Missinaibi River from Barclay Bay to Mattice

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Steven Mou
Trip Date : 
August 12 - 22, 2019
Additional Route Information
210 km
10 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
8490 m
Longest Portage: 
1500 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

From Chapleau, 80km gravel road to Barcley Bay.  Average driving speed:  45 km/h

Technical Guide: 

From Barclay Bay campground, 15km northeast to Missinaibi River.

280m P at Quittagene R.

300m P at Long R.

300m P at Sun R.

200m P at Barrel R.

300m P at Swamp R.

120m P at Deadwood R.

170m + 80m P at Allan Fall

130m P at Wavy R.

1300m P at Greenhill R.

490m P at Calf R.

80m P at St. Peter R.

350m P at Split Rock Falls

160m + 270m P at Thunder Falls

1500m P to Brunswick Lake

50m P at Pike Falls

70m + 210m P at Two Portage Falls

240m P at Pond Falls

90m P at Devil Cap Falls

600m P at Deil Shoepack R.

160m + 190m P at Devil Base R.

470m P at Big Beaver R.

110m P at Little Beaver R.

70m P at Sharp Rock R.

200m P at Glassy Falls

Exit at Mattice on river right after the bridge

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

After almost a year’s preparation, I finally started the trip in August.  Bernard from Germany came to Toronto the night before and joined.  It was a 210 km trip from Barclay Bay to Mattice.  We planned to complete it in 13 days (11 days on river).

Day 1, Aug. 11th

We spent the whole day driving 900 km from Toronto to Barclay Bay.  The traffic was mostly good until we reach Chapleau.  The last 88 km was all gravel and bumpy.  By the time we arrived, it was almost 8:00pm.  We car camped at Barclay Bay campground for the 1st night, getting ready to launch the next day.  We made arrangement with Missinaibi Outfitter who would come to pick up our car and shuttled it to Mattice when we were on the river.

Day 2, Aug. 12th

We hit the water at 9:00 am.  It was a beautiful sunny day with light south wind.  Since we travel north bound, it was a quite pleasant ride in the morning until later on the wind changed to west and gradually picking up.  There was a former HBC Post site on the route (according to the map).  We spend almost an hour looking for it but it was all bushy and we did not find the remains. 

By 2:00pm we entered Missinaibi River.  After 15 minutes paddling, we arrived at the river’s 1st rapid – Quittagene Rapids.  The water was pretty shallow and it was rocky.  We decided to take the 280m portage and moved on.  The next set of rapids was easy C1 Cedar Rapids which we quickly ran though.  We took a detour to Hay River, came back and found a camp site at around 181 km mark.  It was a nice site.

Day 3, Aug. 13th

We got up early and went back to Hay River trying to see wild animals.  It was cool at night and there was a thick layer of fog on the water.  We explored for about an hour but with no luck.  The sun came out and started to dissipate the fog.   We came back to the camp site and made our breakfast, then packed ourselves and continued.  While we were paddling in the morning, we saw a bear cub staring at us from the river bank then quickly ran into the bushes.

Our destination of the day was Peterbell.  It was about 20km away and we portaged Long Rapids, ran Sun Rapids and part of Barrel Rapids.  There were quite a few C1 rapids in between that we ran straight through with no problems. 

The campsite was on river left before the railway bridge but it took a while for us to find it because it was not marked.  We dreamed of going to a restaurant in Peterbell and having a nice dinner but all we found was a railway station and a couple of cabins.  The town was abandoned in 1975 and the houses were burned before people left.

Day 4, Aug. 14th

We spent two hours in the morning paddling through Peterbell Mash, wide and flat.  The first rapids we encountered of the day was Swamp Rapids where we stopped for lunch.  Then there was a series of smaller rapids until we reached Deadwood Rapids.  It was a rock garden and we carefully navigated through it.  30 minutes later we arrived at Allen Island.  We went around the island from the right side.  There was a log jam and one other portage.  But both were short. 

By 5:00pm, we came to Wavy Rapids.  There was a very nice beach campsite at the end of 130m portage.  That night we set up the camp fire on the beach.

Day 5, Aug. 15th

We played in the pool below Wavy Rapids in the morning, practicing eddy turns and ferry cross a little bit.  Then got packed and left the campsite at around 10:30am.  An hour later we arrived at Greenhill Rapids.  It was a combination of C1 – C3 rapids with a nick name The Graveyard.  We took the 1300m portage, one of the longest on the trip.  Then had lunch.   

Calf Rapids is a 650m C2 rapids in spring but reduced to a C1 rock-garden in summer.  When we found the portage sign, it was already couple of hundred meters into the rapids so we decided to run the rest with careful scouting.   We ran the next St. Peter Rapids as well where I made a major scratch at the bottom of my canoe.  After another series of swift water and smaller rapids, we arrived at Split Rock Falls and stayed there for the night.  The campsite was on top of the cliff overseeing the water rushing through the channel and making thundering noise, a quite magnificent scene.

