Reserve faunique de Papineau-Labelle: Lac Sept Freres, Lac Montjoie and small wilderness lakes

CanadaQuebec04 Ottawa
Submitter & Author Information
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Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
21 km
2 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
4640 m
Longest Portage: 
1600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

From Montreal: N on Hwy #15 then #117
W on #321 (1 km north of L'Annonciation)
14 kms to Nominingue
After long right turn bend in Nominingue look for sign to Papinequ-Labelle and turn left
1.2 kms and turn left again at signs to Papinqu-Labelle
17 kms to Lac Pie IX and Accueil Pie IX (park gate where you aquire permit)
#5 south for 9 kms to Lac des Sept Freres parking lot
Put-in on sandy beach at mouth of river and paddle E on Lac des Sept Freres to Ruis des Sept Freres
P 1600 m R on road (or P 50, 150 and difficult 200 around rapids and logjams - CBR)
P 135 m R before bridge
P 380 m R
SE into Lac Montjoie
NE on Lac Montjoie
P 80 m to Lac Marceau
NW on Lac Marceau
P 1350 m to Lac Primeau
W on Lac Primeau
P 210 m to Lac Clement
NE on Lac Clement
P 320 m to Lac Ogilvy
NE on Lac Ogilvy
P 60 m to Lac Mercier
E on Mercier and N on Lac Lartigue
P 420 m to Lac Diamond (or at high water S and E on Lac Lartigue and 3-4 liftovers into Lac Diamond)
SE on Lac Diamond
P 200 m to Lac des Sept Freres
S on Lac des Sept Freres to starting point

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

by Tom Angelakis

Day 1

12:30 pm launch at Lac des Sept Freres. I was told at the park gate that Ruis des Sept Freres was too shallow to navigate and the best way to explore the small wilderness lakes was by paddling north on Lac des Sept Freres to the 200m portage to Lac Diamond. But I decided to at least investigate if it was possible so that I could make it a true loop trip (without travelling over the same sections on the way out). Any excuse for some river scenery.

Sections of the river are impasable because of log jams, sweepers, and shallow rocky rapids. But there are calm sections in between. The canoe route map provided free of charge (plain paper double sided 11x17 photocopy - you can purchase better quality maps but the free ones are fine) at the park gate indicates 3 portages on the river section between lac Sept Freres and Lac Montjoie, a 1600m, 200m and another 200m portage. I portaged the pack for the 1600m section which was not too bad because most of it is along a road that runs parallel to the river for part of the way. I had lunch at the end of the portage just after the bridge (the portage goes back into the bush on the right just before the bridge - if you cross the bridge you missed the trail). I decided to paddle the canoe in the sections I could and portage around obstructions. The shoreline isn't conducive to lining because of all the shoreline debris and strainers. The sections I paddled were Class 1-2 rapids and calm sections. If you are not as interested in river scenery as I am then the 1600m portage on an even dirt road is pretty easy despite its length. This was late May - early June so even less of the river would be passable later in the season.

I portaged the canoe on the road about 60m around the first log jam and rapid. Put in for a short calm paddle then a 150m portage on a good trail around more rapids and strainers. I put in again until just before the river drops and bends in narrow and shallow rocky rapids. I portaged that section about 200m but through bush so it was harder going. There is probably a trail somewhere but I didn't bother to look too hard. After this section I put in again until the portage around the bridge (200m on the map but signed as 135m on the trail). Paddle down another calm section until a 380m portage around rapids and strainers and then the river opens up to Lac Montjoie. There are discrepencies of portage length between the park maps and what is signed on the ground. On the map, the last portage is 200m but signed as 380m on the ground. The middle portage of 200m (on the map) is signed as 135m on the ground. The 1600m portage is probably about right but I broke it up into 50m, 150m, and 200m portages and paddling the short navigable sections inbetween. You can portage short river sections on a bush trail or up on the road for longer sections until the bridge turnoff. It took me almost 3 hours from putting in at Lac des Sept Freres and the river section to Lac Monjoie - 3 kms as the crow flies. But I was in no hurry and enjoying the scenery. I paddled north on Lac Montjoie to the 80m portage into Lac Marceau.

The first campsite on Lac Marceau is on a low point but close to the little waterfall emptying Lac Marceau into LacMontjoie and therefore many blackflies. I headed for the second campsite on the north shore. It is sheltered from the wind behind cedars but still the blackflies weren't as bad as the site closer to the moving water. But the mosquitoes came out just before sundown. I was obviously the first person on this site this year and it seemed wild until I noticed the road running right behind it (no traffic though). Two good tentpads and one swamped.

The campsites on the small interior lakes are typically tucked behind cedar shoreline and may lack great views of the lake but they do have a wild feel to them. There is no "camp furniture" as you often find in more frequently used campsites. Just the basic 3 logs to sit on around a campfire. The map denotes how many tentpads and these are usually small in size. Large family tents might not fit the tentpads in some of these campsites. Water levels appear to be up on all these interior lakes so there are a lot of living and dead trees leaning into the water on the shoreline meaning the swimming access is not great. All the campsites I saw had round plastic barrel-like latrines (all of which needed new holes dug). The campsites on Lac des Sept Freres were generally more open with better views and the occassional camp furniture and grills left behind. These obviously get more use than the small interior lakes.

