Coulonge R - Pomponne to Fort Coulonge

CanadaQuebec04 Ottawa
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Robert Pavlis
Additional Route Information
187 km
5 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1847 m
Longest Portage: 
350 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 


Fly in with Bradley air service, Des Joachims (D’ Swisha) PQ, 613-586-2374. They will fly you in, and take your car to the take out.

Bradley air has always give us good service, and they are easy to get to from the Ontario side. I would suggest arriving late afternoon and try and fly in around supper time. This gives you a first night on the river and an early start in the morning.

Before you leave, have a good meal at M&M Restaurant, just down the street from the air field. You might be tempted to go back across the boarder and eat on the highway, but the service at M&M is much better.

You can also drive to parc de la Verendrye and start there.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Hap Wilson’s book is excellent and should be used as a guide. This report will refer to it, by using both his distance markers and rapid numbers.

I did this trip as a solo trip using a 16.5 ft Mad River Explorer in late August, 2000. Based on the information in Hap’s book and a report from a local, the water levels were high for this time of year. This may account for some of the differences between what I saw and what is written by Hap.

While I waited at Bradley Air, the next group arrived; about 6 of them. You can always tell when people have not done much tripping before. It is little things like, opening the van and pulling out several loads of stuff rapped in garbage bags. This crew was migrating to better equipment, and the obvious two leaders in the group produced some dry bags for everyone to use on this trip – "something new to try", they said. One seasoned veteran could be heard to say "but the garbage bags worked OK in the past". Seemed like a nice bunch of guys and I would not mind traveling with them some time.

I flew in on Sunday (Day 1), and landed in Lac Pomponne at about 4:30. I was back at my car by Friday Day 6) in time to finish my first beer by 5:00 pm. It was basically a 5 day trip and could be done in 4. I could see also doing it in 7, but he 10 to 12 that Hap suggests would be far too long.

Day 1 (205 km to 200 km). We landed at the south end of Lac Pomponne, and as we were coming down, I could see tents at the first camp site, and a cabin on the shore of the lake. A great way to start a wilderness trip. My planned camp site was gone, and there was a crowd around. The good news is that for the rest of the trip, I seen almost no one.

I don’t always agree with Hap’s rating of rapids; I think he gives them a higher rating then they should get, but I always agree with his warnings, DO NOT RUN. You do not even have to scout. Do not run the first falls.

Bridge Rapids was more difficult than expected and it was two sets. I expect that it was mostly due to my just starting the trip. Always be extra careful on the first couple of rapids, until you get your sea legs, or is it your sea bum.

In comparing my notes to Hap, I found that we differed most on the camp site information, which has probably changed over the years. I will try to add information about these, since there are few campsites in some long sections of the river, and many are quite poor. A large group would have to be very careful about planning their days. There is a new camp site at 202 km, river right.

I stayed at 199 km, a small site for two tents. I picked the nicest site, and set up the tent. About an hour later I noticed that one of the Poplars was dead, and it just happened to be leaning towards my tent. It seemed quite strong, but I decided to move my tent anyway. It was still standing in the morning but I slept better.

For diner I cooked T-bone on a rock, something I learned from some canoeing buddies earlier this spring. But I improved on it a bit. Take a flat rock and set it almost vertical. Place a small rock at the base on the fire side. This latter rocks prevents the stake from sliding into the dirt, while it is being cooked. Next to the rock goes the fire, and on the far side of the fire, build up some logs to reflect more heat at the stake. Worked like a charm.

Day 2 ( 200 to 171 km an easy day with some fun rapids). My eyes are starting to get worse and I use reading glasses at home, but I can still manage a trip without them. After almost getting stuck on rapid 10, I thought that Hap had lost it. This was no CI tech. When I looked at the map it was clearly marked as a CII tech – I just did not read it right. Sorry for doubting you, Hap. I learned two things on rapid #10. I read about the rapid the night before and thought I remembered everything I needed to know – bad decision. Second, do not rely on the books or maps. Use your eyes. I could see from the top that this was not all that easy, but I did not get out to have a look, because I believed the book. This would be a good rapid to stop and do several times, but I did not see a portage trail. Not a real difficult rapid, but a lot of rocks down the best channel.

There are very few camp spots along this section of river, which is too bad since there are some very nice rapids here (185 km). Rapid 21 was easier than described, as was 22. I can’t remember looking at the camp site between these two rapids, but it is probably still there.

