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PostPosted: September 19th, 2019, 3:22 pm 
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Location: Eganville, ON
It’s been a long time since I’ve put together a trip report. My last full report was for the Nettogami River, one of the little James Bay Rivers easily accessible from Cochrane, paddling straight to Moosonee. We had originally planned on paddling many of the little James Bay Rivers such as the Wak, North French, Partridge etc, but after seeing the landscape and the difficult to make campsites on the Nettogami, we abandoned the area and set out in search of new paddling opportunities with firmer ground!

Our next big trip came about from hearing of the demise of the Rupert River, and a desire to see Lac Mistassini in Northern Quebec. I wanted to spend some time on the untouched portion of the Rupert upstream of the diversion dams. Originally we had planned a shuttle trip that would start off the Route du Nord on the Des Maures River, paddle into the lower branch of the Rupert (Natastan) then south through the Marten River to our shuttled car nearly 200km down the Route du Nord.

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Rupert River’s Oatmeal Rapids before diversion

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Rupert River’s Oatmeal Rapids after diversion

It was a good plan until our 4th had to back out. Still wanting to explore the area, I was determined to make a loop trip that the 3 of us could do while still paddling north to spend at least one day on the lower branch of the Rupert. Days of scouring the topos led me to the realization that there is so much water in the area, that a virtually inexhaustible number of routes could be created by bushwhacking from lake to lake where they are closest; which is generally less than 500M between them.

So off we went nearly 10 years ago on that first trip to this area, and it instantly became my favorite canoeing destination. The land is gorgeous, true boreal forest, but with lots of beautiful topography, and the ability to hack a campsite out of the bush almost anywhere. There are also numerous eskers, and huge sand beaches that make for excellent camping and swimming. It didn’t hurt that the lakes have good fishing, blueberries grow by the millions, and there are very few bugs late in the season. There is almost no evidence of people anywhere during the open water season. The Cree still access the area in the winter for hunting, but their camps are very spread out. We’ve found evidence of ancient portages between some lakes that are pounded down into the earth in a trail 6 inches wide by 6 inches deep, that may have been created when the Cree were still semi nomadic travelling through the area over the seasons. Some of the youth groups still travel through the area very intermittently as well to help keep those trails open.

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Lac Canoticaine, Miskittenau Mountain

So all of that preamble to say that this paddlers Eden convinced me to be greedy and not invite others into the area by posting trip reports. Factors other than my greed play in as well, the area was a bit difficult to access, as it used to be part of the Sepaq wilderness reserves; which are not well suited to canoeists, but cater to drive-to fishing lakes. To further complicate it some of the area crossed into Cree territory, necessitating a second set of permissions to access. Last year the Cree have gained full control of the entire area under the new Nibiischii Corporation which is actively encouraging canoe tripping as part of their mandate. I’ve been providing them with known and possible routes so booking a trip in the future may be easier. The map below shows routes we’ve done in yellow, ones yet to explore in green. The stars are the access points, red are easily accessed by car, black require 4 wheel drive and a sense of adventure!

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Natastan River

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Confluence of Lac Canoticaine and Natastan River

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Lac Canoticaine

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Lac Boisfort

Finally onto this year’s trip report! I usually get antsy around February each year, so start planning the next year’s trip. Each year in the area we’ve mapped out a different portion, and this year I wanted to explore the westernmost section on the very edge of the reserves. My email blast only yielded 1 confirmed accomplice for this trip, although a third joined in the summer. With 3 of us it meant I would solo paddle, and we could squeeze into 1 car to save gas. I wanted to start at Lac Courseron, just off the Route du Nord around the 200km mark, and paddle up to the Rupert, and loop back through a series of lakes. We agreed on leaving the morning of Saturday August 24th returning around Labor Day.

We met up at my workplace in Renfrew an hour west of Ottawa at 9AM and proceeded to squeeze all of our gear into the Prius; while somehow leaving room for 3 adults.

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Shortly after we hit the road, destined to hit Chapais that evening, roughly 800km north. The drive was relatively uneventful, except for one time frantically searching for a gas station; the mileage computer struggled to adjust to the reduction two 17 foot canoes cause the Prius! We arrived at Chapais around 7PM, checked into the Motel Clossi for the night, then proceeded to hunt down some Quebec Poutine and Beer for dinner.


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PostPosted: November 19th, 2019, 11:31 am 
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Awesome!

One thing about those remote routes is that even if you pen a TR, you're likely never going to encounter a fellow paddler as the distance is too great to draw in the crowds. I've often looked at this area - it's an 8-9hr drive for me, so not too bad.... where do you get your local intel/resources from? Any documented portage locations or just inferring from satellite and orthos?

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PostPosted: November 20th, 2019, 12:29 pm 
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For anyone interested, the whole trip report can be read on ottertooth:

http://www.ottertooth.com/discus/messag ... 1568923546


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PostPosted: November 20th, 2019, 12:58 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
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Location: Eganville, ON
You are probably right, we've spent approximately 70 days in the area over the years, and haven't seen a single person. We've only even found evidence of summer use a couple of times. There are a number of winter camps spread through the area that the cree use for hunting their traplines once the water freezes over.

