This was it, the end, the last weekend of rentals, both at the Parc de la Riviere, and at Îles de Boucherville. And what a gorgeous weekend it was, with highs in the low twenties all three days. The one hitch was strong SW wind warnings for both Saturday and Sunday, and a forecast of NW 10-15 knots for Monday as the cooling-off began. But I would have braved worse, for one last paddle. Plus, a fellow epidemiologist and I had been working on getting out on the river together for over a year; between her schedule, my schedule, and the Spring That Did Not Happen and Was That Really August?, this was our last chance. So off we went, on Monday morning, to the Parc de la Riviere. And we were rewarded with one of the best kayaking days I've seen on the river, warm, bright sunshine on golden leaves, barely a whisper of wind, a day when a mere wave of the paddle seemed to send the kayak gliding ahead.
We arrived at the Parc on the 10 am bus, got kitted up, and (after some circling around and taking photographs) headed out along a much narrowed and diminished channel, east around the tip of Île Gagnon; the river had fallen far enough that the water under the bridge carrying the Rue de l'Île Gagnon was not navigable. The river was as low as I had seen it, very shallow except for the main channels, and murky, and it was all too easy to miss large rocks until the moment of contact (or painfully prolonged period of contact), even when not looking anywhere but ahead of the brow. My boat acquired a few more scratches to add to its scars.
We paddled up the south side of the river, towards the marsh. We were not the only ones on the river: several pairs of kayakers and a few canoes, most of them colour-coordinated with the foliage: oranges and reds. This is the season for orange boats. That's my paddling companion Daphne on the left, and a canoe group whom we kept passing, on the water and on the islands, here illustrating the exquisite calm of the water.
At the marsh, more autumnal glory and less water. The bird lookout was hard up against the exposed ground and reeds.
For the purposes of contrast (I do intend to do a catch-up digest post of the paddles I have not yet documented this year), here is a view of the same area in May, while the meltwaters were still coming down the river. That single tree is off to the right of the October photograph, high on dry land and surrounded by tall green reeds.
As another indication of how much the water level has fallen: the first time I paddled this year, that fairly chilly, overcast day in late May, I stopped for lunch at Île Chabon, hitching myself from the cockpit of my kayak directly onto the bottom step of the stairs shown in this photograph. We stopped at Chabon today, too, and discovered that there was no picnic table, but we ate sitting on our PFDs on a lookout platform over the channel between Chabot and "the mainland".
After lunch, we checked out the turtle pullouts along the south side of Île Chabot, but either it was not quite warm enough, or too early in the day: no turtles. We saw a single turtle in shallow, rock and stem-studded shallows at the upstream side of Île Ducharme, but the water had fallen even lower than a month ago, when I found another series of turtle pullouts on the east side of that bridge, and we could not get past the bridge. The herons were dispersed along the riverbank, fishing. The warm weather seemed to have put them in a mellow mood, unlike last year. I'd left my my camera with the zoom lens at home - I'm at the stage in learning when there's a lot of fumbling and muttering over the manual - so my photographs were generally of brilliant foliage with a bird in there somewhere. One of the herons looked almost pure white. It had a heron shape, at least from a distance, and heron stalking motions, but no apparent markings.
Gradually, we worked our way back across the river and back to the location d'embarcations, returned all the gear, and headed for the 3:35 pm bus back to Cartier and thence back to Montréal. And so the season ends.
Sigh. But what a golden ending.