Distance: 25km | Gradient: 1.2mpk (6.34 FPM) | ↓ GPX file
Starting just below the rock weir near the Cycling Terminal in Shibetsu City, the mighty Teshio River didn’t feel particularly mighty this far upstream. At this point it was a fairly typical, clear, deep-enough but not super deep Hokkaido river. We held our breath as we approached the imposing Teshio-gawa Dai-ni Weir (天塩川第二頭首工), but to our delight the gates were raised and we could paddle straight on through. From there we spent the day slowly navigating our way across beautiful shallow ledges and bedrock. The Furen Nijusen Entei Weir (風連二十線堰堤), less than 10km upstream from Nayoro, was a dreary affair, lugging luggage and canoes up steep concrete embankments. All the while in the afternoon there were frequent loudspeaker announcements telling people to get off the river immediately – the Uryu Hydroelectric Power Station was scheduled to release water. Indeed, by the time we paddled into Nayoro, the river level had risen by 30cm – a welcome increase!
Accommodation: Northwest corner of park golf course (パークゴルフの北西縁)
Distance: 33km | Gradient: 0.83mpk (4.38 FPM) | ↓ GPX file
Day Two is where were really started to get a feel for the dynamics of this river’s namesake – the river-wide angled ledges called tesh in the Hokkaido indigenous Ainu language. One moment the swift you’re riding down is travelling downstream, the next, it’s cutting across the river to the right or left. Quite the unique experience. With the lower water levels we were experiencing, these teshi were challenging not so much in their level of objective danger. It was more of a continual problem-solving process when approaching the rapids, choosing a deep enough line which would avoid our heavily laden canoe from scraping too hard on the rocks. The much anticipated Bifue Island lived up to expectations – beautifully mown grassy canoe port area, onsen hotsprings, and a local produce store up on the main road.
Accommodation: Bifuka Island Canoe Port (びふかアイランドカヌーポート)
Onsen: Bifuka Onsen (びふか温泉) | 450yen | 0.5km from accommodation
Distance: 57km | Gradient: 0.88mpk (4.65 FPM) | ↓ GPX file
The original plan was to split the distance between Bifuka Island and Nakagawa into two days, and keep things chilled out and vacation-like. But Haidee had an online academic conference to present at in two days time, at 2pm in the afternoon. Instead of feeling rushed on the day of Haidee’s presentation, we decided to smash out the 57km in one day. This section of the river, however, lent itself quite well to spending about 8 hours on the water. The deep valley and forested hills of the mountainous section of the river was beautiful – particularly as we were rained on heavily half way though. Low cloud clung to the hills, giving the whole scene a muted and intimate feel to it. Nakagawa Canoe Port was a bit of a chore to get the canoe up onto, but the onsen, campground, and hotel were great.
Accommodation: Ponpira Aqua Rizuing Hotel (ポンピラ・アクア・リズイング)
Onsen: Ponpira Aqua Rizuing (ポンピラ・アクア・リズイング) | 400yen | 0.1km from accommodation
Distance: 64km | Gradient: 0.14mpk (0.74 FPM) | ↓ GPX file
Mirror-glass water, no flow, Rishiri Island visible off the coast, and a crystal clear Japan Sea. Today was the end of our Teshio River Journey. Similar to Day 3, we’d planned on splitting the distance from Nakagawa to Teshio Town on the Japan Sea coast into two days. However, a close consultation with the weather suggested that if we were going to get to the coast, we needed to make it happen today. A strong westerly, changing to a southwesterly, was forecast for tomorrow, meaning that we’d have headwinds exactly 100% of the final 20km if we were still on the river tomorrow. The day following was forecast for even stronger winds. This weather forecast itself made the decision to paddle a full 64km today easy. Adding to the ease of the decision was the unattractiveness of the Teshio-ohashi Bridge canoe port as a campspot. Yes, it would suffice in a pinch. But there was nothing particularly attractive about it. To the coast it was.
Accommodation: Kagaminuma Park Campground (鏡沼公園キャンプ場)
Onsen: Teshio Onsen (天塩温円) | 600yen | 0.2km from accommodation
On our trip down the Teshio River in early September 2020, we had a perfect weather window to complete the final four days in only two days. Therefore, we had an extra two days up our sleeves to spend driving slowly back to Shibetsu City, seeing some of the sights along the way we’d missed in our hurry to beat the incoming bad weather.
See the full ‘wrap-up’ blog post here: https://hokkaidowilds.org/teshio-river-journey-the-wind-down