|Second Falls of
The Fours (background). Matthew Wapachee (right) of Nemaska lining canoe.
Photo: Bill Seeley
Four In A Row on the Lower Rupert
The Fours begins a half day below Oatmeal rapids. The Cree name for the gorge is Ga-ne-osh-te-gow, which means "four in a row." It consists of two steep falls, a smaller falls, and a two-kilometer gorge (so really it is a 4-5 kilometer gorge). There are four portages if you follow the Cree, three if you walk like a bow-legged cowboy.
The first falls drops 175 feet over half a kilometer or so. It is portaged river-right from a grassy bay (to the right of a long sloping rock) above the falls into a huge, deep eddy. The water from the falls actually shoots out forming a solid wall of water on the river side of the eddy. The portage is 300 yards at most but includes a steep descent to the bottom of the falls.
The Second of the Fours bypasses a ten-foot falls formed just below its more dramatic 175-foot brethren by the first of two densely forested islands in the middle of the river. The paddle between these two drops is less than 100 yards. Follow the shore tight to the start of number two which is a very short portage. The trail takes out just past a white boulder and willow thicket. Stay inside the boulder (shore side) to keep to black water on your approach. In high water these landmarks would be swamped making it harder to identify the start of the trail.
The best, and only, campsite in the Fours is on the lower island across from the put in of the second portage and above a kilometer-long flat. It is on the downstream side and quite picturesque. In 1993, a backpack from an earlier swamped canoe was found 6 feet up on a rock on the upstream side of this island , giving you an idea of the surging action of the eddies here.
On the river left there is a non-Cree trail we called the White Walk (actually the Cree word for it means "the trail the white man made"). It traverses a kilometer-long, hydro camp that is abandoned and overgrown on the left side of the falls. The trail bypasses both drops, Four One and Four Two, at once. But its take-out is right at the lip of the falls and in high water is a bit treacherous.
The third of the Fours is called Ni-pa-gee-weh-bwet which means "where the water goes up and down." This portage was much improved in 1998. It takes out river-right, just before the river turns to the right to plummet 75 feet in 100 meters. The trail is 600 meters. It used to be narrow and overgrown and included a 50-foot mudslide (an excellent opportunity for canoe-carrying antics). Although it was the shortest walk before we discovered the path of the Cree, it used to be the hardest of the Fours. Matthew told us in advance that the kids from Waskaganish and Nemaska had cleared it out and it was a pleasant walk this time.
The put-in below requires a canoeist to time the surge of the eddy, for the shore rocks go from bare and shallow to deep every minute or so and the falls kicks in rollers to boot. So you get your canoe into a benign groove between rocks rounded by the wash, load your gear, and then hop in as the eddy surges. There is a fun 200-meter run down to the next portage. But in 1998 the river was too shallow and we deemed the clear path too far out in the middle of the gorge. So we portaged again on the shore rocks.
The last of the Fours, called Guy-bayat, which means "slope" for the gentle grade it keeps over its course, is a long 2.5 km walk. It takes out again on river right at the very lip of the falls. The first half of the trail is in the woods and is really picturesque. But the second half crosses an abandoned hydro excavation and is open and sandy. There is a campsite at the far end of the portage, which is a half-day from the island campsite above.
Bill Seeley, 10/26/99
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