Pontax 1

CanadaQuebec08 Lower James Bay
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Additional Route Information
125 km
8 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
300 m
Longest Portage: 
150 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

The Pontax river takes it source in Champion Lake near Cree's community of Nemiscau(+/-100km east of JamesBay Hwy). The actual trip begin at the jonction of the JamesBay highway at KM306 (306 km north of Mattagami, Quebec).
The river flows to Rupert Bay, for 125km. From the mouth of the Pontax a 15km paddle on the bay is necessary to reach the cree's community of Waskaganish on the shore of the Rupert river.
16x swifts
15x C1
2x C1-2
12x C2
6x C2-3
16x C3
2x C3-4
1x C4
7x Unrunnable (4m fall, 15m cascade, ...)

The first campsites are mostly on rock near rapids. The closer to the bay the harder the campisite are to find.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Day 0
We meet at Martin's house in Trois-Rivière at 3PM and pack all gear and 3 canoes in my 1995 Dodge Caravan. A stop his made north of Montral at a friend's house to salute him and kids (and of course to have a first beer). We reach Matagami at 5AM and have a nap till 7h30. After a good breakfast at the hotel we leave by 9AM. We meet our shuttle at the Rupert River's Bridge (KM257) and drive north to the Pontax.
At 1PM are ready and leave our friend for what will become an extraordinary journey!

Day 1
KM125 - KM121 = 5km
Easy paddling with strong west wind. Campsite on the rocky shore. Warm and sunny day, slept in the open. For dinner: Sausage and beef with veggies on the grill and a few good drinks and beers!

Day 2
KM121 - KM95 = 26km
From campsite, a great entry sequence of rapids (2km). Small sill, short C3, km long C2, C2/3, C3... the run start pretty good!!!
5km of flat water follows... then an other set of C2,swifts, C3, swift. The C3 is almost 500m long swinging from left to right. Incredible!!! . Again flat water for 5km... At KM105 an other series of rapids makes a good luch spot. In the afternoon, is 8 km of flat a paddle with all three boats linked together. We sleep again on the rocky shore at KM95, where a natural Jacuzzi makes the evening relax!!!

Day 3
KM95 - KM83 = 12km
Smooth flat water paddling day. At the view of a sandy beach we decide to stop early. Erecting the bug tent we enjoy the Roasted pork on the grill!!!

Day 4
KM83 - KM59 = 24km
What a day!The first series of rapids (C3+S5+C2/3) is nice. At KM76, a 15m cascade needs to be portaged...easy portage on large flat rock...we should have stop here for the night! the scenery is speechless! Before the next S5, a short C3 is paddle. Both sides of the S5 are very tough to lined or portaged...we need to drop the boats in a pool 5m down. The next C3 and long C2/3 are very exciting...
We have lunch at KM70 after lining the S4 and running th C3. The next C2 indicated on the map is much more difficult than expected... more a C3... we need to line the last part cause it is blocked by a rocky bar. The next 7km are flat and are paddled linking the boats all together. A major forest fire is seen on the northern bank for several km. We pass the the meteo-station at KM62 and stop for poratging th 4m fall on the left side. The next km is a fair but fast C2. We slowly paddle to the next campsite, a rocky point close to a serie of C1. Having a good swim in the rapid, cooking over the fire and joking like we had for the past 4 days, we rapidly erect the tent before a strom hit us around 9PM. Note: This campsite is not suitable for large group.

Day 5
KM58 - KM44 = 14km
After a C2 right after departure we paddle the next 12km of flat water before setting camp in the middle of a dry arm of the river. Again, a few showers during the evening makes us going to sleep early.

