Missinaibi - Lake Superior (Michipicoten) to James Bay (Moosonee) - CANOE AND SEA KAYAK

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
CanadaOntarioLake Superior basin
CanadaOntarioLake Superior coast
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
David Spindler
Trip Date : 
July 1 - July 28, 2017
Route Author: 
David Spindler
Additional Route Information
700 km
29 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

There really is no perfect/cheap way to do this trip the way we did when you are based in Toronto. There are no good trains that get you close, or practical busses that can accomodate your boats and gear. Denyse and Owen at Missinaibi Outfitters (705-364-7312) made our lives a lot easier, and were excellent sources of information throughout the planning process.

We drove from Toronto to Wawa via Sault Ste. Marie, and met Denyse and Owen at the information center in Wawa. From there, they followed our car to a put in point at the mouth of the Michipicoten River on Lake Superior (on the property of Naturally Superior Outfitters (called in advance to get their permission- they were totally fine with it). Naturally Superior Outfitters is very easy to find (especially if you use GPS), you just have to exit the highway towards Michipicoten and follow the signs. They have a great little shop there (and I believe accomodation) if you need to pick up some last minute gear for your trip.

After put in, Denyse and Owen took our car to their property in Mattice, with an agreed upon date to leave it by the river. We would meet our car midway through our trip and restock on food we'd left in the trunk. They would then drive it to Cochrane where we would meet it after taking the Polar Bear Express from Moosonee.

Technical Guide: 

Our route can be broken down into 3 main sections: The Uphill (Michipicoten River), The Flatwater (lakes), and The Downhill (Missinaibi and Moose Rivers). We more or less followed Hap Wilson's guide the whole way. The route we took was as follows Superior>Michipicoten River>Whitefish Lake>Manitowik Lake>Dog Lake>Crooked Lake>Missinaibi Lake>Missinaibi River>Moose River>Moosonee.

The Uphill
This part was tough. A lot tougher than we were expecting/prepared for. After a period of prolonged, heavy rainfall and the current was booming. We shoved off at around lunchtime, planning to make it to the first dam by that evening. It started off easily enough, but as we wound our way up the Mich, the current got stronger and stronger. We were in and out of our boats, often in nipple-deep water, just pushing our boats upstream. It was a good thing this happened early in our trip when we were full of energy, excitement, and adrenaline, otherwise we might have turned back. Every bend in the river we hoped would expose a dam instead offered another few hundred meters of more current to battle. We made it as far as we could and decided to camp for the night on a gravel bar. Camping spots were not overly plentiful with the high water levels, but we found one that worked great and settled in. We made it to the first Dam by late lunch on day two, after battling the toughest and by far most treacherous set of rapids just beneath the dam.

After the first dam, the current almost disappears. The hard part is over, and it was totally worth it to get our paddling arms back and shake the rust off (not to mention the feeling of accomplishment starting from Superior when all was said and done). The dam portages are moderate, starkly uphill but wide, easy roads to walk. Camping limited in this section of the trip.

The Flatwater
This part of the trip is beautiful and full of historical significance. Lots to see as you paddle through lakes with lots of remote cottages. Camping is extremely limited and not marked (as far as we could see). Most of the sites on Haps maps are grown over (or we just couldn't find them), and at one point we were forced by weather to seek refuge on the lawn of a beautiful cottage property. Portages between are generally well marked, some easier than others. This part of the trip is less remote, and depending on the time of year/week you may get boat traffic from the cottages. We spent a night at the Town of Missinaibie on Dog Lake. Not much there, but Ernie (who basically runs the tiny town) cooks a mean burger and served cold beer- a welcome reward after battling the Michipicoten.

The Downhill
There are much more detailed reports of the river, and I'd be happy to answer any detailed questions, but you can't go wrong following Hap Wilson's guidance. His detailed rapid reports are pretty spot on, but they are also ~25 years old, so it is work scouting anything above C1. We had exceptionally high water levels, so the rapids were a blast. Our weighty canoe took on lots of water, so we had to leave adequate time to bail the boat.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

NOTE: WE DID THIS ROUTE IN A CANOE AND A SEA KAYAK (group of 3 people). One of our foursome had to back out last minute and we couldn't find a replacement in time. We read a lot of warnings and couldn't find a good enough answer, so we decided to go for it. It worked out great. Other than the lack of storage space in a Kayak and the annoyance of portaging (we used the imperfect but adequate "Kayoke"), the kayak outperformed the canoe in rapids. Gave a different perspective on the water and worked different muscles. It was a welcome change rotating in and out of the Kayak.

Too long to type out a daily report. But overall, we made it to Missinaibie (Town of) on Day 5, Mattice on Day 15, and Moosonee on Day 29. No rest days, but some lighter days with less distance. Probably averages about 25km/day (significantly less at the beginning, much more on the latter river portion).

Feel free to reach out for details.

Special Comments: 

Message if you have questions! Happy to help!