Moisie River

CanadaQuebec07 Lower St Lawrence, N Shore
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
0 km
20 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary:

Thanks Derek, learn something every minute.
Here is the diary of the trip:

Don’t swim before ejected

Moisie River Expedition - 2001
According to JJ - an ordinary member of the expedition

Having spent two weeks on Missinaibi River last year, I was sure I was ready for a little more substantial symbol of the conquering fear, a symbol of the wild oblivion, a symbol of the uncommon trust. Thank goodness, after ten months of planning and canoe building, the three musketeers, Vasek Nosek (VN, or, the Iron Granddad), Pavel Vejvalka (PV, or Mr. Packet) and me (JJ or the Special-Of-Shipwrecked), are set for Moisie river expedition.

Following is a chronicle of the trip as I reconstructed it from my sketchy notes:

Sunday, August 5, 2001
Every preparation likely to take time before departure has been made last night. At 9:00 A.M. we said goodbye to our families and friend, Kratky. It took us next two days to travel nearly 2000 km to Sept Isles, Quebec in Pavel’s van. It rained in Sept Isles that evening when Pavel proclaimed “: Here we are . . . ” First we reserved a room in a motel then checked out “Arnold Junction” before it got dark, and the majority ruled, to finish our canoe trip at the private campground next to highway bridge over the Moisie instead of Arnold Jct.

The morning of Tuesday, August 7, we spent on train station, organizing canoe transportation, then the passenger train tickets at the travel agency, and fishing permit for Moisie River. Local train station people do not recognize “deMille Lake” as a “regular” train stop, and issue tickets for Lac Menistouc. We are not certain where the heck exactly is the “lac Menistouc” stop and so we went to see Mr. Raymond Boyter, a local resident canoeist, whose name is on the map containing the location and class ratings of the rapids. He put our fears to rest with respect to our train destination, but raised my apprehension when he said that this river was not for the “faint at heart”. That afternoon we spent on the local beach organizing luggage and picking juicy raspberries. Finally at 6:30 P.M. we are on the train and catching the glimpse of the river in the sun-setting rays. Soon it became dark and I fell asleep to the monotonous sounds of the wheels rolling over the rails - north toward Labrador City.

We trusted the experience of train operators when they stopped the train, got out of the wagon into the pitch dark, rain, at around 2:30 A.M. somewhere, supposedly closest to the lake, about 28 km short of Labrador City. As the train pulled out, we realized that here and now we ended contact with civilization for at least next three weeks and this realization sends short shivers down the spine. In the dark, Pavel got out the tarp while Vasek and I put our canoes on their sides to provide support for tarp about 3 meters away from the railway (farther from this point gravel bed dropped off about 4 meters down into the lake). Under the tarp we stashed all gear and squatted beside it, cold and wet trying to fall asleep. We tied down the tarp, but when the next train rumbled speedily by, about an hour later, it nearly flew away kite-like with canoes used as a tail piece. Pavol and Vasek decided they had enough croutching and pitched their tents some distance away. Only I went on crouching between the canoes along with the luggage till dawn. Here, at the 430-th km from the river’s end mark, roman god Janus, who has been in charge of guardian of doorways, gates and beginnings, usually shown with two faces that look in opposite direction, smiled at us with one face, while the other face surveyed lake deMille. To be sure, even it this darkness at Labrador
one assumes to see his grins.

Wednesday, August 8

At 5:30 A.M. there was light enough to scour around just to get warmer. I pulled out a fishing gear and set on fishing to justify early rising. To my disgust the black flies begun pestering, so I quit casting and hastened to launch “made for Moisie” canoe before breakfast. Strong wind begun blowing from northwest and helped in us crossing de Mille lake quickly. Then the rain came down hard for about an hour while we paddled on southward. It stopped just in time for carry-over the beaver dam near the end of lake. Although drenched, hungry and cold, I was in good spirit because the sun begun to shine intermittently and slowly was getting warmer. According to a topo map this lake ends in a bay, then there is about 200 meters long portage over the height of the land. I headed into the bay first. The bay continued inland and to my surprise I found a narrow creek flowing in general direction of obligatory portage. Good news, we do not portage. In and out of the canoe we are making headway down the creek and into first of several small shallow ponds in one of which Paul broke his hi-tech, expensive, kayak paddle. Vasek lends him his double paddle so we could continue floating down the creek.

The entrance into the lake Menistouc is so shallow that we all had to walk in an ankle-deep water and pull canoes behind us for about a half-a-kilometer. From a distance it looked as if we were walking on the water. Thank God, the lake’s bottom is sandy instead of customary black mud. Now really hungry we pour over the maps to find the nearest campsite. Made another five kilometers and beached at 3:30 P.M. at the 405-km mark. We had enough time in the day left to make the meal, to mix the fibreglass and fix Pavel’s paddle, wash up and I sat down to stitch together unfinished details on my spray-cover deck. Here, for a first time in my life, I saw a double
rainbow in the same location, concentrical, one on the top of the other, each separately displaying all color spectrums, a view especially sublime.

