Back when the seed of Newfoundland had been planted in our
was one destination that had to be done. This was the Cloud River. Our
beta via Chris
cause any class V kayaker to salivate: “First run by Andy
Bridge and John Weld. Both guys assure me that this is a full on
classic piece of whitewater. Apparently it is a series of waterfalls in
a tight canyon, most of which they think are runnable in modern creek
boats. On their first descent they were in 12’ fiberglass
expedition boats and walked many of the falls due to the fragility of
the boats. They also claim that there is a 40’ to
60’ waterfall at the start of the canyon that might, or might
not, go. This could be shuttled by float plane or there are fishing
lodges that have Argo access to the ponds at the start of the canyon
handed out some punishment, but we weren’t going to forgo our
scheduled float plane. Driving late into the night we crashed in
“downtown” Roddickton, anticipating a full
adventure in the next two days.
Filled with expectation we started the day early,
organizing our food
and sorting gear for a planned two to three day wilderness epic. Out at
our pickup location one thing was obvious. It was cold. High humidity
and constant wind make the northern peninsula of Newfoundland
exceptionally cold. Doing our best to ignore the chilly breeze blowing
across the pond we quickly packed gear into our boats and suited up.
Nervous with expectation we were worried when our plane
wasn’t on time, but soon enough the sound of the engine
relieved our stress.
I knew nothing about aircraft, but in kayaking circles I
had heard the
name Beaver passed around when planes were mentioned. Legendary in
aviation circles, the de
Havilland DHC-2 Beaver
would be our transportation into
the headwaters of the Cloud River. Our particular plane was from 1958
and looked absolutely beautiful.
Using a World War II surplus engine, just the
sound of a
Beaver had me
super pumped up to be in the air. You really just have to hear
person, it’s what a plane should sound like. Seating four, it
would take two trips to get into the headwaters.
#1, it feels like a million
miles from civilization. Lots of
moose, elk and caribou though.
We unloaded quickly and searched for dry wood to
it was cold and we had at least an hour before the rest of the group
arrived. Damp wood made this task hard, but eventually we got a fire
going and enjoyed the heat.
second flight arrives to the
quickly unloaded the second group
and said goodbye to Bill, our
stellar pilot. I’ve heard that a plane leaving is one of the
loneliest moments in wilderness travel.
really didn’t feel that
lonely with our solid team of
paddlers. We felt more anticipation than trepidation.
Throwing in the gear and getting on the water was our
focus for the
next fifteen minutes, and soon enough we were paddling across the first
of what proved to be many lakes. These were split up by braided out
class II-III rapids, and more ponds. As the afternoon progressed the
rapids slowly gained water, although the ponds never let up. One large
bedrock slide that would have been amazing with more water led into a
larger pond. Swearing it must have been the first of the two
“Twin Lakes” we had originally planned on flying
into, we paddled across the pond with late afternoon setting in. To our
surprise we ran into a boat of locals, who informed us that we had just
reached the first lake of Twin Lakes. They also mentioned that we would
find the rapids below the lakes to be “quite
exciting” and that it would get very cold during the night.
The flat water slog continued, my recently healed shoulder starting to
give me pain from all the paddling. As the group pushed ahead across
the three miles of the second Twin Lake, I was rewarded with seeing a
Caribou swimming across the lake right in front of me. It was quite a
sight to behold. Reaching the outlet of the lakes we were rewarded with
class IV rapid and no shortage of water. Several ledges followed, one
needing a quick scout and revealing a popular sneak on the left, or
down the right over a rooster into a nice big hole.
rooster tail ledge as
evening sets in.
the ledge were the largest
bubbles I have ever seen in a river,
these are at least 6” in diameter.
One thing was clear at this point. It was going to
with the sun dropping and a brisk breeze picking up we were already
cold. Multi-day kayak expeditions in Newfoundland aren’t
easy. When there is flat ground it’s almost always marsh or
the infamous tuckamore, dense tundra trees.
In the evening light we could see the river
gorge downstream, and knew that we had to take advantage of whatever
camping opportunity was available. Spreading out on both sides of the
river we weighed our options, and found a spot on the left that had
some patches of dry ground and plenty of firewood.
was fading fast, so we
focused on gathering massive
amounts of firewood that we knew would be needed to warm us. Five
minutes into gathering wood Nick went back to get something from his
gear, and found that it was frozen already.
With our tents setup and a large fire blazing we settled
routine of making dinner and enjoying the warmth of the fire. As temps
dropped it was obvious that this was country where a drysuit was a
necessary tool for survival on overnights. As our water bottles froze
and snow started falling, all attempts were dropped at claiming this
wasn’t our coldest overnight in a kayak. The snow sent us to
bed, the majority of us dreaming of a warm nights sleep in our worn out
20 degree bags. Sometimes dreams stay just dreams.
