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PostPosted: July 29th, 2020, 11:27 pm 
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I have asked before about paddling in James Bay. Basically told it is near impossible. Got a map, and confirmed that it may be near impossible without good knowledge of the tides.

So, for those that paddle down rivers to the Bay, what do you do? How do you get out?


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PostPosted: July 30th, 2020, 2:04 am 
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My comfort zone for James Bay is about 20km in the tidal zone, anything more than that and I'd been giving serious consideration to a pick up by freighter canoe.

Fortunately many of the best paddling rivers on both sides of James Bay end at or close to communities, on the Quebec side most now have all season road access while on the Ontario side it's air only except for Moosonee.

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PostPosted: July 30th, 2020, 6:36 am 
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I taught up in Kashechewan at the mouth of the Albany for 4 years. We were in a pickup truck on the winter road on our way to a student winter trapping class on the muskeg 20 km north, up by the(ir) French River, and I asked the driver James, a big man in his 50s whether it was a good idea to paddle in a canoe up the shore of the bay. He looked at me like I was nuts and then told me of a family who went out in their freighter and were never seen again and a hunting party headed to their camp that went missing and they all drowned. He said it's too dangerous out there and that the locals did not go out on the bay, besides, there's no fishing out there. There was also a female polar bear spotted coming up the far shore of the river earlier this week and they went out and shot it. Little native kids look and sound too much like baby seals.


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PostPosted: July 31st, 2020, 8:51 am 
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Well, I happen to have two relevant experiences crossing from the mouth of the Partridge River to Ship Sands Island and the Moose River. There are two trip reports in the database that give good advice.
Both times were difficult and amounted to a sprint wherein once the bay is reached, there is no relief until making your destination.

On the first occasion, the timing was not too bad, we arrived at the flats just after high tide and had to wade but not for terribly long in order to reach deeper water. Then we paddled 3km out to get away from the shallows and 11km across open water. There was no sheltered solid ground from the beginning of the marsh delta until reaching the island, so we were in the boats and moving for the entire day. The second half of our party arrived late and spent an entire tidal cycle of 6 hours sitting in the canoes waiting for the water to return. They ended up crossing the bay at dusk, and then in darkness, but made it. They phoned the OPP but all this amounted to, was to give them a status update.

For the second occasion the entire party arrived at the flats together and ahead of the tide. This was much less eventful as we were able to paddle out to open water, then rafted in groups of 5 canoes and sailed to the West using tarps.

Thankfully there was not any stormy weather but the bay was not entirely calm either.

In the specific case of the Partridge River there is a hunting camp near the mouth built on stilts, and apparently some people in Moosenee who are already accustomed to driving freighter boats in there. Therefore it would not be very difficult to arrange a pick up.

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PostPosted: September 18th, 2020, 12:09 am 
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The summer camp I went to (Camp Wanapitei) does trips to James Bay that end in Moosonee and always include a section of paddling on James Bay, giving it the name "Bay Trip". The year I went we paddled the Kattawagami, a tributary of the Harricana River, which made our Bay paddle about 45km. If I recall correctly this took us 4 or 5 days, with 3 days spent paddling, and 1 or 2 days spent windbound in our campsite. This means we needed water for a few days as we had no guarantee of fresh water at our campsites, we consolidated food barrels and filled a couple of them with water, this made some boats beastly heavy but it got us through with some conservation.

The times we could travel were totally dictated by weather and tides, we had to camp above the high water line which meant striking camp when the tide was fully in, or having to portage from wherever you can get to. Similarly departing camp meant waiting for the water to come in and leaving at 4am if that's when it is. Also remember that tide charts are location specific and will vary at a distance from that location (we had almost an hour offset I believe from the mouth of the Harricana vs Moosonee. If you are slow then you have one person walking out with the canoe following the tide while the other person walks back to camp to get the last packs, this can be a not insignificant distance as the tides move fast over the flats and you are walking through muck. We spent a lot of time paddling into or away from shore and not making progress towards Moosonee so that there would be sufficient depth of water to paddle in. We also spent a lot of time lining our canoes when the water got shallow and headwinds made paddling inefficient. Having a good depth chart of the area and tide charts and knowing how to interpret them to plan your route is a must.

We avoided canoeing on windy and rough days as much as we could and would always paddle at an angle to the waves for stability of course. We also had spray decks for our canoes. Travelling in a larger group also improved the safety of it as there would be other boats to give help if we had tipped or swamped. The days when we were windbound though were scary, we would not have been able to get off the beach if we had tried, and I don't know what would have happened if the weather turned like that while we were out of sight from shore.