Thursday, August 9
Glorious morning. Made a big breakfast, which turned out to be the only hot meal of this day for me, and we are paddling into the wind down the lake Menistouc. More than anyone can imagine we praise the decision to take along double paddles - with a blade on each end of a shaft. In this wind, propelling and keeping canoe on course would be very hard with a regular canoe paddle. At noon, we have fifteen kilometers behind us and decided to have short break and drink of water. Wind changed direction gradually and the next 15 km, or so, we paddle downwind quite rapidly.

The lake Menistouc is connected to lake Opocopa with a wide stream what I assumed to be a muddy river on my initial map study. Although high river shores shelter the beneficial wind, the river flow replaced wind’s help. Thanks God, it is deep, clean and steady. At near rivers’ end there is R-3 rapid. We scouted as much as we could and found no well defined downstream V. I was still perching on the rock and analyzing the river flow when Pavel glided by me first. Vasek followed, and I went through the rough section, unscathed, wet, but delighted. It was our first white water experience in the new craft.

The day was nearly over when we drifted into lake Opocopa. We continued to swing paddles in saber dance rhythm (the empty stomach provided the music). Cloudy sky made the nightfall dark quickly and we were unable to find campsites from the map. So we made an emergency layover at 372 km on a small peninsula at 8 P.M.. Promptly I pitched my tent, changed to dry clothes, slipped into the sleeping bag to get warm, and dosed off hungry while Pavel and Vasek made soup but had no heart to wake me up to join them for the supper. I am losing weight before long portaging ahead; which is good, but tell it to the grumbling stomach, on midnight, in the middle of nowhere. It rained all night.

Friday, August 10
It still drizzled in the morning when, without breakfast, we are heading, again against the wind, southward toward the end of lake Opocopa. Paddled for about 5 km of choppy waters . Then stopped to get a piece of bread and cheese standing at the tiny beach sheltered from the wind and comparing our notes on riding canoes/kayak over the big cross-waves.

Next 1 ½ hrs we enjoy the sun, which is only benefit of wind this day and made it to a peninsula near the end of lake. Vasek made fire, soup, opened can of corned beef and we all devoured it with bread and augmented the eating experience by harvesting local raspberries. Southerly horizons got dark, low clouds rolled over the lake, and
thunder rumbled. Soon rain spread over and it teamed on our peninsula. We decided to wait till it stopped. Wind continued to blow quite fiercely against us when we took off toward the end of the lake. Everyone paddled, what we considered the shortest distance, yet we were about a kilometer apart due to crosswinds. We had to press quite hard to make around the islands and 5 km across the open bay of this lake. Pavel remarked that: "On the lakes it was supposed to warm-up exercise and I am already tired! (Cez lejks mala byt jenem rozcvicka a ja jsem uz ustal!)” Strangely, here may not be any life, save for the two small birds Vasek saw at noon, yet we hoist our food supplies every evening sky-high for the fear of bears.

Just before entering into the river connecting lake Opocopa with lake Felix still on the lake Opocopa we beached in “Rainy Lagoon,” 352 km mark. Hardly pitched the tents when rain begun - thus we named it: Rainy lagoon, and continued raining all night, again, but on full stomach night goes faster, trust me. Pavel’s tarp keeps the kitchen/dining space dry and Vasek with Pavel made an epicurean supper again, while I cast my fishing lures in all promising places of the lake - a pathetic, luckless effort in the rain - which ended when a big shout announced “Dinner’s ready.” With almost no small talk we ate, cleaned utensils, and went into tents for the night.

Saturday, August 11
Day of rest! The sun is out for thirty minutes then light rain follows for another thirty minutes, and so goes all day. Tried fishing again, but the lake seems dead, without the fish. We discovered remnants of structure and named it John-the-trapper’s hut. I have not detected animal life to be trapped, and that may explain delapidate state of the hut. Instead, we find abundance of blueberries not far from the shores. Blackflies are a nuisance, especially during the natural duties of urinating and passing stool.
Nearly whole day I saw my deck and Velcro strips on the skirt, fixing deck ties, and the deck edges - all in anticipation of the rapids on the river ahead. We had smoked pork for supper and a big bone fire that elevated our liveliness.

Sunday, August 12
Last leg - About 2km paddling in dead calm waters of lake we paddle faster in expectation of running “the river.” For the entry we have R1 strewn with stones. Didn’t scout, instead, we each flew a path of least scratches. Next 20 km had done the same and paddle without the lunch from 10-3:30. After running one section of the rapids first,
Vasek lost his single paddle and got quite troubled. Because we all went separate ways down the river to find a stream in it that seemed most suitable, Pavel and I did not notice Vasek’s paddle swimming. Vasek paddled back upstream and after short distance he found it to everyone’s relief.

At 333 km mark both sides of the river had a fire past year and the moonscape felt like a cemetery, with some brush here and there. Now the river has simply widened into the lake Felix what could be named the Windy Corners, although the corners are only figures of speech. Because of strong headwinds on the lake, we hugged right shores and stopped in the second bay -327-km mark for the day. A beach tent-site is full of debris. Turned on its side what once was a stove and put next to it a rusty sheet metal box, and we used that for a dining table. This river is blackflies’ paradise. In Ontario at sunset if skies are red, usually next day is sunny. It does not work here. Here, when the black flies get very aggressive, it will begin to drizzle in the next fifteen minutes.

