This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV
Length 4.4 Miles
Gauge Jacques-Cartier at Jacques-Cartier, Rivière
Flow Range 15.0 - 120.0 CM/S
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours ago 63.29 [CM/S] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 08/14/2017 1:27 am

River Description

Boaters scouting Surprise Rapid [Larger View] [Full-Sized View].


The Tewkesbury section of the Jacques Cartier is the premier class IV whitewater destination river in Central Quebec. Located only twenty minutes northwest of Quebec City it is a wonderful run with challenging rapids, and many incredible play spots.

This is a summer run. The river runs with natural flow all year long; however summer levels are usually preferred. Be aware that rainfall (or lack thereof) can vary the level greatly; a heavy rain can raise the level much higher then most boaters are comfortable with. Or a couple weeks with limited rain will drop the level to below what most people consider reasonable. Check the levels beforehand and be prepared with an alternate plan

Regional Map Rivers of the Provincial Capitol (Quebec City) Area

Des rivières de la région de la Capitale-Nationale (Région administrative 03)
Map by Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs


Technical info

Put in elevation........ 767.7'
Take out elevation...... 656.1'
Total drop.............. 111.6'
Average drop/mile....... 25.4'
Maximum drop/mile....... ~80'
River profile type...... Discontinuous, mixed easy and difficult
                         rapids with quickwater and two lakes
Distance................ 4.4 miles
Duration................ 2-5 hours
Shuttle length.......... 4.5 miles/12 minutes
Portages................ none
River width average..... 50-100'
River geology...........
River water quality.....
Drainage area........... 707 sq miles
Scenery................. Woods, hills, a few cabins.
Distance from Quebec.... 27 miles
Distance from Montreal.. 181 miles


Rafting, Paddling Shops, Etc.

Les Excursions Jacques-Cartier Located at put-in. Rafting, horseback 
riding & camping. 418-848-RAFT (7238)
Valcartier Rafting-Plus Full service resort, Canada's largest water
park, located 20 minutes from river. 418-844-RAFT
New Wave Expeditions (Expeditions Nouvelle Vague) 418-520-7238.
Newer rafting company, located near the Tewkesbury take-out. Has
been described by local paddlers as "very professional".
Boréal Design Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures (Quebec) 418-878-3099
Full service paddling shop for both whitewater and sea kayaking.
La Vie Sportive 600 Rue Bouvier, Quebec City, QC 418-623-8368.
Wide range of sporting goods including whitewater and sea kayak.



