Four Rivers Offer Paddling for Novices and Pros Alike

Quebec Quandary
Map of rivers in Quebec.

Quebec. The mention of the word conjures up visions of French-Canadian fur trappers paddling huge birchbark canoes down untamed wilderness rivers. The image is based on fact. The history of Quebec is inextricably linked with the canoe. The province is laced with hundreds of lakes, streams, and rivers, which became vital highways of commerce and communication through the dense northern forests. These waterways heavily influenced the settlement and development of Quebec by Europeans, which may explain the attraction that canoeing retains even today to many of Quebec's residents. But you don't have to live in Quebec to understand the pull of the river. To the rest of us, Quebec's waters beckon also.

The province is a paddler's paradise, with vast expanses of wilderness surrounding miles of navigable waterways. This wilderness was formed eons ago by the back-and-forth march of ice age glaciers. The glaciers simultaneously flattened the terrain and deposited huge boulders throughout the area. The boulders now dominate many of the rivers, interrupting the flow of the rivers and churning up huge drops and rapids. The result? Quebec's rivers can be a schizophrenic mix of docile flatwater and raging foam.

Touring Quebec is more like visiting Europe than part of America. The French-speaking province is both culturally and visually striking. Most of the population is clustered in the cities and towns along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, which cleaves through the southeastern part of the province. The rest of the province is sparsely inhabited and relatively roadless. Boaters thus have two options; a major wilderness journey through the remote central and northern reaches, or a less demanding trip in the easily accessible southern area.

Once you have decided on which type of trip to undertake, you now have another dilemma: with scores of rivers to choose from, which one to float? The bright side is that this is not a make-or-break decision; whichever river you choose, you'll boat through some of the finest northwoods scenery in the world. Moose, black bear, bald eagle, beaver, river otter, and deer are abundant. Fishing is excellent. Even the sky seems clearer. So don't fret too much.

With such a staggering array of water to paddle, it's hard to pick favorites but four Quebec rivers have reputations as outstanding paddling destinations. These four rivers range from a true wilderness adventure to a less challenging but still exciting run just outside of a major city.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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