Monday, August 13
A lucky number, and after a deep sleep I woke up quite cheerful and begun to whistle. Had the dream about being around a difficult, painful birth, and felt the happiness after the child was born. Wander if that is the sign of things to come.

Adrenaline is running high as we near the “Rim Canyon.” Discovered an unmarked, decent tent site just before the water begins to split into two rivers, we chose the left river. This river is like a Hollywood agent : Fast, shallow and rock-strung. To avoid being lodged against the boulder, I leaned hard on my double paddle and broke the
shaft. That ended my cheerful mood.

Just before the waterfall we pulled up - to do the first portage. It is a long, difficult portage. Below the water falls we put in, only to get out of a canoe and to line it. Vasek and Pavel could not resist running some 150 m’s to confluence of both sides of the river. I walked the rocky-bedded river. At the junction of both rivers the water level rose and now covered many small stones and we made it to the next 1.5 km quickly over many R-2 and R-3's. Here we pulled out to portage around “the Rim Falls.” Decided to spend a night right at the outset of the portage - just enough room for 2 ½ tents - but we found - THE broken paddle- that some tall man left to be burned in the next supper fire. I managed to carry my canoe over before it got dark and saw the splendor of the canyon in drizzle. Lots of blueberries kept me longer on the return trip, but the blackflies were announcing more rain so I hurried back to the campsite. Meanwhile, a part of the shaft, cut from the broken paddle, now reinforced Pavel’s paddle blade. Vasek mixed up some fiberglass to glue it on, and Pavel dried the joint on a fire.

Tuesday, August 14
Morning sun welcomes us as we opened tents. The first, bright sunny morning of the trip! Just right time for the sun as we photographed the Rim Canyon in full morning sun. Although the portage is about 1.5 km long, the sun makes it bearable. Next 10 km we enjoy running many R1 to R3 rapids. At 305 km we came upon the short R4 rapid through which Pavel ran, Vasek swamped in it and I roped my canoe around.

At the 300-km mark we find a waterfall and the portage around it. Here we stopped for the night and as we ate the last bread from a supply barrel I prompted Vasek to remember his wedding anniversary - his wife’s reminder. Vasek appears to swim the river waters on his anniversary - last year he swam in frigid water of Dumoine river in early May, at the canoe-eater rapids on his 55th birthday; today swimming again on his wedding anniversary. Next trip I’ll check any of his upcoming anniversaries.

Wednesday, August 15
The day of portages! 5km on the map, 2 km, times two, of which we walked over the land. What the ghastly five kilometers ! Today Vasek nicknamed Pavel : “ Mr. Packet (Pán Pytliček)” for the constant shuffle of bags of various sizes to and from his kayak into the big rubber backpack for portaging. It takes a will power to return on the
muddy, steep portage to take photos, but Vasek goes back carrying his equipment bag, while Pavel and I grudgingly try to complete the- baggage first, then back for the canoe- portage. Only plus is the sunny day. Extremely tired, we made it to the campsite at confluence of Moisie and Pekan rivers, and just then it begun to drizzle again. Normally the flying pests stop badgering after dusk, but not this night.

Thursday, August 16
The second day of rest. I got up first, went fishing and finally caught five rainbow trouts for breakfast. The bannock is a disaster - too much baking soda I guess. I burned the rest of packaged bannocks to lessen the burden on next portages. It rains on and off all day and we spend nearly all day under the kitchen tarp. From our kitchen we
overlooked the pool and saw all three waterfalls. We decided to extend our rest for one extra day.

In the wilderness trip shoes are important. I had a pair of sturdy leather work boots, which were intended for walking portages. Then Pavel gave me a pair of sneakers which were designed for walking around the swimming pool, but in this trip I had them on when canoeing over flat water and walking in water during put in, stops at the beaches and landings. Then I carried a pair of running shoes worn around evening chores. Last pair of shoes in my dry bag were “office” shoes. First I burned sneakers. I became lazy and considered it to be a time loss to change into boots, then the sneakers again, several times a day. Soon boots were wet and heavy. I took ages to dry them but because they are useful, I had no hearth to burn them as well, so for the rest of the trip I carried them in the bag with other “just in case” things.

Soon realized that all I should have packed were the two pairs, the running shoes, for the day use, and the “office”, dry shoes for walking around a tent site. Pair of running shoes were constantly wet, I gave up hope to dry them completely. Worst feeling was in the morning to put them cold wet socks and putrid running shoes on warm dry
feet. Pavel and I struggled with putting wet shoes on, while Vasek kept fighting battle of keeping portage boots dry. Couple of times he slipped off the rock during the canoe loading, became flustered with himself and yelled: “gees’s cris, not again “, and I recognized that his feelings were as bad as putting wet shoes on.

Friday, August 17
Third rest day. Heavy, low, gray clouds on the morning sky greeted me early morning. So I went for a dip in the river and wash up. Then made the pancakes for breakfast, just in time the sleeping heads popped up from tents.

