Missinaibi River (Missanabie to Mattice)

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Laura Wheeler
Trip Date : 
August 11 - 21, 2014
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
265 km
Duration: 
11 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
15
Total Portage Distance: 
5500 m
Longest Portage: 
1500 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Medium
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

The public boat launch just west of the town of Missanabie: 48°18'52.2"N 84°03'42.0"W (on your left as you drive into town).

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Too see this trip log alongside the photos we took on the trip please go to https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152300284318240.1073741846.508943239&type=1&l=7cdbae32ff no account needed.

The river route; the Upper Missainabi (Missanabie to Mattice)
We'll tackle the 2nd half (Mattice to Moosonee & Moose Factory) another summer.
Terry drove up here last year for a week to research the area and the outfitters in order to plan this whole trip for us.

We headed to Terry & Isabelle's place on Saturday the 9th in the afternoon so that we could install knee pads in the canoe they were loaning us, sort out equipment, and load the trailer w/ equipment, bags & canoes. We all went out for dinner on Elgin St., watched a documentary about Easter Island on Netflix and hit the sack (we stayed at their place) in preparation for an early wake up call in the morning.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014
923 km drive

3:30 am alarm. Everyone was pretty quiet around the breakfast table as we had some coffee & toast before setting out at 4:30am. We stopped for second breakfast in Mattawa at Draper's restaurant & bakery for proper bacon & eggs mid-morning. Stopped in Cochrane for lunch at Subway which, btw, had the slowest kid EVER making my sandwich (literally counting out the number of olive slices he was putting on my sandwich) which they then overcharged me for & argued with me that no, they hadn't overcharged me until I had to pull out my iPhone calculator to tally it up in front of their eyes so that they would believe me. I don't recommend the Cochrane, ON Subway.
Arrived in Mattice about 4:30pm. Checked out the park & voyageur statue where we'll take out at the end of the our trip. Drove 2 mins. to the Mattice RV Campground & Cabins across from Shallow Lake. 20$ per tent w/ access to toilets, showers & a pool! We were the only tent there - it's mostly RVs. We drove back 2 mins. into Mattice (population 686) to the only restaurant; CJ's Bar & Grill. We mentioned our canoe trip to the waitress and she said "did you see the old Indian gentleman that just walked by? He was born on the river ... hang on, I'll grab him" and off she went into the street, coming back a moment later with an 84 year old Ojibway-Cree man named Fred Neegan. He told us about paddling the Missinaibi (tips), about his river guiding experiences & about his residential school experience in Chapleau as a boy (starting at 5yo) ... "It was worse than prison!" he said. They were only fed once per day and made to work the land/facilities most of the day. It was child labour he said - hardly an education. He wasn't allowed to speak his language or talk to his siblings who were also at the school. Really interesting (& heartbreaking) to hear it first hand. He also told us of a better canoe take-out for the end of our trip at a park on the North side of the bridge through town. We walked there after dinner to see it & there's a plaque there with Fred's name, picture & story installed by the city of Mattice earlier this year. Very cool guy! He spoke softly & with few teeth so was hard to hear at times. He sat with us all through dinner. 
After eating, and saying goodbye to Fred, we headed back to the campsite & I marked my waterproof adventure maps (http://www.chrismar.com/P05zMissinaibi1.htm & http://www.chrismar.com/P05zMissinaibi2.htm) with notes from Hap Wilson's book (http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/missinaibi-journey-to-the-northern/9781550464368-item.html) which was too big & heavy to take on the river. Although Terry made photocopies of each of Hap's more detailed river & rapid maps, laminated them & had them bound into a smaller map book that he brought with us.
Read 2 chapters of the book I brought with me & went to sleep.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 (day 1)
462 km drive to our put-in; Terry organized to have a shuttle driver (Missinaibi Outfitters;http://www.duenorth.net/missinaibi/main.html) come travel with us in our vehicle & trailer from Mattice to Missanabie & after dropping us off to start our trip they then drive our car & trailer back to Mattice where it will be waiting for us when we pull off the river at the end of next week.
Set our alarms for 6:45am. I had one last shower (the others showered last night) before our 2 weeks on the river. We each ate an apple to tied us over until breakfast & repacked the trailer after taking down our tents from last night. Owen & Denise - the owners of Missinaibi Outfitters - arrived at our campsite about 7:30-8am; Owen will drive us to Missanabie. We bought our passes for the Missinaibi Provincial Park & were off on our way about 8:30am. We stopped in Hearst for breakfast at McDonald's. Victor was not thrilled - he hasn't eaten a McDonald's meal in 10 years he says. Between Hearst and Wawa it poured rain much of the drive. We all tried to remain cheery about what this might mean for the start of our canoe trip. In Wawa, we had a look around Young's General Store which has all sorts of neat items & souvenirs before heading to the North of 17 Restaurant for lunch. 

~10 km of paddling.
We arrived in Missanabie town around 4pm. We quickly drove through the town proper (population 40 - 60) just to have a quick look and then headed back to a boat launch area that had some RVs & trailers scattered around. We got all our canoes & equipment into the water, took a group photo and said goodbye to Owen. We were off onto Dog Lake. We snaked around the arms of the lake, waving at a fishing boat or two and passing under a bridge or two for the road & rail line. We saw a bald eagle maybe 20-30 mins into our paddle (Vic spotted him first) with his female partner soaring close by.
We paddled about 2 hours; 10 km. Note that the rain jackets are out. It was warm as we put the canoes in the water, but then started to rain after our eagle sighting. We camped at the last site on Dog Lake before the Height of Land portage. The rain stopped more or less by the time we got to camp although it got windy late in the evening. It was a nice site with a campfire just up a hill of rocks from the shoreline.
Last year I was so jealous of the folding green "chairs" that Terry & Isabelle had brought on our Spanish river trip that I went out & bought a version on sale at Sail at the end of the summer. I made very good use of mine on this trip although they seem to be of lesser quality as the structural rods burst through the material & started falling out. When we do the Lower Missinaibi I'll purchase the MEC versions of the chairs that T&I have.
The tent sites were nestled back in the trees more. Vic & I brought a large 4 person tent - very roomy. Heavy too, but that's not so much of a concern on a canoe trip as on a hiking trip. Terry & Isabelle had a brand new 2 person, 4 season tent - very compact. The fire pit was up against a tall rock & the top had a flat ledge allowing us to place a pot of water to boil. We were all still stuffed from our large, late lunch in Wawa so we just ate some easy snacks for dinner instead of going into the full production of an actual meal.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 (day 2)
~21 km

