Sortant son canot de nouveau ce printemps, Leonel
Richard nous raconte une vieille histoire qui se déroule sur la rivière Barnaby.
Le Rivière Barnaby
C'est l'histoire d'Éloie Doucette, un jeune homme qui est mort un jour dans la rivière.
La rivière Barnaby coule au nord de Rogersville et se déverse dans la rivière
Miramichi, au Nouveau-Brunswick.
« Une belle promenade en un ou deux jours. »
September 12, 1998
s usual, it is
mid-April and the ice is barely out on the Barnaby. This spring, as springs before, I am
on this river, trying to shake off the cobwebs that have settled on the nerves, connecting
my brain to my semi-atrophied muscles. Impatience is the culprit and the canoe is the
(photo: Dept. of the Environment)
Snow remains here and there along the riverbank, giving off steam in the early dappled sun
of the morning. The pileated woodpeckers fly from dead elm to dead elm establishing their
domain. All is clean, all is new again, all is right with the world as I reacquaint myself
with my paddle.
I have always enjoyed hearing old stories about events of the past. Most rivers have
stories, known and not so well known; this one is no exception. During the early part of
this century, this river, as well as many others, was used each spring to transport the
logs to the mills downriver. They were piled up high on river banks in a fashion as to
require only a few swings of the axe to send the whole thing rolling in the river.
A young man barely sixteen was anxious to get going and, against the advice of the
others, volunteered to do the dangerous job of cutting the log pile loose. His name was
Éloie Doucette and this was to be his first and last log drive. No one is sure anymore
how it happened exactly but it appears he lost his footing as the logs started thundering
down the hill. A dangerous situation, having an axe in one hand and a peevee in the other.
The young man died later that day, on a raft, as they rushed down the river to find
help. Sometime the following summer, while Éloies brother was walking along that
stretch of river, he found his hat and tied it to an old pine tree, where sheltered from
the elements it survives to this day. What remains of the hat can be easily missed as one
paddles by, but it is there, in the shade of the branches, a clump of hard felt, hard as
shoe leather, and every time I float by I get that lump in my throat.
Every spring we await the melting of the ice to fulfill our need for adventure, to
break with our predictable and regimented routines of daily living. As if to replace with
recreation what was once provided by daily work, we plan and execute and are seldom
For those of you who are not familiar with the Barnaby River, it flows northward from
Rogersville to the Miramichi River, the last take-out being Route 118, ½ hour southwest
of Miramichi City. Possible impediments to an easy canoe ride are restricted to beaver
dams and alder-choked passages on the upper reaches and one notable section of whitewater
known as "Saunders Rapids"(class II+ in high water) directly above the
tide-head. Put-ins are numerous and easily accessible at major road crossings on route 126
and the West Collette Road. Anything above that is only runnable in very high water (early
spring), while below it is usually possible to find enough water into late May or early
A nice one or two day trip.