Paddle your way to remote N.B. wilderness areas while rivers run high

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Paddle your way to remote N.B. wilderness areas while rivers run high

Recent rains and the spring snowmelt have opened up access for a limited time to some remote areas of the province for outdoor enthusiasts who know how to wield a paddle. 

Wilderness areas that are normally inaccessible at any other time of year can now be reached by canoe or kayak, thanks to the rising water levels — but there are risks involved. 

"Especially here in the south, there are a lot of creeks that are seldom visited because they are too low in other times of the year," said Evan Young, owner of Gibson Creek in Saint John. "So there's a wonderful world out there right now you can explore if you get at it."  

Young, a veteran paddler with decades of experience, sells canoes and trains people how to use them. 

"Right now is the perfect time to explore," said Young. "I like to scout out fiddlehead areas and check on the birds this time of year. But you have to be careful." 

Young warns that rushing waters, ice floes, and hidden trees are dangerous to the inexperienced. But it's the calling card of the newly melted ice that may be the most dangerous of all.  

"It's important to realize that even though the air temperature is warming up, the water is still very cold," said Young. "Folks' eyes tend to glaze but we like to tell folks that until the water temperature warms up as well to wear a wetsuit." 

Driftwood lurking below the surface that has been thrown around by recent ice floes may have also reconstructed the landscape under the water as well. 

"So there may be new hazards," said Young. "And it's always best to go with someone else, but if not try and stay a canoe length away from shore. 

"At the high water levels the stream will be quite different from what you may be used to, and the rapids will be quite different so it pays to be extra cautious and do not paddle above your skill level," said Young. 

Despite annual warnings, someone always seems to get in trouble, said Paul Wright of Eco-logical adventures in Oromocto.  

"You're always going to find two or three canoers or kayakers stranded, just like clockwork," he said. "People have gone out too early and they are unprepared."  

Those properly-prepared adventurers looking to explore areas that are normally inaccessible should try Lepreau Stream or Belle Isle Creek, according to Young.  

"Those are incredible spots to explore this time of year," he said.