New Brunswick·Outdoors

Canoeing ancient portage trails near Miramichi

Canoe Kayak NB is working to recreate the first superhighways of New Brunswick - the paddling routes and portages used by First Nations more than 3000 years ago. CBC's outdoor adventure columnist Calixte LeBlanc spent a day exploring one of them.

Outdoor adventurer Calixte LeBlanc paddles through history

Carrying his canoe overhead as the aboriginal people would have done thousands of years ago, Kevin Silliker, co-leader of the Ancient Portage Train Restoration project, makes his way through part of the restored trail from McKay Brook to Gordon Meadow Brook. (Calixte Leblanc)

Canoe Kayak NB is working to recreate the first superhighways of New Brunswick — the paddling routes and portages used by First Nations more than 3,000 years ago.

Co-leaders Tim Humes and Kevin Silliker are restoring six of the more than 80 ancient portage trails, clearing brooks and streams of alder bushes, opening and grooming the portage trails and building small bridges over particularly wet spots of the trails.

It's now possible to complete an 800-kilometre circuit using the waterways and these newly restored portage trails.

Kevin Silliker, co-leader of the Ancient Portage Restoration Project, Richard LeBlanc and Dave Gallant make their way up the winding McKay Brook. (Calixte LeBlanc)
Information Morning's outdoor adventure columnist Calixte LeBlanc spent a weekend on the trail located near Miramichi which connects McKay Brook with Gordon Meadow Brook. LeBlanc was part of a group of seven people and three canoes. 

LeBlanc says they started out with a 150-metre portage to get the canoes to McKay Brook, then paddled a couple of kilometres to the entry point of the portage trail. The paddling is followed by a three-kilometre portage trail that leads to Gordon Meadow Brook.

"It is a beautiful walk through the woods and kind of gives you chills when you think about the history behind the trail and all the people who walked it before us" writes LeBlanc.

"It is honestly a magical experience when you really stop and think of the Aboriginal peoples traversing these same waterways and trails as their only mode of transportation, especially when you think about how easy it is for us to get around today. It would have been incredibly hard work for these people to move from one spot to another, with all of their belonging and families in tow."

Getting there: 

For information on planning a canoe or kayak portaging expedition, contact Tim Humes at timhumjes@rogers.com or visit http://canoekayaknewbrunswick10.wildapricot.org/

GPS Coordinates: 47 18.3016'N 65 47.2900'W

From Miramichi take Route 430 towards Wayerton (23kms). Turn right onto Tomogonops Rd (9.6kms), dirt road. Turn left on onto Spurline Rd (19.5kms), dirt road. Park on the shoulder area of the road. The portage trail crosses the road at this location; the trail can be seen cut through the woods on either side.    

Length: north (right) of the Spurline, the portage trail continues 1.8 km to Gordon Meadow Brook; on the south side (left), 1.2 km to McKay Brook.

Difficulty: Easy

Hiking time: 45-60 minutes return to Gordon Meadow; 30-45 minutes return to McKay Brook    

Trail condition: narrow, wooded, rooty, flat, boardwalks over some wet areas.

Note: these trails are  meant for walking only; bikes are not permitted

Next: Calixte LeBlanc will go back country camping at Fundy National Park and "glamping" in a yurt. You can hear about his adventures Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. on Information Morning Moncton 106.1 FM, 8:15 a.m. on Information Morning Fredericton 99.5 FM, 8:15 a.m. Saint John 91.3 FM. 

This monogram by W.F. Ganong shows an overview of the geographical locations of the six portage trails currently being restored by Canoe Kayak NB's special heritage project. (Canoe Kayak NB)

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