Mistassibi River

CanadaQuebec06 Saguenay
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Tom Addicks
Trip Date : 
7/22/17 to 7/29/17
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
136 km
Duration: 
7 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
5
Total Portage Distance: 
1000 m
Longest Portage: 
600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Portaging: 
Easy
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

See trip report.  Got shuttled to put-in by traveling up the Domtar Road from Dolbeau, PQ. Traveled 8.5 km north at turnoff from Domtar Road. This turnoff was constructed in 2014 or 2015 and is accessible.

Technical Guide: 

We followed the maps provided by LeDuc for the northeast branch with the exception that we developed our own portage route to Lac Machisque.  This required four short portages with no trails but finding a route from one small lake to another was easy.  See map in the journal entry.  We took out at the 50 km mark (river kilometers) on the LeDuc map.  These maps are very accurate for this river. Once on the river we had only one portage about 30 meters around a small falls. Some of the class 3 rapids required some lining along the shore on parts of the rapids. No portage trails exist except for the one mentioned.  The area has been heavily burned but the fire did not reach the river shores in many areas.  Road access is available at several places but there was little traffic.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Mistassibi River trip, July 2017 (Trip members: Tom Addicks, Rod Beebe III, Chris Hinckley, Mark Hinckley, Tyler Hinckley and Rob Rubendahl.)

 

Getting into Lac Machisque:

Follow the road north until you get to a turn-off before the “usual start” which is located at km158 of the river. This turn-off is visible in the 2015 and 2016 satellite view on Google Earth. The road to km 158 veers right and the access road goes due north. This turnoff is located at 50º 40.734 N and 71º 50.019 W. Drive in exactly 8.5 km to a small road on the right (50º 45.021 N and 71º 50.285 W) which is interrupted just out of sight by a huge boulder pile of debris. This is your access point. Portage over the boulder pile and turn left into the woods. Follow the crown to the right and it descends into the first little lake. This portage is about 300 yards and easily completed. From there follow the shore on the right until you enter the next lake. Paddle north to the northernmost point where a small stream comes in. Portage directly over the hill through a burned out area. This portage is about 150 yards and is difficult because it requires going up a steep slope and stepping over fallen trees. Do not follow the stream. Paddle north along the left shore until it narrows and another small stream comes in. Portage alongside the stream to the next small lake. Portage is about 100 yards. From the northern end of the next small lake, portage over into Lac Machisque. This portage is about 100 yards. Four miles of paddling will bring you to the km 176 mark. Campsite on the lake is nice. A day of running rapids in this upper section will bring you to the campsite at km 158 of the river—the “usual start”. The rapids in this section were fun and should not be missed. We began this section with the water at less than 120m3/sec. At the end of the trip (km 50 of the river) the water had decreased to 85m3/sec. We had no significant rain to increase the flow. However the river was navigable the whole way.

Day 1 (7/20/2017)

Drove north from Massachusetts with a bit of a late start. Stopped in La Tuque and had dinner and then proceeded to the join the weekend festival. Streets were cordoned off, live music (Elvis) was playing and people were milling about. We drove out of town about 5 miles, found a pull-out opposite a lumber road and set up the tent in the dark.

 

Day 2 (7/21/2017)

Tom and Rod arrived at a public campground (Camping Des Chutes) and spent the day exploring the heritage of the river. We stopped at the rafting place (out of business), viewed some of the rapids, got some groceries and went to the bank to get Canadian currency. As expected, Rob, Chris, Tyler and Mark arrived about 6:30 pm. We checked inventory and loosely arranged food packs, made a beer run and looked over maps. Tyler had prepared a great pasta salad which we washed down with lots of beer. Nice evening; meeting Gilles at 8:00 am at the Domtar road junction.

 

Day 3 (7/22/17)

A quick trip to McDonalds (Rod) and Tim Horton (others) allowed everyone to tank up on coffee. Drive several miles to meet Gilles. He had a large Chevy van and an industrial strength trailer. Mark joined Gilles and Rob and I (Tom) followed the van 120 km up the Domtar road where the bridge crossed the Mistassibi River at the 50 km mark (river distance from the start). This would be out take out. There was plenty of room to leave the vehicles near what had been a lumber camp. The road up was good—hardly any traffic and we could go 50-55 mph. At the bridge we transferred all our gear to the trailer and left the two cars behind. Gilles drove us another 90-100 minutes up the road where there were places where we could get glimpses of the river. The road turns sharply east and we headed north on a smaller road that 2015 satellite images indicated would get us close to some small lakes close to Lac Machisque. Our intention was to portage between lakes and get to Machisque. We traveled in 8.5 km to a turn off blocked by boulders. Gilles with is GPS coordinates and Tom took off into the brush to the east and found a small pond near the coordinates but not on the coordinates. The pond did not look like the map so we got in the van and proceeded north to the 10km mark. The road was small, loose sand and rose high above the terrain. From the top we could locate the lake with the three islands to our south. We backtracked to the 8.5 km mark and walked north with the GPS. Voila, the lake we were looking for. We unloaded all our gear, paid Gilles ($900 Can $) and sat down for lunch. Lunch was quick as we were anxious to get started. It was now 12:30 pm. We divide equipment and discovered we were one life jacket short! Chris volunteered to substitute his swimming skills for the floatation aid. We portaged about ¼ mile to the lake. First we traversed the boulder and dirt that block this side road and headed into the woods.

