Little Abitibi Provincial Park River Route

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Admin
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Unknown
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
158 km
Duration: 
5 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
4
Total Portage Distance: 
1350 m
Longest Portage: 
750 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Novice
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at park access landing – southeast end of Pierre Lake.
Northwest through Pierre, Montreuil & Harris Lakes.

Camped night 1 on island at head of Little Abitibi River.
Enter Little Abitibi River – northwest end of Harris Lake.
Lined rapids 300 m R shore 0.4 km downstream.
Scouted & ran following set of rapids.

20 km of slack water with occasional swifts.

P 200 m L around 3 successive 1.5 m ledges.
Scouted & ran rapids 1 km further downstream.
Medium hydraulics 2 km further: lifted over mid-stream boulder.
11 km slack water with occasional swifts.
Camped night 2 at large table rock on right shore.
Ran two sets of rapids R shore (at campsite).

Two more sets of rapids easily run and numerous swifts.

7 km beyond camp 4 sets of rapids 0.4 km long. Ran tight to L shore with tricky paddling and lift over final shallow rock garden. Final rapids were run but very rocky.
32 km of slack water with some swifts. Last 8 km flat water.
Camped night 3 at Junction of Littler Abitibi & Newpost Creek diversion.

Entered Newpost Creek diversion channel. 2 km to Worbec Lake then 1 km to the Creek.
Rocky rapids here but could be run.
12 km to bridge over creek and major hydraulic hole. Hugged right shore into eddy then P 150 m R to under bridge. S-turn to left shore then lined rapids 150 m L. Final rapids were run.

Rapids and swifts for 10 km run without scouting.
2 km of slack water before Newpost Falls with 30 m drop.

Camped night 4 on sandbar 0.4 km upstream of falls.

P 750 m L around falls.

23 km of slack water to Otter Rapids Dam.

P 200 m L just in front of Dam up access road.

Camped night 5 at RR crossing & Dam road.

Stopped & boarded ONR mixed train northbound to Moosonee.

Spent night 6 in Moosonee hotel.

Took ONR mixed train southbound to Cochrane.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Participants
Neil Miller nmiller6@visteon.com

Michael Miller Ekim3@aol.com

Brian Prodin bprodin@visteon.com

Keith Prodin kprodin@LTVSteel.com

Trip Date
August 5 through August 9, 2001 (on the water). Total trip including all planes, trains & automobiles (start to finish at home) was August 4 through August 12, 2001.

Day One (Sunday, August 5) 28 km

Departing Cochrane by outfitter`s shuttle at 6:30 am, we arrived at the Pierre Lake (Little Abitibi Provincial Park) access at 8:00 am and departed immediately. Pierre Lake was calm at departure but gusty winds started building swells by the time we got across. This continued to build as we stopped for lunch at an abandoned fish camp at the southeast entrance to Montreuil Lake.

We entered Montreuil Lake with the wind blowing a steady 33 kph out of the west but it was on our beam and we were able to make good progress. Had it been further forward we may have been wind-bound and forced to camp.

At 3:00 pm we entered Harris Lake and the wind had clocked northwest and was on our nose. The lake was running with about half a meter white caps and it took us until 4:30 pm to get across.

We had been told that there was a good campsite on the right (north) shore of the entrance to the Little Abitibi. We searched both shores up and down the river entrance and along the lakeshore but we never found anything, which would accommodate our small tents. At 6:00 pm we circled the two islands, which sit in the river`s entrance and on the south shore of the island closest to the lake we found a narrow stony-clay bench, which we were able to camp on. Because of the summer drought, water levels were low and this bench might have been submerged or damp had levels been a little higher.

Day Two (Monday, August 6) 40 km

A small thunderstorm had swept through the area in the night so we delayed our departure to let things dry a bit. We departed at 9:20 am and came to the first set of rapids about 0.5 km down the river. These rapids had medium standing waves and rocks in all the wrong places and were about 300 meters in length. The left (south) shore was very dense and it was difficult to, even, bushwhack through. However, the right (north) shore was composed of very loose rock and boulders and it could be lined or portaged. We chose to line it and the combination of setting up the lining rig and taking one canoe at a time took over an hour to complete. The follow-on rapids were easily run although we quickly scouted a couple of them, first.