We woke up a bit late; no one was eager to leave their tents w/ the rain falling. Vic swam quickly and got the fire going again. We put up a kitchen tarp for rain and decided to leave the planned pancake breakfast for a nicer day & make oatmeal instead as it's faster & simpler to cook.
Here's what a typical morning is like: Vic is usually first up (somewhere within an hour of sunrise) and he gets the fire going - he is our official fire man. Myself and Isabelle usually wake up shortly after. This might be TMI but it's part of the experience ... one of the first things I need to do in the morning is find a place to dig a hole so that I can go for a #2 (TMI? . . . ). Most of our sites did not have a thunderbox which meant finding soil suitable to dig a 6-8" hole to bury your waste. After suitably dealing w/ bodily functions & sanitizing my hands, I would go about getting breakfast on the fire with Vic. Breakfasts were Vic's & my responsibility to pack & prepare, along w/ half of the lunches. One of us would fill the big pot with water to set to boil over the fire. This water would then be used to make coffee, cook breakfast if needed, and then to wash dishes. Terry would join us by the campfire as we prepped breakfast and shortly thereafter we'd all eat. After breakfast, Isabelle would wash dishes, and sometimes I would dry. Then we'd all go about taking down our tents & packing everything away (Terry had often gotten a jumpstart on that by this point). When all personal and kitchen equipment was packed away, we would load the canoes, tie down equipment in the canoes if we had big rapids coming, and be off. Often we weren't leaving camp until 10:30 or 11am.
This morning we set of to finish Dog Lake & shortly came to the Height of Land portage which separates the Arctic & Superior watersheds. Until this point, the water was flowing south (against us) towards the Great Lakes. Once we portaged across 290m into Crooked Lake, the waters are all now flowing in our direction of travel towards James Bay. The portage was boggy & buggy as Hap's guidebook warned.
Once on Crooked Lake we expected the current to be with us, having crossed the Height of Land, but the wind was strong & blowing the surface water against us, resulting in a tough slog battling against the winds as we paddled up this long, narrow lake. It was cold (~10ºC), windy & rainy all day; hence no pictures until we made camp. We wore lots of layers but were soaked through all day long.
We stopped on an island campsite for lunch to eat wraps w/ sweet peppers, cucumber & baba ghanoush. The campsite seemed well used by some fishermen as it had a sign indicating their names & even some new looking leather shoes by the fire pit which had a nice grilled perched over it. No sign of the fishermen today though. We stood while we ate, to try & keep moving a bit to keep warm.
We continued on against the wind & rain down the lake. I spotted another male bald eagle up in a tree ... cool! I was surprised I spotted him as mostly I was keeping my head down to shield against the inclement weather. Reaching the end of Crooked Lake, we portaged 350m South to Missinaibi Lake. There was an abandoned snowmobile (looking pretty rough) at the trailhead. We are now in the Missinaibi Provincial Park for which we bought our permits before leaving (~10/person/day). There use to be a trail log to sign in a box at the Missinaibi Lake end of the portage but the box was missing its lid, & held no log, only garbage people carelessly left behind.
We paddled a couple of kilometres to Red Granite Point to camp. It's a nice site with a picnic table, a grill over the fire pit and a thunderbox (one of 2 times we'll have use of one on this trip; http://www.shopcurious.com/Images/Editor/thunderbox.jpg). The rain wouldn't let up, but Vic miraculously got a fire going, for which we were all very grateful. We crowded around the fire, just standing there in an attempt to dry the clothes on our bodies as much as possible. No use changing into dry clothes as the rain was still falling & then you'd have 2 sets of wet clothes. Nothing dried much, but at least we were warming up by the fire.
Terry & Isabelle were responsible for prepping & packing all of the dinners plus the other half of the lunches. This night they made a macaroni pasta w/ beef & tomato sauce for supper.
We all crawled into our tents fairly early as it was too wet to enjoy sitting out by the fire. That, and we were all keen to strip off our wet clothes & climb into our dry sleeping bags! We saw no one all day other than hearing a motor boat pass by as we made breakfast this morning. We saw a boat in the distance as we made dinner.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 (day 3)
~24 km