I had lunch at the point of land jutting out into the lake at 177 km. This was a very nice spot not marked in Hap’s book. The upper section has a sandy area for tents (4), which is completely protected from winds on all sides. It was a great place to dry my maps. The view back up river is quite nice.

I had planned to camp at Batardeau Falls (#29). The CII above the falls is easy and there is lots of room to pull out on river left. The site however, is very poor. There is room for one tent, and the ground was very wet. Besides that you could not see the falls due to the large number of logs between you and the falls. It was time to keep moving. This is one of the good things about a solo trip – no one saying they are too tired to move on.

I stayed at an unmarked camp site at the end of 32. There is a nice spot for one tent in the woods, and one lower down, on the graves mentioned in Hap’s book.

Day 3 (171 to 121 km, a long day). This is the day for two long stretches of ‘continuous swifts’. Unfortunately, there were very few. There was not even much current below 165. Most of the river has mud banks, with brush growing down to the river. It is kind of boring, especially once it starts to meander back and forth. From 160 km to 110 km, that’s about all you get.

Most of the other camps along this section of river are sand dunes, which are not very large, and offer no protection from wind or sun. There is an unmarked camp site around 165 km, past two very high sand cliffs, on river left. There is also a road and a place to camp higher up, at about 154 km. The camp site just before 130 km was quite good.

Around 138 km I spotted what looked like a green outhouse sitting in the woods. I did not need it, but figured it was worth a look. The area could be used for a few tents. The outhouse turned out to be a hunting blind. What do I know, coming from the city. I found many of these structures all along the river. All different shapes and sizes. Some on the ground, some in trees. I don’t think I would want to be on this river during hunting season.

I decided to keep going and camp at 121, and excellent camp with room to 6 tents. Don’t forget to stop at the springs on your way. You will hear them as you pass, and Hap’s location is right on the money.

Day 4 (121 to 110 km, a wimpy day). It rained during the night, and drizzled all morning so I stayed in bed. I then went up the Riviere de la Corneille, a nice trip.

Hap’s description of Gauthier Falls is quite good. I took out at A, put in at B and went down river right to C. I could have gone to E, but when you are by your self, you just can’t take chances. The upper CIII below the first set of falls would have been easy to run, but I could not see a way to get down from the shore on river right. I did not notice until later that Hap lines down river left and ferries across.

The camp site at the lower section is nothing special, but the view of the falls is spectacular. The problem is that the camp site is now on a road leading to Lac Bryson, and there is a cabin across the road from the camp site. As long as you keep looking at the falls, it is a nice site. There is also a sign, that says "Lac Bryson, no camping without registration, will be prosecuted or fined $250". The sign seems to refer to Lac Bryson but it is posted right at the camp site. I decided to stay. Nobody was around anyway. The one benefit of this site is that the cabin has a real nice outhouse.

There is also a nice sandy camp site half way down the rapid, if the cabin or sign bother you. You just can’t see the falls from there. If you don’t mind sleeping on gravel, there is lots of room on the beach below the site I stayed at, and you can’t see the cabin from there.

Day 5 ( 110 to 60 km, another long day). The camp site at 99 km is no longer. It is now a road and cabin. The lumber camp just past the bridge (95 km) does not seem to be there anymore. You could camp there with a large group, but it it’s not great. Just past the ghost lumber camp on river right, Hap marks a creek joining the river. This is a spring, and easy to get to.

The water flowing from Lac Wright was very low, and I would not have wanted to fly into this lake and joined the river from there. This might be a good option in the spring.

Chute du Diable, is both fantastic and disappointing. It has one of the best views on the river, as you look away from the falls down the river, but there is a very poor camp at the end of the portage trail. There are also cabins in the distance, but you can hardly see them. This is a great lunch spot, with beautiful rocks, and plenty of places to sun bath. You could set up your tent at the start of the portage trail and cook and have a fire at the end. It is only 300 meters of level walking.

The Little Devil rapid is a CII tech and it got me. About the only place I got stuck on a rock on the whole trip. I just leaned into it very hard, and let my boat swing around. I could have been easily pinned, but with the good lean, I was never in real trouble.