There was a 20 km run down relatively slack water punctuated by some swifts. Although it was only mid-day, we noticed that there was a lack of any sort of campsite in this stretch and wind became a small factor. It was unclear which direction the wind was blowing but it conformed to the path of the channel and was always on our nose. It wasn`t strong but it probably knocked our speed down by one mph. We ate lunch on a flat rock on a bend in this stretch.

At 3:00 pm we encountered an impressive set of rapids, which were shown on the topo map with the waterfall symbol. It was, in fact, a set of three small falls, each about 1.5 meters in height with standing waves in between. We felt portage was the only option but there was no trail so we scouted a route which was about 200 meters in length on the left (south) side of the river. This portage went through the woods over deadfall, through a dry creek bed over, more deadfall and finally over loose, jagged rocks down the shore. The boats got pretty scratched up and the whole thing took about an hour.

About one km after this we came on another set of rapids which we quickly scouted, then ran.

Two km after this we had to stop to scout another set of rapids, which had medium, sized hydraulics in the first drop. We put in to a large, flat, midstream boulder and scouted from there. Both shores looked impossible for portage or lining so we lifted the boats over the boulder; paddled across a 6 meter eddy; lifted over a gravel bar and put in at some manageable standing waves and canoed the remaining 300 meters of rapids. There were many rocks and tight turns but we made it through unscathed. The entire lift-over was about 25 meters.

Following this was a flat stretch for about 11 km with only a few swifts until we reached the next set of rapids. This was two sets of small drops over smooth rock about 100 meters apart on right sweeping bend created by a large flat outcropping on the right (north) shore. It was 7:30 pm and we stopped to camp for the night. There were two tiny clearings just inside the woods, which were just enough to accommodate our tents. The "table rock" itself was approximately 9 x 15 meters and had a weathered downed tree in it`s center which made a perfect seat to cook and eat from. The rock gently sloped into the river upstream so we all took baths in the river (this was to be our first and last bath before Moosonee except for Keith who jumped in at Newpost Falls).

Tuesday (August 7) 37 km

We departed camp at 8:50 am and immediately ran the two sets of adjacent rapids. These are about a half meter drop each and the best line was to hug the right shore (where we had camped) but the right bend was tight enough that it took some quick cross-draws from my bowman (Michael) to keep us properly aligned for the second set.

There were two more sets of rapids after this which were easily run without scouting and then, around 3.5 km from our campsite, we came to a set of 4 rapids which were about 200 meters long. We scouted this very closely and at first did not see a clear path through it. The only possibilities were along either shore because the central section was very rocky with many boulders in all the wrong places. The best line was so unclear that we had a split decision and Brian and Keith tried the far right (north) side, while Michael and I took the far left (south). Our path took us down a small chute hugging the rocky shore to a narrow canoe-wide channel in front of obstacles where Michael snapped a hard cross-draw to pull us hard left followed by a hard draw-stroke to pull us hard right then down a bumpy but gentle, narrow chute until we hit rocks just under the surface. Then there was a short lift-over some rocks and we were in the clear. Our route was not without incident because during the lift-over my feet went out from under me on a slippery submerged rock and I slipped in up to my neck. This was the closest I came to my second bath on the trip.

Keith and Brian had a straighter line hugging the right shore but ran into more submerged rocks and did a series of lift-overs before they hit clear water. The final 32 km, before the Newpost Creek diversion, were primarily slack water with occasional swifts but the last 8.5 km were flat like a pond but, fortunately, there was no wind.

Throughout the final 22 km of this section, there were no obvious camping spots and 3 km from the diversion the shore on both sides of the river becomes very mucky. Just before the marsh began there was a fly-in cabin (more of a tar-paper shack) on the right (east) shore about 50 meters set back into the trees. This did not seem like a good fishing spot so we assumed it was for hunting moose or bear.

We finished at about 8:30 pm at a wide stony-clay bench on the right (north) shore of the Newpost Creek diversion, right at the point of junction with the Little Abitibi. It was rapidly getting dark and there was only time to put up the tents but no time to cook, so we ate what we could grab, out of our food bag, and jumped into our tents just before a fast-moving thunderstorm rolled over us.