It rained most of the night last night. But we woke up to no rain & some sun with clouds (can you see some blue sky in this photo?). We laid some items out to dry on the rocks.Vic got a fire going despite all the rain and he made his famous pancakes & got coffee on the go ... very tasty; he made the pancakes with sour cream instead of his usual yogurt. 
It was only 8ºC according to our little thermometer ... cold!
The clouds moved back in as we prepared to leave camp. 
We canoed across the lake toward Fairy Point where Vic climbed some of the cliff faces leading up to Fairy Point to check out the very old and stunted jack pine & red pines growing there. He even picked up a small dead tree maybe two feet tall & twisted that he managed to keep track of through rapids & portages & he know has it laying on display on the lid of the piano at home.
Fairy Point has collections of pictographs that we took some time to spot & photograph. It was still quite windy & cool as we paddled on the large open lake.
We turned into Barclay Bay which is really just a long arm of the lake (not a bay per say). We thought the wind would at some point be a favourable westerly prevailing wind, but no - still in our faces! We slogged it up Barclay Bay to Mary Island where we stopped for a lunch of cheese & salami sandwiches & carrots w/ baba ghanoush. We spoke briefly in passing to some fisherman catching walleye & we spotted a paddling party of boys w/ 3 canoes at a camp site along the way. They didn't look like whitewater paddlers though, (judging by their flatwater canoes & the large cotton hoodies they were donning) so likely aren't headed to the river like us. In the afternoon we paddled past the Barclay Bay Campground on river right - we saw it from a far.
The wind was so demoralizing - so tough to paddle across the open bays with whitecapped waves & the wind blowing the canoe out into the middle of the lake. It drizzled on & off all day . . . where's the sun????
Victor picked a campsite river left of Steward Island,on the shore. We were all happy to be done a tough day of paddling against the wind in the damp cold. The campsite is nice, up on rocks - we even had a picnic table to eat at! Terry & Isabelle made a tasty alfredo pasta w/ bacon. There was a decent blueberry patch behind the rock in back of the canoe pictured here ... yum!
Our tent sites are sheltered by the trees further back from shore than this kitchen area pictured here, but a bit buggy. No rain as we cooked dinner & set up camp.
Here's what a typical evening consists of once we pull off the river: We unload all the packs & barrels from the canoes. The canoes get brought up on shore & turned over & tied to something sturdy if need be. Vic goes to work getting a fire going while the rest of set up tents, sleeping mats & sleeping bags inside. Most days we hang up ropes between trees or use rocks to lay clothing & equipment out to dry ... or near the fire. Once the fire's going, one of gets the large pot full of water to put on the fire to boil. One of us heads to the shoreline to pump water into everyone's Nalgene bottles w/ the filter pump. Once the water boils for about 10 minutes, everybody has a warming tea (and/or sometimes cup-a-soup). Terry & Isabelle set to preparing dinner, which we eat, after which Isabelle washes dishes which either I dry or we leave out on a log/rock to air dry depending on the hour and/or the weather. I take some time before or after dinner to write up everything we've done that day in the log. If the weather's nice we'll sit around the fire chatting, or reading our books until the bugs or the dark drive us into our tents for the evening where we might read a bit more before going to sleep.
We saw beavers swimming nearby our campsite. 
We've seen at least one eagle every day, as well as beavers, loons, ducks, ...

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 (day 4)
~19 km

Vic made another great fire this morning & we cooked eggs, bacon & toast for breakfast. We set out onto the lake around 11am. The sun was in the sky this morning but there was HUGE wind in our face again and white-capped waves. We pulled into "the narrows" - the narrowest section of the lake - and wanted to check out the old HBC post there, but the reeds were so thick through the narrows that we figured it would be tough to get close enough to shore. After the trip, I read online that there's not much left of the post to really see there anyways - so no big loss. The water was pretty shallow in the narrows & we had to get out to walk & pull the canoe along with us.
There are some big beaver lodges up here in Northern Ontario.
We stopped for lunch about 1.5km from the mouth of the river at the end of Barclay Bay (the lake) in a rocky area with a small beach nearby. Found a snake on shore as we pulled up, but he slithered away pretty quick.
Lunch was tuna salad sandwiches accompanied by a little catnap on the rocks in the sun as we had picked the side of a point where we were sheltered some from the winds that were against us all morning.
We got back out on the lake to battle the wind & waves to get to the end of the lake ... I thought my arms would fall off with the effort of it. At times we were paddling with all of our strength & it didn't seem like we were even moving forward at all, the wind was that strong!
The mouth of the river was a welcome sight, hoping the wind would be less of an issue. We were now on the Missinaibi River.
We quickly arrived at Quittagene rapids (CII, 200m). Hap's guide advised us to scout them first. The portage trail didn't give us a good look at the rapids so we walked along the rocks on the shoreline to get a view & pick our lines. We couldn't see any evidence of the submerged dam remnants the map mentioned. Terry & Isabelle went first & did a great job, eddying out after each rapid to get a good look at the next. We started well but got hung up on a rock river right at the bottom of the first stretch. Vic had to step out of the canoe to push us off the rock and jump back in quickly once we were moving again.
Another 2km brought us to Cedar Rapids (CI, 300m) which were fairly simple with some rocks to avoid in spots ... this river is FULL of large & small boulders scattered at random - they pop up out of nowhere even in the flatwater sections.
There were now a few different campsites to choose from over the next section of flatwater. I got out of the canoe to check one on river right before the Hay River confluence but it was not a very nice site, so we decided to keep going. Terry & Isabelle began to paddle around the right bend towards Hay River & Isabelle signalled to something swimming in the water ahead of us. It was a bear!!! Likely it heard me speaking loudly at the campsite down to the canoes on the river & Isabelle saw him get into the water on river right, just around the corner from where I'd been, and we watched him swim across to river left & crash through the reeds and into the forest. This was a bear very nervous about our presence and wanted to get away from us! Which we were A-OK with!
The next campsite river left before Hay River was not great either, so we continued to a site river right about 2 km after Hay River which was a nice spot up on some rocks.
At our site, while Vic got a fire going & Terry & Isabelle were setting up camp I tried my hand at some fishing w/ my collapsible rod and a floating lure that Howardpicked out for me to use trailing behind the canoe. I cast out from the rocky shore, and it didn't take too many casts before I had what I think is a Walleye on the line. Reeled him - he was about 2 feet long. I'd forgotten to grab my gloves or anything to kill him with so I called for Vic who came down from the tent set up he was working on. I held the fish up by the line (had no net either), saying "come help me ..." and the fish made a fuss, broke the line, fell in the water & took off - with my lure! I put on another similar lure that we had found along the shore the previous day & cast out for another 20 minutes or so but with no luck! 
I guess fish was not to be on our menu tonight  And the poor guy is stuck w/ my big lure in his gullet.
We went for a swim but it was short lived as the water is cold! Vic has been swimming most days so far, but the rest of us were waiting for less rain and nicer shores to swim off of. It felt great to get clean a bit, though.
Terry & Isabelle made butter chicken & rice for dinner. It was really tasty but I wasn't able to eat much of it as my stomach was not feeling well).
I got quite a sunburn on my face & back of my hands today; I had packed my sunscreen away this morning when there were still clouds about.
We relaxed by the fire looking out over the calm water. No wind. No waves. Lovely! We're all waiting to see a moose but so far the closest we've gotten is a pile of moose poop on the trail up to this campsite from the water's edge.
This site also has some blueberry bushes but they aren't quite ripe yet .