Day 6, Aug. 16th

We got up at 6:30am and made our breakfast as usual.  After taping my canoe, taking some more pictures and enjoyed the view for the last time, we continued the journey.  It was all flat water paddling for the next 10km or so until we approached Thunder Falls.  There were open rocks on top of the falls so we found a shade and stopped there for lunch.  There was a C2 rapids shortly after the fall and we took the portage.

In the afternoon, we paddled another one and a half hour in flat water then took a detour on Fire River to visit Fire Falls.  15 minutes into Fire River, we landed and started to hike.  It was supposed to be a 10 – 15 min short hike to the fall but because the trail was not clearly marked on the map, we missed the turn and continued for about another 2 km before turning back.  The detour was originally planned for about an hour but because of the wrong way, it actually took more than 2 hours.  The fall was nice though which was a good paid off.  It was not as big as Split Rock Falls or Thunder Falls, but it was quite elegant, good place to swim.  Unfortunately we left our swimming suits in the boat.  We also saw an empty cabin along the trail, quite fascinating that it existed in middle of nowhere.

Up to this point, the weather was generally good every day with wind behind us most of the time.  However during the detour, it started to rain and continued on and off for the rest of the day.  We arrived at a campsite at the beginning of Brunswick Lake portage around 6:00pm.  It was small, bushy buggy and wet.  We quickly ate our dinner and finished the routine stuffs then went inside the tents.  It was the only night during the entire trip that we did not set up the camp fire.

Day 7, Aug. 17th

From here there were two choices.  People can either stay on Missinaibi River and paddle for the next two days with basically all flat water, or take the 1500m portage to Brunswick Lake then join Missinaibi River again through Brunswick River.  We chose the latter one because we heard it was a beautiful lake and there was a beautiful campsite on an island.

The portage took us about one and a half hour to complete because we had to do two trips.  After that there was about 500m marshy water to push through.  It was about 11:00am when we reached Brunswick Lake.  It was sunny with south wind again.  We saw a couple of boats fishing on the lake and wondered where they came from.  We paddled for about 8km with the wind and reached the island in early afternoon.  The campsite was empty.  We had our lunch and relaxed for the rest of the day, swimming, enjoying the sunshine or simply hanging around.  The campsite was indeed a good one.  It was flat, clean and spacious surrounded by the lake.  Some previous campers set up a tarp and left a chair along with plenty of firewood.  One more bonus was that we didn’t have to set up bear hang at night, so one less thing to worry about.  The time passed very quickly soon it was getting darker.  It was a pity to think that we had to leave the next morning.

Day 8, Aug. 18th

I got up at 6:30am, reluctant to pack.  Then I came up with a thought to combine the last three day’s schedule into two so that we could spend an extra day here.  Bernard liked the idea so we carefully re-evaluated our plan including checking the weather forecast and made the adjustment.  Now we have one more day to spare!  We decided to explore around by checking out other camp sites on the lake.  We paddled to two of them which were both beautiful.  We saw a team of ducklings swimming along the beach and two American eagles circling around and finally resting on the branches.  Good luck for the ducklings.  Another relaxing day, not too much accomplished.

The wind coming from south picked up in the afternoon and throughout the evening.  There was heavy rainfall at night as well.  It was time to leave.

Day 9, Aug. 19th

The wind changed to west at about 15km per hour in the morning and was expected to be stronger by noon.  We left the campsite at 9:00am and continued to travel north.  We zig-zagged 45 degrees against the wind and paddled along the east shore of the landscape as much as possible to shield some wind.  Where there was open water, the waves were high and we paddled hard.  By the time we reached the mouth of Brunswick River, it was about 12:00pm.  We saw another boat fishing there.  Later on we found out there was a road leading to the lake and people could drive here from Mattice.

There were a series of small rapids on Brunswick River, most of them were rocky and shallow but quite interesting to run.  The last one was Pike Falls and one had to portage 50m to by-pass it.  It was about 3:00pm and we finally had a chance to eat our lunch.

15 minutes after Pike Falls, we re-joined Missinaibi River.  Another hour of paddle, we reached Two Portage Falls where we camped for the night.  That was 58 km mark to Mattice.

Day 10, Aug. 20th

The the last three days plan was:  7km on day 10, 30km on day 11 and 21km on day 12.  The reason for paddling a long way on day 11 was there was no camp sites in between.  Knowing there was only a short distance for the day, we did not start until after 11:00am.  It was a bit cool in the morning with light northwest wind but sunny.  We portaged Pond Falls and Devil Cap Falls.  Right after that it was 1.5km long Devil Shoepack Rapids rated C1 and C2.  We scouted section by section and managed to run through the entire rapids.  By the time we arrived at Devil base Rapids where we were to camp for the night, it was only before 2:00pm.

