Missinaibi River - Peterbell to Mattice

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
146 km
10 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
6270 m
Longest Portage: 
1400 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Town of Peterbell by train
Start on Missinaibi River at Peterbell
P 200 m R around Swamp Rapids
Two rapids (CBR)
P 135 m R around Deadwood Rapid
P 310 m R around Allan Island Rapids
P 200 m R around Wavy Rapids
P 1400 m L around Greenwood Rapids
P 550 m R around Calf Rapids
P 75 m R around St. Peter Rapids
P 100 m R around rapid
P 275 m L around Split Rock Falls
P 180 m R around Thunder Falls
P 200 m R around St. Paul`s Rapids
P 150m R around rapid
P 250 m R around Two Portage Falls
P 200 m R around Pond Falls
P 125 m R around Devil Cap Falls
P 590 m R around rapid
P 185 m R around Devil Shoepack Falls
Rapid (cbr)
P 70 m L around Devil Rapids
Rapid (CBR)
Rapid (CBR)
Rapid (CBR)
Rapid (CBR)
Albany Rapids (CBR - some lining / wading required)
P 450 m L around Big Beaver Rapids
P 135 m L around Small Beaver Rapids
P 65 m L around Sharprock Rapids
P 175 m R around Glassy Falls
P 250 m R around Crow Island Rapids
Finish at town of Mattice

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Missinaibi Trip LogBy: Keith Sinfield
Start: Barclay Bay on Missinaibi Lake accessed from Missinaibi Park road.
Day 1 (Sep 24)
We(Ron, Bill, John and myself) arrived at Missinaibi L. at 12:30pm. Winds were strong from the SW and there are whitecaps on the lake. Sails were rigged from poles and a small tarp but had to be repaired several times. We sailed the lake in 2 1/2 hrs only losing 1 hat. Camped at the bottom Quittagene Rapids and was able to run the rapids with empty canoes.
Day 2
We woke to a cool grey day and back on the water by 8:45 am. Saw a large bear and a few geese during the day. The rapids were either run or lined with no problems. There are a few small rapids not marked on the maps but they are run also. We camped at 4 pm at Peterbell on the left bank just up river of the railway bridge. Trains running every hour all night!
Day 3
Woke to a slight mist on the water and we launched canoes by 9 am. Peterbell marsh is huge! There are very few campsites in this area due to the low ground. This area should be loaded with moose and geese but all the wild rice has been eaten and the waterfowl have moved on. We did see one bull moose though. Deadwood and Swamp rapids were run but Allan and Wavy rapids were portaged. The west side of Allan Island is choked with logs and is impassable. The campsite at Wavy rapids is excellent and we had fish for supper.
Day 4
Woke to another grey day. We were on the water by 9:30 am and paddled for an hour in a misty rain. The Greenhill portage was long and "greasy" with mud. There is a fair climb to it and the entire portage took 2 hrs as we did 3 trips. "White man carry too much junk" is a phrase that comes to mind now. Calf and St. Peters rapids were run without too much trouble. Off the water by 4:30 pm and camped at Split Rock Falls in the middle of the portage overlooking the falls. Very impressive! A person could shoot a whole roll of film just in this one spot.
Day 5
There was a light rain all night and woke to a cold drizzle/snow. On the water by 9:30 or so and had a hot lunch at Thunder Falls. Another great falls. We camped at the start of the trail into Brunswick L. It is a small site but better than anything else around.
Day 6
Woke to a cold day with snow on the tent. On the water by 9:00 and canoed all day in a mix of light snow and sunshine. There were only a few small rapids and they were run easily. We camped by 4 pm just north of the bridge crossing the Missinaibi R. We met 4 bowhunters from Niagara Falls hunting moose but they had no moose yet. There are very few campsites in this section of the river.
Day 7
This morning the sun is out! It is still cool with ice in our cups. On the water by 9 am with a strong wind behind us. There is a nice campsite at Two Portage Falls but we continue on. Did a total of 5 portages today and set camp at a road`s end at the river appx. 3 km upstream from Albany rapids.
Day 8
This morning is wet but warmer. Had a cold breakfast and on the water by 9:30 am. Albany rapids is wide with large boulders just under the surface. It is like sneaking through a mine field with these rocks waiting to surprise you if you`re not paying attention. There is some impressive canoeing in this stretch of river with the fast water, rivers entering and the scenery. Camped at Grassy Falls which has a great site with sand beach. Sadly, it can be reached by road so it has a lot garbage around. Rained all day.
Day 9
We woke to a layer of snow. Everything is frozen; tent, fishing rods, canoes, lifejackets and packs. Light snow in the air (at least it`s not raining). The tent rolls up to a package twice the size of when we started. Crow rapids is a tricky set of rapids as it starts out easy enough but at the bottom, the route is not clear where to go. We all manage to run it without filling with water. Arrived in Mattice about noon with heavy snow in the air. Everyone is cold and happy to be off the water. We pulled off the river in the park just north of the road bridge and had lunch at Nancy`s restaurant. There is a set of trip diaries of the river at Nancy`s and they are definitely worth reading. The food is excellent too.
The trip was done late in the year with higher than summer flows so more rapids were run than would normally be.
The length of the trip should be 10 - 11 days to allow for weather delays.
The northern half of the river has very sharp rocks in its riverbed and a fragile canoe such as canvas covered or stripper types would be subject to a lot of cutting action. We found several good quality canoes smashed to pieces along the route and it reminded us of our fragile successes at whitewater canoeing. Complete repair kits are a must.
Bring lots of film!
There it is for what it`s worth.
Keith Sinfield
Missinaibi River Trip – July 28 – Aug 5, 2001

