A Canoe Trip Down the Bibi River, Which Flows Through the Yufutsu Plains

  • A Canoe Trip Down the Bibi River, Which Flows Through the Yufutsu Plains



    by Shungo Hanaoka

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    Despite being very near New Chitose Airport, nature is still thriving on the Yufutsu plains. The Yufutsu plains, together with the Kushiro wetlands and the Sarobetsu plains, were until recently called Hokkaido’s Three Great Plains. These plains, located in a section of the lower Ishikari River region of Central Hokkaido, contain Utonai Lake, which is included in the Ramsar Convention’s list of wetlands, and has become a habitat for several species of waterfowl and rare birds.


    Threading its way through these plains is the Bibi River. The name is spelled with the kanji for “beautiful,” and as its name suggests, it is a lovely river. It is in the upper reaches of this river that a Canadian canoe tour begins, making its way gently downstream.


    The tour guides are based out of Lake Shikoku, at the Shikoku Guide House Kanoa. You’re transferred by car from there to the departure point, and then the tour begins.


    The Bibi River is shallow, so you can easily see the river bottom. You can see the shapes of small fish swimming through the aquatic plants. Possibly Japanese dace.


    As you might expect, the upstream part of the river has areas that are quite narrow. Reeds grow very thickly there in summer, so it seems the canoes are only able to pass through in the spring.


    During the leisurely trip downstream, we pause to pull ashore and explore the plains.


    In quite a few of the caves, a cross-section of the geological strata is clearly visible. It’s an irresistible place for enthusiasts. Moreover, Guide Naoki Matsuzawa teaches us about the wild birds and various other creatures living along the water’s edge.


    After some exploration of the Yufutsu plains, there’s a tea break. We enjoy hot, black tea served in wooden bowls called kukusa, as well as hand-made sweets.


    Now, on to the second half.


    Along the way, as we passed under a railway bridge, a limited express train raced past at recklessly high speed. They travel at 130 km/hr. Meanwhile, our canoe floated along at its own, natural speed. There’s something amusing about that.


    Before long, the tour arrived at the canoe port, where there are portable toilets and a parking lot. The river tour concludes after about 3 hours. It was a perfect time of day; we stood bathed in the spring sunlight, listening to the calls of scores of wild birds.

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