From the elevated kitchen we observe how Pekan river cascades down and runs upstream of Moisie river pool. It makes havoc in the flow. One can paddle with the current in either up, or down direction for about 300 meters distance. A white foam from the falling water paints ever-changing art pictures in the pool, and one with a little
imagination, like me, finds the horse’s head changing into a sitting cat and then a ribbon in the wind, in less time than it takes me to describe it. This place is quite mystic.

After breakfast the clouds gave way to sun and so we prepared for the exploration around this splendid location. I pulled up my canoe downstream shore of Pekan. From the rock I began casting. Very soon I have two brook trouts in my bag. Then made a trip up the Pekan to immerse myself in thundering noise and extraordinary sight the
mighty power of white water bashing faces of the canyon granite, over and over again. On my way I found patches of ripe blueberries that were correcting my diet.

Next I went to the foot of waterfall around which we portaged two days earlier. Other magnificent site to see and hear voices emanating from the falls. Water splits into five waterfalls- five fingers, and under the index finger I caught next two trouts. Meanwhile Vasek hooked on a price-sized rainbow in the next basin, but broke the Crappy Tire special, fishing pole and had to pull fishing line by hand - all the while Pavel recorded it on the video camera.

Wind shifted and shortly after we had a shower. I paddled in the rain across the pool to the campsite. Unloaded the fish, and paddled back to a high shore across from Pekan- where yet another tiny waterfall glistened in the afternoon sun. I climbed up and saw the glory of the Pekan falls almost in it’s entirety. I felt humble considering the beauty of rich green shores, blue sky and white foam poetry. Every footstep is softened by about twelve inches thick moss except for the bare boulders and granite blocks.

Tamaracks are about twenty years old, and few, so I think it must have been forest fire here. I discovered that a sweet aroma fills the air when I break a twig of the tamarack tree. Found more blueberries basking in full sun, and huge ones too! For first time we baked bread on the open fire. Fresh bread with fish filet - Pavel made an extra effort fileting two larger fish. Then we carried over our boats to the end of muddy, steep portage before the day was over.

Saturday, August 18
Grueling day. Five portages and drizzled on and off all day. Naturally, fifteen minutes before the rain blackflies aggressively fly into hair, eyes, ears, nose and opened mouth, all the while our hands are busy steadying canoe on shoulders. Yes, I wore the bug screen vest, for a while anyway, but could not see well through the netting and
could not risk stepping wrongly on the side of sheer cliffs either, so the blackflies had only a bug spray to contend with. Bug spray wore off quickly because I perspired heavily on the steep portages. Blackfly bit Pavel on his eyelid and for next two days it was swollen - size of walnut over his left eye. It rained on the end of last portage when I pitched my tent. Pavel fixed the dining room roof- the tarp stretched ingeniously in the middle of nowhere - he has a knack for creating solution to a problem where most people do not see any. A very valuable trait in his character indeed as I kept on discovering along this voyage. In a short pause between two showers Vasek made a fire and a supper. Without too many words we crawled in tents for the night.

Sunday, August 19
It rained when I opened my eyes. Actually it was the smell of smoke that woke me up. But I didn’t want to get out of warm sleeping bag into the cold rainy morning. Vasek banged on empty pot to announce his breakfast. How did he get the fire going out in the rain? This is one of Vasek’s many skills with his hands.

Between spoonfuls of porridge we discuss merits of staying, as opposed to packing it in the rain and paddling on. Pavel notes that his tent gear will not withstand another wet packing, while I oppose packing in a hope of snoozing another fifteen minutes longer. Later the majority decided for packing, so at 9:30 we are in boats.

Only two long, easy rapids up ahead. In about one hour paddling it stopped raining. Now we are at 290-280 km stretch and the towering mountains are closing in. Canyon with it’s sheer stone walls towering right from the river’s edge. It fills like we and the river is squeezing through a deep narrow trough. Here the horizon is very narrow with half the luminosity of normal daylight which adds to the mysticity.

Strange whirlpools are appearing now and then sometimes right under the canoe. At 2:00 PM we stopped below the waterfalls, put out things to dry, fixed my broken gunnel, seat, keel and broken paddle - most of it done by Vasek. There is no fish, but lots of drift-wood for fire at this site. Large fire roared for long time just to get things dry.

Monday, August 20
This morning temperature hardly reaches teens and thick fog rolls over the river. At 7AM sun burned through. We begun paddling early today. River runs rapidly and the R1 to R3 are sheer joy and acceleration in adrenaline flow. Vasek and I are whistling or humming favorite tunes, each one his own at the same time. What a difference sun makes!

The setting is frontier with many canyons. The mountains on both shores surge and suggest the idea of many gigantic fiends struggling to close down the river in impotent agony. The cascades of water falling down 200 meter high rocky face and disappearing in the greenery at the river shore are frequent here. Such sight emits light waves that one can see with eyes closed. I felt the enormous beauty filling up my heart. In a day such as this to me, a man lives - lives a whole century of ordinary life - nor would I forego this rapturous delight for that of a whole century of ordinary existence.