Friday, August 15th, 2014 (day 5)
~23 km

Woke up to 6ºC on the thermometer. Brrrrr!!! But the sun is out. Lots of mist on the river. We heard beavers and/or otters playing all night. I slept heavily last night and am still yawning this morning. But my stomach is feeling better which is a relief!
I only brought one long sleeve shirt & one fleece with me this year (in an attempt to pack lightly) but it's been cool so I've been wearing them all day every day. It would be much better to have a full set of clothing to wear while paddling & then another full set for at the campsite after. So need 2 of each next year so that I always have a warm, dry set of clothes to change into at camp at night.
Vic is making pancakes again this morning. We were planning to wait longer b/w pancake days, but he opened the kefir for breakfast yesterday & it was starting to leak all over the ziploc bag we'd placed it in. Vic decided better to just use it up by making the pancakes. The eggs that I had put in a Nalgene lasted well for the 1st two breakfasts (1 of pancakes & 1 of eggs & bacon). But the 500mL Nalgene only fit 10 large eggs instead of the dozen I wanted - and Vic used more eggs than he said he would for the pancakes. So next year I'll pack the eggs in a bigger Nalgene. We also had yellow egg holders (http://i.walmartimages.com/i/p/00/05/63/89/00/0005638900511_500X500.jpg

) that worked well to keep a second dozen eggs fresher for a little later into the trip. They still need a ziploc on them, though, even in the holders - just in case!
We set off around our usual 11am. About 3km in to today's paddle we hit the first rapids; 1 km of CIs at Long Rapids. They were followed by some unnamed CIs and then 0.5km of CII Sun Rapids, and finally some more unnamed CIs.
Next up was Barrel Rapids (CII, 450m). We were meant to scout them as Hap's guide says there are old bridge supports in low water. We pulled over river left just before the rapids at a campsite for lunch. The campsite was awful - closed in & full of mosquitoes. Had a muddy, steep path up to it. We were thankful it wasn't raining & that we weren't staying there long. We scouted the rapids from this spot across the river & saw no bridge supports. The fresh lunch foods were now gone and we were into the daily meal of cheese, salami & bread/crackers w/ some GORP for good measure.
All of today's rapids went pretty well. Vic & I got hung up on some rocks & we both had to stop out to shove ourselves off. There are some pretty shallow spots as well as great big boulders - some sharp - that sneak up on your canoe in even the easier CI rapids.
After 6km of flatwater, we spotted the train bridge at Peterbell. We pulled ashore to walk up to the train tracks. On our approach to the bridge, when we were still out of view, we had heard the train go past and were disappointed we wouldn't see an actual train pass. We all fondly remembered the train that pulled alongside us on the Spanish River last year in the pouring rain at just the right moment where we could see it from the river & the conductor leaned out to wave & blow his horn! After 10-15 minutes of walking up & down the tracks a bit, another train came along - a great big long & loud freight train. It was hilarious, actually, as both Victor & Terry had gotten down on hands & knees to place an ear on the tracks & both proudly proclaimed "I can't hear anything coming at all!". However this train conductor didn't wave, nor honk his horn for us.
We paddled down river a bit more - the surrounding land was quite flat for a long ways; the map indicating the whole area is a patterned spring bog (a rare ecosystem apparently). We had picked out a campsite indicated river right in a side bay of water off the river. We had to paddle through some thick reeds to get in there and were rewarded with a truly beautiful campsite up high on the bedrock overlooking the bay. Had a swim off the rocks - the water is still chilly, but it feels great to jump in & wash up. We got to a high of 23ºC; I was paddling in just a tank top under the sun! We saw no one other than the train conductor all day - it's pretty quiet on this river! We sat on the rocks looking out over the water while the chili cooked on the fire. The mosquitoes & blackflies came out in force at dusk, driving us into our tents to read (instead of reading by the fire). We could hear the numerous trains go by all evening & night; the train tracks are 1 km away at this point. You can hear them coming from way down the tracks from the West well in advance of them passing by right here.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 (day 6)
~26 km