 

A short paddle took us to our next portage at elevation 1793 ft. The creek was tiny so we portaged up over a hill and own the other side. Here were many downed trees from a forest fire (2010?) which made it difficult. Once again a very short paddle took us to our next portage. The creek was tiny so we portaged again. The portage paralleled a small creek. The final portage took us over a hill and into Lac Machisque. We arrived at the lake at 4:50 and battled a headwind for over an hour until we reached the campsite at the176 km mark of the river map. The beach was adequate but tent sites were available in the woods which we preferred. We ate dinner at 8:00 pm and spirits were high as we wondered how difficult it would be to navigate the top part of the Mistassibi in water at 120m3/sec. The report we had (LeDuc) indicated that anything below 200m3/sec was too low. Mark prepared his first bannock in Rod’s rickety reflector oven. Little sleep as many of us experienced leg cramps from the portaging on old legs.

 

Day 4 (7/23/2017)

 

Took some time to get off this morning. 42 degree (F). Nice day but chilly when we departed camp at 9:15 and headed for the river a few km away. There were many rapids and we line one R-3. Perhaps we should have lined another but we got through OK. Had lunch at noon at a small campsite suitable for 2 tents at about the 168 km mark. and did some fishing—nothing! More rapids in the afternoon and we camped just below the bridge at a campsite just around the corner before the R1 on river right at the 158 km mark. The landscape was littered with logs from fire and the campsite may have been pristine before the fire but it was no 4C at present. We found places for three tents and a place for the fire which would have afforded little shelter had it rained. No rain so we were good. We paddled about 18 km today and arrived at camp about 5:00 pm.

 

Day 5 (7/24/2017)

 

We left camp at 9:30 but were greeted by hundreds of spider webs dancing in the early morning sun. The night had been cold but the day was gorgeous and we ran many rapids. In one burned out area we spotted a bald eagle who led us downriver for a mile before lighting in a tree with a juvenile. As we approached she departed leaving the juvenile on the tree branch scarcely 50 feet from our canoes. Rapids with “S” marked required some lining. The river is narrow and there are not multiple routes down the rapids. We scouted many and did a lot of traversing from one side to another. Rob and Tyler hit a rock just aft of the center and got turned broadside. We waded (with difficulty) to the canoe and held the upstream gunnel above water so we could bail the canoe. Chris caught a 12” pike. A long section of R1-2 followed after lunch. Got to our campsite at km 143 at 5:30. Rob spread much of his gear out to dry but there was no “drying wind” just sun. Bush-hash for dinner.

 

Day 6 (7/25/2017)

 

  1. were up early knowing we had lots of rapids ahead. Temperatures dropped to just below freezing at night. Rob slept under a tarp and wet sleeping bag. We broke camp at 8:15. Rapids and lining in the morning but we did notice some VERY old portage trails which were not useable. Stopped for lunch at the S5 rapid which required a portage on river left. We portaged this (30 yards). The portage trail splits and nice campsite is located about 25 feet above the river. This would have been a nice place to stop. Tyler caught a 7” brook trout below the ledge. A long R1 rapid followed after lunch for 8 km. The water was low so we had to do a lot of maneuvering and even had to drag our canoes in a few places where the river widened and no channel had enough water. We hoped that this would not be the case further down. Camped about 4:30 pm at km 122. It had been a hot day with a lot of sun. All canoes had taken in lots of water in the rapids. Swam at the campsite despite the blackflies which seemed to enjoy the warmer day.