We stopped at 227 km. The R5 is up ahead, so another portage - and in the middle of it we camp, and carried boats to the end of portage to get head start in the morning. A large dose of spaghetti with tons of roasted garlic, and the garlic soup, are for supper and general health.

Tuesday, August 21
Got up early and washed the entire body in large, shallow washtub-like depression in the rock adjacent to the waterfall. In short intervals water swashed over the tub and provided a fresh refill Then I made breakfast porridge just before it begun drizzle again. Packing tents and carrying luggage to the rest of the portage in the rain.

Next 5 km is sheer hell of 6 portages, lift-overs and lining. During one lining Vasek had to jump into the river and got his gortex rain-gear wet from inside. Water inside ballooned around his legs and he looked like the Ukrainian folk dancer, to be sure, he was not ready to dance even though Moisie provided the tunes.

Finally we stopped on 222 km - the confluence of river Taoti. Camping on a beach. It rains. Pavel strung tarp and together with Vasek made supper. I fished. Hooked only a small trout which I released. During supper Pavel said that he had more than enough bagging for one day today, but kept positive thinking while fixing paddle again. The fibreglass joint got loose and now the broken paddle parts bandaged with duct tape came to the rescue. I found moose feces up on the beach thus detecting first sign
of animal life.

Taoti river is more like a brook rather than a river - but who knows, it may swell up in other seasons. Up and down the beach I examined pebbles and begun thinking of home, of my wife, Beatka - smell in the towel reminded me how nicely she smells, and of my children.

Wednesday, August 22
After an oatmeal porridge breakfast we are peeling of the beach into fast flowing river. The river shores continue to be steep, with the rocky mountains next to it. Passed by several splendid waterfalls and stopped for first lunch - a cup of soup- at the 200 km campsite. While Vasek made the fire I went back to the river fishing. Had no
luck there. Grudgingly I put away my day bag opened, untied, and fishing rod simply stashed under the spray cover - a sure sign of losing vigilance. I even relied on map reading of my fellows for the position and up-coming rapid ratings.

I was totally un-aware of entering into the “Whirlpool”. The Whirlpool is “ THE “place I talked about a whole year, worrying about swimming over the long rapids ever since I glanced through the map first time ! Each time I introduced my timid worries, Vasek said: “ Don’t swim before ejected.”

The river narrowed to several meters wide stream and the water surface was riddled with strong whirlpools. I kept looking up the enormous rocky walls and got absorbed in the incredible sense of being only a small ant in the presence of these mountains, quite oblivious to upcoming “place” in the river.

The river came to a sharp bend and we pulled up to the right shore to scout. There is no portage around this R3/R4 rapids ending with the ledge- shelf at the end of about 400 meters of rapids. From what we saw- there are these two hugest blocks of rocks side by side in the middle of the river and the main V tong of water right between them. For us to get into main-stream meant to dodge several sleepers in extremely fast flowing water. Our view past the rock blockade of the river was not clear, but I
suggested to try to traverse to the left side of the river and see what happens.

While Pavel kept filming us I peeled downstream first. To my surprise there were two additional stones I didn’t see from scouting position, so I decided to work around them at the right. With the main rocky block fast approaching I paddled backwards like a mad dog to get more to the left. Instead, the current swept my canoe sideways and I was near the rock face trying to soften the impact and to push myself around. The front of canoe caught the extremely fast current flowing between rocks, while rolling wave of the rock ejected me from the canoe.

For several seconds submerged all I thought how to get to the shore in this fast flowing, rocky river. I do not recall how, but I managed to make it to the shore. Once atop the rocks I saw my canoe teetering on a huge rock quite a ways into the river and upside down. In following helpless seconds I thought how to rescue or at least push off the canoe while watching how the content of canoe gradually being shaken out from underneath the spray cover and washed away.

Down below there was a ledge right across the river. Following the ledge was a large white line of water waves. Just then Pavel came by and sat in the eddy behind the big rock. At the same time my canoe slid off the rock, still upside down, but down river she went. I pointed to Pavel to traverse across the river to the left shore and watched how furiously battling fast currents and dodging rocks he made it to the left in the nick of time. Saw him passed over the ledge, disappearing, and then paddling below the rapids.

Now came the herculean task to climb over the rocky shore and to get below the ledge. I found some openings under the enormous blocks, some I scaled over, some I swam around always risking of being swept into the main stream in a blind spot behind the rock. My running shoes were sliding on mossy, wet rocks, but kept the feet uncut on sharp rocks. Pavel came by and told me of Vasek on the same side of the river changing into dry clothes (he flipped on haystack below the ledge), and that he is going down to catch my canoe and belongings.

After another strenuous climbing, crawling and swimming I made it to Vasek. He re-positioned his load, moved to stern and I kneeled at the bow of yellow lemon (name of his canoe). We observed that there was little freeboard left, which meant, no rapids running, not even the gentle ones. At least we made it across the pool to the other
side of the river and stopped at the set out of next set of the 800 meters R2 rapids. There I got out of Vasek’s canoe and slip-sliding-swimming continued to proceed downstream.

