Lower Furen River Canoeing

風蓮川 | Hure-pet

Posted on Aug 23, 2020
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Posted on Aug 23, 2020

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Reading time: 5 min
8km

Distance

0.5 day(s)

Time

0.1 mpk

Gradient

2/5

Water clarity

Class I

Difficulty

Apr-Oct

Best season

Flowing into the expansive tidal Furen Lake (風蓮湖), Furen River (風蓮川) teems with native Hokkaido wetland wildlife. From boisterous human-sized red-crested cranes, miniature iridescent kingfishers, to curious Hokkaido ezo deer, it should be on all paddlers to-do list. The take-out indicated here on Lake Furen requires impeccable navigation skills, so we very highly recommend pre-loading maps onto a smartphone or similar device, and make full use of GPS. For a stress-free paddle, time this trip to coincide with high tide.

We visited this route on Jul 19, 2020

Thanks to Greg Bruere for his input when we were planning this route.

Route Map

Need to know details

Difficulty

Overall difficulty: Intermediate (6/10)

Remoteness: 4/5
Number of portages: 1
Longest portage: 40m
Total portage distance: 40m
Overall portage difficulty: 1/5

River Details

This route is on Furen River (風蓮川), or Hure-pet in the Ainu indigenous language. The river is a Class B (二級河川) river, 81km in total length. This section of the river is between 15m and 100m wide. The gradient for this section of river is 0.1 mpk (0.53 FPM).

Weather: Windy.com weather forecast for Furen River

Water level notes: There are no water level gauges on the Furen River, but being a wetland river, one can always assume there is plenty of water, even in the height of summer.
Location

Furen River flows into Lake Furen just west of Nemuro City in far eastern Hokkaido. Fun fact: It’s only about 40km from Russia.

Put-in Location: Google Maps

For this lower section of the Furen River, put in under Furen-bashi Bridge (風蓮橋, location) on Route 243. The put-in is on the river left side. There’s plenty of space for parking a car, or even putting a tent up if one would prefer to camp.

Take-out Location: Google Maps

Take out just before the small bridge on the Kimura River (木村川, location) flowing into Lake Furen. You’ll be paddling upstream for about 500m, but there’s hardly any flow. There are a couple of old fishing shacks on the river right where paddlers can park their cars. At low tide, it can be a bit tricky to find a suitable spot to take out. It can be muddy, and be prepared for some mild grass-whacking.

General notes

In Ishimoto’s 2009 Hokkaido canoeing guidebook, he indicates it’s possible to start over 20km further upstream of Furen-bridge (at this bridge). We didn’t quite have enough time to do this full route (it would possibly take 1.5 days), but were more than happy with this chilled out lower section.

  • Lake Furen Tides: The best indication you’ll get of the tides on Lake Furen is from tides in nearby Nemuro (see the tides here). Lake Furen is huge though, so it takes a bit longer for the lake to ‘fill up’ and ’empty’, so use those Nemuro tides as reference only.
Route description

Starting at Furen-bashi Bridge, paddle downstream for just under 5km to the river-wide fishing installation. It’s an easy 30 meter portage on the right side. From here, you’ll paddle into the vast western end of Lake Furen. Keep left at any major junctions, and follow your nose to the Kimura River mouth. At canoe-level, it can be very difficult to find the river mouth by sight, so we recommend the use of Google Maps on your smartphone. At low tide, it may be difficult to pick your way across the shallows, and you may find yourself beached on the odd muddy hump here and there. The lake-bed is deep, deep mud, so do not count on being able to walk with your canoe. Once at the Kimura River mouth, paddle 500m upstream to the fishing shacks and grass-whack your way from the river to the shacks. Be prepared for a relatively awkward, muddy take-out.

Route Timing
Trip time: 4hrs 0min

Despite this being a relatively short route, there’s very little flow at the lower end of the river. In fact, with an incoming tide, the river will flow backwards. At low tide, it can take time to pick one’s way through the shallows on Lake Furen to the Kimura River mouth. Allow plenty of time – we recommend starting well before noon at the very latest.

Transport

Public transport:

There’s no public transport to either the take out or put in.

