RIVIÉRE ROUGE, QUEBEC, CANADA. PART 4: THE SEVEN SISTERS and GROWING UP a photo exposé and short story from Rob Gravelle

     The riverbed of the Rouge steepens significantly as the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec drop into the plains of Ontario, creating the six consecutive waterfalls that are known as The Seven Sisters. Yes!! Six! There’s more controversy here as to where the seventh fall lies; some say it is the Washing Machine (described in Part Three), and others say it is Tables Falls higher up on the Rouge. But I believe the small cascade before the first fall was considered a waterfall; or in very high water there is another funky feature created by the last rapid on the Rouge called “Naked Peoples Hole”( Le Trou des Tous Nues ).  
     I adore how waterfalls are like snowflakes or fingerprints: the first fall of the six to ride is a simple drop (at about 30m3/s or less kayaks begin jumping) with two obvious lines to take. The only hitch is the second fall is not far downstream and is run (usually) far far river right. 
     The second fall is a special one and probably the most dangerous of the six. It’s a high drop with a nice horseshoe shaped bottom creating a very aerated sticky hole. There is a rooster tail ripping off the right hand side that is best to be boofed.  I have heard of a great and a not so great kayaker both getting a little too cocky, just missing their line, and swimming this rapid. Their stories are similar: both were pinned to the bottom and one even pulled himself slowly across the bottom until the river freed him. They both lived and earned great memories and stories of this rapid.  

a shot of the 1st and 2nd Falls. Paddler: Tranks Tabaze 2004  Photo credit: Mads
     The third is the best of the six, set on a curve in the river with a nice little drop into a deep hole. You can either follow the current, boofing from the top of a curtain created by a pillow on the right side of the river, or try jumping the left side of the fall, landing behind the hole – both are beautiful.  If you can’t boof this fall it can spank you very hard, cartwheeling you backward, slowly pulling you into the wall river right as it does. WALLACE!
     The fourth would again be a very easy type fall if it was not for the fifth right behind it, a cascading fall into a hole that can easily backflip you, so have a solid roll. The fifth is wide, not very high but lots of volume and power with a thick boil line, so again a nice solid boof is a great asset. 
     The sixth runs a few ways at different water levels and is quite easy and straight forward but I hate this fall and will one day conquer it. I have swam it twice: once at low levels maybe at 19 m3/s (I was too far right with my raft and got ejected out into the aerated water after the fall) – it was not a bad swim. The second time I swam was not the same at all; now 140m3/s or more, I wanted to stop just above it in my kayak to portage… and flipped over getting pulled over the fall! This was a bad swim indeed, and I was sure I would not live to speak about it, but the river was kind and let me go, to keep on enjoying all the delights it bring me every day. Thanks Rouge! 


     My first experience on the Rivière Rouge was when I was sixteen years old. I had friends working in the kitchen of one of the rafting companies. My first time rafting was a unique day indeed. We were 6 friends. We got our gear, boarded the bus, and rode to put in – only to find that one of the kayaks fell off the equipment truck! So as we helped search for Pablo’s boat the boys realized that my friends and I hadn’t signed waivers, and someone had to go back to base camp to retrieve those.  After a little delay and a failed attempt to find the kayak the trip was on the way.  
     There was a guide on a day off who decided to take two life jackets, wearing one as a diaper, and just simply float down the river.  He would hop in our boat during the flats, a super nice guy whom I later found out was Justin Trudeau – member of the Canadian  Parliment, leader of the Liberal Party, and son of a former Prime Minister. I believe he will make a fine Prime Minister one day himself. 

     That summer was that one summer most people have, the summer of freedom, the summer of friends with little to no responsibilities, just time to enjoy life and meet new people.  I met people like Mike Jefferys, Didier, the Rodrigues brothers and more who, little did I then know, would become great friends and heroes of mine later on in life. 
{EDITOR’S NOTE: This wraps up the four part series on the Rivière Rouge. The series will continue next Throwback THURSDAY evening as Rob continues his tales of rafting and living the dream in “A ROUGE DIRTBAG PADDLER’S LIFE”…… Stay tuned!}

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