At the bottom of R2 was Pavel waiting with a good news - my canoe, although beat-up, is structurally intact. A miracle, considering fast flow in the river crossed with
rapids here. Now I made the count of things fished out of the river. Actually I got almost everything back, save for the day bag (the opened one), fishing rod, aluminum frame for carrying the luggage and a tarp used for cover over the kitchen. In the day bag I carried the camera, compass, folding fish filet knife, toilet paper, lighter, to name few things. Incredibly enough, a burgundy colored toiletry bag that was inside the day bag Vasek fished out right below the ledge.

I kneeled in my broken canoe (the seat was dangling of the lose gunwale) for next 25 km on fast flowing river and over two R3 rapids. Excruciating pain begun shooting from my knees. Tried to sit on my feet, then they hurt. Tried the Bill Mason style - on the side- it was not safe in a rackety broken canoe. But kept on paddling toward the
next campsite at the confluence with Caopache river.

Just around the bend and across the Caopache there was another spectacular waterfall cascading more than 700 meters down the mountain face. Had very little time fully appreciate it when a new sight of massive waterfalls of Caopache river in the afternoon sun appeared on the left.

Just below the confluence we beached on the island at the 174 km mark. What a wise choice of campsites, worth the pain in the knees. Shortly after we pitched tents weather changed and now begun spitting again. Specially Pavel is talking fondly of returning home. I tried to think positively, but after this day’s events Pavel’s talk verbalizes my thoughts.

Baked another bread till midnight as my thanks for the rescue work of my fellows. Bread with pork fat and tea was our midnight snack.

Thursday, August 23
Fourth day of rest. Sun shines and the clothesline is full of wet stuff. Decided on exploration of Caopache river falls, to take video, pictures and I had only my senses to record this fantastic experience. We could not make it further upstream to the High waterfall because water flows so fast that the eddies near the shores almost do not exist.
In exploration of “our” island I discovered delapidated remnants of the trapper’s hut, iron tubes and rods, trap for large animals, and boards. Vasek used thin board through which he nailed stubby tree trunk and fixed it to support my canoe seat. Then he drilled several holes into fiberglass near gunwale and tied pieces of “broken paddle” reinforcement to the right gunwale with thin rope. Just as Pavel suggested it.

Saw first people of the trip - fishermen in a motored canoe. In the afternoon we baked yet another bread.

Friday, August 24
It was cold, foggy morning, but refreshed after day of a rest, early in the morning we paddle into and down the fast current. Before noon we have 22 km behind us and pulled to the right side of the river. Ahead of us are the “Chute de la Carabine”. Climbed up to heli-pad. It was not used lately.

Now came the portage from hell. Up the steep mountain over fallen trees we brought all the things and I hoped for extended rest on the top. The downhill was just as bad, steep, slippery and trees fallen across the portage. On the other side of the mountain - below the chute- we met french speaking guardian of the fish ladder for salmon swimming upstream for spawning grounds. He was actually first contact with civilization. Gave us cans of pea soup, spaghetti and fruit.

We learned there is portage on the left shore, easier, but longer than the one we just scaled. Time saved by fast flow was gone doing this portage. We
put in below the R3 that follows chute, and were making good time in the next 15 km.

Here we came upon short R3, below which I could see lower end of the river. Again, I got too incognizant, didn’t buckle life-jacket vest right up, didn’t kneel but perched on the seat, after all, it’s a short rapid. Short but wicked.

First haystack wave was long, fast and big, next was higher and rolling, the third one casts me off the canoe. With feet caught the downdraft, for the longest time I could not come out from below surface and begun panicking.

Finally freed from the grips of the downdraft I float up and begun breathing air again. Soon, I grabbed the stern of Pavel’s kayak and together we swam toward flipped canoe. Vasek came by and I handed him the rope attached to stern of my canoe - to pull us behind his canoe toward the right shore, while Pavel went chasing a lost paddle downstream.

The clockwise rotating back-current was going to return us into rapid if we didn’t make the shore soon. I was getting cold in spite of rigorous kicking, swimming and pushing. Reached the shore in a nick of a time, upon Vasek’s insistence took of wet T-shirt, put on woolen jacket, and bailed out the water from canoe. Another un-welcomed slowdown in today’s leg of the travel, caused squarely by mine blatant disregard for the R3's.

We paddled further down - to confluence of Joseph River- at the 130 km mark. Just below the confluence, on the left side there is abandoned fishing lodge. There we pulled out. One cottage was opened and we moved in for the night. I was frozen and sat by the stove regaining remnants of my courage. Pavel and Vasek warmed up pea soup, then spaghetti with meat sauce - a gift from fish ladder caretakers. With the warm meal and warm stove things looked much brighter. Sleeping in a bed with real mattress seemed luxury from heaven.

Saturday, August 25
I had to get up early to urinate, and usually would stay up, but not this morning! I went to bed again, at least for a while longer. However, once in the canoe, I enjoyed rapids at 125 km mark, yet I know I lost my confidence yesterday afternoon at 135 km, underneath the R3 rapid. No more aggressive but a leisurely approach to the rapid for me from now on.

River now widens and more islands in the river winding through wider valley. In the afternoon we swung around peninsula at the confluence Quapetec river from the left. We passed by the camp with many cottages with freshly painted red roofs. Markings in the water suggest there is sort of a school dealing with the river paddling here, but we saw no people around.

