Lessons From The Trail: Getting There

Episode 1 of the Côte-Nord Adventure with Jim Baird

Come along with Adventurer Jim Baird, his girlfriend Tori, and their dog Buck as they paddle a wild and seldom traveled river of Quebec’s breathtaking Côte-Nord region. Watch the story of their adventure unfold in this 15-part video series as they use and learn a variety of wilderness travel skills, including everything from whitewater paddling maneuvers to axemanship and, when unwanted visitors show up, operating a bear banger. You’ll get to see things from the dog’s perspective too. So grab a paddle, and get ready for a 14-day journey that begins 118 miles from the nearest road.

Episode 1: Getting There

By Jim Baird

The East Natashquan is a wild river of Quebec’s St. Lawrence North Shore. Building momentum at the Labrador border, it rushes over massive waterfalls and through two deep, rapid-filled canyons before reaching the larger volume Natashquan River. Details on the route lie in obscurity as the only person on record for paddling the branch was canoeing legend Herb Pohl in 1999. It seems that, other than Pohl, the river hadn’t had human eyes laid on it since the local aboriginals traveled it in the 1940s. Pohl has since met an accidental death, and in researching the trip, I learned the bush pilot who flew him in did too. Additionally, local native knowledge on the route amounts to “that’s a tough one.”

With little available info on the river, one look at the Canadian 1:250,000 topo map is enough to deter would-be recreational canoe parties. The map marks a massive portage, the traditional indigenous route used to bypass one of the river’s raging canyons and a succeeding long stretch of fast, shallow swifts. Likely due to this, most paddlers looking to canoe a river in the area choose the main branch of the Natashquan, an established paddling route, free of enshrouding question marks.

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Regardless, my girlfriend Tori and I decided to tackle the East Natashquan head on with the notion that we’d be able to deal with whatever came in our path. We also decided to bring our Husky Malamute cross Buck along for the adventure too. This was set to be Tori’s first trip in true wilderness, and her longest, toughest trip to date. It’d also be Buck’s first time in a float plane.

Leaving southern Ontario at the beginning of August, a 20 hour drive brought us east along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Breathtaking oceanic views are a constant on this drive which took us through the quaint villages of maritime Quebec. Natashquan village lies almost at the end of the road. A scattering of communities that lay further to the east rely on a ferry to bridge them with the road system. This is where we’d catch a float plane charter into Lac Fonteneau, the massive headwater lake of the East Natashquan River.

Over the next 14 days it seemed we experienced just about everything a wild river trip could throw at us. You’ll see how Tori and I deal with things like nosey bears, endless whitewater rapids, hoards of black flies, and overgrown trails. All while constantly getting along cheerfully……just kidding.

— Check out more LESSONS FROM THE TRAIL WITH JIM BAIRD

This summer, C&K will be rolling out new episodes of Jim Baird’s Cote Nord Adventure series, presented by Nova Craft Canoe.

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