Kirby grew up in the heart of northern New Brunswick and spent lots of time on various rivers as a young boy with his father and siblings and friends. As an adult his happy place is on the river and a few years ago he went on a trip with his hockey buddies on the Restigouche. The next year year Kirby and I went with three other couples and I have to admit I was also hooked too.
I have done a fair bit of canoeing as well in my life. I started in Kejimkujik national park with my Dad when I was 13, that trip was the start of my lifelong passion for canoeing and hiking that has led me to this very place.
Last year Kirby wanted to share this amazing experience with the kids. I have to admit I was not sold on the idea. The kids were only 10 and 12 and being in the back woods and in a canoe with small children doesn’t always sound like a winning idea but since my whole goal is to not shut out ideas I bought in. I also want nothing more than for our kids to love the outdoors and to want to do these type of adventures with us!
I do love a canoe trip because you can take a lot more comforts than a backpacking trip. That being said you also add weight to the canoe and have to consider that. The weather looked wet and considering keeping the kids dry, and warm is a key to happiness for all of us I definitely over-packed on clothes and provisions to keep them dry.
The drive from Saint John is a little more than four hours to Kedwick New Brunswick. Our plan was to drive up and stay at a local campground Chalets Restigouche. I did find this year that the campground was loud being a Friday night and this was tough because it was a very late night getting to sleep. This did make for a slightly less rested family than I would have liked but we did have fun around the fire and lots of great chat related to the trip.
There are campsite and chalets and the restaurant has one of the best Sunday brunches I’ve ever had.
We have found a lovely outfitter called Arpin Canoe Restigouche Inc., that is very friendly and accomodating, they know the river very well and they have all the gear you could require including 60 canoes of various sizes and brands.
We have found in the past that starting right at the Arpin site will lead to either two shorter days on the river or one longer day and a short day so we had them drive us up the Kedgiwck River to Eight Mile Brook which adds several hours of canoeing to the trip and makes for two full days on the river. It also allows you to see the more narrow and shallow Kedgwick river which is one of my personal favorites!
There is nothing quite as majestic as floating and paddling down such pristine wilderness. To marvel at the endless number of greens of the trees, the amazing variety of wildlife (in this trip alone we saw: fox, par, Salmon, mouse, beaver, dog, countless ducks and other birds, bald eagles, 2 black bears, squirrel, dragonfly, fawn and probably more I can’t even recall).
The mouse was notable because it was the drop off point before we even got on the river. I walked into the outhouse and this mouse scurried out between my feet. The black bears were amazing because they are amazing creatures but also because I have never seen a black bear in New Brunswick before, which shocks me considering the amount of time I spend outdoors. The fawn was the most amazing thing, we were sitting on the river bank cooking lunch when we saw a very small fawn probably two weeks old at the most across the bank, it got into the water and started to swim across, the kids were beside themselves yelling to Kirby to go help worried it would get swept away, amazingly that tiny creature swam with all its might and hit the other bank and ran away. The dog was at the end when we arrived at Two Brooks, being owned by the Warden and was a glutton for love.
In the trip we chose there would be one night camping. There are lots of little spots you can stop and stay at the side of the river but there are also three established campsites with some facilities.
We were a bit nervous that there might be a crowd at the larger campsite but that would be the best place for the kids as it had as outhouse, picnic tables and a shelter. We lucked out as there were not a lot of people on the river and we had the place to ourselves.
We had a great time camping, even with a bit of rain and the tables gave us somewhere to stow our coolers and buckets where animals could not get into them.
Sights to see
As you pass along the Restigouche you get to see lots of beautiful fishing camps. In particular keep your eyes open for Larry’s Gulch, which is owned by the province of New Brunswick and a number of beautiful privately owned camps. You will often see lots of fishermen as well in their boats fly fishing. Usually they will direct you which side of their boat they want you to pass on, usually it is behind where they are casting so make sure you pay attention – if you scare the fish they won’t bite.
The warden Ron was telling us that in the whole time he had been there so far he had only seen about 35 canoes pass. This is a marked decrease over past years but also means very few people are getting onto the river and experiencing this amazing territory. This is an easy canoe to get to and the facilities make it a very easy trip to organize. I would encourage anyone looking for a fairly easy paddle (there are some rapids and it is a good idea to have some canoe skills or take some lessons to be sure you and and all of your stuff stay in the canoe for the whole trip) this is well worth the time!