Reviww of
Paddling the Tobeatic
Canoe Routes of Southwestern Nova Scotia
By Andrew L. Smith
Nimbus Publishing, 2004. $24.95
370 pages, maps, drawings, B&W photos
ISBN 1-55109-492-4

THE TOBEATIC (Place of the Alder) is the largest wilderness area left in southwest Nova Scotia. Located in the centre of the region, it is the source of seven rivers radiating in all directions, innumerable lakes and has been a crossroad of paddling routes for many years.

Paddling the Tobeatic by Andy Smith is the first comprehensive guide to these seven rivers plus six others that originate nearer the coast. Smith has spent a lifetime paddling and exploring the region, and years doing research for this book. His detailed knowledge of these rivers and the carries along them is truly impressive. He interviewed over 200 people of all ages. Many are old timers, he said, so it was important to record their knowledge now.

Smith provides a Watershed Map of the thirteen rivers on Page 13 which really helps give us a sense of the area that feeds each river. Because each river has so many branches and tributaries (and he seems to know them all), he then breaks down the rivers into thirty-three routes which are mapped on Page Four and described in the rest of the book.

But first he gives us quick overview of the rivers followed by some background on natural history. These are short, well-written and well-informed snapshots of animal and bird life, the forests and protected areas. He also includes some brief notes on various topics like carries and canoes.

His very short story on meeting a poler on the river says a lot in a few words. "He had seen us long before we saw him, and as he drew even with us he greeted us cordially, planted his pole effectively to hold his canoe in position against the current, and casually engaged us in conversation." Paddlers can appreciate just how tricky that is.

In Wildness Etiquette, he touches on a few basics like cat holes and fire pits and finishes with a bit of advice on bear and moose encounters. "Most of the time they will hear or smell you before you see them, but reciting a poem you memorized in high school usually helps drive then away."

Each route starts with a paragraph or two describing that section and some of its history.

Complete details on parking and access are provided which anyone planning to travel that route will appreciate. The carries are also thoroughly described which is good because you don't want to get lost with an 80-pound-canoe on your shoulders. Possible hazards along the way are pointed out. Sometimes however the level of detail on the river and lake travel is a bit too much for easy reading.

Jim Todd's maps -- fourteen altogether -- are excellent but too small as they appear here, victims I suspect of the format which is only 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches. This makes some of the information like the distance of the carries hard to read. However, there are plentiful drawings of falls, rapids, dams and other tricky spots that are large and easy to read.

The overall design is attractive and the book has an inspiring selection of photos some taken in ice and snow conditions. Smith is an excellent photographer and treated the audience to a slide show at the book launch in Shelburne in November 2004. Perhaps Nimbus could do a companion book of photos and Tobeatic stories.

A better sense of the natural scene one is passing through on each route and some canoe stories would have made for a more interesting read. But the depth of detail will be invaluable to those actually planning a trip. Smith has given us and future generations a tremendous resource for paddling and enjoying the Tobeatic.

*Sheena Masson, author of Paddle Lunenburg-Queens, has been a contributing outdoors writer for shunpiking magazine since 1996. She may be reached at

Comments to : Copyright 2005 New Media Services Inc. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. Copyright of written and photographic and art work remains with the creators.