The site at 83 km is Ok. The Die Hard rapids are quite good. Not sure it is a CIII, but there is a good ledge and hole at the top. A really good place to play for people not quite up to intermediate level. The rock in the middle of the river is also a good lunch spot. Just past this rapid, there are three camp spots all within sight of each other. There is a good site on river left (I think the best of the three), the one Hap marks, and a large sand bar in the middle of the river. I’d like to see about 20 scout tents on the sand bar all at one time – it would be quite a site. There is also a fourth high site just past the sand bar on river left. The one marked at 78 km on river right is not there.

I decided to camp at Rapides Enrages. There are three sites at the end of the portage trail and I liked the lower one. I had a swim a couple of hours before sun down, and was badly bitten by insects once I came out to dry off. The next morning I had the same problem. I am not sure what was biting me, but I could not see them, they went for my face, and a bit got quite swollen. Were these no-see-ums? They made me leave the place early in the morning. Deet seemed to keep them away.

I like tripping late August because you generally have few bugs. I found none on the river, but at camps they arrived for supper, and left a couple of hours later. Very lazy bugs, but there were black flies and mosquitoes. There were few deer flies which are usually a problem this time of year.

I found Rapides Enrages disappointing. I would not try to follow the suggestion made by Hap, to partially run and partially line down the rapid. The flow was quite fast, and the ledges had quite big holes. If the falls were not there, it would have been a challenging run, but with the falls there, there was just too great a chance of a mistake. It might be quite different at lower water levels. The portage trail is not easy, but not too bad. One good thing is that there is a spring along the portage trail, so you again get fresh water.

Day 6 (60 to 17 km, the end). The Tri-play rapids is just below the camp, and would be a good place for a novice to play. It is an easy line back to camp.

Rapid 52 is great. A good run, and lots of play action at the end. One of the best side surfing holes I have ever found for a full sized canoe. The only problem is that sitting in a hole, twirling your paddle in the air, with no one to watch, is just not much fun.

Rapid Guenette is the best play spot on the river. If I come back with some buddies, I will plan to spend a whole day just playing here. You could run the whole thing. The area marked DO NOT RUN is not dangerous, it is just very shallow, so you would probably get stuck, but you won’t get hurt badly. You can run this 1 km rapid dozens of different ways, none of which are above a easy CIII. There is a great camp site half way down the rapid.

The continuous swifts past 35 km were not there, but I had current. There is an unmarked camp site at 32 km, river left. The second camp site past 25 km is not bad, but is starting to get into civilization. The golf course is at about 17 km, river right, and could be easy to miss. There is a small sand beach, but since there are trees not far from the beech it does not really look like a golf course. You can make out a hole flag if you look carefully

Robert Pavlis

Special Comments: 

The river is generally easy with some moderate white water skills. An ABS boat is required. Good points include, a number of easy rapids, some very scenic spots, a few excellent camp sites. It is a good river for your first solo trip. There are hunting cabins and roads along the river from time to time so emergency evacuation is not too difficult. Negatives include; not enough rapids for the length of paddle, rapids are too easy for an intermediate whitewater paddler, most camp sites are poor, most of the river is winding, and not very interesting. The cost to fly in from Des Joachims is more than for either the Dumoine or Noire.

There are a lot of hunting blinds on this river. It might not be good to travel it during hunting season?


Post date: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 18:17


If you want to access the river through Jim Lake. You stay on Jim Lake road for exactly 30kms. There are are two marked turnoffs on the right for Jim Lake. You want the 2nd one, which also has a sign for Auberge Jim Lake, which is a trailer park where you can launch your boat and park your vehicle.

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


Just a few miles farther up Lac Jim road, you can access the river at Rapides Enrages which has a couple of great campsites and a nice play rapid (Tri-Play) with an easy pull-over so you can shoot them again and again. Adds a mere 10K to the trip, still perfect for a long weekend. Only disadvantage to this put-in is that you're stuck with the Portage around Gallinotes, although it's a beautiful set of falls, weel worth the effort.

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


Road access is possible to the bottom 1-2-3 days of the trip. Putting in just below Lac Jim on Saturday morning with a warm up paddle down to Rapid Guenette then Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning at the rapid is a nice CII/CIII play weekend easily done from Ottawa.

I have car shuttled both from the chutes (be carefull they lock the gate) and leaving a car by the bridge at the golf course. If you wanted to be safer you could park at the golf course, talk to someone about it, and walk 700m for the car at the end.