Lessons From The Trail Episode 6 How To Travel Up River

Lessons From The Trail Episode 6 How To Travel Up River

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After hauling our near empty canoes up a creek for six hours, we crossed the height-of-land between the Du Pas and the Geroge Rivers. We then portaged through several lakes and followed an unnamed river into the Geroge. If that all that wasn’t tough enough, we then had to make our way up the mighty George…we were feeling a little overwhelmed. With over 9-kilometers of strong current to fight before reaching the headwaters, we quickly realized paddling wasn’t going to get us anywhere.

Our campsite on an unnamed lake after crossing the height-of-land between the Du Pas and George. Photo: Jim Baird
Our campsite on an unnamed lake after crossing the height-of-land between the Du Pas and George. Photo: Jim Baird

Attaching our bridle, Marty and I began tracking. Tracking is act of hauling your canoe up river while walking along the bank, controlling your boat at the end of long ropes. You can’t just drag your canoe up river by pulling it with the painter. Do that and your boat will just drag on the bank behind you, constntly getting stuck. Using a rope at both the bow and stern, you need to angle the bow away from shore while holding tightly onto the rope. One person mans each rope. This creates and angle with your canoe that allows the current to pull it away from shore. If you keep your canoe on the correct angle, you can walk up the river bank while your boat remains a reasonable distance from shore. Connecting your front hauling rope to bridle is key in tracking because it enables you to pull your canoe from the keel line. This will help prevent your canoe from tipping as your canoe will slide across the top of the water while pulling. That being said, Marty and I were having problems. Our bow kept swinging farther out towards the middle of the river than we wanted it to. This created too wide of an angle and made hauling it much harder.

Up river, Ted and Will were making decent time using a 50′ long rope tied to the painter. As they’d move up river, one of them would haul on the rope while the other wold walk beside the canoe, pushing it away from shore using a long paddle.

After a tough day, we assessed the situation. Marty and I realized that our bridle was rigged too far back from the bow, which was making it hard to keep the canoe on the correct angle. It was a good bridle position for lining, which is going down river, but not for tracking. We rigged new bridles closer to the bow and began making good time tracking the following day. We avoided a couple portages by wading up large rapids, and began affectively steering the canoes around obstacles while we walked up the bank. When we’d finally made it into the headwaters after about two days, we all agreed that it going up the George was easier than we’d thought it would be.

A caribou on the Du Pas River Photo: Jim Baird
A caribou on the Du Pas River Photo: Jim Baird

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Jim Baird is an Adventurer, videographer, writer, photographer, and talent. His previous rolls include extensive work with a map company as well as guiding and prospecting. Jim has shot video for Cineflix productions, BBC Worldwide, 13 Minds, and The Weather Network US. He's produced video series such as “The Kesagami River Solo” and “Lessons From The Trail with Jim Baird”. Jim’s content has also appeared in print for several publications that include Explore, Canoeroots, Real Fishing, Ontario Out of Doors, Outdoor Canada, Canoe & Kayak, and Field & Stream magazines. Jim is an expert woodsman, white-water canoeist, survivalist, and a bold wilderness navigator. His expedition experience includes a solo trip down the canoe eating rapids of the Kesagami and then along the tempestuous James Bay coat, an 800-mile snowmobile expedition across the Northwest Passage, 300miles above the Arctic Circle. A month long descent of the Northwest Territories Kuujjua River in the Arctic Archipelago, followed by 120-kilometers of paddling on the Arctic Ocean. He's also completed a 33-day canoe expedition via four rivers including the Adlatok in northern Quebec and Labrador.

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