Trip Report

Teshio River Journey Day 3 – Bifuka Island to Nakagawa

Posted on Oct 1, 2020

Posted on Oct 1, 2020

1 0

We paddled almost 60km today, essentially combining two days into one. Haidee had an online conference to present at in two days’ time, and we figured we may as well just smash out the distance and get to Nakagawa sooner rather than later. The route itself for today was stunning. Dense forest covered the deep valley we paddled through. Slowly but surely we felt the river transform from a steep cascade to a grand behemoth of water coursing its way to the sea. Rapids are becoming increasingly few and far between, with more flatwater-like paddling sections.

Today’s essential details

  Distance: 57km |   Gradient: 0.88 mpk (4.65 FPM).

Onsen: Ponpira Aqua Rizuing (ポンピラ・アクア・リズイング) | 400yen | 0.1km from accommodation


The plan was always to get to Nakagawa and hole up in the hotel at the onsen there, so that Haidee had a quiet place to present her research at the online conference. We’d not planned to be here quite so quickly, but in the end, it made sense. If we’d stuck to the original plan, we’d be arriving in Nakagawa in the morning of the day of Haidee’s presentation, which was less than ideal.

As it happened, smashing out the original Day 3 and Day 4 in just one day was great. We were pretty pooped when we rolled into Nakagawa, but it had been a stunning day of paddling.

The day began with a few easily navigated rapids punctuated with ever-increasingly longer periods of flatwater-esque sections of river. The river was still clearly moving quite fast – our average speed was about 9-10km/h – but the river was clearly going through a change.

We looked with great interest at the Teshio-gawa Onsen canoe port as we passed by. The hotspring onsen facility was only a few steps away from the canoe port – surely a perfect place to camp. Next time.

An elderly couple was clearly staying there, camped up in their small van.

Part way through the route we entered into where the river cuts it way through a mountainous area of northern Hokkaido. It was almost as if the river had carved its way through a low range of mountains, cleaving the range in two.

As we approached the Place where Hokkaido was Named, it started raining. I’d been quite looking forward to taking a look at this historical place. But with the rain, I completely forgot about it.

“Hey, what’s that?” asked Haidee as we passed by the point (here).

“Some historical place,” I replied. It was only later that I recalled what that “some historical place” was.

It was where Matsuura Takeshiro, the early Japanese explorer, came up with the name for the island. This was 1857, when Hokkaido was still very much a frontier for the Japanese colonialists. Hokkaido was well settled by the indigenous Ainu way before the Japanese pushed up into Hokkaido (see a very brief history here), but Matsuura was the first Japanese from the mainland to travel up the Teshio River – guided by local Ainu – surveying and documenting as he went.

It was still raining as noon came around. We were both ready for lunch. As we pulled up to a small beach, the rain only seemed to get stronger. It wasn’t windy, which was a blessing. But the rain. Oh was it raining. We’d put off putting rain jackets on for a while – it wasn’t cold. But as we scoffed down a loaf of airy Japanese bread and a whole jar of apple jam, we put on our jackets to keep a creeping cold from getting too far into our bodies.

As if on cue, and according to Murphy’s Law, the rain stopped as soon as we finished our very hurried lunch. 

The rain did, however, leave low clouds that hung on the hills, giving them a rare atmosphere of ‘Asia’. Low, pointy hills, covered with dense green forest.

At parts, the river felt as wild as it ever had. Big gravel islands. Wide branches in the river. The river felt unencumbered and free.

At points during the paddle today, we really started to get a feel for the change to a flatwater paddle. We’d read in multiple guidebooks that in the last 60km or so of the river, the wind and weather become the paddler’s nemesis.

“Beware of headwinds,” maps warned.

“Open-deck canoes should carry a double paddle,” another admonished.

And to be sure, today there were some very flat sections.

They felt like paddling on a lake.

As we approach the small village of Saku (佐久村), a small river flowed into the Teshio, clearly cooler than the Teshio. The cool water caused an atmospheric mist to hang over the surface of the water. A gorgeous way to keep us entertained for the easy 8km paddle into Nakagawa.

The Nakagawa Canoe Port was a bit overgrown and muddy. Steep. Not ideal as a canoe port. But understandable considering Nakagawa Town sits high up on the banks.

We patted ourselves on our backs for a solid day on the paddles. Almost 60km. Easily our longest day ever paddling since taking up canoeing last year.

We were now in for two full days at the little town of Nakagawa. We spent no time debating whether to check into the hotel tonight or tomorrow – there was a campground nearby after all. We checked into the hotel and Haidee got her online conferencing setup sorted.

We were in for two full days of well-earned rest.



Comments | Queries | Discussion

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See More Like this

Hokkaido Wilds Foundation

We’ve got affiliate links on to help fund the Hokkaido Wilds foundation.

The Foundation gets a small commission on sales from affiliate links, but we only link to stuff we think is worth checking out for people keen on the outdoors in Hokkaido and Japan.

The Hokkaido Wilds Foundation is a fund where 100% of funds are donated to Hokkaido volunteer groups involved in sustainable, safe, and responsible access to the Hokkaido outdoors.

Learn more here


Filter by location

About Filters

REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at with your suggestions.

Teshio River Journey Day 3 – Bifuka Island to Nakagawa Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.