Late in the afternoon we decided to check out the trapper’s cottage if we can spent night at the site. We were at 80 km mark. Lots of drift wood provided for a good fire right at the river. I pitched tent on the porch deck making sure not to get caught in Bear Board - a board with many nails sticking up from it - presumably to ward off animals from entering cottage. Lots of traps of various sizes hanging of the spruce tree suggest that this is an active hunting cabin.

Sunday, August 26
I got up first, washed up, and started fire. Vasek came out just in time for “coffee” I had stashed in a last resort jar. Had wheat cream with last bit of chocolate for breakfast. Packed and were heading down the foggy morning river.

Fog burned, and lifted in time to unveil a splendor of waterfall at 65th kilometer. Shore on the left was about 200 M high solid rock mountain with sun shining from behind creating an aura around the edge of the mountain. Rumblings of massive waterfall from the left echoed against the left shore made it even more like mass of people talking to the losing stock market agent all at once. The river appear to have disappeared behind the left shore mountain, giving way to another towering mountain just in front of us.

The magnificence of mountains and the river continued for the next 6 km. Here we saw the helicopter heading up the river for the first time and waved.

Just before us was the Igloo Rock on 59th km. Again, the river disappeared around the left side of the rocky, cone-shaped mountain. We pulled canoes on the right shore and I walked up what appeared to be a portage. Another short one but very steep up and down. Vasek and I carried our luggage over first. Pavel was going to take the picture from close up the fall.

Now Vasek and I have brought our canoes over and no sign of Pavel. So I went down the beach only to see Pavel with his kayak swaying on the rock. Shouted on Vasek for him to paddle up maybe to help, but by that time Pavel managed to launch his kayak into last pool and was ready to head for our beach. First time in this expedition Vasek got upset.

Early afternoon sun was warm enough to entice us for a short swim after a lunch of found mushroom and dried beef with the rice. From downstream came the motorized canoe with two young men - to see if we needed any help. I guess pilot of the helicopter radioed about our whereabouts to the Saumon fishing camp and in
about hour later here the boys were checking us out.

Refreshed we loaded back our boats to continue our voyage. At 55th km river valley widened so did the river, yet maintaining strong current. At the 50 km mark on the confluence of Nipissis river stands the famous Saumon fishing lodge. To guard the salmon fish against natural predators and unwanted fishermen they use trained hawk.

At 4:30 PM we decided to camp for the night on the beach on 49th km. We all talk about the home stretch. Yet, as I wandered about the beach I felt like saying goodbye to an old friend, in spite of accidental swimming and hardships of portages I feel sharp parting pains in my heart. A familiar noise of the train reminded us that at the end of tracks there is Pavel’s van waiting for us. The last evening supper on the river.

Monday, August 27
Had a breakfast at 7:30- a wheat cream and tea and packed in early.

With the sounds of chopper frequently flying over the river it was like the rush hour traffic in the air for the next 20 km of fast paddling.

Then the mayhem begun with a short R1 rapid just before R5 water fall. Portaged around R5 on the left and put in the boiling hole below. Try as I might, I could not find room between upsurge of boils without smashing into the rocky shore. Ended up getting out of canoe, getting on the shore and pulling canoe on the ropes out of the hole.

That signaled the beginning of the major rapids to come in the next 8 km. To be sure, on the map they were all marked R3 class, but the haystacks were filling my canoe even through my spray cover. Couple times had to stop to empty water, and hurry down to catch-up with the rest of expedition. Main current was full of fast running water- and standing waves, so I looked toward the shore where water moved slower. In there were many back-drafts and holes behind sleeper rocks, so the only way was to hang in the haystacks. Had to make many decisions in split of second, because the river presented different scenario in the valleys than I presumed on the top of each haystack. I decided to steer canoe somewhat to the side of main flow.

At times local cross current caused me to over-steer canoe and I went sideways into a large wave rather than piercing it with the bow of the canoe. The arab belly dancer does not twist the body as fluently as we had to in such instances, just to keep canoe afloat, while taking water in through the spray deck skirt. With a canoe half full of water it was out of the question to finesse, just to make it through the rough waters, get to the shore, empty the canoe to regain buoyancy, and back into the fight again.

On the seventh R3 rapid I decided to carry around the worst. The shore is strewn with huge blocks of granite. While I carry some stuff, Pavel carried the rest of my baggage and Vasek took my canoe just below the drop. During the return trip they scouted the rapid and decided to go for it. While I loaded canoe and just when I pulled spray cover over it, I saw Vasek sitting erect in his lemon peel canoe swishing by very rapidly. So I crawled up on the nearest big rock to see him dancing down the river. Oops, he disappeared ! He must be swimming, but I cannot see any of it for he is almost six hundred meters down from me and going down fast. Next, the orange kayak twirls amongst the waves with Pavel skillfully swinging his deteriorated paddle. Oh, how easy it looks from the rock!

