The previous day we’d hiked a mammoth full day loop around the eastern end of the Niseko Range, under a scorching sun, in the middle of the day. Today, we vowed to get going earlier in the day, so we could beat the heat. So we dropped the canoe off at the Shubutogawa-bashi bridge at just after 7am, and then headed into Kuromatsunai to arrange a taxi.
All our early-morning preparedness unraveled, however, when we called the taxi company. A very sleepy voice picked up the phone.
“What? You want a taxi when? We don’t open till 9am,” said a clearly perplexed elderly fellow.
So, we resigned to another leisurely start on the river. We asked the taxi to meet us at the Yubetsu-no-yu Onsen at 9:20, and we’d drive with the taxi from there to the beach, dropping our car off, and taking the taxi back to the put in.
All told it cost us 6,800yen for the 20km ride back to the put in.
It was a treat to be on the river. This would be our first paddle for the 2021 season. A late start due to us committing to a long traverse hike in August, requiring us to dedicate much of our weekends to hiking in order to get ourselves conditioned for the long hike looming!
We’d mentioned to Greg that we were doing the Shubuto, and he had only one piece of advice.
“On the upper section, there was a tree right across the river when we did it, requiring some tricky maneuvering to get around, so be careful!”
Sure enough, about 1.5km after setting off, there was a whole tree across the river. It appears floods have been wearing away at the tree though, and we were able to squeeze past on the hard left, dodging branches as we went. The river flow is very gentle, so there’s not much concern about getting pushed about too much (but it would still happily pin a canoe).
The water was beautiful. Clear. Pristine. Bedrock showing. White cliffs here and there. Besides the first-paddle-of-the-season jitters, we were feeling all very relaxed.
Like all Hokkaido rivers, there were some head-scratchers to keep us on our toes. A full uprooted tree in the middle of the river’s flow at a narrow point – we lined around that one. A very low raised weir thing. We scouted it and ended up paddling over it. The two annoying concrete block weirs. We scouted both – lined the first one and ran the second hard right (Haidee hit a low-lying branch on the way down and got a lump on her head).
For all the talk of the Shubuto being a very chill river, there were some fun little Class II swifts to get some speed up on, so overall, it’s a nicely varied river.
Once we were past Kuromatsunai, the river still had a relatively good flow to it, but it was slowing down. We now also had a headwind, which started to get mentally draining. Monotony was only just kept in check by sights of wind-power generators in the distance on the coast.
Soon enough the river made it’s final bend to the west as it made its way to the sea. Mercifully, this protected us from the worst of the on-short breeze for the final paddle to the river mouth.
At the beach, Haidee was excited to spot a misago osprey bird, circling high above, peering into the sea searching for unsuspecting morsels.
Had there not been faint whitecaps visible out on the sea, we would have happily paddled out for a spot of sea paddling before landing on the beach. It really is an idyllic spot in good weather. From our landing spot just inside the river mouth, it was a short 50m walk to the car.
After packing up, we headed to Yubetsu-no-yu Onsen for a soak, and then settled in for the 2.5hr drive back to Sapporo.