National Geographic : 1951 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine above an Unknown River rapid. The sleek couple gamboled with the abandon of kittens, nipping at each other's flanks and whiskers. The otters seemed oblivious of the rapid raging just below. Superb swimmers, they live largely on arrow-swift trout and other fresh-caught fish. Some brook trout we caught had raw, healed, or partly healed scars that our guides identified as otter wounds. Otter runs, or rubs, and otter slides were com mon above Grand Falls. The Gateway to Grand Falls Hamilton River's strong tide bore us swiftly toward Grand Falls. When the going was easy, Ralph often broke the silence with lively song. That day, drift ing lazily toward Jacopie Lake, Andy joined Ralph in a lusty chorus. The duet was abruptly cut short when the current hurled the two canoes into Louis Rapid. Then we were in Jacopie Lake, at the brink of the Hamilton's 16-mile tumble to reach its ancient valley. From Grand Falls we would return to Jacopie, start of the por tage route that by-passes the impassable stretch of river. Many of the principal lakes and landmarks on the Hamilton River were named by A. P. Low, Canadian geologist. His reports on amazing journeys that crisscrossed the Lab rador-Quebec peninsula in the '90's of the last century still are standard references. We left most of our outfit on an island at the outlet of Jacopie Lake, then ran down stream to Earl Baikie's tilt (page 91). Below, rapids were unnavigable. Carrying tent, sleeping bags, and food for three days, we struck out afoot down the right bank. The five-mile walk to the falls proved a cruel obstacle course laid out with marshes, brooks, and spruce thickets. A mile above the falls begin the stunning rapids that urge the river toward its mighty plunge (page 96). On a bluff above that tumult we set up camp (page 79). "Let's call it Pride Camp," Andy suggested. "Why?" "Pride cometh before a fall, you know!" Ralph solemnly shook his head, muttering, "Poor Andy, bushed at last!" But all of us were very proud and pleased to be there. In the flawlessly clear morning we walked through mist-drenched forest to the green meadow opposite the falls. This vantage gave a full-front view of a breath-taking natural spectacle (page 73). In a single, massive spout, resembling white hot metal spilled from a crucible, the river poured into a cliff-hemmed caldron as if im- patient to fill it. Swinging 90 degrees left, the turbulent stream then churned into Bow doin Canyon (page 71). John had seen Grand Falls a half-dozen times; Leslie once before. Yet these men, who live out their lives amid natural majesty, sat speechless and stared. They were as enthralled as were we first-timers, standing face to face with that incomparable sight. In rapids just above the falls the Hamil ton drops 219 feet. The falls are 245 feet high; in lashing descent through Bowdoin Canyon the river plunges another 574 feet. In 16 miles the stream hurtles downgrade 1,038 feet-one of the most tumultuous descents of any major river on earth. And the Hamilton here is a broad-backed, full volumed river. We spent two days at Grand Falls, absorb ing grandeur and clicking our camera shut ters. Mist fell constantly from the towering vapor column. Handkerchiefs held over our camera lenses protected them until the instant for pressing the trigger. Rainbows, often double, arched through the sun-struck "steam." The flat rays of the setting sun suffused the tall cloud with saf fron, then pink, then lavender, long after the forest had turned to ebony and the river to dullest pewter. Glory of Falls Still Unsullied Reluctantly we turned upriver. We were grateful, though, to have seen the cataract in its pristine state. Men thus far have not had reason to harness the silver glory of Grand Falls, to cut the spear-straight trees that crowd about it, or build viewing towers, ac cess stairs, or fenced overlooks. The region is isolated, but not inaccessible. Pontoon aircraft and flying boats land on any of the larger waters. With completion of the railroad from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the new iron area, the Grand Falls district will be much easier to visit. Back at the camp beside Earl Baikie's tilt, John and Andy went fishing in a big eddy. They caught 20 brook trout and landlocked salmon, ranging from two to three and a half pounds, a welcome fresh-food addition to the store-bought diet. Skilled axmen from earliest teens, John and Leslie felled firewood trees in whatever direction they chose. At this camp John found a dry spruce just behind the tent site. He chopped at the tall bole with his usual verve, notching it to fall away from the tent. Andy glanced up from supper preparations and noticed that the tree had a natural list toward the tent.