By car: 

There’s room for about three or four cars to park at both the put in and take out. We had our own bicycles, so enjoyed the 6km bicycle shuttle (we saw racoons and deer along the way). If you don’t have bikes with you, Greg and Mari reported they were able to order a taxi (Nishibetsu Hire 西別ハイヤー, TEL: 0153-75-2046, website) from Betsukai Town to meet them at Yamasaki Shoten (山崎商店, location) on the junction of Route 243 and Route 244. They had the taxi follow them to the take-out before taking the taxi to the put-in. Alternatively, it’s a pleasant 30 minute forested walk from the take-out to the Route 243/244 junction (route here). The walk is on a sand/dirt road with more deer footprints than tire tracks.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Okuyuki (奥行) – map no. NK-55-26-13-1
Official Topo Map 2: Furenko (風蓮湖) – map no. NK-55-26-9-3

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

Allow more time than you think you need for this route. Navigating across the short section of shallows from the Furen River mouth to the narrow Kimura River mouth can be tricky and time-consuming. Use your smartphone’s GPS (preferably with pre-loaded maps) to make things smooth-sailing. Also do note that beyond the fishing installation at the 5km mark, there’s no access to the riverside – this is a remote route, suitable for self-sufficient, well-prepared paddlers.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Furen River

CampSites

None
Onsen nearby

There aren’t many onsen nearby the route. The closest would be the lovely Seaside Hotel Odaito Onsen (尾岱沼温泉, location, 500yen)  near the Odaito Campground, about 40km north along Route 244. If you’re headed back to Nemuro, then there’s also the Minato-yu sento (public bath) in Nemuro (みなと湯, location, 450yen).

Extra Resources

In Japanese

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 day two of our ‘workation‘, but being a Sunday, we took the full day off to explore the lower section of the Furen River. The 20km super-bendy section above this section was appealing too, but with a very slow flow and potentially a lot of downed trees, we opted for the shorter lower section only.

We’d expected to be able to put in on the river right at Furen-bashi Bridge, but it looked all rather awkward. A quick look at the river left side, however, revealed a much nicer put in.

We left the canoe under the bridge, and drove down to the take-out. We’d somewhat expected an easy take-out near the small one-lane bridge on the dirt road over Kimura River (more like a creek), but we ended up parking up next to some old fishing shacks just down the river. There wasn’t really anywhere immediately obvious where we’d end up taking out, but we just hoped it would all become clear once we arrived via the river at the end of the trip.

We unloaded the bikes and headed off for the 6km ride back to the put in. Along the way we saw an impressive stag. Haidee swooned at a mother racoon and her cub. All in all a very pleasant bike shuttle.

We got onto the water at about 10:30am. The weather was perfect. Fairly hot, but hardly a breath of wind. Not soon after getting on the water, we rounded a bend and saw two massive red-crested tancho cranes.

A little further on, deer greeted us on the riverside. 

This felt like the wildlife haven we’d been expecting from way out east. The Furen River was living up to that expectation.

It didn’t take long before we approached the only portage on the route – the river-wide fishing fence. We approached cautiously, and decided on a river right portage. At this tide level, we were able to easily pull up onto a small but firm mud/pebble beach, and haul the canoe up through the long grass. There was no one else around. It felt like we were at the end of the world.

Beyond the fishing fence, we were now approaching the river mouth into Lake Furen. At first, the river was still glassy smooth. Then as we rounded a corner, we encountered a stiff headwind breeze coming off the lake. A juvenile white-tailed eagle, perched next to the water on a muddy beach, watched us paddle against the ripples.

Greg had dared us to try finding the Kimura River mouth without using our GPS. “When we did it, daylight was fading, and we were really struggling to find it,” he said. “We didn’t have a GPS on us, so it was quite scary!”

We tried not using the GPS for a few hundred meters. I had a mental map of the area in my head. But I chickened out and snuck a look.

We’d paddled right over top what was marked as a wetland island. The official topomap data was only updated in 2000, so I guess things might have shifted since then.

Even with the GPS, we made a wrong turn into what we thought was the Kimura River mouth, but ended up being a dead-end inlet. We backed up and headed another 20m up the shoreline, and only then did we see the narrow channel heading up the river. An old post lay in the short grass. We guessed at one point it had stood up, informing people of where the channel is.

With the tide as it was – about one hour after low tide – we’d never beached ourselves during our short foray across the lake. We’d got hung up on a submerged log, but that was about it.

Once on the Kimura River, it was easy going. We were paddling up the river, but the flow was pushing us along – such was the effect of the incoming tide.

We found a less-muddy spot to pull up, and went about getting the canoe through the long grass to the fishing shacks and the car. It was an awkward affair, with Haidee sinking down to her knee in mud at one point. Careful foot placement was a must.

We got there in the end though. An inglorious end to a nice adventure down the lower Furen River.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, hiking, and canoe touring route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Paddle sports can be very dangerous and physically demanding – wear a personal flotation device, get paddlesports instruction, and do not exceed your paddling ability. Prior to setting out check current local water levels, weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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