For portages, we've generally just looked for the shortest distance between bodies of water, and roughly 50% of the time found evidence of a portage when we got there. The rest of the time we just make it up as we go along. The land is relatively easy to travel through as the forest is mostly sparse. By using satellite images you can follow the lichen paths which are generally open and rocky ground. On the creeks and small rivers we've done lots of boulder walks, which can be nerve wracking depending on your balance.

If you've ever been travelling with David Lee, or followed some of his routes, I think you'll find this area a walk in the park in comparison to some of his trips!

On some of the Ottertooth archives there are trip reports with notes on portages along the Rupert and Natastan rivers (Rupert south branch). I believe there were some maps on the cleduc site as well for the rivers.

I've got a large stitched together topo marked up I'll PM you.

Cheers


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PostPosted: November 22nd, 2019, 12:25 pm 
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Joined: April 21st, 2004, 10:52 am
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Location: Near Ottawa ON
Thx for the report.

I see you've posted on Ottertooth and so must have read Seeley's Logs. I've done a lot of the routes he describes. If you haven't done it yet the North arm of the Rupert up thru Woollett is epic. The Marten is another great trip. Seeley's Tichegami route up the north end of Mistissini gets you over the height of land into the Eastmain watershed. I really enjoyed the intimate Moon River section of his route back to the Rupert. But that was back when my knees still worked. :(


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PostPosted: November 27th, 2019, 1:14 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
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Location: Eganville, ON
Hi Krusty,

yes the Seeley logs are part of what inspired me to explore the area. Every time I read them I kick myself wishing I went into teaching so I could have the time off to retrace some of those month long routes. I'd really like to spend some time exploring all the cross channels between the north and south branches of the Rupert.

Given my 10 day trip limitations for now (work and family demands) I think next year we will explore the Des Maures up through the Mouth of the Rupert, and circle back through the Natastan and Lac Bueil.

So much to explore!


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PostPosted: November 27th, 2019, 2:52 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2009, 9:37 am
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Location: Kingston, ON
This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2019, 8:08 am 
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sbaillie wrote:
Last year the Cree have gained full control of the entire area under the new Nibiischii Corporation which is actively encouraging canoe tripping as part of their mandate. I’ve been providing them with known and possible routes so booking a trip in the future may be easier. The map below shows routes we’ve done in yellow, ones yet to explore in green. The stars are the access points, red are easily accessed by car, black require 4 wheel drive and a sense of adventure!

Attachment:
routes2.jpg




Hi Sbaillie, Do you currently pay a camping fee to the Nibiischii Corporation to access the routes shown in your map? I'm interested in doing the Upper Rupert, Natastan, Marten exiting at the Route Du Nord where it crosses the Riviere La Marte. Have you heard of anyone providing a boat shuttle service on Mistissani to get you to the head of the Rupert? I don't love the idea of paddling that lake. From your map it looks like there might be an alternate access off the Route Du Nord at the North end of Lac De Maures.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2019, 12:36 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
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Location: Eganville, ON
Yes if inside the borders of the reserve you have to pay a fee for camping, plus another fee if you want to fish. www.nibiischii.com is the website and under contacts you can email or call to arrange permits. They do ask that you arrange a permit ahead of time, then you can pay when you arrive, or pay in advance to avoid the extra stop.

I've never looked into a shuttle, but the fishing camps on lac Mistassini use a shuttle service from the town of Mistissini to the lodges, and one is located at the mouth of the Rupert. Contact can be found on mistassinilake.com.

To access the Rupert, there is a launch into Lac de Maures easily accessible off the route du nord. The access was good enough for car travel last year. From there it is a 2 day paddle down the riviere de Maures to the mouth. We checked out the launch and looked at the river in a couple of places and it looks very navigable. It is on our list to try next summer.

Here are links to higher quality maps:

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Auug5lQYCXFmijxWUgD_sKF6pAs5

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Auug5lQYCXFmikIdNf2qJEk_5v0y

https://1drv.ms/u/s!Auug5lQYCXFmikFSsWtvAn7zlvgl

Cheers


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PostPosted: December 3rd, 2019, 4:50 pm 
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I've gone in from the campground on Lac Albanel and island-hopped across Mistissini making landfall north of the Rupert. IIRC the longest open-water crossing was 7.2 km.


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PostPosted: December 3rd, 2019, 8:53 pm 
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Krusty wrote:
I've gone in from the campground on Lac Albanel and island-hopped across Mistissini making landfall north of the Rupert. IIRC the longest open-water crossing was 7.2 km.


Thanks Krusty, I was looking at that option too too. it sure looks intimidating on a map.


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PostPosted: December 4th, 2019, 5:49 am 
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One time we used a little motor to get from the camp ground at the bottom of Mistissini up to the Rupert egress. Did it in one day.


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PostPosted: December 5th, 2019, 11:13 am 
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Good idea for the crossing; we used a small motor on some large lakes a couple years ago by lashing 2 canoes together. It only used a few liters gas for a week long trip.

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