Camping Juneau (Paddlers' Favorite) St-Augustin-de-Desmaures
418-871-9090. Full service campground, suburban location close to
highway and Quebec City. Location equidistant from Tewkesbury, Pont
Rouge, Donnaconna, and St. Catherine river sections. Both wooded &
grassy campsites, cottages, trailers, RV sites, group sites. Pets
Pets ok; lake w/boat ramp, no beach or pool. Lake also home to
Québec/Lac Saint-Augustin Water Airport (also on Facebook). Paddling
on lake ok, just don't paddle on the runway. Restaurant, playground,
laundry, hot tub, & WiFi. No store on premises, but Wal-Mart, Home
Depot and everything else close by. No bugs. Reservations recommended.
Aventures Nord-Bec Stoneham (Paddlers' Favorite) 418-848-3732.
Small full-service but special-interest campground. Has year-round
activities including dog sled rides (and training), snowshoe trips,
sleigh rides, survival training, mountain biking, canine hiking,
fishing, etc. Facilities include campsites, yurt rental (winter),
tree houses, and sites reachable only by mountain bike on the hill.
Meals available by prior arrangement. Warning: the local sled dogs
are friendly, have an acute sense of smell, and are very accomplished
beggers. The pack [all 170 of them] will quite happily serenade the
entire campground all night long without even being asked. Located
on the edge of the wilderness so be prepared to encounter huge swams
of the Legendary Canadian Insects as well as larger wildlife. Pets on
a leach accepted. Close to upper river sections only (Jacques-Cartier
Park, The Taureau, and Tewkesbury).
Les Excursions Jacques-Cartier (Paddlers' Favorite) 418-848-RAFT (7238).
Typical paddlers' campground (ie, primitive and cheap)! Basically small
field on premises of raft company at Tewkesbury put-in. Showers and
flush toilets across parking lot in rafting building. Healthy mosquito
population. Note: Recent reports say camping for raft customers only.
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier 800-665-6527 418-890-6527.
Jacques-Cartier Provincial Park, one of the most beautiful wilderness
parks in Eastern Canada. Canoeing, Backpacking, Mountain Biking,
Skiing, Snowshoeing, etc. Camping (both primitive and with facilities),
Cabins & Lodge. Close to upstream sections of river only. Plenty of
mosquitos, black flys & bears. Additional info.
Camping L'Égaré (Paddlers' Favorite) Neuville 418-876-3359. Full
service campground; rural location near Donnaconna and Pont Rouge
sections. Small & quiet; grassy sites with some shade. Excellent
facilities with dishwashing & laundry area, clean restrooms, & pool.
Intimate setting is difficult for paddling and other large groups,
although some folks may appreciate the extensive rules and strict
enforcement thereof. Some paddlers also appreciate the extra security
since the owner watches everything like-a-hawk (people more comfortable
leaving boats unguarded in the campsite all day). Beautiful view with
sites overlooking Saint Lawrence River. No bugs. Gate closes 11PM sharp! 
Camping Stoneham Saint-Adolphe, 418-848-2233; Exit km66 off Rte 175.
Humongous full-service family-oriented campground; rural location
close to highway, about 3 miles north of Tewkesbury section exit (5
mi South Jacques-Cartier Provincial Park). Pets ok, but extra charge.
Store on-site, cottages, internet access, playgrounds, pool, pond, etc.
Multiple campground sections for different needs (RV's, tents, etc).
Great location for boating the upper river sections; some paddlers
might not appreciate noise levels of many-hundreds of young children
on permanent elementary-school-recess. Ideal setting to keep the
family amused while you disappear to go boating each day.
Camping un air d'été Pont-Rouge 418-873-4791 877-873-4791. Full
service campground; both wooded & grassy sites. Rural location between
St. Catherine & Pont Rouge river sections. Gate closes 11?? PM.
Camping Riv-O-Pom Neuville 418-876-3359. Full service campground.
Mostly wooded. Rural location close to Pont Rouge and Donnaconna
sections of the river. Healthy mosquito population. Gate closes 10PM.
Valcartier Rafting-Plus Valcartier Village 418-844-RAFT (7238). Full
service campground and resort; Canada's largest water park. Surburban
location northeast of Quebec City, 20 minutes from river.
Camping De La Joie Charlesbourg 418-849-2264. Full service campground,
Surburban location; half-way between Quebec City and Tewkesbury
section of the river. Large and crowded but convenient location.

Full List of Quebec City area campgrounds here.


Lodging, Motels, Bed & Breakfast, etc.

Comfort Inn — 7320 boul Wilfrid-Hamel Ste-Foy, Quebec, QC 418-872-5038
Jeanne-Claire couette et café (B&B) 303, 5e Avenue, Saint-Gabriel de
Valcartier, 418-848-3093. Small family-run B&B with their own takeout
on the Tewkesbury Section.



Gas/Convenience Stores.. In Stoneham, on Boulevard Talbot, near
                         Route 371 and Highway 73/175 Exit 167.
Nearest Restrooms....... Rafting building at put-in.
Supermarket/food........ None close by, many in city.
Restaurants/Pizza/etc... A couple near highway 73/175 exit 167.
Internet Access......... Dream Cite Internet Cafe; 2323, Galvani,
                         Sainte-Foy, 418-686-0606; in small industrial
                         park; intersection of Rue Galvani and Avenue
                         Nérée-Tremblay (near and just off the exits
                         and intersections of highways 440 and 740);
                         GPS location 46.7916°,-71.2846°.



