Capitachouane River

CanadaQuebec04 Ottawa
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80 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
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Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
1200 m
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Route Description
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See trip diary posted below

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Driving directions

From Le Domain take HW 117 north. In about 45km there is a gravel road going to the right. There are following signs at the road beginning: “Chemin 29 est, Camachigama”, “Barrage de Barriere” and “Peer Horn Lodge 29km.”. The road is quite bumpy as all logging roads are in the area. After a 10 min. drive there is a fork, where a road to the left is road #292. Take #292. 75km. later, at the road sign “194km”, there is a road going to the right. In less than 1km. the road will bring you to the bridge at the Island Chutes (I called them like that myself. There was no name on the map). Through clearing in the forest at your left just before the bridge, you will see an excellent campsite on high sandy bank overlooking the river at the take out point (the old map says: old forest camp). You can park your cars around there. On your way to the take out, you cross three rivers/streams on your way. The first - with a rapid under the bridge; the second - a creek, and the third - quite a big river (it might be Capitachouane, as we had to cross it somewhere, but I am not sure). The bridge over Capitachouane is another possible take out.

To get to the put in at Lac Peronne, head back to the road #292 and turn right, driving in the same direction as you did before. Almost immediately (~ 1.5km) road #292 joins Chemin Chimo. Turn right and drive 60km. more to the bridge at Lac Peronne. It’s quite a big lake, and it’s the first big lake you will see on your right hand. You will see a bush cottage just off the road to the right just before the bridge. Right after the bridge, turn right to the put in, which is just a hundred meters away at the end of a portage. I have to say that there is actually no campsite at the put in. It’s just a place where vehicles used to turn around. However, if after the bridge you turn left, the place there (beginning of the portage) is a little better, but you will have to carry all you gear to the put in later on.

Day 1. August 24

We departed from Toronto at 5:40 AM, because our shuttle was scheduled at 2 PM, and we didn’t want to be late. There were eight people with four double kayaks in our party. We made three short stops on our way and arrived to Le Domaine at 1:50 PM. At 2:40 PM we left Le Domaine and drove behind the park’s van to the put in (stopping at the take out to live our cars). At the take out we were at 4:40. We left our cars there and got shuttled to the put in, where we arrived at 5:50PM.
Logging roads in and around la Verendrye are a special story. They get altered so often, that all maps showing them became inaccurate very quickly. Always check roads you need with the park office before you start driving on them. Park’s staff always keeps the most recent version of the logging road map on a wall at the office in Le Domain.

Day 2. August 25

An overnight rain stopped about 8AM. Mix of sun and cloud. Cool. This day we left our campsite very late-the first loading to a kayak always takes more time. Gear loading into a kayak has to be quite sophisticated if you want to be able to load and unload relatively quickly - a drawback of all kayaks. This time we tried a new system of self-designed and self-made dry bags that we attached to the top of our kayak (you can see the bags on the pictures). It worked very well. We were able to take more gear, and to load/unload very fast.

We had our lunch at the marked group campsite at the narrow point on Lac Moore. Lots of space for tents, but there is a large cabin belonging to a hunting club. We’ve seen no people around though.
We left the point at 5PM. About 7km. downstream comes the first serious set of the rapids at the river’s elbow. It consists of 6 rapids (CI, CII, CV, CII+,CII and CII+) and is about 1.5km long. The campsite we planned to take was the next available site after the group campsite on Lac Moore - at the end of the set. There is a portage marked on the old map (river right) around the whole set, which is 1,2km long. It starts in a bay just before the beginning of the set. We didn’t check it out, but the map shows that for 2/3 of the total length it uses an old logging road. If the water is low, I would recommend taking the portage.(if you don’t like to drag your canoe over the boulders in the stream.) Please note that there are no portages around individual rapids in the set.