Crew was as follows:

Carlo Drudi (diarist)
Zachary Drudi
Dan Hoppe
Mike Stewart
Glenn Sweazy
Jonathon Tillger

Note: Headings refer to number of days on the river, campsite name and kilometres to Moosonee (from Hap`s book).

Day 0 – Peterbell crossing, 491km

No paddling today, just a bunch of shuttling and the train ride in to Peterbell. When we got to Mattice, we discovered that the shuttle vehicle to take us the 4 hours to Folyet was a pickup truck with a king cab.

The gear and canoe fit fine, but there were 7 of us (including the driver) so the drive felt longer than it should have. Couple of last minute replacements needed to be made as we forgot the margarine and veggie dogs, the margarine was replaced at the variety store in Folyet, but veggie dogs are rare to come by in Northern Ontario. The train arrived on time (apparently this was not normal) and after a quick load, we sat down in our seats to relax. Getting cold beer served as you trained it to the put in was a very cool experience, must do that again soon.

Day 1 – Wavy rapids, 470km

Breakfast was a disaster. Hash browns. Two problems, 1) one of the MSR pumps leaked fuel and turned into a raging fireball. Luckily an explosion was averted by dumping the whole thing with water. The second problem occurred when the other stove refused to boil properly and we waited over an hour for a breakfast of a few forkfuls of potatoes and onions.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, we did notice that the water level was fairly low. We camped at Wavy rapids and ran the boats through empty. A fun ride through a straight forward C2. It might be trickier in high water, but it was fairly easy. Dinner was Mike`s famous Chicken Satay and it more than made up for the breakfast disaster.

[See below for a photo of Wavy Rapids]
Day 2 – Split Rock Falls, 450km

Everyone was nervous and excited as we planned to do the infamous Greenhill rapids. Unfortunately, the low water levels turned this rapid into a long, arduous set of lines. We took Hap`s advice and lined the upper set of C2s, which turned out to be a mistake as this was the only runnable rapid in the whole set!

We camped that night at Split Rock Falls, which was a very beautiful site.

[See below for a photo of Split Rock Falls]

There was excellent swimming in the canyon below the falls. Dinner was steak for the omnivores and soy nuggets for the vegetarian. We saw the Northern Lights and Johnny made his first (and arguably his best) loaf of bread. True, he used Baking Soda as the yeast had not turned up yet, but the novelty of a fresh Date/Nut loaf in the wilderness more than made up for the substitution.

[See below for a photo of the famous Date / Nut loaf]
Day 3 – Thunder Falls, 440km

A short day, 11km or so. Arrived into campsite fairly early, around 2pm. Pretty good swimming at the base of the falls. It was a nice open campsite with plenty of room for 3 or 4 parties.

Our first indication that the river contained fish - on the very first cast of my brand new cheapo Canadian Tire rod I hauled out a smallmouth bass which snapped my line and managed to bounce his way down the rocks back into the river. Do you have any idea how hard it is to grab a fighting bass with your bare hands?