Wednesday (August 8) 28 km

Brian and I climbed out of our tents at 6:30 AM to see a very large (225 kilos?) black bear walking along the shore on the other side of the diversion about 100 meters distant. He crossed over to our shore without even breaking stride and disappeared into the bush. We made some noise and he looked in our direction but never slowed down. There were a lot of waterfowl in these marshy mud flats and he probably had made breakfast out of some of them.

We departed this campsite at 8:00 am and immediately entered the 3 km of man-made diversion channel. The first 2 km stretch is a straight, narrow canal with a swift current. The entire Newpost Creek runs at about 5 to 6.5 kph in the slow spots.

The first set of rapids is about 2.5 km downstream from the diversion entrance and occurs after a sharp right-turning bend. This was no problem but required vigilance for rocks.

Approximately 11 km beyond these rapids is the first major obstacle on the route (the second being Newpost Falls). This is around an access road bridge, which crosses the creek. The road comes from Fraserdale crossing the dam at Abitibi Canyon, crosses Newpost Creek and ends at the Otter Rapids Dam (on the main branch of the Abitibi and our ultimate destination).

Just before the bridge and around a tight blind corner is a dangerous hydraulic which sets up a large (almost geyser-like) standing wave. If an unsuspecting canoeist got swept into this they would only survive by luck.

We pulled in to the right (north) shore of a tight blind right-tuning bend composed of rocky outcroppings. We could not see either bridge or rapids but the noise of the standing wave was very audible. (CAUTION: If you miss this tight blind corner and find yourself toward the outside (left or south) shore of this bend, it will require advanced paddling skills (hard, back-ferry) to cross back over into one of the two eddies which are on the right shore just before the drop.)

After scouting, we hugged the right shore and canoed into the second of two large eddies, just before the drop. We pulled out here and portaged 150 meters over very broken rock, along the edge of the woods, to an eddy just in front of the bridge. From this point downstream the right shore is un-navigable and can`t be portaged because of a 5 meter cliff along the shore, so we performed an S-turn under the bridge to get into a narrow but long eddy on the left (south) shore. At this point the shore is a shelf of rocks averaging from 0.5 to 2 meters in diameter. We chose to line down this shore (a distance of about 150 meters) although, after the fact, we felt we could have probably canoed this section. After this we put in and, though the river was still flowing rapidly with small standing waves, the channel was open from obstacles.

We had one small emergency during this lining. When the canoe got swept into a small chute, the stern line jerked free, the boat swept past me, catching the boat on a rock, capsizing, filling and beginning to wrap the stern. While I held the bow-line, Keith and Michael quickly unclipped our gear and then Keith and I lifted the boat out of the water and up onto the shore. All of our gear was in 6 waterproof packs (split evenly between the two boats) and clipped into the boats by climber`s runners and carabiners. The portage, S-turn and lining took about an hour but we also had lunch here so we were at the bridge for about an hour and 45 minutes.

One final word on negotiating around the bridge. In high water conditions, the portage could be as long as 500 meters because you might have to pull out around the upstream corner of the blind turn (on the right shore) and carry the boat over the jagged rocks; up and across the bridge and down the rocky shelf on the left (south) shore, before it could be put back in the water.

After the bridge there were numerous swifts and one set of rapids which we were able to run without scouting. This last set of rapids was about 3.5 km from the Newpost Falls portage.

When we got to the Newpost Falls portage, there was a mother bear sitting on the sand bar at the take-out watching her two cubs swim in the river. We back-paddled upstream about 100 meters as she put her cubs up a tree and took up a defensive posture toward us. This standoff lasted a half hour before she collected her cubs and trundled off into the woods. It was now 6:30 pm and we took a quick look around hoping to find the portage trail but found nothing so we canoed back upstream about a half kilometer to another sand bar and set up camp. The only campsites we saw near the Newpost Falls portage were the sand bar at the take-out and the one we camped on. If the water was higher, both of these could be very soggy or submerged. However, we did note that there were numerous decent spots to camp all along Newpost Creek including at the final rapids 3.5 km upstream from the falls.

