Haidee and I had enjoyed a relatively easy jaunt down the Biei River the day before. Today, it was the Chubetsu River. We’d considered paddling the Chubetsu a few years back, but we had our open deck canoe at that particular time, and the water levels seemed to be too low to be scratching and scraping down bedrock for 10km. Today, the water levels also looked a little bit low, but we figured we’d have a better time of things in a slippery packraft.
We packed all our gear – including the packraft – into two large drybags, drove to the end of the route, and left the car there. We called a taxi and were soon being whisked away to the put-in, about 10km upstream. As per usual, the taxi driver appeared slightly confused when we insisted he drop us off on the side of the road in the middle nowhere.
We walked about 50m downstream from the Shibinai Bridge to a gorgeous calm swimming hole to get the packraft ready. It was a hot day, so Haidee went for an impromptu swim. The river was cool and crystal clear.
It wasn’t long after setting off that the Chubetsu River started living up to its reputation. Rapid after rapid, we were having a busy but enjoyable time. We were happy to be in the packraft – the water was pretty low, and we frequently scraped the bottom of the raft on the smooth rocks. The packraft – an MRS Barracuda R2 Pro – seemed plenty up to the task. As far as packrafts go, it’s pretty tough.
The rapids at this point – and at this water level – were all pretty straightforward. Class II at best I’d guess. They just kept coming, with no seriously flat spots in between.
After tumbling down a riverbed of medium-sized rocks and stones, we soon found ourselves paddling over beautiful green and beige bedrock. It was well illuminated by the strong sun beaming through the clear water.
It didn’t feel like long before we arrived at the large weir on the route. It wasn’t open, so there was no option to just sail on through. We clambered up over the concrete retaining wall and carried the packraft 100m or so downstream past the heaving concrete and steel structure.
Beyond the weir, it was all hands on deck again, as the river continued its even-paced but steep drop down the landscape. Bedrock. Boulders to dodge. Shallow water and channels. Some fun waves.
A bit more water would have been nice. But it was a hot day, we had clear water, and we were outside. Lovely!
Closing in on the take-out now, the river started to mellow somewhat. We were actually paddling now to get somewhere, rather than paddling to find lines and keep them. Soon enough we arrived at the Higashi-bashi Bridge, and wandered incongruously through the park golf car park to the car. The park golfers seemed to be altogether indifferent to us…perhaps they see bedraggled paddlers with a fair regularity around here!
Very glad to have ticked off the infamous Chubetsu River…next time we’ll be looking for a bit more outflow from the dam for another blast down the river!