How to Beat Those Deadwater Blues

If you've already stopped by my campfire to chat about the Main Southwest Miramichi, then you already have a good idea about what it's like to canoe in May and early June. Basically, it is a perfect party river, with long yet not too technical rapids, frequent campsites with excellent capacity and compelling scenery, and paddlers having the time of their lives.

Each of these spots is worth a hike:
Miramichi River
Falls Brook Falls. That's Paddlin' Hal.
Miramichi River, Trout Brook Falls
Trout Brook Falls.

Hey, sooner or later, the rapids end, and there remains a long slow water stretch called Longlookum past the prime campsite at Falls Brook to the takeout at the Hayesville bridge. That's the way it was when Biff, Pete, Angie and I went on the Main Southwest Miramichi the first week of June a few years ago.

The water on the Miramichi was high and warm that year, and the weather was sublime. We put in above Juniper, on the North Branch, and enjoyed perfect paddling weather for the next four days.

When we arrived at Clearwater Brook on the evening of the third day, most of the fast water on the Miramichi was already behind us. We had enjoyed warm sunlit days, picture perfect evenings, and shared the company of a mother bear and her three cubs padding along the shore beside us on two or three occasions. We easily negotiated the long and engaging rapids on our way down Push and be Damned, Little Louie, Burnt Hill, etc., with impunity, and enjoyed the magnificent scenery and wildlife the river is famous for.

We set up our tents at the juncture of Clearwater Brook and the main Miramichi early that afternoon, and a more pleasant tenting spot is hard to find. There is a path up the Clearwater padded with pine needles for a mile or more, leading past the luxurious log cabins where the guides bring their sports for salmon fishing when the run is coming up the river. The Clearwater itself is a fabled salmon stream with several cataracts in its lower stretch, but in the vicinity of its merger with the Miramichi, it flows swift, smooth and wide.

clearwater-web (46K)
Clearwater at Miramichi

I don't know who started, but eventually we all ended up walking as far as the path led up the banks of the Clearwater, and slipping into the stream for a spirited ride down to the campsite on its gentle current. Naturally, we all wore our life jackets for the ride. It was relaxing to know that we could surrender ourselves to the current without fear of bodily harm, as the deep stream widened and slowed at its mouth to deposit us gently at our campfire. It was a sublime way to cool down after a hot day in the sun.

We still had a hot and longish day the next day, after visiting the waterfalls at Falls Brook on the left bank and Trout Brook on the right, on our way to the shuttle point by the Hayesville Bridge. Our cold beverages had long since been consumed, after all it was our fourth day, and there is a limit to the volume of refreshments even a 17-foot boat can carry. Soon we were taking turns dropping over the edge of the boat and bobbing from rock to rock as the river wound from salmon pool to bogan, through long areas where the river's pitch leveled off as it approached sea level.

icecastle (94K)
Ice castles linger in the shaded corners.

On our last corner before we came to the takeout, we came upon a meadow where the retreating river had left the remnants of a huge ice jam in a dark corner out of reach of the warm sun and wind. Like fools, we piled into shore, and clambered up its frozen ice walls, in places ten and fifteen feet high. It took only a couple of slips and tumbles to realize we were risking our necks on its unstable face, so after sharing the last of the food and other treats left in our packs, we bade goodbye to the Miramichi until the next time.

I've tried solo floating down other streams at canoe trip's end in the Miramichi country since then, but it's never been the same. Perhaps it was the company. Pete is living on the west coast now, and Angie is in another life altogether. I suppose I am too. But don't count me out, maybe this spring I'll end up there again.

See you there.

Biff, you're sitting there humming "Islands in the Stream". Sounds to me there's a tale there somewhere.

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