Lac Manicouagan

CanadaQuebec07 Lower St Lawrence, N Shore
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Dan Thompson
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
185 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

With no portages, getting around the lake is simple. People with limited accessibility may experience difficulty on shore, however.

Technical Guide: 

North on Highway 389 from Baie Comeau

Launch at Pourvoire du Prospecteur (Prospector Outfitters) at km 336 of Hwy 389

Near unlimited paddling options from there.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Trip Log:


I spent the summer of 2006 working on restoring a harvest peatland outside of Riviere du Loup, QC. Working overtime on evenings and weekends, I made up enough time to take a week off. After a trip to Temagami was cancelled at the last minute, me and a co-worker of mine (Nathalie Brunet) from the University of Waterloo decided with only a week’s notice to make a trip up to the massive crater lake visible on all maps of Quebec. We rented the only canoe available in town (a flat bottomed, shallow 15.5 footer) and strapped it to the sedan, with only printed out digital topo maps and Google earth images to guide us. Since we had only two people in one less than optimal canoe, we played the trip safe, and stuck close to the outfitters, and preferred not to venture too far into the big waters.

Day One – July 8 2006

Left St. Arsene, QC at 8am to catch the 11am ferry from Matane to Godbout. Later on found out the Rimouski-Forestville ferry is much faster. Got last supplies ( Tim Horton’s) in Baie Comeau and started on the 389 at 3:30pm. Arrived at Pourvoire du Prospecteur at 7:30pm. Paddled out to a small sand spit to set up camp 3km to the SW just before sunset.

Day Two – July 9

Woke up at 7:30 to a quick breakfast and were on the water by 8:30. Our goal was to complete the largest open water crossing (3km) before the winds picked up. A light wind (~10-15km/h) from the south whipped up large gently rolling waves up to 1m high. Since there were no white caps and the waves were very long, the crossing was slow but safe and successful.

After the largest crossing, a strong SW wind picked up along with showers and dark clouds. We picked the closest sandy cove and set up camp, waiting out the wind before deciding to stay there for the day. The sheltered location, plentiful dry driftwood, view east onto the Groulx Mountains, and fine sandy beach made it nearly the perfect campsite.

Day Three – July 10

We decided to break camp and paddle west to a small inlet leading to a fair sized lake within Ile de Rene Levasseur at 51.46N 68.43W. We saw a beaver amongst the thick grasses that grow along the shores of the inlets. These inlets are sheltered from the scouring of the shifting spring ice pack.

Initially, we hiked along the small stream draining the lake, but eventually found that the birch trees completely grew over the stream. Trekking inland, we found a lightly used trail leading towards the lake from a small hunting cabin on the inlet. While the view of this smaller lake-within-a-lake was great, the hike through the boreal forest was mystical. Afterwards, we paddled another 8km north to a campsite on a sandy spit on a small island.

Day Four – July 11

We decided to paddle north and explore the NE corner of the lake on our final day on the water. We didn’t want to travel too far away from our open water crossing in case the wind picked up. We had lunch, swam, and waited out the mid-afternoon winds at a gravel beach at 51.58N 68.42W with a wonderful of the lake and mountains. The water was very cold. Luckily, by 3pm or so, the winds slowed and shifted to a W direction, giving us an ideal tailwind for a 4km crossing to the main shore. There, we camped on a fine gravel beach created at a higher water level, as it was perched metres above the current water line. We cooked a slow tasty dinner as the sun set over the islands of Lac Manicouagan.

Day Five – July 12

We packed up and broke camp early and enjoyed a tailwind as we travelled the few kms SE back to la Pourvoire du Prospecteur for lunch. Not as rushed to as on the way up, we stopped to take photographs alongside the 51ème parallêle sign and the Manic V dam. We enjoyed the drive back to St. Arsene, arriving at Midnight.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
22N sheets 01,02,03,06,07,08,09,10,11 cover the entire lake.
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Other Maps: 
Google Earth or other air photos provide a good view of beaches and bare rock for campsites.
Special Comments: 

Getting There:

From western Quebec or Ontario, the fastest route is to take Hwy 20 then 132 to Rimouski on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, then take the ferry to Forestville and then Hwy 138 to Baie Comeau.

