We put into the Salmon River near Truro Nova Scotia at low tide, dragging our boats down the steep and impossibly muddy banks at Tidal Bore Road. Our put-in site was little more than a gash in the ancient dike, known locally by its Acadian term; "abateau". As we sat in our boats just inches off the muddy bottom, we became aware of a hissing roar approaching and looked upriver to see a low wide wall of water sparkling in the sun as it rushed toward us. The riverbanks at the edge of the bore were alive with muddy foam and spray as the speeding tidewater tried to compress into the river's confined space. The sound it made was an eerily musical but insistent babble, like a thousand of Tolkien's goblins on the march. We grinned at each other like idiots in semi-fearful anticipation. Soon the bore was upon the foremost boats, and I was delighted to see Charlene surfing across it like a pro. Tim, John and Lynn were not so lucky, each of them exiting their boats. To be fair, Tim was surfing nicely and really stylin' before he dumped. I don't recall the moment of being swept up, as I was concentrating on getting to Lynn and finding her paddle. It wasn't until I glanced at the banks rushing past that I realized just how fast we were traveling.
We swept past our put-in point, accompanied by the whir and click of dozens of camera shutters. One of our members later told us that his wife was standing on the riverbank watching us whiz past and overheard a tourist say, "Oh, they must get paid to do that!" We certainly gave them something to talk about, anyway!
Rafted up with Charlene and her friend, we stayed with Lynn as she enjoyed the bodysurfing experience. "We're just joking!" she hollered to the Daily News reporter as we sailed past. We had a few anxious moments as we approached two sets of large bridge abutments at a terrific clip, but the current carried us safely around them. Charlene eventually got Lynn to shore slung from her foredeck, where she recovered quickly and rejoined us. Tim and John also re-entered their boats, and soon we were a group again. Paddling with the current, we actually managed to catch up to the bore as it roared downriver, scouring the banks as it went. The rebound waves kicked up by the bore's collision with mudflats and steep banks were quite a surprise at first, materializing out of nowhere and smashing into our boats. We soon learned to anticipate what sort of whitewater (or brownwater as the case might be) would result from different channel features. Often we encountered opposing 90-degree bends in very tight areas, setting up humungous standing waves of chocolate brown water. It was very strange to be looking ahead at featureless mud flats, and have a set of writhing rapids suddenly appear in front of you. Kind of like those old auto racing video games where the terrain unfolds slowly in front of you as you drive.
Al paddled carefully up to the very edge of the bore as it washed us along, and actually hung his bow out over the leading edge. Well done Al!
The bore pulled us hollering and hooting several kilometers into the heart of Truro before it finally eased up enough for us to stop and turn around. We then paddled back under a beautiful sunset to our put-in point on what was now a broad smooth lake, which only an hour before had been a racing torrent forcing us to carve turns and throw braces just to stay upright.
To hardcore experienced paddlers we would have looked like a right bunch of gimps, but it certainly was a once in a lifetime experience for our club members, and I think we've earned the right to call ourselves "Brownwater Rangers" over our hot chocolate and Diet Pepsis.
Tired and Muddy,