classic canoe South Tay Creek

Tay Creek is, I believe, the largest tributary of the Nashwaak. It enters the main stream at a small village approximately 15 minutes drive from Fredericton at Route 8, under a small stone and concrete bridge in a village appropriately named Taymouth.

It doesn’t seem like a large river where it merges with the Nashwaak. In the summer, you can hop across on the sandbars with a good chance your socks will still be dry. This is definitely a stream that cannot be run unless it has rained hard for a day or two beforehand. But its steep gradient, engaging scenery and splendid isolation so close to Fredericton make it ideal for the day tripper.


The Tay is wild and cold in the spring freshet. Spray skirts, wet suits and caution are mandatory.

 The shuttle is close and convenient. After you leave one vehicle in the churchyard beside the bridge, backtrack to the Dunbar Bridge on Route 8, and take the woods road on the right that leads over to the Royal Road. Turn right on the Royal Road until you come to the high bridge over the South Branch of the Tay. Cross it, and you can park on a small woods road on the right. It's not quite a half-hour drive. Some say the North Tay, a few minutes farther north, can also be used as the put-in, but I've never run it. It looks quite small.

The put in is hard work, you have to lug and slide your boats and bags down the steep and slippery bank on the upstream side. A rope tied to the canoe could come in handy for sliding it down gently.

kenturntay (63K)
Just above the fish hatchery. The water was lowish that day.

Once you've loaded the boat, check the water level. If the water is at or near the same height as the top of the pedestal that supports the bridge pillar, you're laughing. I usually stand on this concrete abutment to push off and start our journey. You can count on a leisurely six-hour paddle down to Taymouth, and it can be done quicker if you push it … but why are you here if you're in a hurry?

Tay Creek
Paddlin' Hal poles on the upper Tay.

Still, a note of caution is in order. I have encountered fallen trees and sweepers at quick corners on several occasions, and the paddler must always be alert to strike for shore, or eddy behind a rock, at a moment's notice. The steep banks do not hold on to their trees when the freshet climbs the banks.

on Tay Creek
Biff and I take a break while carrying our canoe past the logjam on the Tay. They say purple pants keep no-see-ums away.

There has been a logjam at the same turn each time I've come down, and a nasty one at that. It's located before you come to the juncture with the North Tay. There is a hanging tree branch that prompts you to pull hard for the right bank. However, one stroke downstream lurks a submerged rock which will swing you sideways into the tangle of fallen trees if you are not careful.

I have left a canoe here myself, one El Nino spring when high water seemed to last all season long, as a bobbing root reached out and grabbed my gunwale as I tempted fate by swinging a little too close. It was no great loss, my first and last Coleman, yeah the ones with all the messy aluminum innards that buckle and burr every time you hit a rock.

The walk out was difficult, as we (my brother Paul and I) had to scale a high, steep bank to reach a walkable trail that led to a road. Luckily there were tree roots to grab onto for several hundred feet, and it was early in the forenoon. On a positive note, I have not yet encountered a wire fence strung across the stream as I have on several small New Brunswick rivers that wind through pasture lands and suburbia.

None of the rapids have any names that I know of, it seems that once you're underway, there are stretches of fast water that last for turn after turn and don't need a name anyway. Feel free to name them yourself.

The day I went back in to look for my canoe, which I had left wrapped around a rock, the local yokels speculated it might be up by Dead Man's Hole. I guess I should have asked how the name came to be, and exactly where that was, but I didn't. And no, I didn't find my canoe, the going was too steep and I didn't know how far to go in.

curtainfalls (53K)
There is a campsite just across the way from this little fall.

At one point about an hour's paddle from the put-in, the river has carved a high cliff on river right as it wears away at the base of a steep hill. Falling stone has jumbled a jigsaw work of art here, and the waves are sharp and irregular. At other places, the ledges are smooth and true as an artist's brush stroke, drawing a straight line across the entire breadth of the stream, radiating standing waves soft and rock-free.

The rapids are long and continuous, all Class II for the most part. A quibbler might insist they are class III, due to their length, that's fine with me. There are plenty of grassy swards and sandy inner corners that invite the paddler to stop and enjoy nature's play of wind, water, rock and tree all the way down as you go.

clip (60K)
Tay Creek as seen from Buddy's camp.

An overnight tripper might stop just downstream from where the Limekiln stream comes in, the Limekiln is on river left, the campsite is on the shoreline on river right. Biff and I have camped here on a full moon night in early May, and it was cold. There's a small stream which pours in over a high cliff on the other side, it's best seen early before the poplar trees which frame it are all leafed out to obscure its curtain falls.

As you pass by the Bible Camp settlement, with its wide grassy field where Boy Scouts camp out on summer excursions … I know, because I was one many years ago … you're only minutes away from the biggest rapid on the trip. Tay Falls is a three step ledge, with standing waves and three drops that can fill your boat if they submerge your bow deep and long enough.

Tay Creek
First ledge of Tay Falls in spring freshet. Pic by Scott MacIntosh.

When Biff last went on this trip with me, we hit the ledge dead center, and were momentarily held on the rocky brink by some weird kind of suction. Then we were just as quickly released, and splashed to the pool below. We met several boats downstream, who were taking turns running the falls and carrying back up the road to try it again and again.

From this point, it's an easy twenty minutes or so down to the church yard and the bridge. There's a camper's village here as well, just before the church, and you get to wave at all the cottagers sitting in their lawn chairs watching the river roll and burning meat on the barbie. The last time we pulled in here, it was on a Sunday, and I had to enter the tiny church and interrupt a holy service to humbly request that someone move their vehicle so we could pull out. Fortunately, I was met with smiles all around from the pious country gentry, and we were soon on our way.

Trip Report from Tom MacNeil!!

Last Saturday (early May) I paddled the Tay River as described on your site. The water level that day was about 16 to 18 feet above the top of the pier. With the water at this level most of the rocks were covered, and there were a ton of 2-3 foot standing waves. A further note of caution should be considered, it's best to check the Falls before running them at this water level. Once you pass under a power line you don't have far to go, then you will see a small old logging road cross the river - pull over to the left here. The water really picks up its pace here. I really don't think an open canoe could make it through with that much water, and that nice drop in the middle of the channel looked like a bottomless hole.

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