We decided to try to run what is possible to run, lining or carrying around the bad stuff instead of taking the portage (this is our normal strategy, anyway). Water was low, and eventually we had to line/drag all but two rapids in the set. Our mistake was that we got to the set very late, and didn’t expect it to take us so much time to pass it. We had to camp on the right shore just before the fifth rapid in the total darkness… There was no campsite at all, and we were very lucky to find a bumpy spot between trees and boulders to pitch our tents. So, our first day was “extremely” impressive…

How the set looks? The first rapid, CI, looks more like an introduction to what appeared to be a very shallow CII. We run this combination. Right after the CII, the river splits into two branches curving to the right, forming a big island. Neither topo, nor park’s old map show this. The park’s map shows CV with a 100m. portage at the left… What we could see, was the beginning of a powerful rocky and messy chute to the right, and a narrow deep channel to the left. The banks there are rocky and very steep; no trails. The left channel looked OK , and we lined it. The first part of the channel is very narrow (2m. wide) with steep rocky walls. Further, it gets wider and shallower with numerous boulders in the stream. We had to drag our kayaks over boulders a couple of times here. The channels join together around here, but the big chute in the right channel cannot be seen from here too. The next rapid, CII+, comes immediately after, where the river is squeezed between rocky shores. There are several big rocks in the flow, and a large boulder right at the center. This boulder in the strong current worried us a little, but we had no time for lining-it was getting darker with each and every minute. So, we run it. Two kayaks hit the boulder and spent some time sitting on it and trying to slip back to the free water, but eventually everyone managed to finish the rapid safely. (We are lucky to have closed cockpits and skirts-water was running over the kayaks sitting on the boulder.) The next rapid comes in 100m. downstream after a small quiet bay. But for us the day was over, because it was absolutely dark already. We started to scout both shores with flashlights in order to find any possible place to camp. We couldn’t find anything at first, but 10 minutes later found something very remotely resembling a flat surface among spruces and boulders with deep cracks between… Relatively fresh bear’s marks at the shore made this “extreme” camping even spicier…

Day 3. August 26

Another overnight rain stopped right before dawn, and a crisp and warm sunny day was our award for yesterday’s extreme. Rapid #5 (CII), and #6(CII+) from the yesterday’s set were waiting us ahead. CII was too shallow to run, and we lined this long rapid along the right shore. It ends just before a destroyed bridge. Here, at the right, is the take out for the portage around CII+ under the bridge. A decent group campsite is located here, where an old logging road (end yesterday’s 1,2km portage) ends. CII+ was runable except the last shallow drop around a big boulder at the right shore. We run the first part, stopped and lined around the boulder.

A 2.5km long section of flat water begins after this rapid. The river is quite wide here and sometimes resembles a long lake. Hills around the river are getting steeper and stand closer to the water, promising more rapids. Four of the rapids ranging from CI to CII follow soon. We run all of them. A couple of times we had to stop at the end of a rapid to drag kayaks over shallows. (As we figured out later, this was the usual pattern for many rapids in the first part of the route: they started runable, but became very shallow at the end.) Almost immediately after the last CI comes a 10ft. waterfall. The old map shows portages around the falls on either shore. We chose the right one. A take out is located almost at the falls’ lip. Caution! Fast current! An easy 30m portage brings to a pool below falls. We had lunch at this beautiful spot.

For the next 4km there is only one section of swift water to deal with. Then comes a long set of CII+ and CII. CII+ turned out to be very shallow, and we lined it. CII was run without problem. Soon comes another easy CII. After this rapid we had to find a campsite, which was marked on the map on the left shore. The campsite had to come before the next rapid, which was a mere 300m from the last one. We thoroughly scouted left shore between the rapids and couldn’t find any possible spot for a campsite. It was a surprise. We had not much time to think, as it was already 7PM, and the next marked campsite was in 3km downstream after two long CIIs. Because the site was clearly marked here, I decided to give it the last chance, and went upstream, searching for a campsite on the left shore. I paddled back to the previous rapid, but didn’t find anything. This meant we had to go further. I shouted my friends that they can start scouting the next rapid, and turned our kayak back. Paddling strong to save time, we almost got to the rapid when my wife noticed a narrow clearing in the dense forest on the right shore. We stopped and paddled back… A campsite! On the RIGHT shore! We were so glad to find it! It was just in time! It was a cozy campsite under the shelter of spruces with places for three tents. So, make a note that a campsite here is on the right shore just before the next CII. A good portage trail for the next CII started here too. It looked that someone cleared the trail recently.