Guide des rivières sportives au Québec, by Gilles Fortin. The original guidebook to the whitewater rivers of Quebec (75 rivers described, 81 maps). Long out of print, this was the bible for years; used copies sometimes available but expensive. In french only. Published 1980, Éditions Marcel Broquet, 445 pages, ISBN: 978-2890000285. Available online at MYOSIS.CA.
Les rivières sportives du Québec, by Éric Leclerc. Newer updated guidebook to whitewater rivers of Quebec (154 rivers listed, 93 maps). Available by mail-order from the author; in french only. Published 2005, Paru aux Éditions Expédition Plein Air, 265 pages, ISBN 2-9808873-0-7.
Carte-Guide Rivière Jacques-Cartier, by La Fédération Québécoise de canot et kayak (Canoe and Kayak Federation of Quebec). Guide and map to the entire 93 miles of river showing each boatable section, rapids, put-in & take-out locations, portages, and other points of interest. In french only, but since majority of book is maps doesn't really matter. Published by the Federation, 14 pages (9 pages of maps), ISBN 2-891010149-X.
Let It Rain, by Alden Bird. Beautiful coffee-table book and guide to rivers in Ontario (6 rivers), Quebec (38 rivers, 23 maps), Gaspe Peninsula (6), Newfoundland (7), plus many in New England, New York and the Delaware Water Gap. Focused on the more famous (and difficult IV–V+) runs. In english only. Published 2007, Malbaie Press, Bethesda, MD, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0615154077. Also at Amazon.Com and NRS.


Other Resources

MYOSIS.CA Web Site (Débit des rivières for gage levels.)
La Fédération québécoise du canot et du kayak (FQCK) (Info débit for gage levels.)
Le club de canot-camping des Pays-d´en-Haut (CCCPH)

Regional Weather Canada, MétéoMédia Canada or Environment Canada forecast.

Rapid Descriptions

Upper Put In

Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Put in on a raft put-in on river-left 100 yards upstream of the Tewkesbury bridge.

Paddlers Gage

Class - Mile - 0.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The paddler's gage is on the river downstream of the center bridge abutment of the Tewkesbury bridge. Most people prefer a sane level in the negative numbers.


Class - Mile - 0.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Put in across the street from the rafting facility. Don't park here since buses need the area to turn around, instead park in the rafting parking lot. There are changing rooms, restrooms, and showers here. A primitive campground is on the other side of the parking lot.

L'Apéritif (Appetizer)

Class - III Mile - 0.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
After a 15 minute flatwater paddle, the first rapid appears when the river turns right.  There are nice play spots all thru the rapid.

Les Frangins (Brothers)

Class - IV Mile - 1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The first class IV drop. There are two routes separated by a small rock island in the center of the river.

Pull off on river-right just upstream of the island to scout.

The left route is a creeky steep drop over a ledge into a squirrly eddy below the island.

The right route is pushy at high or medium levels, going past multiple overlapping holes as the channel bends to the left.  At the base of the rock island is the biggest drop with a large hole extending out from the right bank. There was a fatality here in 1993 [1995?] where a raft flipped in extreme high water. Go left (or far left) to avoid.

At the bottom punch thru one large reflecting wave into the flat area.


Le Chapeau melon (Bowler Hat)

Class - IV Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A delightful rapid. The rapid gets its name from the melon-shaped rock in the center of the river at the top. At medium or high levels follow the right side, moving to the center then right again. At low levels go left a the top then cross over to the right at the bottom. Scout from river-left and get a good look at the bottom before running this drop, the route is far-right (a far-left small drop also exists). There is a dangerous whirlpool (which might be caused by a sieve) just above the center of the waterfall at the bottom. At the bottom the waterfall in the center has created a hollowed-out-room underneath that can trap swimmers.

Portefeuille (Wallet)

Class - III+ Mile - 1.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The channel narrows here.  Two overlapping compression waves meet in the middle forming the "V" of the wallet.

Le Hache-Viande (Meat Grinder)

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Literal translation: "Mincing Machine" or "Chopper of Meat". One of the toughest rapids on the river.  Pull out along river-left and scout.  This rapid is so long it is not possible to see the entire length from the top.  Be aware there is a waterfall along the left side of the river at the bottom.  The waterfall has a narrow runnable slot.

Défilé des marmites (Cauldron Gorge)

Class - III Mile - 2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Alternate translation: "Whirlpool Narrows". Below Meat Grinder the river narrows and makes an abrupt right turn.  There is a meaty play wave here in the center of the cauldron. A nice lunch spot is on the right where the gorge opens up into a lake.

Sac à noeuds (Gordian's Knot)

Class - III+ Mile - 2.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

There is a huge and deep hole here at the bottom of the drop extending from the river-right bank almost all the way across. Avoid the hole on river-left at the top, then cut left to avoid the big one.