Hwy 389 starts in Baie Comeau, and is a paved two lane road until km 212 at the Manic V dam, after which it is a well-maintained gravel road. Allow at least 4.5 hours to get to the outfitter from Baie Comeau. An alternate launch point exists at km 288 at a small landing at the SE end of the lake.

The drive up to Lac Manicouagan is possible in any sedan in summer. We made it in a Chevy Cobalt with a canoe strapped on the roof with foam blocks. A spare tire, and extra fluids (coolant, oil, wiper) is recommended. Gas is available every 100km or so, but a jerry can in the trunk is not a bad idea.

We used the directions along the highway at:

They proved accurate and useful. Basic French skills are an asset on the drive up, since a minority of people speak any workable English up here. Patience, gestures, and kindness can work in lieu of French skills.

Access to the Lake:

The people at Poirvoire du Prospecteur (1-600-701-0264) were very helpful, though they speak little if any English. Parking plus launching at the outfitter is a $25 fee with the security that your car is safe for the trip from bears and unkind people. Included in the fee is the option to camp one night at the outfitter’s post. As far as we could tell, they don’t offer any canoe trip outfitting services. The woman at the outfitters recommends a satellite phone, since the lake can whip up storms “comme une mer” (“like an ocean”). The woman also commented that the lake’s surroundings are “heavenly”.

On the Water:

The winds shift often on this massive lake. Light winds along the longer fetches of the lake (~25km) can whip up long, rolling swells up to 1m high. A canoe with plenty of freeboard and rocker is helpful to keep out the water. Knowledge of wind ferries is very useful when making crossings at angle to the wind. Otherwise, it is a big, beautiful stretch of water. If the weather is foul and a headwind whips up, wait an hour or two and the winds will surely shift.


As of July 2006, the water level in the Lac Manicouagan Reservoir was about 5m below the maximum water level, as indicated by the lack of mature trees. 10-15 year old trees extended to approximately 2m above the water line, leaving plenty of unvegetated area to set up camp. Abundant driftwood is available all along the shores of the lake.

Camping on small islands in the lake is best to avoid blackflies, bears, and other critters at night.

There are plenty of sandy coves to camp on. A Google Earth image of the lake shows plenty of bright coloured sandy areas on the shores, as opposed to the darker treed areas inland. Camping in the forest is unadvisable in my opinion, due to the risk of Black Spruce falling over in windstorms, and the thick, soft, and often wet carpet of mosses underneath. Obviously, the strictest no-trace camping should be practiced here, since vegetation is slow to grow back that far north.

With such a massive reservoir, rapid changes in water level seem unlikely, though placing the canoe and tent a healthy distance from shore overnight is advisable at least because of large waves.

Geology and Boreal Forest Ecology:

**As an environmental science student, I felt this section was necessary**

Lake Manicouagan is a 214 million year old complex impact structure. The island in the middle of the lake, and the mountain in the middle of that (Mont Babel) was created during the impact event as ground in the middle of the impact area was heaved upwards. The bedrock in the area is an impact breccia, which is a rock made up of fragments melted together during the impact. Hundreds of different types of rocks can be seen as intact “clasts” within this bedrock. As an extra hint, notice how the different rock types weather and erode distinctly.

Mature and possibly old-growth boreal forest can be seen on the islands of the lake. Trees are primarily black spruce, with sparse birch, stunted willow bushes and less common jack pine, red spruce, and tamarack. A thick cover of forest mosses and patches of peat mosses make up the understory, along with Labrador tea, blueberry, and numerous other shrubs.


Post date: Tue, 02/23/2010 - 19:17


I Would you be able to share some info.
How many KM a may

Post date: Fri, 03/28/2008 - 21:13


I want water depth data

Post date: Wed, 06/11/2008 - 16:37


Very interesting route. Can you send me your email, I have bunch of questions about the trip.