Nanook's next boat Little Southwest Miramichi

Flaherty's Pitch
Flaherty's Pitch
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Itís been said that thereís no place in New Brunswick you canít get to by road. This may be true, but after sampling the tracks that brought me to this central branch of the Miramichi, I might invest in a half-tracked vehicle and a satellite navigation system if I want to get up here again. They were long, narrow, rocky, rutted, steep and many-forked.

That was only half of it. At roadís end, we shouldered our boats and followed a steep path down a thickly treed slope for several hundred meters, often slanting the boats sideways to slip through a narrow space between two trees. At the bottom, we slid our craft down to the waterís edge on ropes, then carefully eased our own way down, hands on roots and rocks.

We emerged beside a large pool formed by the rush of Flahertyís Pitch, a long drop angling steeply between ledges.

falls
Wesley Boucher at Indian Falls on the Little Southwest Miramichi.
Pic by Paul Hill

The river runs wide and in mid-May this year, deep. After a short quiet section below Flaherty's Pitch, the gradient increases, and continuous rock-studded rapids invited us to hop from eddy to eddy for several hours. We were each running solo in our own boat, which meant we were free to set our own pace, and cut our own eddy turns behind the rocks we chose. Although there is little quiet water along this stretch, itís easy to make shore by slipping behind the rocks and ferrying to the bank just about anywhere.

 


The quick current, deep water and rocky bed of the Little Southwest Miramichi make this river a playground for eddy-hoppers

I was fortunate to have a guide on this trip. Léonel went out of his way to show me his favorite river, led me down through the rocky drops, and told me stories of earlier runs heíd taken on this stream with his wife and friends. His kindness and hospitality toward a new acquaintance were more than I deserved.

Near the end of the afternoon, the river narrowed as it cut through a ridge, describing S-turns below high wooded hillsides. Our route led us through swifts with diagonal wave trains, prompting quick-change adjustments as my craft seemed to pull one way then spin another. Léonel eased his Tripper down the tight turns with ease, he was at home in this river.

Libby's Falls
Libby's Brook drops over two ledges just before it enters the Little Southwest downstream from Flaherty's Pitch

At another turn near riverís end, an especially thick rock garden at Rocky Island called on our ferrying skills to pick a deep water path between stones and over ledges. This is one of the prime spots where Miramichi rivermen refine their poling skills, especially later in summer when the routes through the maze are smaller and shallower.

As I went over the final ledge downstream of the rock garden, I did the unthinkable. When the bow pitched into the curling wave and the boat yawed, I reached out with both hands and grabbed the gunwales Ö only for a split second, but thatís all it takes. I felt ashamed for all those times I'd hollered at my partner in the bow to get his hands off the gunwales and hold onto his paddle ... it's just so tempting to reach for them when your boat begins to slip under you.

Paul Hill
Hazen Gilks runs Indian Falls backwards, LSW Miramichi. I understand this drop lurks around a corner. Pic by Paul Hill

There are only a few fishing camps along this river, and no roads or bridges are visible from the water. Léonel says that the river upstream from Flaherty's Pitch is for experts only, especially the stretch between Libbyís Bridge and the North Pole Stream. Thatís where the local Search and Rescue unit rehearses its river rescue routine. I understand there are many large lakes which form its headwaters, providing deep water for canoeists later on in the spring when many other popular runs in different areas of the province begin to dry up.

If any of my visitors is familiar with the upper stretches of this river, I wouldnít mind hearing from you. Our shuttle driver was with Upper Oxbow Outdoor Adventures.

 Paul Hill has graciously sent me pictures of his April 30, 2005 run down this river. Please click on the thumbnails. The pictures open in a new browser window, so close the window to return. 


Ian at Indian Falls

Scouting Indian Falls

Dave at Flaherty's Pitch

Ian in the hole

Laurie, North Pole Stream