|Class: I - III+
|Location: Conquerall Mills
|Character: River run
|Gauge: Weather forecast
|Contributor: Lukas Dee
The Petite is a short river that flows out of Hebb lake near Bridgewater. A short, slow moving section connects to Fancy lake. After the river exits the lake it flows through an old mill site in Conquerall Mills, where the Crousetown and Conquerall roads meet. From here the river is divided into three sections (upper, middle, and lower), access points marking the start of each section.
The upper section from Conquerall Mills to the Watermills Road is the longest, winding through 7km’s of forest and marsh. There are very few visible houses or cabins along this section, giving it a more ‘backcountry’ feel. This section contains lots of slow moving water as well as small class I to II- rips and rapids. Where the river meets up with the road again, a large pond like still water is formed by the dam from the old mill. The dam marks the beginning of section II.
The middle section is the shortest section, but also the steepest. Over the next 1.5km’s the river drops around 15 meters. Multiple class II rapids are connected by very short flatwaters. The last 500 meters are the most exciting, as a class II+ and III rapid (III+ at highwater) are connected by a longer section of fun boogie water. Once you have mastered or portaged the rapids, the river joins up with the road again and a small driveway bridge crosses the river. Brown Branch Brook flows into the river here. This is one of the access points and the beginning of the lower section.
It is easiest to put in on the pond on the other side of the road, and then slide through one of the three channels that go under the road. Make sure there is nothing blocking the exit before doing so. The lower section consists of long stretches of class I boogie, and one 500 meter stretch of still water. This section is great for beginners and first timers. As you get to the community of Petite Riviere the highway 331 bridge crosses. This is where the river becomes tidal. Shortly before the bridge, the Petite Riviere fire hall is located on river right. If the surf is up, continuing on underneath highway 331 and paddling for 1km across a small lake, will bring you to a narrowing where the river flows between the beaches of Sperrys and Rissers out into the ocean. Because the river picks up speed here, incoming waves will stand up taller and carry on up the river. There are some great rides to be had, and parking is available beach-side at Sperrys.
The Petite is a narrow river that is close to the ocean, meaning blow downs and sweepers are almost always an issue, especially on the upper and middle sections. Good scouting and boat scouting skills are necessary to avoid trouble.
The dam at Watermills Road looks like the perfect 8 foot boof, but the bottom is only 2-3 feet deep at medium to high flows. Nosing in at all will likely mean sprained or broken ankles and feet. It also has a backwash so if it is attempted safety needs to be set. It has been run successfully.
An ATV bridge crossing the upper section, and the driveway bridge at the beginning of the lower section will both become too low to paddle underneath and will need to be portaged. These can also be a good place to practice waiting to roll up, if you don’t want to walk around. Both cross deep enough water to safely roll.
The last rapid of the middle section is a tight boulder garden, where it can be quite easy to pin a boat. Scout well and set good safety.
The lower section passes many riverside cabins and houses. There have been ropes and lines tied across the river before, especially in a long left turn where the river flows around a pond.
At the put in of the upper section, the river flows between a large mill structure. There is a small slide like drop here that is very easily scouted from the bridge. At most water levels the drop creates a small ledge hole that isn’t retentive and can easily be surfed out of or into. To run this rapid you’ll need to walk up and over the structure on river left. Once on the other side follow an atv trail to the river and start your paddle off with a bang.
After Mills drop the river meanders its way through the forest, with the occasional class I rapid speeding things up. At the end of a long flat section through a marsh the river narrows and flows into a round pool where an ATV trail crosses the river. The trail has been built up so all the water flows under the small bridge creating some faster current. At medium to high levels a series of small green waves form here which can be surfed in river runners and canoes. The eddies on both sides are deep and strong, so this can often be a great spot to work on skills.
The next three kilometers after Four-wheeler wave are slower, with scattered class I rips and rapids. A small horizon line stretches across the river shortly before the river joins up with the road again, you are at wake up. The final hoorah of the upper section is a series of small scattered ledges that form some nice eddies, waves, and holes. The top ledge is best run on the right as it’s deepest there. Boat scout for wood.
Paddling across the pond, a very even horizon can be seen before the Watermills Road bridge crosses the river. An old mill building is on the right, and a small platform is built just before the horizon line. The drop here is a human built dam, and is approximately 8 feet tall. The bottom is shallow so this should only be attempted at high water, and by paddlers with a strong boof stroke. Lining the drop up is very tricky so scout carefully and take a peek behind the curtain to check for rocks and wood. Middle right is best. Portaging is easy on both sides of the river, although river right is shorter and more straight forward. It is also easier to scout and set safety on river right.
After the Watermills Road a 250 meter stretch of class I boogie brings you to a split up section of river. A small class II- rapid makes its way around small islands and boulders. The right channel will lead back into the middle channel. The middle channel is the place where many trees get caught, hence the name. Scout carefully as the logs are very hard to see. Starting down the middle channel and instantly turning into the left channel will likely be the best route. Experienced paddlers should go first to make sure.
