How To Travel Up River


We felt overwhelmed when we first reached the George. After descending an unnamed river from the height-of-land, we portaged to from the Du Pas and faced our bows upstream, into the powerful flow of the George River. We’d have to fight against the current for 8 miles.

Paddling was futile. My bow paddler Marty and I cut some poles and tried poling upriver. We got nowhere with this. The thick rough, and clunky poles were too buoyant and not long enough.

A couple bad falls prompted Ted’s idea to put wool socks over his water shoes.

In the other boat, Ted and Will had more luck from the get go. With a 50′ rope attached to a bridle enabling them to pull from the keel line, one man walked upriver towing the canoe and the other followed it along the bank, pushing it away from the rocks on shore with a paddle.

This was an effective way to travel up river, but we’d soon devise a faster method.

What We Knew:

As with lining, trying to track with a rope tied to the top of your bow is not conducive to keeping your canoe upright in these situations. A bridle allows you to pull from under the canoe at the keel line, meaning your boat glides over the top of the water.

Marty and I soon abandoned our poles and began tracking, our bridle positioned at the front thwart. Allowing the bow to swing away from shore, we held the canoe in a ferry as we walked up the bank. This keeps the canoe from dragging along the bank.

What We Learned:

We soon realized that the position of our bridles was too far back. We’d rigged them at the front thwart, as we would for lining down river. That allows too much side wash on your canoe when ferrying away from shore, making it tougher to control and harder to pull up river. The next day we moved the bridle all the way forward to the carrying handle, which made a world of difference.

When our new bridle slipped off the bow, we secured it back to the thwart on either side to prevent this from happening.

When tracking, you can be wading on slippery rocks for miles. A couple bad falls prompted Ted’s idea to put wool socks over his water shoes. It worked, and his traction improved. After 5 miles the socks were torn up, so only try this if you’ve got at least one pair of socks to sacrifice.

Now our concerns lay with the huge, remote, windswept lakes we’d need to cross. If you dump in the middle of a sub-Arctic lake, you die.

Each Wednesday, C&K will release a new episode of Lessons From the Trail, presented by Nova Craft Canoe and Brunton, makers of the TruArc compass.

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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