Day 6
KM44 - KM21 = 23km
Oh!My Godness!!!
Experienced of a lifetime! After breakfast I jump in the middle of the rapid right in front of the campsite while my two partners line the section. It is a steep C3/4 with big hloes. My 16' Dumoine is even fully imerged in the water for a few seconds! Meters later we decide to go on the next island right side (hasn't been scouted in 1998). A long with many rolls C2/3 makes smile my surprised partner Martin. The next two km are as good. C2+swift+C2*3+swifts) Paddling the next 5 km linked, we "enjoy" the fresh rain and wind blowing our faces. At KM37 we look forward to take a look at the only highpoint of the trip, a 500m hill called Pontax hill. The next set of rapid is run using a very small pass on the right, so small that the dumoine slighlty pass trought. Martin
and his Esquif Vertige manage to go trough like a bullet. Following is a long C3 going from left to right to left. Pure excitment. We don't see the marked campsite at the bottom of Pontax hill. Two km later...a dream comes true!. After sliding, bumping and almost cartwheeleing we stop before the final drop of this marked C4+C3 set of rapids. I scout the rapid standing in may canoe and tell Francois and Martin that I will try the center line and correct my course if it looks bad once in. My eyes are still wide open! A huge wave with a "portefeuille" at the end (a "Vee") makes my dumoine bouncing from side to side...I stop rapidly on the left expressing my victory over this monster C4 that was listed as a C3. Francois follows but can't hold on and capsize. He recover rapidly. Martin runs it perfectly having a big smile in his face. We join together to empty the boats and can't resist to manifest our joy!!! A great moment for all of us!
Two km later we run smoothly a really nice C2 before linking again all the boats. After an other 5km of flat we hit another great rapid. A C3 (KM24) that makes us lost our sense! We had the best canoeing day of our lives!!!
We look to find a campsite... not easy... finally a dry section between two island we'll make a acceptable spot.

Day 7
KM21 - KM0 = 21km
Day 7 is aweful! Rain, winds...All sets of rapids are easy and the water is again very low.
After the last set, we look for a campsite. The marked one at KM11 seems in the bush so we continue. A km down we stop on island that looks high enough to avoid the high tide. Cold and tired, we erect the tent and tarp, eat a hot soup and prepare to enjoy the afternoon.
Suddenly, the water goes up very fast. Within 15 minutes we have to declare an emergency. In 10 minutes we dismantle the tent and tarp, pack all gear and put on wetsuit and paddling jackets. At the time we leave the island, water has submerges our campsite! We paddle for an hour and stop near KM5 when the tide makes our progression very slow. We prepare a fire and have a tea waiting for the tide to go low. Two hours later we paddle again westward in 2' standing waves. We finnaly stop south of the marked campsiteon the bay. An old indian campsite on the upper bank is the best spot for camping. We warm ourselves close to the fire and enjoy our last meals on the river.

Day 8
15km on the Rupert Bay.
Clear sky, no wind... perfect day...as it all began!
Apple crisp, maple sirup and waffles are serve for breakfast... we take all morning to relax and enjoy the great view of Slag Rock, an island far away on the bay...
At 1PM, we start paddling south to Waskaganish having a backwing and upcoming tide helping us making our way.
We reach Waskaganish at 4PM, where a group of young cree native swim in the Rupert River. Mr Blackned (shuttle guy) is waiting for us on the shore with my car. He saw us coming in the bay from the village.
W pack all gear and canoes and drive back home after visiting the village.
The gravel aod from Waskaganish is brand new (constructed in 2001)and takes about 1h30 to drive. At 11h30, we arrive in Mattagami where a few good beers and fastfood are easily accepted.
All night is spend driving, changing driver every 4-5 hours. A pit stop his made in Grand-Remoud for a 2 hrs nap. We arrive in Trois-Rivières at 1PM, where we all separate to join our family.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Federation Quebecoise du canot-kayak By Jasmin Lefebvre, sept 1998.
Special Comments: 

This description was made at low water level. June 20th to June 28th 2003.
Few bugs, few animals, lots of birds.
The main difficulty, beside rapids is the daily wind bloming from the west.
The shuttle was arranged with the Waskaganish Band Council Toursim Coordinator (819 895 8650). We met at the put-in and our vehicule was driven to the take-out in Waskaganish. A fee of 150$ was charged for the shuttle.

This tripm was made by a party of three (Martin Miron, Francois doucet and David Milot) all paddling solo (Swift dumoine, Esquif Presage, esquif Vertige)