Petit Mecantina River

CanadaQuebec07 Lower St Lawrence, N Shore
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Additional Route Information
304 km
0 days
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Portage Information
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Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
1000 m
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Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
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Route Description
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The main stem of the Petit Mecantina River originates in southwestern Labrador and flows in a southeasterly direction to the Labrador-Quebec boundary. From here, the river flows in a predominantly southerly direction, emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The total length of the river system is 392 km and the survey was confined to the river lying between grid points NP 2688/13C and UG 0368 /12 ), a total distance of 304 km. The river at its source is about 400 m above seal level.

The Mecantina originates in a flat string bog area within a very wide and flat valley. The river flows slowly along a meandering course before entering a series of three rapids at NP 2387/ 13C. The rapids appear navigable but may require some lining. About 15 km further downstream are two rapid series of two sets each that can be bypassed with a combination of running, lining and short portages. the river valley here is still quite wide and offers a view of rounded forested mountains.

Nest is a peaceful, wide section of water occasionally divided by islands. The flat lands immediately adjoining the river are covered with a scrub spruce. The quiet water eventually yields to 11 sets of rapids (over a distance of 10 km). Each rapid set is divided by a steady section of quiet water. Generally, no single set of rapids presents any real difficulty. Each set is passable either by running, lining or portaging along the rocky shoreline. Through all sets the river channel is quite wide and deep, with a large volume of fast-flowing water, where numerous boulders in the channel could impede lining or running. Following the rapid series, the river is characterized by a wide channel with occasional large islands, and a few easy rapid sets. The banks slope gently and are gently forested near the water with spruce and alder growth.

The three sets of rapids located at PM 8419 / 13 C can be easily run. Little danger is presented by the boulders in this channel, which is deeply cut through bedrock. The surrounding lands provide good campsites on sandy points and beaches. Below this section the river offers easy paddling to Lac Fourmont, the few minor rapid sections presenting no problem. The river channel widens to 200 m and large bars and silt deposits occur on the shore. Forest fire have burnt the rounded hills that parallel the river. The lake is 22 km long and 2.5 km wide. The southern part of the lake has some excellent campsites on sandy beaches sheltered by low rolling hills. A short channel connects Lac Fourmont and Lac Donquan. This second lake is 10 km in length and has large sand deposits at the downstream end. A broad linking channel in a wide flat valley connects Lac Donquan to Lac Le Breton. The channel features many sand and silt deposits and is easy to canoe. Spruce forests predominate, and the beaches of Lac Le Breton,6.5 km long and 1.5 km wide, offer some good camping sites. The lake section just described, however, is rather dull, and canoeing through this area is not a challenge. The elevation of the river at this point is 275 m.

Immediately below the outlet of Lac Le Breton is a series 5.5 km long of six sets of rapids, all cutting through bedrock and separated by steady sections of water. The first three sets may be lined, if not run, while the lower three sets probably require short portages over easy terrain. The shoreline of this rapid sections consists of steep high banks and hills rising to 150 m on the left with a more gradual slope on the right limit. Below the rapid series the river channel becomes much wider. A few kilometres downstream the river retains its width but the countryside changes to high rolling hills that evidence an old forest fire burn and are partially covered with shrubs and grasses. this wide, steady section of the river is broken by two sets of wide, navigable rapids 16 km downstream at ON 0225 / 12N. At the terminus of these rapids, the river widens slightly and flows south to southwest for a steady 24 km and is frequently divided by large islands. the valley is generally flat with scrubby spruce growth in patches and more ground cover.

Rounded hills in the distance and a forest fire burn become evident further downstream. Generally, the whole river section from Lac Le Breton to the end of the steady section, about 50 km offers very easy canoeing. the river's elevation at this point is 250 m. From here on the river becomes progressively narrower, and the banks are higher and steeper. The hillsides are densely covered with spruce forests, the tops with moss and lichens. Tow sets of rapids are encountered, separated by a steady section of water. The river current is very fast, but the channel is almost totally free of boulders and therefore easily navigable.

four kilometres downstream of this point the river narrows to 50 m or less, while the water velocity and turbulence heightens, and the banks rise to 200 m above the water. The topographic chart of St. Augustin, Quebec (1:250,000 12 O) indicates a series of eight sets of rapids over a distance of about nine kilometres. beyond this series and up to Cape Mystery (IUG 13385 / 12 O) a distance of 15.25 km, only one rapid sis indicated on the map sheet. This information is misleading, for most of this distance consists of unnavigable whitewater. The riverbanks rise 250 m to 300 m above the river, creating a deep V-shaped river-cut canyon. In most sections of this canyon the immediate shoreline consists of very steep and smooth polished bedrock that would be impossible to portage over or use for lining purposes.

The portage required to bypass this section appears to be equally impossible. It would be necessary to climb 200 to 250 m vertically through very thick spruce forests. Once on the plateau area of the hills, a walk of 19 km over the roughest country imaginable would be necessary to bypass the white water.

There is a portage route around the 24 km stretch of white water, used in the past by trappers and Indians who lived in the area. Details of the portage route are unknown, but might be uncovered through research.

At cape Mystery, the river bends sharply and flows in a southwesterly direction. In this steady section of about 11 km the river channel becomes wider and the river banks slope more gradually, offering the occasional good campsite. Beyond this steady, eight sets of widely-spaced rapids occur over ten kilometres.

The longest portage required to bypass any single rapid would be about one kilometre, while most of the sets could be either run or lined. Beyond this rapid series was the termination point of the aerial reconnaissance. Judging from the topographic maps, the remaining 77 km of the river, until it empties into he Gulf of St. Lawrence, consists of steady water with a wide river channel and gradually sloping river banks. The steady water is broken only twice by waterfalls.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
13 D Lac Brule 13 C Minipi Lake 12 N Natashquan River 12 D St. Augustin 12 J Harrington Harbour
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Special Comments: 

This description is based on an aerial reconnaissance done by Parks Canada in the mid-70's. It is obviously dated, so caution is advised in using this information without extensive further research.