Waterfound Bay - 'Fire Island' Fond Du Lac River
Distance 27km [676 km]
Up early after a great nights sleep in an excellent camp site. It was a very smoky overcast morning but we made excellent progress to the first rapid [class 2+ / 3] found the somewhat dilapidated portage and were through it and back in the canoe by 10.30am. This was followed by some fast water and another long class 1 rapid divided into two main sets. In the river widening following this rapid we saw another family of river otters, mum and 2 kittens, as always they showed a great curiosity of us though mum made sure she got between us and her kittens. At this point we believed we were heading for a riffle about one kilometre above Fleet Rapids [class 1+] but it turned out the rapids were miss-plotted on the maps and instead we were into a boulder run about one kilometre long. All this time we were conscious of the large smoke plumes ahead which appeared to be in our direct path and getting closer. We left Kosdaw Lake, where we had lunch and saw a pair of Trumpeter Swans, via yet another miss-plotted class 1 chute with a bend.
When we left this morning we were planning to make the next rapid, Red Bank Falls, [class 2] the end of our run today but when we reached it the fire front had obviously been through only several hours before. Red Bank was yet another long, 850 metre rapid with a ledge to be avoided and a boulder garden at the end. Just as we entered the rapid we saw a Cow Moose standing dejected on the river bank, you would expect her to have a calf at foot at this time of the year and we can only suppose she may have lost hers in the fire. There was smouldering moss and spot fires on both banks, this left us with the dilemma of finding a suitable unburned place to camp. We pushed on checking out the bank without any luck . We did see a large wolf standing by the shore line not looking happy. Everywhere was smoke and destruction.
We continued on through the next rapid [class 1+] with ledges to be avoided and finally found an unburned island below it in the middle of the river. As a camp site it leaves much to be desired, it is bug heaven and the tent area is wonky but it should be safe as the river banks on both sides have been burnt. We are camped in what appears to be an otter nest. There a dead fish floating by the shore and fish bits and scales all the way up the animal track from the water line to the tiny clearing I am using as a kitchen. The grass in this clearing has been flattened into a “nest”. Having made camp about 4pm we have watched the fire which has ramped up all around but not got any closer, the fire was roaring like an oncoming train and there were plumes of smoke high into the sky.
This evening when I went to wash the dishes there was a pair of Trumpeter Swans sheltering by the island, the smoke and fire must be confusing for the wildlife. Again the bugs drove us into the tent to eat and to retire early. We have left the canoe at the ready with paddles and PFD’s right by the shore and our passports, credit cards and the satellite beacon are at hand just in case the wind gets up and our island becomes subject to ember fall and catches fire. It looks like being a very long night. And so it was, we settled down about 9pm but by 10pm you could hear the amazing roar of the fire to the west and watch the ever increasing plumes of smoke rising high into the sky. It got dark around 11pm and there was a fierce red glow to the west and the south.
Needless to say we weren’t sleeping but sitting up on fire watch. We knew the danger was if the wind got up and carried burning embers to our island however we were in luck as unusually there was very little wind. Finally about 1.30am the sound and the glow lessened and we managed to doze though real sleep was impossible and I was glad when it got light about 3am.