Tichegami River/Moon River

CanadaQuebec08 Lower James Bay
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
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Additional Route Information
313 km
13 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
9960 m
Longest Portage: 
1100 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Beginning at Lake Albanel some 400 kilometers east of James Bay and nearly 200 kilometers north of Chibougamau, the Tichegami River/Moon River trip starts with crossings of Lakes Albanel and Mistassini, works north upriver on the Wabissinane River to 22 kilometer long Lake Baudeau, progresses west on Tichegami and Eastmain Rivers to Lake de la Marée, and then proceeds southwest on Moon River to Rupert River.

This route is a study in contrasts, ranging from capricious Lake Mistassini, picturesque Tichegami Mountains bordering Lake Baudeau, racehorse rides down the rapids of Tichegami River and scenic Moon River itself. The trip length of 313 kilometers may be extended by further travel down the Rupert River, with alternate takeouts at Highway 109 or Waskaganish on James Bay. There is road access to the put-in at Lake Albanel and takeout at Route du Nord highway crossing of the Rupert River, though a long shuttle of approximately 410 kilometers is required, all over gravel roads.

I did not find the trip particularly arduous, portages in general being short and relatively flat, with total on-water duration of 13 days, inclusive of one windbound day. The trip should be classified as predominantly flatwater mixed lake-river, though with a significant number of rapids, whitewater and lining skills are mandatory. It would also be prudent in planning to allocate a minimum of three windbound days, since several large water bodies must be navigated whose conditions are rapidly and adversely influenced by the region’s variable weather.

Upriver travel from Lac Mistassini via Riviere Wabissinane is conducted predominately through a decade old burn, though the river itself still manages to remain engaging, exhibiting large deposits of glacier till. Height of Land traverse to the Lac Baudeau watershed brings an opportunity for downstream small creek running with the occasional simple drop, emptying into the beauty of beach-rich Lac Baudeau. With the luxury of more time, I would have spent a rest day on Lac Baudeau, camping on the west shore and admiring enchanting Monts Tichegami (Tichegami Mountains). Riviere Tichegami comprises roughly 3 days travel to Riviere Eastmain with a number of class 2-3 rapids, often 300 meters or more in length. Many of these I found runnable, and the remaining few, excepting one, linable, though with few available portages. I had nervously awaited arrival at the Eastmain, anticipating a gorged, wild river. Instead, the limited section of primary channel I traveled was broad, tranquil and panoramic. Interestingly, the Eastmain possessed a more varied flora, the ubiquitous Black Spruce now sharing the shores with Aspen, White Spruce and Birch and the occasional Jackpine. An intimate secondary channel of the Eastmain is the quickest route to Lac de la Marée, this area still utilized by the Cree as evidenced by their camps, in one of which I encamped halfway through the trip.

The portage-rich section of small lakes and creeks connecting Lake de la Marée to Moon River I found delightful, experiencing excellent weather during the passage, and managing to limit any ‘temporary disorientation’ to a single occurrence. Seeley’s description of Moon River is apropos, with towering cliffs and charming topographic relief. Camping at the end of the series of Moon River’s southwest lake sections opposite a huge rock rampart was awe inspiring. From a certain perspective the huge granite slab appears to be the face of a stoic personage: it didn’t take much imagination to appreciate how the indigenous Cree may have found this a hallowed site.

Not once did I see a road, powerline or commercially lumbered stump between Lac Albanel and my takeout at Route du Nord, though transmission lines do parallel this highway. A single floatplane crossed my path in thirteen days. On the trip’s last day I encountered the only other people met during my excursion, a fishing party near the confluence of Moon River and Riviere Rupert who munificently proffered a shared lunch complete with two beers – (now that’s a genuine welcome!).

Finally reaching the Rupert River, I found it as described by my shoreline lunch companions; the Rupert is as big as the Ottawa, fast flowing and powerful. You won’t run any rapids here. A major impetus to perform this trip was knowledge that Hydro Quebec intends to flood this section of Rupert River and lower Moon River, diverting the impoundment north to the Eastmain. Those entertaining the notion of attempting this voyage mayhap should do it soon.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

GPS coordinates given were obtained directly from field readings. Those recorded as UTM and identified as ‘derived from map’ were acquired directly from maps using the Grid Corner Ruler provided on compass base. When GPS errors or deviations from the map crept in (as they would whenever forest canopy was obscuring) they tended to err more on the Northing. All maps required for this trip are North American Datum 1927.
GPS Settings:
Position Format: UTM/UPS
Map Datum: NAD 1927 – Canada
Units: Metric
North Reference: Grid
Variance: 002º East

Lac Albanel Crossing: Refer to Seeley’s log for crossing and portage around first rapid (runnable but potentially hazardous at head of Gorge).