Day 2

Slept until after 10 am. Fitful sleep often woke up but otherwise nice long rest after a hard day's work. Rain all day.

1350m portage to Lac Primeau. 2/3 dirt road and 1/3 bush trail. The trail part had 13 deadfalls across the trail. While trying to go around one on my first carry with the pack I sunk up to mid calf in mud. It was a long portage with the pack but not as bad with the canoe after I cleared the branches from around the deadfalls to make them passabel with a canoe. I used a solid pice of branch as a club to break smaller branches in one swing. At least now the path is clear up to the trunk of the deadfall so you can sttep over them or pass the canoe over. Before the branches completely obscured the path. Clearing was hard work but worth it to make getting through with the canoe easier and safer. By the end of the day I was quite sore.

Lac Primeau is a jewl of a lake. Not even a campsite so completely wild except for the portages and 2 portage signs. I wish I had more time to explore its bays and swamps and island.

The portage to Lac Clement was signed as 320m but says 210 on the map. I counted out 145 paces. Four more deadfalls across the path but not much branch clearing required. The water level on Lac Clement must be recently high (beavers?) Because there is a flooded out log cabin on some flooded land with standing dead trees only. The cabin is at least 2-3 feet deep in the water. Doors and windows still intact and a flooded outhouse deeper in the bush. I wonder how long it tkaes for the collection of human waste to work its way throught he lake(s)? There's a small wild campsite on Lac Clement.

320m portage to Lac Ogilvy had a very steep sectiondropping down to Lac Ogilvy with more deadfalls making passing with the pack difficult. More branch clearing required before I could get the canoe through. Definitely confirms the "always take the pack first" theory. Dead tired after the Lac Ogilvy portage. The Lac Ogilvy campsites did not look too impressive.

Short 60m portage to Lac Mercier. Lacs Mercier, Labelle, and Lartigue are connected by clear narrow channels with no water level change. Another indication of rising water levels since these lakes were named. The campsite on Lac Lartique is not bad. More open firepit area with 3 good clear tent pads on different levels.

Hard day and much more sore and exhausted than yesterday. Set up camp after 6 pm. Set up VCS 12 bug tarp for the first time. Helped to dry things out. Noticed some modifications to tarp and bug netting to make more useable space and higher head clearance. It needs extra fastex buckles and strap attachments between tarp and bug net between corners and maybe 1 each on top between two high corners and centre hanger. It is comfortable for two people with gear and to cook under. 3-4 would fit but cramped.

In sleeping bag by mindnight.

Day 3

Instead of taking the 420m portage from Lac Lartigue to Lac Diamond I decided to paddle up the connecting stream. There were four liftovers over beaver dams. Again, this route may not be advisable later in the season with lower water levels. Lac Diamond has a nice campsite on a point with 3 tentpads.

After the final 200m portage into Lac des Sept Freres I paddled across to the opposite shore's island campsite. It is a big campsite, with at least 5 tentpads, enough for a CCR gathering. Just to the north there is a small island with what looks like excellent diving rocks. It has a campsite closed for regeneration. There is another good campsite with 4 tentpads on the nearby shore.

As I started paddling south I saw the first people since I set off from Lac des Sept Freres three days before. I saw three fishermen in a small outboard. A little further south and I saw a 4 canoe family group heading in the opposite direction. Then I saw the same floatplane take off and land 3-4 times (there are a couple of fishing/hunting lodges on this lake). I imagine this lake gets quite busy in July-August. There is another big campsite with 7 tentpads on the west shore with a nice view overlooking the lake. But it looks like it gets heavy use causing soil erosion and this site might have to be closed soon.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
National Topographic Map: Lac Nominingue 31 J/6
Other Maps: 
Canot-Camping Reserve faunique de Papineau-Labelle (issued free at the park gate when you get your permit and all you really need - but copied on regular 11x17 bond paper so not waterproof) They also sell more detailed maps of the entire reserve.
Special Comments: 

I have been told that it is very busy in summer but on my early June weekday trip I had the place to myself.

Portages seem shorter than indicated on maps.

The long 1600 m portage on Ruis des Sept Freres can be avoided by paddling this section of river and portaging 3 times around logjams and rapids (first two are easy trails and the third was difficult through bush - there may be a trail but I didn't see it). But this may not be possible in low water. I portaged my pack the 1600 m and to the other end of the 135 m portage after the bridge and paddled/portaged the the canoe in short hops.

Easier loop routes without Lac Montjoie part (1600 and 1350 m portages) are possible by paddling N (instead of E) on Lac des Sept Freres and taking P 700 m into Lac Bourgeois and P 640 into Lac Clement.