Low water levels have caused the official cancellation of the Kipawa River Rally, a popular Canadian whitewater festival on the Kipawa River, a tributary of the Ottawa River. According to Peter Karwacki, a member of Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa (Friends of the Kipawa River), the river is flowing at “fall levels…the lowest we’ve seen in years.” A lack of rain has caused widespread forest fires in the province of Quebec and forced the cancellation of the annual dam release that was supposed to be held this year on the weekend of June 26.

Still, rally organizer and Les Amis’ founding vice president Doug Skeggs is encouraging boaters to attend an unofficial festival to paddle the river regardless of the low flows – for its creekier lines and, more importantly, to support Les Amis’ efforts to maintain boaters’ access to the waterway. Karwacki says he plans to attend as part of the organization’s annual general meeting.

Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa was formed in 1998, more than a decade after the inaugural river rally, when Hydro Quebec announced plans to divert the Kipawa from its natural streambed with the Tabaret Hydro Project. At high flows, the Kipawa’s Class III-IV rapids run for 10 miles over granite bedrock through virgin red- and white pine forests. The section of river between the town of Lanois, Quebec and Lake Temiskaming is known as one of eastern Canada’s best intermediate whitewater runs. The Hydro Quebec project, which is still in the works, would eliminate this section of whitewater.

While the 2010 rally won’t have the raft trips and fanfare of previous events, Karwacki says “the river can be interesting to those just learning or wishing to see the river at a different level.” Skeggs insists that heightened paddler awareness and support could play a critical role in removing the Kipawa’s endangered status. In low water or full flood, “the river has a personality, it is a living thing,” says Skeggs. “The Kipawa River is an old friend, and right now it is in trouble.” – Conor Mihell

For more information about Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa visit www.kipawariver.ca.