 

Day 7 (7/26/2017)

 

This was a short day. We served up pancakes and left camp at 9:45 am. We soon encountered a SW headwind as we headed south. We stopped at the cabin of Sylvain and Mario for lunch and camped an hour later at 110 km. We traveled all of 10 km today and were rewarded with a 5B campsite after an R1 rapid. A small falls was across the river which several people visited. This campsite featured a dry toilet back in the woods. There was time for naps as we could see the weather was changing. We planned to do three 20 km days to reach the cars. Put up the cook tarp but the rain was not very hard. The 12 by 12 cook tarp was large enough so that we could all gather under it in comfort and stand near the fire to dry our wet clothes. Rained off and on all night until 7:30 am.

 

Day 8 (7/27/2017)

 

Lazy day as we waited for rain to subside. Clouds opening up so we decided to paddle. Did lots of rapids (R1 & R2). Came to a R3 with a note that it was R4 in high water. There was no way to portage and lining would be difficult on river right where most of the water was. The path mentioned on the map was not noticeable. We decided to run it after bumping down the top and scouting. There was a small eddy turnout below the rapid as the river turns to the right and it was unknown what was below. By following Rod’s instructions we all got through although we took on water. Tyler and Rob had the best positioning and took on very little water. Had lunch on a beach below a cabin. Cabins are ugly. Lots of trash... As we departed after lunch, rain caught up with us. It poured for 10 minutes and then light rain. Just enough to get us soaked! Made camp by 3:15 and had wind, rain and sun all afternoon. Put up cook tarp again. Temperature was 50-55 (F). We are now camped at the 92 km mark below the bridge. We can hear trucks on the road. All the big rapids are behind us. Lots of R1’s and fast water ahead.

 

Day 9 (7/28/2017)

 

  1. was no rain last night! Very cloudy in the morning but cleared up. Many R1 and R2 and EV (lively water). We stopped at the confluence of the Francois River to fish. No luck despite some nice falls on the western side of the road. Beginning at the 78 km mark, the river widens into multiple islands and channels. These islands are piles of trees and at each split we had to decide where most of the water was going. This slalom course around islands continued until the 68 km mark where we camped on river right with a large esker to our north which was spectacular in its height and levelness. It paralleled the river for several kilometers above the campsite. The north wind is very strong again and it looks like the northern weather forces have conquered the SW forces. Temperatures are cold—about 54 (F). Camped at 3:00 pm. Naps, bannock, bush hash. Dried our clothing and expecting a cold night.

 

Day 10 (7/29/2017)

 

Pancakes and double rations of bacon. We are off by 9:00 am. Chris went ahead and climbed a high esker to get a good photo of the campsite. Fast water led to slow water where we moved from one side to another to find the current. Arrived at 50 km mark (bridge) by noon and packed up for the drive south to Dolbeau. Camped at public campground (Camping Des Chutes) and met another canoer who was going up. She indicted the gage was at 85 m3/sec. We told her it would be shallow. We all showered and had dinner in town along with a few beers. More beers at the campsite and early bed. Expecting a 7:30 am departure.

 

Day 11 (7/30/2017)

 

Up at 6:00. Tim Horton breakfast and we hit the road by 7:00 am. Arrived in Pittsfield at 6:00 pm.

 

Summary: The trip was fantastic and the hard labor to get into Lac Machisque was worth the effort. The distance we traveled was about 136 km with almost as many rapids. Many of the R1 and R2 rapids go one for many kilometers and it is difficult to distinguish one from another. There is strong current in most of the 136 km. We were on the limits of low water with a starting value that began with 120m3/sec and diminished to 85m3/sec by the end of the trip. Anything lower would have been quite difficult where the river widens. As it were, the end of larger rapids were often rock piles with only one significant channel. Evidence of moose in the lower section and a caribou skull in the upper section indicated the presence of game. Many moose blinds and cabins are sprinkled along the river when the river nears the road. A few cabins were “fly-in” cabins. Evidence of the 2010 forest fire was very evident along most of the route although in some sections it just touched the hills and did not get near the river’s edge. The weather was great with cool nights and little rain. Most campsites did not have good river bottoms for swimming but we avoided all the beach sites except Lac Machisque. Water temperature was about 62 degrees. The group worked very well together and spent many evening swapping stories of camps Kapitachouane and Keewaydin. The canoes displayed their general characteristics: The Old Town Tripper lifted as it approached standing waves, the Old Town Penobscot dove into the standing waves, and the 16 foot Dagger handled as well as the Tripper but may have been more maneuverable. The Dagger Legend was not slow on flat water as we anticipated. We carried fire wood with us and had little problem finding wood within 100 yds of our campsites. The bannocks and bacon were the food highlights of the trip (bacon from Broadbent in KY). This is one of the finest trips we have done for ease, campsites, easy access and rapids.  Tom Addicks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
None-get the LeDuc maps off MYCCR
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