Thursday (August 9) 25 km

The portage starts just in front of a flat rock outcropping behind which the river starts a gradual decent to the main falls. This is on the left (south) shore. We started the portage at 8:00 am and on the first trip, carrying gear only, we never did find a trail. We just bushwhacked our way through the dense woods keeping the sound of the waterfall on our right until we eventually came on to the "tourist trail" which leads to the top of the main falls. This was at least a defined trail but very steep and slippery with some blow-down. A very heavy rainfall had started at around 8:30 am and was not letting up. After dropping our gear at the large gravel bar at the bottom we hiked back up for the first canoe. On the way back up we actually found what was considered the trail to the head of the portage. This was marked by 25 year-old blazes carved into the trees every 10 meters or so.

There was no pathway and much blow-down along this upper trail and it required constant re-scouting, after each deadfall, in order to stay oriented. It was so dense and rugged that we all took part in pushing and prodding each canoe through one at a time. Each canoe was carried, pushed, lifted over and shoved under along the course of this upper portage trail. The rain finally stopped at 11:00 am and we completed the 3 round trips (two for canoes and one for gear) at 12:30 pm. We ate a quick lunch and by 1:15 pm were on our way to completing the final leg of the canoe trip.

Newpost Creek empties into the Abitibi River (main branch) about a half-kilometer blow the falls. We got lucky and found the wind to be on our stern and were able to make about 6.5 kph with easy paddling. The Abitibi is a very broad river and if the wind was on your nose this would be a very difficult, if not impossible, paddle. If the wind was out of the north you might have to go upstream from Newpost to the Abitibi Canyon Dam for the take-out (If you are planning on catching the train at Abitibi Canyon, the railroad track is about 4 km from the river).

About 17 km downstream we encountered a fast-moving, violent thunderstorm, which forced us ashore. Following this there was a noticeable change in the weather both in wind direction and temperature. The wind started shifting around to the northwest and the temperature started to drop indicating a cold front was coming in. We now had to hug the left (west) shore to receive some protection from the changing wind direction.

We only saw one MNR marked campsite between Newpost and Otter Rapids and this was on the right (east) shore about 10 km downstream from the Newpost Creek mouth. About 3.5 km downstream from this campsite was a small vacant cabin (probably for hunting or fishing) on an elevated point on the left (west) shore. We started looking for camping spots when we were about 4 km from the Otter Rapids Dam, which included a collection of 4 islands 2 km from the dam. Finding nothing suitable, we ended up pulling out at the dam`s access road and camping there.

The access road comes down to the river on the left (west) shore 200 meters before the dam structure. The road is a 200 meter portage up a gentle slope to the road, which services both the dam and railroad track. The railroad track, itself, is only another 50 meters beyond the end of the river access road. The service road is the same road that crosses Newpost Creek (with the dangerous hydraulic) and which crosses the Abitibi Canyon Dam and eventually goes to Smooth Rock Falls on highway 11. This service road ends at Otter Rapids Dam. There is no road beyond this, heading north.

We had arrived at the Dam at 6:30 pm and the cold front was gathering momentum. There were lot`s of flat clear areas for camping around the dam area. We settled on what must have been a dumping area for timber forms used to construct the dam but there was good clear ground and things we could scavenge to sit on. This was just to the right of the junction of the river access road and the dam service road.

Otter Rapids Dam is a huge hydroelectric complex, which is totally unoccupied most of the time, as it was when we were there. When we settled in for the night the wind was blowing a steady 30 mph but the ground was heavy clay and the tent stakes held without problem.

Friday (August 10)

We took the morning to consolidate our gear and dry out wet clothes. The wind had calmed to 10 to 15 mph but the temperature was in the 50`s F. The northbound "Little Bear" mixed train was due to roll through at about 1:30 pm and around noon we hauled gear and canoes to the track crossing 50 meters from our camp. The local trapper, who lives in the woods on the east side of the dam, came by in his pickup truck and recommended we move a half kilometer up the track because we were on a blind turn and he didn`t think the train crew would see us in time to stop. He offered his services and we loaded boats, gear and ourselves onto his pickup and he took us up to where the "Otter Rapids" railroad maintenance shed stands.