Can't say I had a very good sleep last night what with the trains passing all night (with no forest really between to block the noise - just flat bogs. Also it rained most of the night too which is of course noisy on the tent.
Today was overcast skies with light misty rain off & on all day - hence not may photos.About 16ºC , but the wind is coming from the North again and it feels cold against us! We made toast, bacon & scrambled eggs for breakfast, using the last of the eggs. It filled our bellies & we set out about 10:30am. We started with ~9km of flatwater with the wind in our faces - tough paddling. It was all marsh so the wind was whipping across us. We ran Swamp Rapids (CII), some unnamed CIs and Deadwood Rapids (CI) before arriving at the logjam to the right of Allan Island. We chose the right side as the portage past the logjam was shorter than the portage past the falls on river left of the island. At the end of the 170m portage we stopped to eat our usual cheese/salami/bread camp lunch.
Just around the corner from Allan Island was Wavy Rapids, a short CII. It lived up to its name! The bottom had at least 3 or 4 large haystacks (standing waves) that we watched Terry & Isabelle go down first. We could see them really bobbing up & down like a roller coaster, hitting the first wave full on but skirting the rest to the right. Vic & I wound up (not purposefully) right down the middle of all the waves & each wave crashed INTO our canoe. We were swamped almost completely - had to be very careful as we paddled to the nearest eddy to bail our boat; the canoe was super tippy with all that water in it. Terry & Isabelle took on some serious water too, so I didn't feel so bad!
Another 5km of flatwater & a few short, unnamed rapids brought us to Greenhill Rapids which they say not to run b/c it starts with a tough CIII rapid and the portage is too far from the water's edge to let you scout or put in for the lower, easier rapids.
The portage is 1.3 km so once you go back for your 2nd load of bags and bring them we've all hiked ~4 km. It was a hard portage, starting with a steep, slippery incline. Then there were several trees down that we had to step over - wider than I could straddle. Another tree down that you had to scoot under (Victor crawled below it with the canoe still on his shoulders). It was hard work. Vic & Terry always portage the canoes and then go back for bags. Isabelle and I do two trips of bags/food barrels. At the end of the portage, a busted yellow canoe on shore reminds you WHY you do those tough portages.
Look at the mud from the portage!
It was a LONG day; 7:30pm when we were setting up camp. Down to 9ºC makes a chilly campsite. Beef stroganoff for supper (delicious) & it was a race to get dishes washed before it was totally dark!

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 (day 7)
~32 km

We woke to cold, clouds & misty rain. I made bannock for breakfast. I remembered burning last year's bannock somewhat so Vic & I found a nice spot at the edge of the fire where it could could through more slowly. It tasted nice enough but it was nowhere near enough food for the 4 of us. Strange since I used the same recipe as last year, but don't remember that problem - guess I should have reread the last trip log - I must have made a note of the small portions. I'll need to double the recipe to make enough for the 4 of us.
Packed up & set off & were greeted by blue skies opening up. It turned into a gorgeous, sunny day!
This morning we ran Calf Rapids (CI/II). At St. Peter Rapids (CII technical), which we scouted first, Vic's & my canoe scraped up & over a large rock at the bottom of St. Peter's rapids because we didn't push hard enough to get passed it on the right, plus some miscommunication about the line we had picked while scouting & what we were deciding to do on the spot in the rapids.
After some unnamed CIs, we came to Split Rock Falls with a 350m portage around them. Each portage is really three times the length written because each of us walks it the first time with a load (canoe/pack/barrel), then back to the start empty handed, and then a 3rd time across with the 2nd load of packs & gear. We took the opportunity to eat lunch at the campsite about halfway along the portage overlooking the falls.
Lunch was our usual bread, salami & cheese. Although Vic had snuck a pouch of sauerkraut into our food supply which we brought out at today's lunch. I laughed at him when he put it in there, saying "what are you planning to do with that?". But we quite literally grabbed a spoon and took turns eating straight out of the pouch, or some of us put it on our sandwiches. And we were all thrilled for some juicy, crunchy veggies in our diet, so I had to admit to Vic that the sauerkraut made a great addition!
Victor jumped in for a quick swim before we took off paddling.
We then paddled ~10km of flatwater to Thunder Falls where there were 2 quick CI rapids with the 2nd being VERY close to the falls - we took a right, shallow line to ensure we wouldn't miss the portage & go over the falls.
When we reloaded the canoes after the 160m portage, the reel from my fishing rod which was tucked up alongside my pack (it's a collapsible road) smacked the yoke of the canoe & broke off  No more fishing for me, I guess.
At the far side of the bay after the falls we saw the wreckage of a red canoe (just pieces) & a bag of clothes (see photo) strewn across the beach campsite river left. Makes you wonder about the story; did someone miss the portage & go over the falls (seen in the background)? You'd be pretty hurt - as evidenced by the wrecked canoe & the state of the bag that had carried those clothes.
A quick CII unnamed rapid followed, then ~7km to the Fire River campsite we picked out on the map; river right about 300m past the confluence of the two rivers. We arrived there at 7pm (already a late day) and could NOT find a campsite ANYWHERE!!!! Hap's map, which is 20 years old) did not indicate a campsite, but the Adventure Map (about 5 years old) did. 
Our choices were to either bushwhack a campsite there or continue 5km to the Brunswick Lake portage where both maps indicated there was a campsite at the start of the portage trail, to the right of the trail.
We opted to paddle on. Along the way we saw a beautiful, very dark coloured heron flying along the river after we startled it.
We arrived at the portage about 7:45pm (light was fading) but could not find any campsite to the right of the portage trail either - I walked up a bit to see if I could find one, but no. 
We got back in our canoes to comb the shoreline, looking for anything remotely campsite like. 20m up river from the portage (left of it, if looking at the portage path), just left of a small creek we found an unmarked, very underused campsite. It was either a makeshift site, or the remains of an original fur trader's campsite as this portage tomorrow into Brunswick Lake is part of the historic fur trade route to an Hudson Bay Company's trading post at the North end of the lake. It would have been a very muddy campsite if it were raining & so we thanked our lucky starts that it wasn't. It was too late to start making one of our pasta dinners (it was dark shortly after getting tents set up!) so we made a quick dinner out of soup & toast.

