One unique aspect of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is crossing into Quebec, Canada. The chance to “paddle across the border” adds a sense of adventure and new cultural experiences. It is remarkable how different things feel just a few miles north of Vermont.
This year, those seeking to paddle across the border have added complication due to the closure of the East Richford customs station. The shut-down is due to a bridge replacement, now planned for May 30 through October 15. (The dates may change, call border patrol at 802-848-7746 to confirm.) While the river will keep flowing from Canada to Vermont as it has for millennia, thru-paddlers will need to reroute their trip.
After talking to border patrol officers in both Vermont and Quebec, it became clear that they wouldn’t make exceptions for paddlers. And unfortunately, unlike in Newport, there is no video-phone option set up here.
The nearest alternative crossing is a couple miles north of Richford. Peering at Google Earth, I mapped a re-route option that takes paddlers north to this crossing and then back to the Missisquoi in Glen Sutton, a seven-mile detour. This route is summarized in a map posted to our trail updates page.
Finding myself up in Richford on a gorgeous, sunny spring day, I decided it would be worth it to fact check the route – via bicycle. While easier than portaging the route, it would give me a better feel for the traffic, roads, hills, etc. Plus, it would be fun!
I was pleasantly surprised to find the road between Richford and the Abercorn Crossing to be beautiful and quiet. No lines at the border, and I crossed without a problem. I cycled on through a peaceful, rural landscape. So far, so good. Bearing right, I cycled up..and up… and up Rue de Eglise. I discovered this is a long, 1000’ climb! Paddlers should be prepared for quite a workout. But the reward is beautiful, sweeping views of the valley.
It was a steep descent down to the Missisquoi Valley. Access to the river was straight forward following a farm road as detailed in the trip update. Please be respectful of private property and leave no trace.
Reroutes on long distance trails out west are common, due to fires, floods, etc. But this is a first on the NFCT. While certainly a complication, it is all part of the adventure. Safe travels!
This summer, Canoe and Co in Sutton, Quebec, has offered to pick-up paddlers at the border and take them back to the river. This is a great option for those not seeking to tackle the hills of Quebec. The owner, Frank Turcotte, is offering a special rate of $30/boat. If you want to go all the way to Lake Memphramagog, it’s $50. Advanced reservation required. Contact Frank at [email protected] or 450-538-4052. Keep in mind, the best time to arrange a pickup on busy days is first thing in the morning or after 4 p.m.
Find more info and check out a map about the border crossing reroute: 2018 Border Crossing.