I didn`t really see the purpose of the move until the train came into view. It had three engines, 30 to 40 cars (freight and passenger) and was roaring around the bend at about 100 kph. There was an old flag stuck in a pipe on the ground and the trapper recommended I pick it up and wave it until the train crew saw me. The engineer gave a short blast of his horn and started applying the brakes. It took the entire length of the train to bring it to a stop. The special canoe-carrying car was at the end of the freight cars but in front of the passenger cars and it rolled by us at about 50 kph. When the train finally stopped we were at the very back where there was a baggage car followed by a pusher engine and two semi-empty boxcars. That was the end of the train. The conductor and his crew were in the baggage car and instructed us to throw our packs in there and the canoes in one of the boxcars. We had no sooner done this when he ordered the train to start moving and we had to run along the baggage car in order to climb the iron ladder, one at a time.

At any rate, within 15 minutes we were in the dining car eating hamburgers and fries and drinking a beer. The train crew was very congenial and informative and when we got to Moosonee, the ONR Station-master secured our hotel accommodation and transportation.

Saturday (August 11)

We had left our canoes and food packs in the boxcar overnight because they were going to make up part of the train returning to Cochrane. We boarded the train at 8:30 am and had breakfast in the dining car. The train pulled into Cochrane station at 2:30 pm and we were met by our outfitter, for the shuttle to Timmins and our plane-ride home.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
42 H/10 Montreuil Lake 42 H/11 Island Falls 42 H/13 Fraserdale 42 H/14 Takwata Lake 42 I/4 Otter Rapids
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
42 H Cochrane
Other
Special Comments: 

Weather: Very Hot & Humid (upper 80s F). MNR fire-ban in effect. Cold front 5th day dropped temps to 60`sF.

Camping: Many campsites in the lakes but serious lack of decent campsites along the Little Abitibi. Many more decent campsites along Newpost Creek but lack of decent campsites along (main branch) Abitibi.

Portage: No obvious portage trails along Little Abitibi or Newpost Creek. Around Newpost Falls, there was the remnant of a trail marked by 25 year old blazes on the upper part and a more obvious trail in the lower part. In all cases, the wooded portions were full of blowdown and the open portions were loose jagged rock.

Skill level: The MNR rates this route ACBA and intermediate skill is required. You can do this entire route without the necessity of an eddy-turn or ferry but these techniques could be applied in some rapids.

Remoteness: There were half a dozen fishermen on Pierre and Montreuil Lakes but there were not even any signs of humans along the Little Abitibi or Newpost Creek. Our outfitter knew of only one other party who had canoed this system this year (2001).

Railroad: We used the Ontario Northland Railway`s "Little Bear" mixed train for transportation to Moosonee and back to Cochrane.

Comments

Post date: Tue, 06/29/2010 - 23:55

Comments: 

Does anyone have trip info north on the Abitibi into Moose River? We plan to put in around Blacksmith Rapids and canoe north into Moosonee. Info would be valuable.

Post date: Mon, 06/21/2010 - 23:02

Comments: 

Michel, We have now made this same trip twice. The first time it took us 7 hours but we hit increasing wind on Montreuil Lake that became big wind and whitecaps at Harris. The second time In September, 2007, we hit wind and whitecaps on Pierre and struggled to get to the broad and very nice beach on the northeastern shore. we sat it out until about noon until we could get moving again and got to our Harris campsite between 5 and 6. I would say on no-wind conditions it is a five hour paddle. That huge beach on the northeast shore of Pierre Lake is awesome, by the way. If you are setting up a camp on Pierre, set it up there.

Since Weyerhauser quit lumbering back in there, the road is pretty bad going in. We had to detour around a washed out bridge and the bridge over the Little Abitibi that flows into Pierre lake is crumbling. Still we made it without issues in a Ford Escape.

If you have any more questions, send me a note.

Neil
millerne5@yahoo.com

Post date: Fri, 03/19/2010 - 12:03

Comments: 

Thanks for the tips.. Myself and about 6 or 8 friends are going from Pierre to Harris this July. We're going for an easy paddle and lots of fishing time. How long did it take yous to get from Pierre to Harris?

Post date: Sat, 03/06/2010 - 18:39

Comments: 

Hi...Just wondering what the condition of Pierre Lake road is in...Is it easily drivable by a small car...or would one require a 4x4 truck?

Thanx

Post date: Mon, 08/10/2009 - 11:16

Comments: 

Thanks for the info! It will be put to good use.