S. Lawrence River Anchorages
16 June 2012
St. Lawrence River Anchorages for Deep Draft Boats:
Brockville to Riviere-au-Renard
Jim Hawkins and Ellie Adams
A version of this document was published by the Great Lakes Cruising Club for use of their members, Feb, 2005.
The St. Lawrence River is often characterized wrongly, we believe, as having few good places to anchor. As a practical matter, we interspersed anchorages, marinas, and government wharfs as we descended the river. However, had we chosen to do it, we could have traversed the river all the way to Trois-Rivieres without a single stay at a marina. Below Trois-Rivieres we found fewer anchorages as expected. But even in this lower stretch of the river we found places to comfortably drop the hook. On only a couple of nights were we strapped with no other choice than a slip in a marina. We anchored where indicated by the guides as well as in locations of our own choosing.
Behind an island in quiet water, the outflow of a tributary, wherever the chart indicates a good chance of a mud bottom represents a possible anchorage.
Above Trois-Rivieres, mud almost always meant grass or weeds and extra effort setting and retrieving anchors. Below Trois-Rivieres, grass was not a problem. A two or three knot current churning under us before the river turned tidal was not unusual. By contrast, our anchorages in tidal stretches all had quiet water. Katabatic gusts whistled down the valleys fronting the river, often springing up after a quiet evening at anchor.
We found government wharfs falling into disrepair and spanking new breakwaters and marinas with floating docks (or landing stages as they are called here) taking their places. Marinas charged about $1.00cdn/foot in 2004 plus fees and taxes. Below is a list of anchorages, beginning just below the Thousand Islands, which we have personally utilized plus a few prominent alternatives.
A convenient anchorage is in Morristown, NY, across the river from Brockville, ON. We anchored in 12 feet behind the floating breakwater out of the fairway in mud. This night, our anchor light glared like a small planet in the eerie darkness following the collapse of the power grid. We spotted several possibilities among the islands on the approach to Lake St. Lawrence, finally selecting a retreat northeast of the last of the Croil Islands, about one-quarter mile north of buoy R50 in the lee of the island.
Near the lower end of Lac St. Franscios, is a buoyed secondary channel leading to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. The harbor is open to the southwest, but you can get far enough in to be safe in summer weather. We stopped here because public transit to Montreal is only a twenty minute walk away. The anchorage we otherwise would have used is found just prior to entering the Canal de la Rive Sud for the long trip around the Lachine Rapids. Adjacent to Ile Tekakwitha, it lies South of marker FY in 12-20 feet, mud, with protection from all but a strong southwest wind.
We lingered late in the cockpit another evening after a swim and dinner while lying safely in 12 feet, mud, and a three knot current among low islands about 10 miles north of Montreal. We entered, leaving the Seaway between Ilet Vert and Ile Deslauriers rounding into the channel between Ile a L'Aigle and the unnamed islet to the east on the chart. A number of options are present depending on the protection needed. At Trois-Rivieres, we settled in the Riviere St. Maurice to the west of Ile St. Quentin off the swimming beach in 12 feet. Leave buoy C52 close aboard going in.
The stretch of the river between Trois Rivieres and Quebec City is almost, but not quite bereft of anchorages. Local knowledge is required for the spot opposite Portneuf harbor which is used by weekending locals. And, for another example, one can anchor near the moorings outside the Yacht Club de Quebec in sand and reduced current.
Below Quebec City, the anchorage on the south side of Isle de Bellechasse is used routinely by locals and transients. Regretfully, we did not know of it until already settled in the harbor at Berthier-Sur-Mer, where we watched a number of boats drop a hook several boat lengths off the side of the island facing the harbor. Locals told us to use the north end in south winds, the south end in a northeast wind astride a two-knot tidal current.
The commercial port of Gros-Cacouna permits anchoring of pleasure craft in stiff mud in the northeast corner of the harbor. We were glad to be here even if the place lacks a certain esthetic. Three anchorages near Parc du Bic are frequently used by transients, Havre du Bic is one. Our choice, right next door, was pretty Anse a L'Original. You can hide from a northeaster in Baie du Ha! Ha! All three bottoms are clay with good holding.
Between Parc du Bic and the Gulf, a number of slight indentations are scattered along both shores of the river secure enough to drop the hook in settled summer weather.
The commercial port of Matane permits anchoring in the west basin. However, here we chose to enter the nearby Club de Yacht de Matane. Grocery's, hardware stores, etc., are only a short walk. Notably, it is the last marina on the Gaspe' with fuel on the dock. The facilities are the best we found on the lower river. A tasty early breakfast is served in the clubhouse.
On the north shore at Godbout, anchor to the east of the old wharf in sand. The wharf is in some disrepair, but remained safe in 2004. If one is prepared to work around the ferry schedule (we weren't), you can hide overnight utterly secure behind the new breakwater.
Back on the Gaspe' shore, Mont-Louis had good holding in clay safe from all but a due-north wind. The west wharf serves as a secure retreat, if needed. The last anchorage on the Gaspe' is in the commercial harbor of Riviere-au-Renard. We relaxed in the main harbor out of the fairway where the "M" is on the chart. Firm holding helped us subdue a warm but wickedly strong katabatic blow.
In contrast to the myth, we were able to anchor in the St. Lawrence River more or less whenever we wished. A plethora of anchorages lie above Trois-Rivieres. Anchorages below Trois-Rivieres are less common as noted. But, with some planning, we had safe repose at anchor nearly everywhere on the river.
More anchorages are described in the following publications: Sailing Directions ATL 110, 111, 112. Hydrographic Service, Canada, $8.95 each. St. Lawrence River and Quebec Waterways. L'Escale Nautique, $9.95. Cruising the Rideau and Richelieu Canals. Skipper Bob, $12.00.