Day 4. August 27

The day was sunny and warm. The first part of CII, which starts almost at the campsite, was lined. We run the second part stopping at the shallow end, and dragging kayaks over shallows to the deep water.
The next CII was run (CBR). The rapid was about 200m long. (Actually, most of the rapids on the route were quite long ranging from 200 to 800 meters.) Four more rapids follow soon one after another: A simple CI was hardly noticed; CII was run after a check from the shore. The third one was a short but interesting technical CII, which we successfully run along the right shore (CBR). The fourth one (CII) begins with a section of swift water followed by a short distance of flat water and the rapid itself. There is a very nice campsite for 2 tents just between the section of swift water and the rapid. The rapid was run (CBR). There is a small grassy island right after the rapid. We decided to spend some time fishing here and caught three pikes and a pickerel within 20 minutes.

A campsite that had to be at the river’s elbow 3 km of flat water downstream wasn’t found. A first CII after the elbow looked more like a simple CI, and was run without stopping. After this rapid, the river flows in a narrow channel along a beautiful steep rocky wall on the left shore. We had our lunch here.

The next CII had a strong current with many rocks in the flow. We managed to run it successfully, but had to maneuver like crazy. Another CII follows soon. It was run without a check. After this rapid, there are only several sections of swift water before the sharp drop of the only CIII on the route. The drop was very powerful and short with a calm pool below. It looked a little scary at first, but after a careful check, we figured out that it was clear of any boulders, and we had to deal only with the big volume. Everyone run it successfully, enjoying the fast ride. It was the only CIII on the route. It marked the end of the toughest part of the route. The next rapid will come only about 20km downstream. We took an excellent group campsite at the point on Lac Vimy 4km downstream from the CIII.

Day 5. August 28

We spent all the day at the campsite on Lac Vimy. We were fishing, swimming at the excellent sandy beach right at the point, tanning, eating blueberries and enjoying an exceptionally bright sunny day. This campsite is definitely the best on the route.

Day 6. August 29

We left the campsite at midday. Yea…You can see, we are not very “sporty” on our paddling routes. Because our main summer trip is usually the only long vacation we take, we try to get the most from it. So, we usually prefer to spend a couple of more days on a route to allow for our lazy pace and for an extra day for camping, wandering around in the bush, fishing etc. Therefore, number of days we spent on the route, can be divided by 1.5 or 2 to get it right for hard paddling lovers.

There is another marked group campsite just across the bay from the site we were camping on last night. We could see from the water that it is there, and it is probably big, as it is located at the end of a bush road at the edge of the bush. There was evidence that the site is used as a launching spot for boats. In about a mile from here, there is a cabin on the right shore where river flows out of Lac Moore. River here is shallow with sandy bottom, patches of grass and some boulders in the flow. Current is light, but noticeable.

A nice group campsite with a sandy beach comes 0,5km before the bridge at Baie Du Portage (another possible take out). We stopped here to eat blueberries. They were in such abundance, that we couldn’t believe our eyes. Another site is located just at the bridge. We didn’t check it out, but there is a lot of space beside the road.
The next rapid comes in 3km. after Lac Loos. It’s 600m long and quite interesting. On the old map it is shown as a combination of CII, CI, and CII+. The river is quite wide here, and the old map shows a
proposed way to run the rapid. Different sections of the same rapid shown on this sketch are rated differently. There is even a spot at the middle of the rapid, marked CIII. At our water levels the rapid was shallow and very technical. Overall, I wouldn’t rate the whole set more than CII+ at that time. Nevertheless, it was interesting. We run it successfully. There is an overgrown campsite for two tents on the right shore. The site isn’t good, and we were glad that we spent a lay over day at Lac Moore instead of camping here as we planned before. We had a lunch here.

