A campsite protected from the winds was found on a gravel beach. Ron Chase photos

Powerful northwest winds had been blowing us downriver since we began the trip. Five of us were on the second day of a Grand Cascapédia River expedition. Located on the Gaspe Peninsula in eastern Quebec, the mountain river flows east through the spectacular Chic Choc Mountains to Chaleur Bay in New Richmond.

Some of us were veterans of paddling trips through the Grand Canyon. While the terrain is markedly different, the majestic Grand Cascapédia has remarkable similarities. Every bend in the river introduces a new breathtaking view. And we were experiencing one exciting whitewater rapid after another.

An additional exceptional aspect of our trip was the speed that we were traveling downriver. Although unsure of our location, we were clearly ahead of our anticipated schedule. We planned to be on the river for at least four days and the shuttle driver had suggested we should expect five. Based on our best estimate, we were more than halfway through the trip in the middle of our second day. High water and the relentless tailwind were the primary reasons.

Breathtaking views of the Chic Choc Mountains are almost constant on the Cascapédia River.

Another factor in our unexpected progress was the prevalence of countless long, exciting whitewater rapids. We had completed what was reputed to be the most difficult rapid, Porcupine Falls, earlier in the day. However, we continued to experience rapids that were only slightly less demanding.

Superlatives seem to define the Grand Cascapédia. Outstanding paddling and spectacular beauty are not its primary claim to fame. Fishing aficionados consider it to be one of the 10 best salmon fly-fishing rivers in the world. The salmon fishing season was scheduled to open in two days on June 1.

Fishing enthusiasts travel long distances to experience the Cascapédia. The watershed has a complex system for granting salmon fishing access that includes required guides and designated fishing holes. During our trip, we observed canoes strategically positioned at numerous locations along the river, claiming a fishing spot for the upcoming season. The uniquely designed fishing canoes were more numerous as we progressed closer to Chaleur Bay.


Traveling downriver, a multitude of streams and small tributaries added to the volume. Similar to the Colorado River on the Grand Canyon, the high water created tricky whirlpools and powerful eddy lines at the end of many rapids. Remaining upright in the erratic, unpredictable currents was often difficult. Navigating the runout was sometimes more challenging than the rapids.

Late in the afternoon, we began looking for a place to camp. Designated campsites are nonexistent on the Cascapédia. Paddlers usually camp on the numerous gravel beaches that line the river. However, high water covered many beaches normally available later in the season, and the strong winds limited the number of acceptable locations.

Canoeists avoid large waves on one of the many Cascapédia Rapids. Ron Chase photo

We found a site on the inside of a left bend protected from the wind. A member of the group obtained a GPS reading that indicated we were about 15 miles from New Richmond. If correct, we had covered about 40 miles in a day and a half.

We arose the following morning to sunny skies for the third consecutive day. However, the gusty northwest wind remained.

Nearing our destination, the rapids diminished in length and frequency. The gradient declined and the river widened. Extensive serpentine islands are common on the lower Cascapédia. Rapids frequently mark the start of the islands and we found ourselves gambling on the best routes. A sandy beach on one island provided the ideal place to stop for lunch.

Shortly after, we passed under the first bridge on the trip in the village of Grand Cascapédia. The takeout at the campground in New Richmond is 3 miles beyond. Typical of the entire voyage, the northwest wind was gusting when we disembarked. The campground owner and shuttle driver was surprised to see us. He had left us at Lac Huard midday two days before and didn’t expect us for two more days. We had paddled the entire river, an estimated 55 miles, in that short timeframe.

Everyone agreed that the Cascapédia is one of the most scenic, exciting rivers we’ve paddled. There was a downside for me; I had felt mildly ill during the trip. When I arrived home, I tested positive for COVID. Unfortunately, I transmitted it to one traveling companion.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates exploits on the six best Maine river expeditions.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at ronchaseoutdoors@comcast.net.

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.