With canoe cover completed I peeled of the rock right into the reverse current. Forcefully I paddled across into the roar of rushing two meters high waves. Just as the bow caught the fast downdraft, there I go swinging and hip dancing while high bracing with the paddle. Up and down the roller coaster with unexpected pushes and pulls of
strange currents make the adrenalin shoot up and push my eyes out of sockets; I had to just stay afloat, to be sure. Soon I see lemon peel and an orange torpedo docked in the eddy on the right shore. They both waved and pointed to the other side of the river. In the river roar words are useless and hands do the talking. I traversed the river to get to railroad side, the left side. Soon we consulted maps, scouted and all concluded that we have to portage around the bridge, for R3 rapids are more like R4, and we cannot go blindly behind the sharp bend with bridge abutment cemented down into the river.

The portage from hell, to the power of, at least, ten! A note in the map says - a possible portage over the railway. Where is portage? After several attempts of hacking alder brush, Pavel decided that he found portage. Up the very steep railroad cut we cut our own portage up to the railway tracks. First we hauled baggage up the “new” portage. The rain set out to cool us and to make slip-sliding easy.

Next we drag up our canoes with Vasek going first. Pavel and I decided to co-operate and together shlep one canoe at the time to half-way up the portage, when at the distance noise of the train, the only train in whole week, heading back toward the station with Pavel’s van parking beside it ! It whistled and begun slowing down. Pavel and I are only half way up to the train and need at least 15 minutes of formidable effort to get to it. Train started to speed up again and shortly disappeared in the tunnel on the other side of the bridge.

What a disappointment! Down comes Vasek telling us how he waved off the train since we were not up there. Next I hear him bustling and roaring with my canoe on his shoulders and climbing up the portage. Pavel and I crawling up the rocks, fallen trees, dodging broken tree branches and alder brush. Finally we are all up at the railroad
tracks. Here Pavel nick-named Vasek the Iron granddad. I reek with the sweat, breathing fast just to regenerate energy. In the rain with few precious minutes of daylight left I declare that we pitch tents for the night right there near the tracks. Neither Pavel nor Vasek would have it, after all, there is far to go to fetch water for the meal and that they would bring my things down if I can not do it. What an offer !

Down the steep cut adjacent to the bridge abutment we slide our baggage first. Then up and down again with the canoes. Now the daylight is quickly disappearing and we have to negotiate the last R3 ahead. Vasek and Pavel race by me as if they smelled freshly brewed coffee at Tim Horton’s at the river’s end. I took off into the fast current,
now half blind simply hoping to survive it. The 800 meters long rapid swipes gradually to the right and water bunches up into the roaring and rolling haystacks, trashing against the rocky shore. I had to stay on the right side of them waves, but the new water kept pushing me into them devilish roller coasters. Kept back paddling and stirring the canoe, but the river would have it’s way, and I ended going sideways into the biggest, and the last waves. Instinct took over and I leaned so hard that I touched the wave crest with my head, so it seemed.

At the right shore the lemon is being de-watered so I pulled close and ask fellows to slow down because I cannot see in this light. The last R1 rapid is pacifying experience and the entrance into the calm 20 kilometers ahead. Further down we paddle, it feels the more like upstream paddling- oops, we forgot all about tides.

Nightfall sets quickly and the markings on the river shores slowly disappear in the darkness. What a intoxicating sensation it is to see an electric lamp shining at the far distance after 21 days in the wilderness ! Entering civilization is uplifting, yet a sense of loss lingers in the same space of thoughts.

At about 10:30 PM we beached canoes at the private campsite we saw on our first day being in Sept Iles. I changed into dry clothes, threw wet sneakers far into the river and dragged up my canoe farther up the beach. Meanwhile Vasek walked towards the only light at the distance, hoping to persuade the campground keeper to get the lift, for hire, to the van - about 50 kilometers back at the railway station. Instead they arranged for the taxi. In twenty minutes we carried baggage to the entrance and then Paul and I took the taxi, picked up our van, bought gasoline and went back into the same motel to reserve a room for the night. The receptionist asked for our preference of rooms for smokers or non-smokers, to which I resolutely replied: non-smokers, of course. Our clothes reek of smoke, yet I declared our wish for non-smokers room. With small persuasion by the receptionist we gladly settled for smokers, and headed for Tim Horton’s to get our first thing to swallow since early breakfast. With coffee and doughnuts we returned to the beach to pick up Vasek, water-crafts and baggage.

Stood under the hot shower for at least half-an-hour, gladly falling into the mantraps of civilization. The soft bed being perfectly level makes it easy to immerse into lolls of taking things for granted again. Pavel confessed that this expedition was the hardest thing he ever did in his life. Silently I agreed with him.

Soviet poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko said ” : ... between fear and shame there are two more stages. The fear of shame, and the second is the shame of fear.” We went through all four stages of the above “feelings” on this character building adventure. Fast flow of the river does not permit to wallow in any of them for too long and quickly demands large doses of courage and grace to the replacement.

Special Comments: 

Editor's Notes:
The author of this report is jjanosik, who retains copyright to it.
The report was found in a CCR forum by Barbara and worked into form suitable for posting here.
My contribution was solely to submit the report.

Allan Jacobs
CCR Routes coordinator