After the rapid, the river flows in swampy terrain forming meanders. The group campsite shown on the left shore in 3km downstream doesn’t exist any more. The next one, for two tents, marked on the left shore, is overgrown (if it was there at all). It’s just an open spot at the sandy point, covered with high grass. The next marked campsite, on the left shore again, wasn’t found too. After that point, we started to look for a place that could become a campsite for us. Finally, we decided to camp on a sandy point where the next campsite (one tent) was shown. We pitched our tents on sand, and it turned out to be not that bad. At least, we had a good sandy beach right beside.

Day 7. August 30

The next rapid marked CII, turned out to be more like CI or even less. The next one is a long rapid marked CI at the abandoned road. There are two mistakes on the old map: it’s 350m instead of 700, and it was CII+, definitely not CI. May be it’s just due to low water, but I doubt that there can be such a big difference. There is a decent 500m portage trail that goes over a hill at the right shore. The trail passes through a nice group campsite. The drawback is that the site is located high above the water (where the old road ends). The rapid was very technical and probably the most difficult on the route due to precise maneuvering required. CBR! Three kayaks run it successfully, but one finished upside down. The problem was a big rock at the end of the run, which blocks the way.

It was the last rapid in our trip. No rapids till the Island Chutes. We paddled right to the site at the Chutes where our cars were parked. We were on the site at 6 PM.

Day 8. August 31

As we had one more day before we had to return home, we decided to spend it at this campsite. The day was sunny and warm, and we spent it swimming, fishing, and picking blueberries for home (I filled up a 2.5-gallon container in two hours alone!). The fishing was good at the bottom of the Chutes.

The next day, we left the place, thanking the river for our excellent trip and trying not to think about our return into our very different life in Toronto’s turmoil…

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31 N/16 31 N/15 31 N/10 32 B4 32 C/1
Other Maps: 
La Verendrye`s old map “Riviere Capitachouane”, dated 1971, provided free of charge
Special Comments: 

We did this trip in late August, 2002. We used a very old La Verendrye`s map and topo maps. This combination turned out to be sufficient. The park`s map was given to us without a charge as they believe that money shouldn`t be taken for such an old info. It was helpful, but inaccurate in some places. If you cannot get the old map from the park`s office any more, make sure to mark rapids and campsites on your topo at Le Domaine. Campsites are scarce, many are overgrown, and some are hard to find. So, be prepared.

Capitachouane is a beautiful river with clean water, picturesque hills and rocks, and many rapids. Most of the rapids on the river are in the section we did (27 rapids in total). Most of them are CII-CII+ and can be run if there is enough water. Due to low water levels at the time we paddled the river, all the rapids were technical, requiring precise maneuvering. In its upper portion, the river flows through a hilly and rocky terrain. Banks change to swampy, and terrain changes to relatively flat after 70-th km.

You can feel remoteness, but there are some hunting cabins on the route (they were empty at that period of time though) plus a couple of bush cottages on two lakes. We have seen only a couple of fishermen on Lac Peronne, no people further. By the way, fishing was exceptional. (northern pike and pickerel).

Water was low, and there was no indication that the river gets very high at spring - the highest watermarks were about 1.5 ft. above water. Although we had to line our kayaks several times and hit rocks in many shallow rapids, it wasn`t a big problem for our kayaks` tough plastic. In return we had almost no bugs and ENORMOUS amounts of blueberries. I haven`t seen such abundance in my whole life.

We used a shuttle service from La Verendrye, but you can also do the shuttle yourself, as put in is mere 60km away from take out. You don`t have to pay for camping permits for this route, because this part of the river is located outside of La Verendrye`s borders. We paid the fees at first, but got a refund on our way back! If you continue past Island Chutes, pay only for the time you actually are inside the park.