Quebec City, The Paddling How To: Elusive Classics
So you've heard a lot about it, the videos posted by the Qc paddling community have you fired up and you made the decision, you are going paddling in Quebec City. By the way, it is pronounced "Kebec" not "Kwebec"! But where to start? With so many rivers and possibilities, where should you park your car or van and get after it? What river is appropriate for you? When should you come and what should you bring with you? This series will try to answer and detail all of these questions you should have!
This first post will get you started on finding the classical elusive creeks just outside the city. These sections normally run for a week or two during spring melt down and will also reappear with substantial rain storm during summertime or fall hurricane tail cycles. Access to these sections are not granted and you should always be careful of noise level and car parking, not to disturb the local residents. These sections are elusive since they are not always running, take particular conditions to run and also due to the fact that the internet gauges are of low reliability, necessitating a visual check.
The classics of all classics is the Sault à la Puce River or SAP. This short section is packed with fun and technical rapids, where multiple runs will get your lines dialed in. SAP is located 20 minutes outside of Quebec's downtown and takes from 20 to 45 minutes to run. A normal day will see 2 to 5 laps on this sections. Once you've parked your car in Chateau-Richer you are a short 10 minutes drive away from the put in. The river starts with a mellow and shallow paddle in, but don't let it fool you, what's ahead is worth the wait. From the first real rapid, the gradient never really lets go and you will enjoy countless boofs and lean opportunities. With increase water volume, the welcome committees (holes) at the bottom become stickier so be sure to keep your bow up. All the action leads to one of the best line, in my opinion, named the minutieux (meticulous). Either from a nearby eddy or from the main current, you move left to a tricky but rewarding boof on your right edge to a hole boof immediately after.
At low water, SAP is a perfect training ground for class IV that want to up their game. With higher water, this section poses a challenging run for even the seasoned class V boaters. My favorite aspect is really the 2nd and 3rd run you make on SAP on the same day. Your lines are dialed in and the technical aspect of each rapid can be exploited perfectly.
So you've run SAP on the morning or yesterday and you want another challenge in the same line of narrow technical section? With decreasing water levels it is the perfect time to get on the Aux Chiens River. Only problem, the access is restricted and you need a local guide and some luck to get your bum in the water. But lets say the gods were on your side, you are in for a treat! Again this section is short, maybe 45 minutes of paddling, and just like its little sister, SAP, it is packed with continuous gradients and rapids ranging from 1 move boofs to slides and skate park style waterfall. The entry rapid is one of the trickiest with a rocky lead in and a late boof along the right wall. Once you are in the canyon, it is all good with nice rapids and scenery comparable to BC! You'll eventually get to a super fun slide starting with a boof, moving to a right angle turn to your right and a final drop which necessitates a second boof. After countless other rapids and small drops you'll get to the "piece de resistance" a 20 footer waterfall with a slide lead in and an awesome kicker. It is quite tricky to nail the line every time, but if you do, it is all for the best! Nice air times and some beat down are to be expected. It is now time to take out and walk back up to the car. Seconds anyone? is usually the first question that you will ask.
The Aux Chiens River is slightly harder than SAP, especially with higher water levels. I would consider it a class IV-V experience boater run, but if you take your time and scout the tricky lines it is all good to go.
Since these two sections are better enjoyed fast and multiple times, I recommend you make your first visit with a local. This will decrease the number of rapids you will scout and will ensure proper safety where needed. Cold weather is usually the norm when paddling these sections so a drysuit or drytop are recommended. The proximity to the car and road create a false sentiment of security, but make sure you bring ropes and pit kit, there are plenty of pin opportunities! Also, a break down paddle within the group could spare you form walking in the woods instead of paddling!