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bei Tadoussac, Quebec (Canada)
Ishmael, his son Kendrick, and I have just returned from a four day paddle in Saguenay Marine Park in Quebec. It was a wonderful experience and each day was different from the last. I had never heard of place, and never considered that there might be fjords in places other than Norway, but it fits all the definitions of a fjord. When Ishmael first suggested it, I went to the Google satellite views and found images with two 600’ long lake freighters in the western end of La Baie and was left very skeptical. I have ferried racing yachts through the Welland Canal and was very unnerved by these monsters bearing down on us at 20 mph in the narrow channel and did not want re-experience that in a much smaller kayak. But as I learned more about the area and the small amount of shipping traffic on the fjord it became doable in my mind.
We are also accustomed to finding plentiful camping spots when we visit the Adirondacks. This type of information was more trouble finding and coordinating along the fjord. Hence, we decided to make reservations at the Domaine de Dunes two miles east of Tadoussac and take day trips. The chalets were perfect for three guys with lots of wet kayaking gear and we quickly redubbed our chalet “Domaine de Dudes” We drove the 8 hours from New Hampshire to Tadoussac for the most part in heavy wind and rain. We were thrilled to find our chalet had a wood burning stove.
The next day we awoke to a light, cold rain that persisted for much of the morning but this is nothing for kayakers. We put-in at a public beach near the Tadoussac Marina, right at high tide and found that by the time we were chasing after some belugas in the mouth of the Saguenay that there was a 1+mph current out of the river. We headed toward shore where the current was more manageable (it ultimately built to about 3 mph) and checked out the whale viewing area on some high rocks and then checked out the ferry landing. The ferries are immense (about 250+ feet long) and are much larger than the Lake Champlain Ferries that we are accustomed to. Route 138 is the major route on the northern side of the St. Lawrence, and hence the ferries have to accommodate the considerable through truck traffic.
Hugging the north shore of the Saguenay for a long, par 5 we came to Anse a la Barque, a small, quiet, beautiful bay, perhaps half a mile deep. The steep granite walls completely isolating visitors from the commerce going a short distance away.
After checking out Anse a la Barque, we hugged the north shore for another 2 km where we crossed the river. By that time (about 2.5 hrs after high tide) the speed of the current was approaching 3-4 mph which made for an interesting GPS track as I headed straight across the river. My course took me to a small peninsula formed by Cap Blanc with its associated cove on the upriver side. I really had to struggled to paddle up river of the peninsula but once inside the cove I was grabbed by a back-eddy that took me rapidly into the cove. I was resting and looking straight ahead when a seal looking right at me surfaced immediately in front of me, with a loud “SNORT”. I got some photos of him as we doh-si-dohed around in the back-eddy.
We had crossed the Saguenay to check out a waterfall that I reckon to be about 500’ high. With all the rain in past few days all of the falls were really rolling for all four days of our visit. We took many photos and enjoyed that area for a while before heading back up river. We were making very slow progress against the current, so we turned around and screamed back down the river to the Tadoussac launch at 7-8 mph. Our landing site was perhaps 500 feet from the launch site due to the ebb tide.
We had some lunch and headed out into the St. Lawrence and downstream. We headed for the sand dunes that are the source of the name of our lodging. We walked around a bit and took some photos of another waterfall before heading out at low tide. The low tide made it difficult to exit through the rips in the sand and rocks but we made it without ado and headed back to Tadoussac Bay. As we entered the bay we were treated to several minke whales blowing and surfacing around us, one perhaps 25’ from Ishmael. We had tide tables that we downloaded from http://tides.mobilegeographics.com/locations/6307.html
mobilegeographics.com was a great resource. We learned a lot about tides those next four days. In general the tides advanced in time about a minute per mile as you moved northeast down the St. Lawrence. The tidal current speed was less on the St. Lawrence almost zero along the shore to only a mile per hour out where water depths were greater than 100’. This changed significantly near the mouths of rivers where we found it to be upwards of 3 mph near the town of Grandes-Bergeronnes. The tides were retarded about 30 seconds per mile up the Saguenay, and current speeds were 3-4 mph near the mouth and only about 1 mph up near Baie Eternity.