RIVIÉRE ROUGE, QUEBEC, CANADA. PART 3: The Lower Rouge a photo exposé and short story from Rob Gravelle


Chapter 1- What is her name? and why.
The lower Rouge River changes names depending on the company you raft with: at one it is named the Sisters referring to the waterfall section after the take out of most rafting companies, at another it is named the Gorge as the further down you go the more you enter a fjord like gorge. 
     As I wrote in the first part of this story, many of the rapids were named during the logging days. This whole section was racially inappropriately named from the first eddy until our take out (Eau Vive Rafting) and the beginning of the Seven Sisters section (also rumored to be named after a man named Eddie who is buried in a grave alongside a coworker and fellow drowning victim). As the first outfitters opened it became obvious they would not use these names (the original names were Nigger rapid 1, Nigger rapid 2, and Nigger rapid 3, all after Nigger Eddy… Check Google!) and so renamed the rapids, so many have different names depending on who you talk to and what company they frequent. Some have been written in stone so to speak, like the Washing Machine or The Elisabeth Sill.  Most people who have ever rafted on the Riviére Rouge will have memories and probably a few stories from one of these rapids. 

As far as white water rafting is concerned this river has got to be one of the most exciting for its clientele. The percentage of flips compared to the boats running is quite high compared to most rivers. It is an old river with few consequences, the rocks having been smoothed out over time with big rapids that are deep, and warm water on top of it all creating the perfect rafting environment. It starts off with the “Family rapids” and the “Three Bears”, small class 2 rapids that lead up to the first big rapid of the day, the Elizabeth Sill.

The Elizabeth Sill has many stories as to how it got it’s name, the most popular being something about a depressed girl named Elizabeth, maybe even a nun, throwing herself into the rapid in the frigid spring waters as the logs from the drive came crashing through. If and when you fall from your boat and swim the Sill you just might feel her pulling you deeper into her belly.  Reality is a little more boring as I have recently found out there was a cantina down at the Sill during the logging days… I’ll give you one guess as to the name of the gal feeding the boys: you got it, Elizabeth. There you have it, feed some boys some good grub when they need it and they will name a rapid after you.  Feel free to believe whichever story you like best. 

     This is a beautiful rapid for so many reasons; with flat water above and a lake below it is a perfect place to find your groove and get ready for the next part of this section – a non-stop action packed ride in any floatable device. From surfing the Hero Wave in a kayak to back flipping in Draino with a Creature Craft during a midnight run, as long as there is a trickle or more of water flowing in the Rouge there are always great times to be had no matter what level you are at.
This is a section that has many waves and holes with many names, like Slice n Dice, The Forbidden Wave, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Himalayas, Draino or the Monster, Midnight Puff and the famous Texaco Eddy, Macho, Real Man’s hole, Fantasy or B.M.F., Mushroom , Little Rascal, the Dryer , the Spin Cycle, the Washing Machine, Holy Roller and Babe’s Hole. These rapids are all packed in a one mile stretch of river, a great section to hone your skills as a river guide, and any experienced guide on the Rouge knows how to handle and recuperate his or her flipped raft. In a kayak there are many play spots that change on a daily basis. It’s not as great a river as the Ottawa for park and play but it has great rapids to challenge that will bring you to the next level.  

     This section of river is one of the nicest sections of water I have ever seen. As the river drops it changes drastically; the water features can be very different from one day to the next.  The rafts will all park above the Machine in Texaco Eddy. They peel out one by one for their run through the Machine with maybe a stop in the spin cycle, a strong eddy that will suck a boat back into the Machine for a nice wild violent surf. When you do flip in the Machine it is important to recuperate your crew and gear as quickly as possible so they do not swim the rock garden, the last rapid of the section. A challenging section for guides and kayaks, most kayakers will try to avoid the Machine and take the Dryer but if you do not get far left enough you have set yourself up for a nice bumpy side surf in the Machine where you will need a solid brace.

The Triberiders are the world’s best kayakers who are now racing each other down some of the biggest waters ever ridden. As they do they are carving a new path for the sport.  With helmet cams, drone cams, handheld cams , and a slew of photographers sporting the finest equipment, they are able to document and share their experiences, inspiring future paddlers to bring the sport to even more incredible heights. Every time these boys and girls drop by they are filled with smiles, great sportsmanship and superb attitudes, keeping the fun on the river as it should be.  We are happy to have them and proud they choose to come to the Rouge year after year for some great paddling, a great show for us, and a definite rush for them.

     This section of water in my back yard has given me so much. It helped me grow; it is where I got over my shyness; where I met, worked and played with my heroes, my mentors, my best friends.  The Rouge is where I have found love and lost friends; it has seen me at my best and at my worst; it is my mistress and my comfort; it is my life.

                                    life IS a river, you can’t fight it or deny it,
                               all we can do is flow with the flow, 
                               we can’t curse it or hate it for it will change nothing. 
                               we can never love it too much, just go and experience it..
                               as you experience yourself.

{ DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE will present the fourth and final part of RIVIÉRE ROUGE, QUEBEC, CANADA next Saturday. Stay tuned for the Seven Sisters… CHEERS! }

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