First leg of portage to Lac Mistassini, 700 meters. Portage starts in bay on River Left on north shore, immediately after rapid near head of Gorge.
Landing GPS: 0630350 5665619

Second portage to Lac Mistassini, 900 meters. Travel length of rivulet 100 meters downstream and lift over beaver dam. Portage starts on River Left in swampy area 30 meters downstream of dam. Note: a second trail joins this one after 300 meters. It may be an additional portage from further downstream on the creek or it may go to the Gorge, but I didn’t check it out.
Landing GPS: 06303747 5666258

Lac Mistassini Crossing: Quebec’s largest lake, Mistassini is unpredictable, cold and renowned for its highly variable weather. Crossings are generally made in early morning or late evening, though late evening entails greater jeopardy should foul weather arise. If planning a morning crossing, be prepared to leave at first light. An alternative strategy for the cautious paddler would be to work north around the lake’s shoreline, but this would add several days travel.

Lac Mistassini’s Pointe Sainte-Jean: several tent sites are in the bush right on the point, if windbound.

Lac Mistassini’s Ile Pahipanouk, in pass between Ile Tchapahipane and Péninsule Ouachimiscau: Campsite 100 meters from south end of island, east side. Another windbound shelter.

Riviere Wabissinane portage off Lac Mistassini, 140 meters. A falls immediately precedes the river’s mouth. Seeley correctly locates the portage landing on the west bank of the river. In 2003 the lake level was low enough that this landing could not be easily reached and I portaged from the lake side of the point, 10 meters west of river mouth.

Portage over small island, 20 meters.
Landing GPS: 0617159 5682998

Portage, 2 rapids, 100 meters each rapid, east bank. Or portage 400 meters around both rapids.
Landing GPS: 0618479 5695188

Portage, rapid, 300 meters, west bank. Take care here. My notes reference west bank, but I can’t recall this portage.
Landing GPS: 0619981 5698238

Portage, rapid, east bank. Take eddy right to edge of rapid for takeout.
Landing GPS: 0620244 5699032

Portage or line, 25 meters, west bank.
Landing GPS: 0620409 5700695

Portage or line, 40 meters, east bank.
Landing GPS: 0620340 5700812

River confluence of two channels. Took the west channel, but be alert here as the river scribes a complete circle at confluence.
GPS: 0620180 5701449

Portage, rapid, 300 meters, east bank. Starts 40 meters from rapid and moves 40 to 80 meters inland.
Landing GPS: 0619751 5701726

Lined rapids at end of lake stretch; also lined following rapid.
Landing GPS: 0618463 5703517

Portage out of Wabissinane watershed, 600 meters. Starts in small bay on east side of lake curvature to the North. Portage is level, ends at lake through 120 meters of swampy trail.
Landing GPS: 0622762 5709281

Portage, 200 meters, River Right. Portage continues around next rapid for additional 200 meters, but could not find connecting portage link between the two.
Landing GPS: 0624868 5711869

Portage, 150 meters, River Right. Shot a swift, then took out for portage. Ran ledge after put-in.
Landing GPS: 0626381 5713735

Portage around falls and choked drainage, 1100 meters. Portage is located at northeast end of lake section, 40 meters east of outflow and marked by a large, shoreline Tamarack with overgrown blaze. The trail initially proceeds in direction oriented with the lake, then uphill through a notch in ridge. The entire portage goes through a burned area with many blowdowns resulting in more off trail passage than on. Jackpine seem inclined to grow right on the portage trail, (a feature also noted on earlier portages through burns) and often a symmetrical line of Jackpine is the surest indicator of the trail. Total portage time (2 carries) 1 hour 5 minutes.
Landing GPS: 0626988 5714793

Portage, 40 meters, River Right. Shoot first 40 meters of rapid then take out.
Landing GPS: 0628456 5717659

Portage to Lac Baudeau, 50 meters. Takeout on River Right in tiny cove, 40 meters upstream of falls.
Landing GPS: 0630512 5719608

Campsite: large Cree camp on West shore at north end of Lac Baudeau, 1 kilometer before reaching Riviere Tichegami. Excellent, flat campsite, though marred by detritus. I noted few agreeable campsites on the early Tichegami, so a late-day camp would best be made while on Lac Baudeau.
Campsite GPS: 0631046 5742427