Monday, August 18th, 2014 (day 8)
~11 km + 1.5 km portage

This morning's breakfast was oatmeal & raisins. As we were eating, a hummingbird flew into camp - we think it was attracted by our red lifejackets next to shore b/c there certainly weren't any flowers for it in that site of dry mud. We haven't seen a single person since Barclay's Bay on Thursday morning; and even then only in passing. Another beautiful blue sky this morning but only 9ºC!
After breaking camp, we paddled 20m downriver to the start of the portage.
This was the hardest portage any of us had ever done. It was 1.5km (so 4.5km total walking distance). The 1st third and last third were shoe-sucking mud - to the knees in the last third & I could hardly get out. 
This photo shows me just before the end of the portage on my 2nd trip. On my 1st trip I was carrying a much heavier & larger pack, had my lifejacket on under the pack with water bottles & helmets hanging off of it, and 3 paddles in my hands. I fell over in the last stretch & had a difficult time righting myself b/c of the heavy pack. Then, only steps from the end, in this mud bog pictured here, I sank down to my knees & couldn't push myself out until Vic took my heavy pack off of me from the side. The paddles in my hands helped to push myself out of the deep mud pits so I kept a paddle with me on the 2nd & 3rd trip across.
Victor took his sandals right off near the beginning as they just filled up with mud.
There is absolutely no chance of keeping your feet clean or dry on this one - don't even try. The best you can do is walk in the brush beside, but that slows you down, scratches your legs if you're wearing shorts, and just plain isn't feasible if you're the one portaging the canoe.
In the middle of the portage is a section of higher bedrock which is a nice break from the mud. Someone has camped up here at some point as evidenced by the fire pit we saw. On a wet day that might be a better campsite than the one we had, but it's far from water access for cooking, etc. 
The portage is a historic fur trade route between Lake Brunswick & the Missinaibi River. How they did it, I don't know because we had the benefit of fancy 21st century camping gear & clothes and still found it very exhausting and tough. They wouldn't have had that advantage - heavier, bulkier boats, no quick dry clothing, no bug spray, heavier packs .... 
In all, it took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete the portage.
*** Note - you can choose to follow Missinaibi River instead of portaging into Brunswick Lake. But that section of the Missinaibi looks fairly uninteresting with mostly flatwater.
Hap's guide said we might have to bog push the canoe through to the lake, but we were lucky that there was JUST enough water in the bay that we could paddle through the lily pads; only having to walk & push the canoe a few steps to start.
We thought we might see a moose here, but no dice (we have seen moose & bear tracks over the last few days though in our campsites & along the shores).
Exhausted from the portage, we paddled 1.5 km to a nice rocky spot on the shore for our usual cheese & salami sandwiches. Terry & Victor jumped in the water fully clothed to get clean of the mud from the portage.
We paddled further into the lake and found 6 islands close together - and surprisingly each one of them had a single person on it. Once we realized that they were all occupied, we started to get nervous and think that perhaps all the fishermen from the lodge further up the lake were out occupying the campsites. Our plan was to take the furthest campsite on the lake, but now we were thinking that we might get there to find it occupied & and be out of luck with the next one too far away down the river after the lake.
So we pulled up next to one of the islands and struck up a conversation with the young British guy there and it turns out they are an Outward Bound group (http://www.outwardbound.ca/results.asp?CourseRID=276) that were doing their solos (48 hours in isolation) so they were each on a different island. He reassured us that they were just using that cluster of islands - none of the ones further up the lake. 
Phew!
There were three more campsites further North up the lake to choose from and we decided to check each as we went; each one on an island. 
The 1st island we camp to didn't immediately show a campsite, but we paddled in a circle around it & found the sign on the far side with a very overgrown takeout - looked quite unused. Vic & I walked up to find a small campsite with room for one tent only really, and that same space had the fire pit in it. 
We decided to pass on that site.
We arrived at the second site, a smaller island. The campsite was nicer with a little more room and a beachy area (where we could have put tents if needed - but we left our canoes there instead). Victor's and my big tent required cutting down a weedy bush or two, and even then we had to set it up in a spot that blocked the walkway between the beach & the kitchen, beside which Terry & Isabelle had put up there tent. We decided to leave the screens at either end open, allowing us to use it as a walkthrough - the moss at either end making a nice touch to wipe off any sand or dirt before you trek it into the tent.
The beach was perfect for swimming / washing ourselves once we removed the dead fish lying on shore. Vic moved it to a nearby rock where a seagull promptly resumed its meal.
We arrived at camp by 4pm which was a nice change after 2 long, late days before this one. We took time to swim & scrub ourselves.
Dinner was spaghetti.
It reached a sunny high of 20ºC today AND we had the wind at our backs (for a change).
You can see here that we took full advantage of the nicer weather to string many things up to dry!