This day also saw our one and only swamping. Dan slipped on the rocks and grabbed the gunwales of the boat Johnny was soloing in, both went for a swim. At around 5pm we saw our first humans (7 people in 3 boats). They did not stop and looked mighty unhappy about having to canoe down river for the next site (we later discovered they were a bunch of YMCA`ers from Minnesota). Dinner was smokies and soy nuggets.

Bugs were really bad this night, and to make it worse, the temperature kept increasing throughout the early evening. It was actually too hot to sleep. Johnny hit the Dutch oven again and baked Mike`s cinnamon rolls.
Day 4 – C2 Island, 415km

Up at 7am and after a breakfast of breakfast bars and Johnny`s cinnamon rolls, we were on the river by 8:15AM. We felt we needed to catch up to the other party and paddle the 25km to the next campsite or risk having to make it a 30+km day if it was already occupied. We had a good tailwind and made good time over mostly flatwater. We reached camp by 2pm even though we stopped for a rather lengthy lunch.

At around 4pm our friends from the previous evening turned up. This time they stopped, as they did not want to canoe on. We offered to let them stay and they accepted. They were a group of YMCA`ers who were doing a 21-day trip, from Missinaibi Lake to Moosonee. The previous evening they ended up camping on the Fire River, at the Trapper`s Cabin. They got a much later start than us but managed to make even better time as they rigged a sail and sailed all day. They decided to spend an extra day at this site to give us time to head on down river and ensure that we wouldn`t bump into each other again. Mike got inspired by their tale or sail and searched the campsite and surrounding forest for suitable masts.

Dan got into the vodka zone and proved it by catching a massive pickerel. The total count for this day was 2 pickerel, 1 pike, 3 lost lures, 1 broken rod and 1 birds nest (last two were mine ;). Dinner was Mike`s corn chowder (excellent!) and fish fry. Best dinner yet. Low fat brownies for dessert, our first (but not last) Dutch oven disaster, it was basically sickly sweet fudge. The camp gremlin made off with a fuel bottle top and the clip to our saw. Both eventually turned up, the clip amazingly at 11pm in the pitch dark when I happened to look at the ground and spotlighted it in my headlamp (what are the odds of finding a 1.5inch piece of thin black wire in total darkness after 3 people had scoured the area for over an hour???)

[See below for a photo of St. Peter`s Rapid]

Day 5 – Two Portage Falls, 384.5km

Today we were to pay for the tailwinds of the previous day. Another early day as we needed to make 31km this day. We were up at 7:30AM and on the river by 9am. Today we had oatmeal for breakfast, not my favourite food but great for paddling (simple, quick and nourishing!).

Stopped for a soup lunch as we thought we were past the midpoint of our day, turned out we were at the wrong set of swifts! Noticed the clear-cutting along the river today as we passed a logging bridge and you could see that the tree cover was very thin, it basically hugged the river.

Spotted black bears today, a mother bear and two small cubs, about 1km south of the Brunswick river. We got into Two Portage Falls at 5:30pm, 30+ km of canoeing into serious headwinds. To add insult to injury we carried several large branches with us to “make masts” when we got favourable wind conditions. Needless to say everyone was exhausted. Dan and Glenn managed to net two fish, 1 trout and 1 pickerel.

Dinner was linguine with tomato/fish sauce. Yum!

Day 6 – Albany Rapids, 358km

A long day of paddling, portaging and lining! Breakfast was Oatmeal and walnut raisin loaf from the night before (go Johnny!).

First stop, Pond Falls where we ran the lower part featuring big waves and not much time to get ready for them.

[See below for a photo of these rapids]

Portaged the entire set and ran the last drop and a half empty. Nice fun start to the day. Devil Shoecap was lined on the left-hand side. The rapids were low, low, low necessitated lots of careful spotting for deep water (i.e., anything deep enough to float our canoes!). Stopped at the CII ledge with a campsite and a spring for a lunch of rosti and soup. More stove problems, luckily we had three MSRs with us this trip.

Started back down river at 3pm and the rest of the day was long and hard. No rapids, just still water and boulders. Lots of backtracking and cursing as we kept getting run aground.

Got into camp at 7:15pm. This campsite, which we found out about from our outfitter, turned out to be a poorly cleared, crappy site that barely held room for 1 tent, let alone three. We pitched our tents front to back and getting to and from the tents/kitchen area/privy entailed carefully walking around guy lines and pegs.