This is all to say that it is possible, but extremely difficult and you will be 100% at the mercy of the weather, don't plan to go and have an experience that will match a neat and tidy itinerary. If you are confident in your ability and can prepare for it though I would 100% recommend the experience. It is extremely gratifying to accomplish, we camped on a beautiful beach with abundant driftwood for our campfires, and saw beluga whales from our canoes. I've seen your other post on the topic and it seems like you're into it for the difficulty, "because it's there" and all, and I would say this will give you that. But I would strongly caution you to spend a long time learning about the risks and what to expect, and I would never consider doing this solo or in a single boat, having a group you can rely on would be a must. If you are considering doing it I would recommend reaching out to Camp Wanapitei and maybe they'll put you in touch with one of the counsellors from a recent year who could help you by sharing some resources or trip reports. I did this 10 years ago and was a camper, not a leader so my recollection is by no means going to encompass all the challenges involved in planning and executing such a trip.


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PostPosted: September 18th, 2020, 9:51 am 
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Micro_Micropterus wrote:
The summer camp I went to (Camp Wanapitei) does trips to James Bay that end in Moosonee and always include a section of paddling on James Bay, giving it the name "Bay Trip". The year I went we paddled the Kattawagami, a tributary of the Harricana River, which made our Bay paddle about 45km. If I recall correctly this took us 4 or 5 days, with 3 days spent paddling, and 1 or 2 days spent windbound in our campsite. This means we needed water for a few days as we had no guarantee of fresh water at our campsites, we consolidated food barrels and filled a couple of them with water, this made some boats beastly heavy but it got us through with some conservation.

The times we could travel were totally dictated by weather and tides, we had to camp above the high water line which meant striking camp when the tide was fully in, or having to portage from wherever you can get to. Similarly departing camp meant waiting for the water to come in and leaving at 4am if that's when it is. Also remember that tide charts are location specific and will vary at a distance from that location (we had almost an hour offset I believe from the mouth of the Harricana vs Moosonee. If you are slow then you have one person walking out with the canoe following the tide while the other person walks back to camp to get the last packs, this can be a not insignificant distance as the tides move fast over the flats and you are walking through muck. We spent a lot of time paddling into or away from shore and not making progress towards Moosonee so that there would be sufficient depth of water to paddle in. We also spent a lot of time lining our canoes when the water got shallow and headwinds made paddling inefficient. Having a good depth chart of the area and tide charts and knowing how to interpret them to plan your route is a must.

We avoided canoeing on windy and rough days as much as we could and would always paddle at an angle to the waves for stability of course. We also had spray decks for our canoes. Travelling in a larger group also improved the safety of it as there would be other boats to give help if we had tipped or swamped. The days when we were windbound though were scary, we would not have been able to get off the beach if we had tried, and I don't know what would have happened if the weather turned like that while we were out of sight from shore.

This is all to say that it is possible, but extremely difficult and you will be 100% at the mercy of the weather, don't plan to go and have an experience that will match a neat and tidy itinerary. If you are confident in your ability and can prepare for it though I would 100% recommend the experience. It is extremely gratifying to accomplish, we camped on a beautiful beach with abundant driftwood for our campfires, and saw beluga whales from our canoes. I've seen your other post on the topic and it seems like you're into it for the difficulty, "because it's there" and all, and I would say this will give you that. But I would strongly caution you to spend a long time learning about the risks and what to expect, and I would never consider doing this solo or in a single boat, having a group you can rely on would be a must. If you are considering doing it I would recommend reaching out to Camp Wanapitei and maybe they'll put you in touch with one of the counsellors from a recent year who could help you by sharing some resources or trip reports. I did this 10 years ago and was a camper, not a leader so my recollection is by no means going to encompass all the challenges involved in planning and executing such a trip.


Thank you for this information. I now see what I am in for. I feel if I plan on doing this, I will definitely hire a guide. I feel doing it without local knowledge would end horribly. I will reach out to them to see if they know of someone who works with adults to do some Big Water paddling.


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PostPosted: September 18th, 2020, 1:23 pm 
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Joined: January 11th, 2005, 4:58 pm
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Location: Manitoba
Hire a pick up by freighter canoe or plane or helicopter, etc.
Communities are often close so hiring a pick up doesn’t necessarily involve long distances.

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