The River in Fall

I parked alongside of the highway and walked down what had once been a road. As I looked out across the river towards Sandy, I could make out a large black shape moving across the river, at a wide and shallow spot. A moose, the lucky frigger, fleeing Sandy. I had a license for that area and had only bisected the path of that creature scant hours before. I’d gone down in search of Waterchute, but I don’t think I had been in the right place; though where I ended up was the site of some sort of habitation at some point. The detritus of human occupation, deciduous trees, a once cleared area, an old washing machine, an old galvanized tub, the telltale enameled basin usually indicative of a logging camp. After all, this was the place where the log drivers camped at the end of the drive; and the moose, it was crossing at the same location that the caribou had once crossed, the same place where the Beothuk had once intercepted and slaughtered them. No great herds of noble caribou, only a single solitary cousin.

A rusted out enamel wash pan in the woods between the TCH and the Exploits River. Who knows how long it had been there. I know there was a camp built in the area in 1918, but surely it couldn’t have been that old.
The dark speck in the middle of the picture was a moose crossing the river. After two days of searching in Area 16, this was the only one I saw, and it was steadily moving away from Sandy Badger,

I didn’t have much time, and the access was a fair ways from the long abandoned little community, I hadn’t undershot it, it was just too far in. I was on the other side of Goodyear’s old pit, where a meander on the river had turned stagnant and stained. Most don’t know it, but both Goodyear’s Dam and Goodyear’s put have caused alterations in this area of the river.

I drove back to Grand Falls, and scouted out another trail to bring me to the long excluded beauty of a once industrialized river. A steady mist filled the temperate October air. I must have flushed four or five snipe as I found my way to the old road, each one erputing from the alders with a characteristic winnowing. It had once been a road at least, for once it lead from the infant town out to the farm on the outskirts of town, a good solid road, still good on the surface even after years of neglect.

A quiet section of river emerges from the birch and alders.

Of course I could hear it before I could see it. As I peered through the ever expanding mass of alder and willow there was the river. The cliché, the Mighty Exploits, once the most vital artery in the region; transporting the pulpwood and turning the turbines. The turbines still turned and eighty five years’ worth of sunken logs could still be seen in and along the banks, some from the last days of the drive, and some so ancient you could plainly see that they were felled with an axe a hundred or more years previous.

I was looking for an abandoned boat, or some other evidence of all the activity that had once occurred there. It was there if you looked. Decaying boom piers stand at faltering attention, their timbers rotting and ballasts spilling into the water, which either churns or stands mirror calm depending on the location. In your own lifetime these held the booms, which still may have been floating when you were an adult. But the only place where you could see was from the top of Candy Rock.

Boom piers on the Exploits River above Grand Falls

Although I must be wrong; as I walked along the fine gravel banks of the river I felt as though I was the first person to have been there in decades. It seemed undisturbed, no footprints no quad tracks, a bottle stuck in a bank for fifty years, not smashed. It was quiet, damp and abandoned. This was the domain of history, if you turned in faced in one direction you’d half expect a rush of logs or a Beothuk canoe to appear in the distance.

But I was the only one there.


  1. Could very well be that old ..I’ve picked up a few enamel items along Tom Joe Brook .. Those camps date from the twenties and thirties ..


  2. John Devine wrote the lyrics for the Badger Drive in 1912 , they must have been driving wood on Mary Ann and Tom Joe prior to that …


    • Yes, I’ve based a bit on the fact that both Pamehac and Tom Joe were mentioned in this song, but I don’t think they were too far down these brooks in 1912. I Do know that they were cutting in around Pamehac in 1920-21 though, and that they were down on Tom Joe for a number of years in the 1920’s and the early 1930’s. I believe a little while after they built the camp on Three Angle, they went in for a second cut in the Tom Joe area and mentioned that it had been 30 plus years (this was about 1961-62, and they specifically mention that they would not be driving on Tom Joe). Salt Pond is on the headwaters of Tom Joe, and it was said that it got its name when they put a load of salt on it when trying to start the drive way back.


  3. The lumber companies had been operating in the area for decades before the AND Co . arrived ..Around 1900 there were at least 2 sawmills in Badger , operated by companies like Exploits and Pinelands …They no doubt had accessed the pine and larger spruce in these watersheds…


    • Yes, they were highgrading pine all through the Exploits Valley from about 1892 onwards, even before but I have found little record. Exploits Lumber was at Badger by 1894. I’ve been working on a fairly detailed piece on Badger before 1910.


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