What does a flow of 134,000 cfs look like? Katie Quinn

Picture this, 134,000 cubic feet per second of water charging through the dams, down the Ottawa River like a freight train out of control. This phenomenon has the approximate weight of 3,200 Honda Civics’ coursing through the dam each and every second. This is a mind boggling image to picture, even when humbly standing witness at her banks.

The Snow Gods had a blast this past winter in Northern Ontario and Quebec dropping several shrouds of snow accumulating in a significant way throughout the winter. Now that the snow melt is on, paddlers are enjoying riding the “wave” of awesomeness that 134,000 cfs brings.

The Ottawa River always seems to have water, even during the driest of summers. So, how does it look when her banks flood, when her cup runneth over?

True to the nature of Rivers, each rapid has its own unique quality that changes with each new level. Some rapids on the Ottawa are swallowed whole, turning into fast moving swifts, with the ominous promise that still waters run deep.

Other rapids turn from relatively tame, safe passage chutes at most water levels into bottlenecking-raging death grip re-circulating eddies that do not forgive.  They are to be avoided always when the river is running high.

Then, there are of course the features that surface that paddle-porn videos are made of. With high water, features such as Bus-Eater, Colliseum and Gladiator are born.

While pictures and video and really helpful in allowing us to capture an image or an idea of what a section of river looks like, they rarely do justice for how large or how technical or challenging a section of river actually is. 
When negotiating these sections of river, absolute chaos is the descriptor that comes to mind.  These waves are massive, crashing and intimidating. You are often able to catch a glimpse of whats ahead when you are at the peak of the wave (if you're not getting smacked in the face with it), just before sliding back into a 25 foot trough.  Its sometimes tough to know if you are on a good line.  Boils and Eddie lines become ravenous at times. Boils rising and forming above your head certainly catch your attention (insert many paddle strokes here). A seam may open up, literally ingesting you and your boat for some downtime. Mystery moves can be pretty scary when they are initiated involuntarily.

Katie Quinn

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