Translation note: The name 'Gordian's Knot' is actually a play-on-words. The french phrase 'Sac a noeuds' literally translates to the words 'Bag of Knots'. The closest cultural equivalent in english is Gordian Knot; an ancient Greek legend of Phrygian Gordium associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable or impossible problem. The best description of the french name is 'a complicated, confusing, or tangled affair or set of circumstances'. Other suggested meanings are the english slang phrases 'a tangled web', or 'three-ring circus'. It is a common french phrase; there's even a movie by that title 'Sac de noeuds (1985)' [English description here], with the english release title 'All Mixed Up'. For more info see this Wikipedia entry in french.

English speakers sometimes translate 'bag' into the english slang 'capture'; As in—The river 'bagged' another paddler and tied the bag shut with a knot. This makes more sense to paddlers scouting the hole at the rapid bottom. It's the only hydraulic where the Streamkeeper has seen both a paddler plus boat recirculated as a single unit.

La Surprise (Surprise)

Class - IV Mile - 3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A big wide-open rapid with multiple routes.  A hard boat slot along the left edge; two big drops in the center (the left-of-center run for rafts and a few hard-boats, and the center route thru the pothole at higher water). Finally the slalom route, a technical hard boat route on river-right.  At the bottom the channels come together into a large wave-train that is a fun ride.

This drop is one of the most difficult on the river. There have been two fatalities in recent years. One in 2005 where a guide was ejected from a raft and snagged a waist-attached throw-bag on the rocks during high water; the second in 2010 where a kayaker swam in shallow water below the island and snagged his sprayskirt on the rocks.

Scout from the island in the center of the river just at the top of the rapid.  If doing the left-edge slot, scout from shore just above the drop to ensure it is clean.

Le Champ de roches (Rock Garden)

Class - III Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Literal translation: "Field of Rocks". Turn left at the end of a lake where an island splits the river.  This rapid is wide and shallow.  The low level boatable limit of 15 cms is primairly due to this rapid since it becomes unboatable before any other part of the river.

In high water skip this rapid and paddle straight at the end of the lake for a similar difficulty (but rarely traveled) run.


Gage Descriptions

There is a paddler's gage painted on the bridge just upstream of the put-in.

Paddler's Gage Levels

Minimum Sug Level:   -2.5
Low   -1.5
Medium   -0.5
High    0.0
Maximum Sug Level:   +1.5

Le Centre d’expertise hydrique du Québec Gage

The Suivi Hydro Gage (ID 050801) is located in Shannon, downstream of this section. Changes in river conditions will be delayed approximately half-a-day before being reflected in the gage. Gage levels are reported in Meters Per Second; multiply by 35.3 to convert to CFS.

Suivi Hydro Gage Levels

Minimum Sug Level:   20
Low (Bas)   30
Medium (Moyen)   43
High (Haut)   75
Flood (Crue)   120

Directions Description

Follow Highway 73 (to Chicoutimi) about 12 miles north from Quebec City. Take the Tewkesbury exit (number 167), turn left and go under the overpass. Go straight and follow Route 371 northwest for about 6 miles. Turn right at the Tewkesbury church onto Avenue Jacques Cartier Sud. Go about 1 mile and turn left over the bridge. (The gage is on the downstream side of the center bridge abutment.) Turn left past the bridge; the put-in is about 0.2 miles on the left; park in the main parking lot at the rafting facility across the street (do not leave cars in the smaller area by the put-in). There are changing rooms, bathrooms, showers, and a primitive campground here.

The alternate put-in is 100 years upstream of the bridge on river-left by the other rafting company put-in. Park only in the back of the turn-off as the bus needs the area to turn around.

For the take-out, go back Ave Jacques Cartier Sud and turn right at the church. Follow route 371 about three miles. There is a dirt parking area on the right as the road starts down a steep hill (just before the road approaches the river again). Park ONLY along the north edge of the lot as this area is used for raft company bus turn-arounds. The take-out is a quarter-mile downstream on the premises of the raft company take-out. You must carry boats up to the road, paddlers are allowed to take-out here but not drive vehicles due to past problems with cars blocking rafting buses. Lock your car and leave no valuables; there have been break-ins here in the past.

Mapquest Map:

No Accident Reports




Skip Morris




Matt Muir


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