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 (day 9)
~30 km

We had some rain overnight but none as we woke up. Our little island campsite was pretty cozy - JUST enough room for the 2 tents.
I made a double batch of bannock for breakfast - that was enough to fee the 4 of us this time (we had some extra breakfasts just in case & were pretty sure at this point that we wouldn't be needing them). 
We took off down Brunswick Lake and after 4.5 km passed the last campsite on the lake (which would have assured us a shorter paddle today) but we were glad not to have come to this one; it was large, but quite barren and nothing like the lovely swimming beach we had. It also had a fair amount of garbage on it - this one must be used often by fishermen from the lodge which is just up around the next bend from this island. Another reason we didn't chance coming down to this last campsite is that it was on Hap's map from 20 years ago, but not the Adventure Maps which are newer. In the end, though, Hap was right - just like he was right about there being NO campsite back at Fire River.
Let's take a time-out to talk about garbage; beer bottles, plastic pop bottles, cigarette packages , cans (beer & pop), broken camping equipment, old pots, etc. .... we've seen it all on this trip even in this remote Northern provincial park. Who does that? If you're out here canoeing (and there's no motor boat access to most of these campsites b/c of the rapids) don't you love nature? And bottles of Pepsi are HEAVY - who wants to carry them on portages? I just don't get it. And while we're on the subject of garbage, let's talk poop! We found human poop not 2 feet from a portage trail & campsite with toilet paper too, all sitting atop a bed of moss in plain view from the trail. If you're going to come this far into the backcountry, you need to know how to bury your poo when there's no thunderbox. It's just gross to leave it in the open right next to the trail!
Ok, back to Brunswick Lake! We passed the fly-in lodge near the end of the lake, but it didn't look like there was much going on there (it is a weekday after all). There is one other cabin across the bay from the lodge & that's it for this entire big lake.
Finally we reached the mouth of the Brunswick River where we had 4 runs of CI rapids down a very narrow river (so fast water). At one rapid a tree had fallen across the entire expanse, so we had to do a liftover next to some rocks on the right.
We rafted our canoes together to eat our usual lunch food on the water as the shores were not presenting any nice rest spots. You can see Terry serving up the cheese here.
We passed under a road bridge (the 1st road bridge we've come across; the 2nd bridge total, the other being the train bridge at Peterbell). But no cars or people. We really haven't seen anybody but the Outward Bound group at all.
Then the Brunswick River fed us back into the Missinaibi River after a short 50m portage around Pike Falls. I'm glad we didn't stay on the Missinaibi, even though the Brunswick Lake portage was grueling, it's been a nice change of pace and the map doesn't show much excitement over on the matching section of the Missinaibi.
We've seen at least 1 bald eagle every day and yesterday & today we saw a heron as well. 
Vic & collected some driftwood at the bottom of Pike Falls, knowing that there were no rapids or portages before our intended campsite for tonight. The driftwood is great for firewood. Although pretty much every site has had access to enough dry wood fallen in the area that Vic would not have had a problem without the driftwood; one of the advantages of being on such a remote route is that the sites aren't stripped bare of any firewood for miles around. 
Another 5 km after Pike Falls we arrived at Two Portage Falls where we camped for the night - a nice site but lots of garbage again. 
Pictured here you can see the signs that the provincial park posts to indicate the portages (yellow top) and campsites (orange bottom). Although a few have been missing along the way.
These are Vic's & my packs; everything that is not in a dry bag goes into Vic's pack on the right which is a drybag unto itself. Everything else, packed in their own drybags, goes in my pack on the left. So really they're just OUR packs because our gear is mixed up between the two.
Isabelle made butter chicken & couscous for dinner.
We can hear the falls from our site. It spit rain on & off all day. The bugs were worse today too on the river (blackflies) and at camp (mosquitoes).

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 (day 10)
~37 km

We had a short-lived, but hard rainfall overnight - none as we woke up luckily. Overcast all day. We had a big day ahead of us with 7 km containing multiple rapids & short portages, but then no campsite for the next 30 km after that. Vic woke up early & got the morning fire started. We had oatmeal w/ raisins for breakfast again. Brought our things down to the beach just below Two Portage Falls so that we could run the CII there. About a kilometer past the CII, Isabelle spotted a large moose on river right. Vic and I were already even with her but hadn't spotted her from across the river until we heard Isabelle trying to quietly tell us about her with scaring her. We watched her for probably about 5 minutes, with me taking photos. She turned her head to look behind her a few times and we said "she must have a calf ... but I can't see it!" and we looked up and down the shore for the calf. No luck. But once the moose got tired of looking at us, she turned & quietly walked up into the forest, the calf (which now that we know where to look we can see in the photo here on the right) moved & we finally saw it! Seems crazy now that I look at the photo and the calf is right there that we didn't spot it for at least 5 minutes! Finally - a moose sighting - we were all very satisfied. We've been very lucky w/ wildlife sightings being so plentiful up here.
A few kilometers later we had 2 more short portages in a row around Pond Falls & Devil Cap Falls. We could tell that we're getting closer to civilization by the amount of garbage left in the campsites along these portages.
I think many of these sites were now accessible by ATV trail, being closer to town, and used as party spots by the locals.
The portages were followed by Devil Shoepack Rapids (CI/CII; 600m) and Devil Base Rapids (CI). Next up was Devil Base Falls which Hap described as a ledge with a CII line down the right side. We scouted & chose to run the top, eddy out river right & the men lined our canoes down the bottom ledge; even on far RR the ledge was still significant. We pulled over to a rocky outcrop on shore not far after to eat our usual lunch.
Then we set off for Z-drag Rapids which almost lived up to their name (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-drag

). Hap says it's a CII - it looked mostly like a ledge across the whole river to us but we saw a tight route down the right side requiring tight turns to not hit a rock face head on.
*** Hmmm ... perhaps Hap mixed up his description of Devil Base Falls & & Z-Drag? B/c this one is a ledge w/ a CII down the right side, but the falls didn't look passable to us without lining.
Victor & I went first & were lucky to get through OK without more than a few scrapes against rocks; we managed the tight turn to the left to avoid slamming the bow into the rock face on RR. We ferried across the bay & Vic climbed up on some rocks beside our canoe to get a better view of Terry & Isabelle's run.
They started their run & then seemed to have stopped halfway; we were thinking they'd eddied out. Isabelle waved Vic over & he said "they need our help". He hopped back in the canoe & we rushed across and back up along the rocks along shore to them. Their canoe was pinned against a rock & full of water (http://www.myccr.com/preparation/pinned-canoes

); both of them were out of the canoe & standing next to it trying to unpin it. Luckily it wasn't too badly pinned, the water was shallow enough to stand in, & the current was not a torrent. 
Victor took Isabelle's place at one end of the canoe & he and Terry managed to pry the canoe off the rock w/ some brute force. They then lined it to shore where we unloaded all the bags & gear so that it could be overturned to dump the water; Terry & Victor did that on a small sandy spot nearby. Terry decided to then solo the canoe down the last turn around the rock face so that we could reload in the eddy below. He made it around the tight turn, but bumped a rock on his left while he was leaning right, the right gunwale dipped under & he dumped, swamping the canoe once more. He pulled the boat over to shore and I got in the water to help him overturn it to dump the water again. We walked it over the eddy where we reloaded the gear & they got back in. 
Phew! Quite an adventure. Adrenaline was pumping.
After a short CI we had 15km of flatwater & swifts to relax a bit & calm down from the excitement.
At the confluence with the Mattawitchewan River, the river was strewn with boulders EVERYWHERE! What a sight!
The swifts weren't fast, but it was very technical picking our way through the rocks. Then we had 2 km of Albany Rapids which were lots of fun. We finished (tired) with 11km more of flatwater. I have to say that by the end of the 37 km my arms & shoulders were aching to the point where I could hardly paddle.
We camped at Big Beaver Rapids (CIV) - near the start of the portage up high on rocks overlooking the chute. Tons of mosquitoes at this site b/c there is some standing water in the area. I covered myself in DEET for the evening.
Vic, our fire man, got the evening fire going. Here he is getting water down by the water's edge to bring up to our campsite for tea & cooking dinner.
Isabelle made beef stroganoff. Here's a look at what the dinner packages look like; pasta, a powdered sauce pack, dehydrated meat & dehydrated veggies (onions or sundried tomatoes, etc). Often dinner starts by rehydrating certain portions (sometimes it can just rehydrates while it's cooking). The dinners have all been very tasty! We hung around reading for a while but the mosquitoes drove me into our tent early enough (that & my exhaustion from such a long paddle).

