Bettoga River Canoeing

別当賀川 | Pet-utka

Posted on Feb 5, 2021
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Posted on Feb 5, 2021

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Reading time: 3 min
9.5km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

0.5 mpk

Gradient

2/5

Water clarity

Class I

Difficulty

May-Oct

Best season

Bettoga-kawa 別当賀川 is a wetland river flowing into the vast tidal Furen-ko 風蓮湖 lake in far eastern Hokkaido. Home to eagles, kingfishers and deer, this meandering river is perfect for wildlife spotting. The surrounding forest feels prehistoric, with gorgeous Sahkalin pines lining the river. It's a slow-flowing river, so the most common route has paddlers paddling upstream for a few kilometers before turning around. This out-and-back route mitigates the need for shuttling.

We visited this route on Jul 22, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Beginner (3/10)

Remoteness: 3/5

River Details

This route is on Bettoga River (別当賀川), or Pet-utka in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Other river, 40km in total length. This section of the river is between 10m and 35m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.5 mpk (2.64 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Bettoga River

Water level notes: Being an eastern Hokkaido wetland river, paddlers will always find this river with plenty of water in it. There’s no river level gauge on this river.
Location

Bettoga-kawa flows into Lake Furen 風蓮湖 in far eastern Hokkaido, about 15km west of Nemuro City.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

There are a couple of feasible put-in locations for canoeing on the Bettoga-kawa. Our recommendation is a grassy spot just upstream of the Route 44 bridge, here. There’s enough space to park a couple of cars. It’s a bit of a steep, grassy drop to the river, but not too much of a scramble. This put in will allow paddlers to decide whether they want to venture onto the broader lower section of the river, or stay on the relatively sheltered upstream section. Another option might be to put in at the small fishing port near the mouth of Lake Furen, here. We didn’t scout this location, so can’t be sure of its suitability for canoes, but there were a couple of boat ramps. Note that this lower section of the river will be more affected by tides (check them here). Note that the salmon hatchery is not accessible by the general public – the access road off Route 44 is blocked by a locked gate.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

Take out location can be the same as the put in – the river flows slowly enough to make paddling upstream perfectly feasible.

General notes

Considering access options, Bettoga-kawa is perfect for an out-and-back paddle. Visitors will paddle upstream to the salmon hatchery and then back down river again. If feeling adventurous, it would be perfectly feasible to carry on paddling upstream of the salmon hatchery (portage on the river right).

Route description

Starting from the grassy parking area, start paddling upstream. There’s very little flow, so the going is relatively easy for a double canoe. Once at the salmon hatchery, turn around and paddle back downstream. Downstream of the Route 44 bridge, the river widens considerably, and paddlers will be more likely to encounter winds and/or tidal currents. If paddling towards the river mouth, we’d recommend trying to coincide with an incoming tide, to make the return easier.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 30min

This is one of the make-it-as-long-as-you-want-it wetland rivers. That is, you’ll be paddling upstream, so just go as far as time will allow (fishing weir notwithstanding). If doing this route as indicated in this post, strong paddlers will likely take about 2.5 hours.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car: 

There’s room for a couple of cars at the put in upstream of the Route 44 bridge. At the fishing port, there’s plenty of space for parking, but do make sure you’re not blocking access for fishing personnel. If in doubt where to park, ask.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Tobai (東梅) – map no. NK-55-26-9-1

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

This route is flanked by rather impenetrable wetland terrain, so paddlers should be self-sufficient and carry a means of communication. Also note that on an outgoing tide, the lower section of river downstream of Route 44 will flow faster, requiring more effort to paddle back upstream.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Bettoga River

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

The closest public baths are back in Nemuro City, about 20km drive east. You might want to try the quasi-onsen Minatoyu みなと湯 at the port (location).

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to explore this route with an experienced local guide, contact Masao Ashida from Ashiyan Canoe (https://www.ashiyan-canoe.com). Follow him on Instagram here.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It was a dreary sort of morning. It was raining. Chilly.

“We should wear our drysuits,” proffered Haidee.

It was a good idea. It was chilly enough that we’d not overheat, and the seals would keep rainwater from seeping down our necks.

So it was that we ended up wearing drysuits on a very mellow wetland river, in the middle of summer. A Hokkaido summer.

It wasn’t soon after setting off that we had our first eagle sighting. Sitting regally on its high perch, it only occasionally peered down at us. We were clearly visitors in its territory, over which it reigned supreme.

Further on, we spotted a diminutive kingfisher. A little more skittish than the eagle. But it stood still long enough for me to snap a frame.

Further on we came upon a gorgeous hydrangea vine, clinging to an old downed tree spanning most of the width of the river.

Despite the rain, it felt like the Bettoga River was putting on a show for us.

When we arrived at the salmon hatchery weir, I wasn’t quite ready to turn around. It would have been an awkward portage though, so we reluctantly turned tail and headed back downstream. The surrounding forest felt prehistoric and calming.

We decided to keep paddling downstream past the put in point, at least to the small fishing port. By now the tide was heading out. It was an easy ride therefore further downstream. But the return felt long. Overall, the section below Route 44 also felt a little more bland and featureless. A broad river just impatiently finishing its way into Lake Furen.

A thoroughly enjoyable river, and one we’d happily visit again given the chance.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Bettoga River, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Bettoga River Canoeing Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.