Waking up early I was glad there was still some dry fire
over from the night before, and got the fire going to start drying
camping gear and defrosting our paddling gear. We rolled out of bed in
relation to how warm we slept, and soon enough everyone was up.
Normally we can get on the river pretty quickly, but thawing all the
frozen paddling gear made packing up take a bit longer.
Blue skies and warmth shined down upon us as dawn turned
Paddling off from shore, half our group blessed their fortune in
remembering to bring pogies, and the other half lusted after this
rarely used piece of gear. Right after camp we were greeted with a nice
early morning ledge.
morning Jesse Coombs!
In typical style the river flowed through another long
pool, and then
dropped over a big horizon line. The rapid was a classic mixture of
class V, simple and complex at the same time. Big boof, big slide, big
hole. With lots of cross currents, folds, boils and highly aerated
With myself suffering a sore shoulder, and Nick suffering
a sore back
, we quickly portaged
down a granite slab on the right while everyone got setup. EJ
to run it first, came off the top with lots of speed, got a good boof
but was rear endered by the first hole, rolling up as he accelerated
down the slide backwards.
Hitting the hole sideways he started getting the
big hole ride,
bouncing all over the place but keeping upright and trying to work his
, rodeo star, showing the
creekers how to ride ‘er out.
worked his way to the corner, but
she wasn’t done with him
yet and pulled him back into the center.
one more cycle through the meat
of the hole, EJ worked back out
the right, whew what a ride!
To give you an idea of the ride, I took twenty-three pictures while EJ
was in the hole, and I wasn’t sequencing.
ability to ride it out, the rest of the group
proceeded to fire off the slide we dubbed “The Bearded
Lady”. Joel came through with the most monumental tail stand
have ever seen.
Truly a tail stand of epic proportions, Joel starts to bring her home.
buzzer has rung and Joel tames the
it was apparent that our
gorge was directly below us, and
knowing we had a long day ahead we pushed through several more ledge
drops into the heart of the gorge.
After the open setting of the headwaters, the gorge looked
would deliver everything it was promised to. The entrance rapid lived
up to our fears and expectations. Dropping nearly sixty feet total, the
convoluted waterfall had everyone thinking twice after just taking a
glance at it. This photo does no justice to the waterfall, but does
show the gorge it locks the paddler into.
Flowing through a large entrance ledge, the river dropped
onto a large
slab sloped to the right, forcing most of the water into the right wall
and over a forty foot free fall. Splitting up, Ben scouted down the
left, Jesse and Joel on the right, and EJ, Dane, Nick and myself
started a portage on the right. The scout of the entire gorge took
several hours, and during this time Nick and I found a way to access
the gorge after only portaging the two marginal initial drops on the
right. We waited for the rest of the group to come down, and between
the bad lighting and time spent portaging I neglected all shots of the
first two drops. Ben, Joel, Jesse and Chris all ran the first waterfall
and slide, meeting Nick and I for the rest of the gorge.
is the second slide in the gorge,
the lighting was as bad as it
gets, this is with a polarizer on to cut down glare, but no dice.
Knowing we could work around almost everything at
level, Nick and
I met up with the boys above a perfect twenty footer, where I missed
the shot while chasing Joel’s paddle downstream. Below the
clean falls was a large chunky rapid that we ran the entrance to and
seal launched from the left side, while Jesse opted to run the whole
thing, and had no problems.
Several large rapids still existed before we could get out of the
gorge, one ledge with a horrible pocket on the right, and three rapids
and a ledge. Chris Korbulic runs one of the rapids, which looks small
in this photo, until you see the next one where he has completely
disappeared in the hole.
Chris, where did you go?
We really had the perfect flow in the gorge,
cover the mank,
but it still gave us eddies above drops in the bottom of the gorge
where it would get scary at high flows. Chris Korbulic approaching the
horizon line that’s spewing smoke, note the pool in the light
below the gorge, the black figures standing next to it are Dane and EJ.
smoking horizon was a nice fifteen
foot slide to vertical drop that
Jesse Coombs enjoys.
one more drop to exit the gorge.
One big boulder garden filled
with mank, where the line was to boof hard or piton.
Chris Korbulic approaches the final rapid in the Cloud Gorge.
Exiting the gorge and reunited with our whole group, we
were happy to
have completed the gorge, but wasted no time rejoicing because we only
had two hours to finish paddling out, including a eight kilometer
paddle across the inlet and bay to Roddickton. Several high quality
rapids below the gorge surprised us, including one double hole drop
that caused our only swim on the Cloud.
We hit the inlet without too
much daylight left, and to
our despair the
tide was coming in, meaning we would be paddling against swift current
for the next six kilometers. Knowing we only had to make it past the
point to where we could see light, we pushed hard and eventually made
it to Roddickton right at night fall, and right as temperatures dropped
to well below freezing