A short section of flatwater after log jam leads you to the first of the vineyard rapids. A large flat rock at the top can be fun to rock spin. The second ledge consists of boulders that can cause minor pins, so stay right for the straight forward line, or shoot left for a large eddy. Another short flat and the river dives back into the forest on the right.
As the river enters the forest and narrows it picks up speed again. As it turns to the left catch an eddy on river left to check for wood in the drop. Three boulders in the middle of the flow create fun fast eddies to catch, before you enter a small pool.
The river exits the pool to the right and enters vineyard 3. This is only a short fast rip, but a nice standing wave across the width of the river is the standout feature. Not much eddy access, so catch on the fly, and watch for overhanging trees.
A short right turn after vineyard 3, a boulder garden that is vineyard 4 leads into a large flat water. Small boulders make for fun and tricky eddies. Stay middle left to avoid scraping.
After the vineyard rapids an open flat water, where a field on river right comes down to the waters edge, leads to another narrowing in the river. Leave lots of space between paddlers, as there is only a small eddy on river right to catch before the first of the ‘big two’. If unfamiliar, get out and scout from this eddy. Be courteous of the owners of the land and small cabin. Two ledges lead into a rock wall where the current splits. The river continues left but a lot of water gets pushed right into a swirly eddy. The left line is the easier one. A right to left diagonal leads into a somewhat sticky hole that can easily be punched with speed. Left to right momentum is key. The right line is narrow and only goes at higher water. Stay just left of the pyramid rock sticking out, and a strong left stroke will pull you through. The river flattens out again shortly.
The Meat Grinder:
After Kajteks, a flatwater pool leads into 200 meters of class I and II boogie water. If unfamiliar with the river, stay closer to the left shore as the boogie leads straight into the biggest rapid of the Petite, The Meat Grinder. As you pass trees on river right that have buoys hanging in them, look for a large somewhat washed out eddy on river left. Get out here to scout. A well worn portage trail will lead you directly to the rapid that is made up of strewn boulders that create multiple sharp turns, small drops, and pour-overs. Make sure to take a close look at the main s-turn move as there are often logs stuck there that can be hard to see. Following the main flow from river left, through the s-turn to river right, and staying middle, middle right for the rest is the most obvious and straight forward line. Taking the top drops on river right sets you up for a small boof that has caused a few backenders. This line avoids the s-turn. If portaging, go further downstream than you think. The boogie water after the rapid is shallow so getting back in after will save your boat some hurting.
After the Put in for the lower section (driveway bridge) paddle through a short section of class I. Where tree branches hang over the river from the left side, and a backyard comes down to rivers edge on the right, a VERY small river wide wave forms. The eddy service isn’t good, but when caught on the fly, it’s one of the best waves to learn how to surf on for a first timer.
Flat Water Drop:
At the end of the only still water on the lower section, a row of piled up boulders that are likely part of a man made dam create a small drop. The river right drop isn’t runnable unless water levels are extremely high. River left is a clean straight shot. A small wave forms at medium to high flows. At lower water a hole forms in the middle that isn’t an issue, yet can be a fun challenge to surf in and out of. This rapid has shifted at highwater, due to the loose boulders so lines may change. Boat scouting is very easy to do.
After Flat Water Drop the next 1.5km to the community of Petite Riviere are continuous class I to II boogie. Just before getting to the takeout a sharp left turn leads into a right turn. In the middle of the two turns a small drop creates a wave on river left with good eddy access. Risser’s wave can be a quite a rowdy surf depending on water levels. If you’ve got energy left, burn it here, you’re almost at the takeout.
Conquerall Mills (Upper Put-in):
At the intersection of Conquerall and Crousetown Road, the river passes through a mill structure and underneath the bridge. Getting in, in the pool above the bridge is easiest. Drop the boats here and then go to the Conquerall Mills Community Hall to park and gear up.
Watermills Road (Upper Take-out, Middle Put-in):
Where the Watermills Road meets the Italy Cross Road, an old mill building is right next to the intersection. There is a small gravel pull off here that will fit two cars. Make sure to park far enough off the road to not block visibility to the intersection.
Old Italy Cross Road (Middle Take-out, Lower Put-in):
Where the Italy Cross and Old Italy Cross Roads meet, Brown Branch Brook flows into the Petite. Putting in on the pond here, and sliding through one of the channels below the road is the easiest way to get into the river. Make sure to check if the channels underneath the road are clear of debris. You can park along the Old Italy Cross Road , just make sure to not block visibility for the intersection.
Petite Riviere Fire Department (Lower Take-out):
Ample parking is available at the Petite Riviere Fire Hall. Park Alongside or behind the Fire Hall. The general store across the street sells beer and lots of other post river goodies.
Sperrys Beach (Surf Take-out):
If the surf is good and you have decided to catch some waves, use the parking lot at the end of Drews Hill Road at Sperrys beach for quick and easy beach side access.
There is no gauge for the Petite. The Petite doesn’t have much of a headwater, so levels need to be gauged on amounts of rain in Bridgewater. The Lahave gauge can be a decent indicator, at 2.4m or higher the petite is likely at a medium level.