[See below for a photo of Albany Rapids]

Dinner was a hit though, falafels, bannock and curry. The bugs were insane and drove most of us to our tents early. Actually Mike couldn`t finish his dinner, they were attacking him too much. Glenn took charge and led a four-man dish detail into the heart of bug country. We managed to get them done quickly, as the air was thick with mosquitoes trying to get as much blood from us as they could.

Day 7 – Glassy Falls, 338km

Another cold breakfast as we all wanted to get going and leave Albany rapids as quickly as possible. Got on the river at 10am. First rain of the trip, a 20 minute rain shower, that did little more than cool us down as the temperature refused to drop, still stuck in the low to mid 30s!

We tried sailing this day but the winds were contrary. We did manage to catch a bit of wind and hit a top speed of 2ips (that`s inches per second according to Dan). Sailing will have to wait for another day.

There was some talk of leaving the river this day, but it would make for a 38km day (to Mattice) and we couldn`t get consensus, so we decided to make a decision at Big Beaver, whether to stop at Big Beaver (planned stop) or push on to Glassy Falls.

You could tell we were approaching civilization as we ran into a number of day-trippers and locals from Mattice. The portage at Big Beaver was longish (490m) and HOT. We had lunch at the campsite that was not bad but the water access was terrible. There was a stagnant pool 10m from the fire pit, which was sure to be bug-infested in the evening so we decided to push on.

Talked to some local day trippers who, while they did not have any cold beer, did give us some apples. Nothing like the taste of something cold out of the cooler after a week in the wilderness!

Made it to Glassy Falls at 4:45pm. Quite a lovely spot, pretty falls, nice sandy beach, great swimming. Only downside was the fact that it is relatively close (16km by ATV) to Mattice and thus is popular with the locals (not quite the wilderness we were used to up until this point). It turned out that four of the party was just stopping by for a visit with the two brothers (Denis and ?) who were canoeing to Mattice. Dan negotiated the ridiculous price of $5/beer from Denis which was actually worth it for the initial frosty gulp alone.

[See below for a photo of Glassy Rapids]

When we first hit the campsite at the end of the portage, we were greeted by a half-dozen people standing around the nicest, shadiest tent spot staring at us. Shades of Deliverance. After a cool-down swim we set up our tents on the bare, exposed hill overlooking the beach (only place left) and had a quick “snack” of Kraft Dinner. This was to be our pizza dinner but the thought of making a fire in the unbearable heat was not one anyone relished. As usual the sun got stronger and stronger and we all huddled beneath a lone dwarf tree for what little shade there was (all except Glenn, who was doing his best mad dog/Englishman impersonation).

A little later the fishing party (Dan, Glenn, Johnny and Zach) decided to go fishing. The lone catch was Dan`s trout. Mike whipped up a bottom-of-the-food pack stir-fry and Glenn made some garlic / Parmesan mashed potatoes. Not a bad meal actually, just a little light as there was really only enough for 4.

Day 8 – Mattice, 321.5km

We did 16.5km of river today. We decided to try sailing and after a few false started we realized it could work. Had to get around Crow Island rapids first though (ran into more locals playing in the rapids here).

After Crow Rapids we set the sails and by our best estimates we managed to reach a top speed of 10 to 11km/hr. Not bad considered it was a totally jury-rigged sail. We put the three boats together in a trimaran. The two outside bow paddlers held the masts, the two outside stern paddlers steered and the middle boat paddlers held onto the gunwales on either side.

[See below for a photo of the sailing rig]

Arrived in Mattice around 1pm or so. Met some people starting down river and their driver offered us a drive to our cars, but we refused wanting to take the last portage across Highway 11 to the parking lot.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
42 B/11 Peterbell 42 B/14 Ericson Creek 42 G/3 Opasatika Lake 42 G/6 Rock Lake 42 G/11 Mattice
Special Comments: 

For a key plan showing topo maps required for the entire Missinaibi River route, click here

Photo Gallery


Post date: Fri, 02/17/2012 - 05:46


My pghtoorapher was a fellow who often does work for me, a guy named Joe. I set up the camera on a tripod, set the timer, and ran to Julie and sat beside her. In one location, I had to get the camera higher than the tripod alone would get in order to get the angle I wanted. So the tripod and camera were back sitting on a raised lawn about fifteen feet from where Julie and I were sitting when the picture was taken.

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00