The weather turned to cloudy after noon and was about to rain.  It was a bit buggy too.  We quickly set up our tents and since we had a lot of time, we decided to make hot lunch.  We had our lunch in the drizzle.  After that I went to my tent to rest and keep myself dry until it was getting dark.  Bernard walked around and made some firewood.  We did not make dinner due to the big lunch and lack of exercise in the afternoon.  But we still set up the campfire.

Day 11, Aug. 21st

It was going to be a long day so we started at 9:00am.  It was cloudy.  The northwest wind picked up from the day before and the temperature further dropped.  There was a swift before we reached Z-Drag Rapids.  The water was shallow so we had to get out of the boat and pull across the river and did a lift over on the left.  Then there was about 15km paddle with only swifts but we had to overcome the strong wind for most of the time.  We saw the lightening and heard the thunder ahead of us.  By noon time and just before the Upper Albany Rapids, we were caught in the heavy rain that forced us to stop.  While we were waiting in the bushes on the river bank, we took the time and had lunch.  Not long, the rain was reduced to drizzle and we moved on.

The Upper Albany Rapids followed by the Lower Albany Rapids were a series of C1 rapids with over 2km stretch full of rocks with some sections of low water that we had to wade through.  We carefully navigated along the zig-zag courses until we reached the end of Lower Albany Rapids where it seemed only one more rapids to run.  I wish we had scouted but I decided to run straight through instead, probably because this was the last rapids of the day and I just wanted to get over it.  Maybe I was tired at that time due to the rain and wind.  There was a two-foot drop at the bottom of the rapids that caught us off-guard and our canoe flipped.  Everything was in the water.  We floated with the boat (good thing is we tired up all our gears to the boat) to the calmer area downstream and turned the boat around in the waist deep water.  We did not lose anything but we were both wet.

The last 10km paddle to the destination of the day at Big Beaver Rapids was all flat water but we were cold in the wind.  The sun came out on and off.  We arrived at the campsite at around 5:00pm.  The first thing we did was to set up our cloth line to hang up our tents, and planned to start the campfire to warm ourselves up and make dinner but only to discover all our lighters were wet and did not work.  In somewhat dismay, I lay the lighters on the rock and crossed fingers to wait for them to dry.  Fortunately one of the lighters worked after 30 minutes so we quickly started the fire with the help of a fire starter.   We were completely warm after dinner and the rest of the evening was just as happy as before.  What a day! Now there was one more to go.

Day 12, Aug. 22nd

Big Beaver Rapids is a Class Four rapids with water rolling through its right channel.  We took a good view of its magnificence (which we did not have a chance the day before) then started the last day of the journal.  It was partially sunny with strong north wind.  The temperature was only 15 degrees day time high.  We portaged Little Beaver Rapids (C-II) and Sharp Rock Rapids (C-IV) in one carry because our food barrel was almost empty.  It was about noon when we arrived at Glassy Falls.  There was a beautiful campsite at the bottom of the falls with a big sandy beach.  When we were having lunch, Bernard was mentioning the only regret he had about this trip was that we did not see a moose.

The last 15km to Mattice were mostly flat water with a few swifts and C1 rapids, nothing significant except Crow Rapids.  It was also a C1 rapids but stretched about 500m and was rocky which needed careful navigation.  Bernard suggested we scout the last part of Crow Rapids and I was glad we did because there was a drop at the end too.

When we were approaching Crow Rapids, we saw a mother moose and its baby drinking water in distance.  The mother moose appeared very aggressive and tried to move towards us.  We paddled around on the other side of the river (the river was wide) to pass them.  As soon as the mother moose saw we passed, she ran into the bush but came back to get her baby, then turned around again to make sure we were no longer a threat.  Barnard took a lot of pictures.  By now he was satisfied.

We arrived at Mattice at around 4:30pm.  The weather was pretty nice when we got there.  The exit point was on river right after the bridge but it was not marked correctly on the map.  With the help of a local residence who called Missinaibi Outfitters about our arrival, we finally met Owen who drove me to his place to get my car.  We were back to the civilization!  The very night, we had dinner at O'Briens Classic Grill in Kapuskasing, a town 64km east of Mattice.

Day 13, Aug. 23rd

A day to go home.  After a good rest in a local motel, we spent the next 12 hours driving back to Toronto clean and refreshed.  It was a fantastic trip that will never be forgotten! 

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
The Adventure Map Series from Ontario Provincial Park, Missinaibi 1 & 2