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 (day 11)
~22 km

We got up earlier again today. Heavy rain overnight and it's overcast this morning. We at oatmeal & raisins for breakfast ... again. Took down camp for the last time ... today is the final paddle into Mattice.
We portaged the gear the rest of the way around Big Beaver Rapids from our campsite. Lots of evidence of ATVs around here. There were more campsites alongthe portage too but muddy ones. Loaded up and immediately ran a short CI and then Little Beaver Rapids (CII technical). Then 2.5 km of flatwater until a 70m portage around Sharp Rock Rapids (CIV - well beyond our ability). We got out at the portage sign. The path was precarious; the path sloped down towards the water, making it hard to walk while loaded with a heavy pack. Halfway along, the path dipped back down to water level where there was a rocky flat where it would have been much more agreeable to take out the canoes & gear - so go around the bend to that point instead!
Just after Sharp Rock Rapids we found this male bald eagle having lunch on the shore while his female companion stood guard on the big boulder.
Then it was 3km to Glassy Falls with a 200 m portage RR - but no sign to indicate the pullout spot - keep your eyes peeled. The end of the portage lets out onto a campsite and a beautiful sandy beach.
It was on these rocks on the right that I fell flat on my face bringing bags over to the canoes at the end of the portage. I had a very tall, heavy pack on my back, and I stepped between two rocks and my foot got wedged causing me to tip over like a tree onto my front. My saving grace was the smaller pack that I had put on my front - it cushioned my fall and saved my face from slamming into the rocks. Terry & Isabelle, trying not to laugh as I was sprawled on the rocks unable to get up, came over & lifted the heavy pack off my back so that I could right myself. Just a tad embarrassing!
We stopped here for our usual lunch - even found a picnic table at the campsite which we hauled down to the rocks - so civilized! 
The last 15kms were a mix of flatwater, swifts & CIs with the final set being Crow Rapids; 500m of technical CIs. Vic jumped in the water straight out of the canoe for one last swim at a calmer spot.
The early Cree & Ojibway gravesite was mismarked on Hap's map - it's actually in the last left bend (RL) before Mattice.
We also passed over a pipeline just before Mattice, judging from the faded signage we saw on both shores.
We passed under the Mattice road bridge & train bridge which are side by side & pulled off the river at the small beach RR in the municipal park / camping just after the bridges. We unloaded the canoes & while Terry & Vic tied the canoes to the trailer, Isabelle & I walked up to the corner store to get ice cream for everyone. 
We saw Fred Neegan (the 84yo man who sat and chatted with us during dinner the night before we started) sitting on a bench by the main road. We stopped to chat & tell him about our trip. 
Drove into Kapuskasing that night & booked a couple of nice rooms at the Super 8; it was the newest hotel in town & they only had suites left, but w/ Vic's military discount the suites came out to more or less the same price as the Comfort Inn which didn't look as nice. Plus this hotel includes hot breakfast tomorrow morning.
We spent an hour getting ourselves cleaned up - I spent 30 minutes in the shower scrubbing just to get all of the dirt off of me!
We went to Le Kaprice for dinner; a nice restaurant on a shabby looking side street. We all started with a salad as we were keen for some fresh vegetables after 12 days of dehydrated, dense foods. Dinner was lovely & we all started to feel our bodies relax and were becoming aware of how truly tired we were; muscles revealing aches & fatigue that we weren't willing to admit to while still on the river.
Back at the hotel, I fell asleep mid-chapter while trying to read my book.

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

We woke up at 6:30am. I shaved my legs for the first time in 2 weeks and went down to the hotel lobby for breakfast at 7:00; eggs, bacon, toast, waffle maker, etc. Had my first coffee in 2 weeks as I don't drink it on the trip in an attempt to reduce the number of pee stops I need to take each morning in the canoe.
We were on the road by 7:45am.
We stopped at Gilli's truck stop diner in New Liskeard for lunch.
No roadtrip is complete without a photo of one of the giant animal/fish statues that line the highway. This one was in Marten River, ON.
We arrived back in Ottawa about 6:30pm and we stopped for a dinner of Pho at the New Mee Fung before getting back to Terry & Isabelle's where we unloaded our gear & said our goodbyes after an intense 2 weeks together.

WHAT A TRIP! 

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Adventure Maps by Chrismar: Missinaibi 1 & 2 http://www.chrismar.com/P05zMissinaibi1.htm (Dog Lake to Barclay Bay)
Other Maps: 
Hap Wilson's "Missinaibi: Journey To The Northern Sky: From Lake Superior to James Bay by Canoe" http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/missinaibi-journey-to-the-northern/9781550464368-item.html (includes hand drawn maps). Adventure Maps by Chrismar: Missinaibi 1 & 2 http://www.chrismar.com/P05zMissinaibi1.htm (Dog Lake to Barclay Bay) http://www.chrismar.com/P05zMissinaibi2.htm (Missinaibi River)