scout the chute.

The chute actually looked pretty fun! For one thing, there was actually a decent volume of water so you could really paddle. There was a tongue on the right and a tongue on the left, and a big rock in the middle. Both tongues would be fun in and of themselves, but the one on the left would definitely take you right into the rock face. The water wasn’t very pushy though, so we were able to stay to the right easily and had a fun run. It ends in a good pool so we went to shore right away to empty (it was a pretty decent little drop, so we did take in some water).

After the chute we had one last rapid to run that was also pretty fun, and then we pulled off to portage around the drops. After that portage there was one more liftover at a ledge, and then another bony rapid leading out of the gorge, but no big pinning rocks to worry about. From there we picked up our gear at the end of the portage, and paddled down to Twin Falls where we camped for the night.

Portage into the gorge – no turning back now!

Assessing what’s to come

One of the drops

Taking a break on the portage

Cool glacier at the end of the gorge

Twin Falls



  1. Great trip report. What was the river gauge at when you ran Ringham’s? (I’ve been trying to get back down there for a low-water run.) Thanks!

    • I believe it was around 4.4. It was okay, but we’d be aiming for something a bit higher next time. The upper rapids would be nicer if more rocks were covered, and the chute wasn’t pushy at all at that level, so even if it got a bit pushier with higher water it should be fine.

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