Followed Tichegami south channel.
River fork UTM (derived from map): 0628800 5745000

Rapid: right after confluence of southern horseshoe bend. 400 meters. Ran main channel River Left to find drop through 3 foot ledge.
Rapid UTM (derived from map): 0626115 5743000

Falls in main channel River Left. Line/run middle channel between 2 islands and bushwack from small eddy over River Left island back to main channel. (I avoided the bushwack and ran the rest of the rapid, but it was challenging). The third channel on River Right may be linable/runnable with differing water levels.
Rapid UTM (derived from map): 0615740 5746615

Overgrown campsite shortly after falls, River Right on west bank of small creek that drains a small lake. Room for one tent, more if Juniper undergrowth cleared out.
Campsite UTM (derived from map): 18U 0614210 5747440

Campsite on River Right at head of rapids.
Campsite UTM (derived from map): 18U 0613175 5749360

Portage, River Right at head of violent, curving chute, 350 meters. Two 200-300 meter rapids are immediately upstream of takeout, with a small River Right bay allowing egress. Trail begins at top of prominent, sloping granite outcrop and is clear and well defined. Thirty meters from start of portage is the junction of a trail from the East: possibly this trail is for a landing somewhere upriver, perhaps at the beginning of one of the previous two rapids, since running of these 2 rapids presents the risk in a dump of being swept down the chute. Note: Seeley refers in his notes to Camp Keewaydin of Dunmore, Vermont as conducting a 500 yard portage at the confluence of the Tichegami and Eastmain Rivers. I believe the reference may have been to this portage, as I found none required at the confluence and no other rapid I met on the Tichegami was more deserving of a portage.
Landing GPS: 0601805 5753963

Rapid around elephant head island. Ran north channel.
UTM (derived from map): 0592370 5750830

West channel, 3 kilometers upstream of Eastmain confluence. Checked this out and found initial cascade steep, long and difficult to line. Opted for alternate east channel 2 kilometers northeast even though it had more drops.
UTM (derived from map): 0588400 5350500

East channel. Ran, lined and portaged over shoreline for the several rapids in this stretch.
UTM (derived from map): 0589860 5351400

Fork of Riviere Eastmain to southern channel. For the intrepid paddler, access to Lac de la Marée is possible via main channel also.
UTM (derived from map): 0574950 5752700

Campsite, Cree. Site is on the point at entrance to a 2 kilometer long lake. An additional, larger site is on the north shore 250 meters from the entrance. UTM is given for the opening (entrance) to lake from river.
UTM (derived from map): 0570800 5149280

Lac de la Marée egress portage to “small round pond”: Lac de la Marée level was low and the southwest end of the lake was a mud flat. Following a compass bearing, I orienteered to the small round pond via an overland route, and never did locate the portage. Seeley’s description and distance of 220 meters should suffice.
Landing for portage to pond (derived from map) UTM: 0542175 5737660

Portage out of the small round pond to the “dogleg” lake was situated per Seeley’s account, 300 meters. The trail start is overgrown with Alders, located approximately 15 meters south of the inlet creek on the pond’s east side and initially paralleling the creek up a slope.
Landing for portage to dogleg lake (derived from map) UTM: 0542480 5737430

Creek between “dogleg” lake and one kilometer “long narrow” northeast-southwest lake was navigable.

Portage out of “long narrow” lake to creek widening, 150 meters. Portage starts on point east of inlet creek 80 meters from creek narrows. Cross the small creek widening and proceed until creek no longer navigable and then portage 60 meters on west bank to next lake, paralleling creek. Note: Seeley here refers to a 100 yard portage on the creek’s east side ending at a campsite I wasn’t able to locate this portage.
Landing GPS: 0541893 5735342

Portage out of lake to small pond starts at south side of creek mouth, 100 meters. Note: this trail continues on past the target pond reaching a second pond at GPS 0540802 5734834. Keewaydin may have bushed a second portage from the opposite side of this second pond, but I did not pursue it. Cross pond referenced by Seeley to commence 800 meter portage.
Landing GPS: 0541098 5734779

Height-of-land portage to Moon River watershed, 800 meters. Proceed up slight incline to ridge and find faint portage. Portage is subsequently blazed entire length, though blazes are older.
Landing GPS: 0540848 5734912

Portages on creek following “long skinny lake” (lake reached at end of height of land portage), total 2, each 50 meters on north bank.
First landing UTM (derived from map): 0539760 5734705

Lift-over or portage to lake with “boot-shaped bay”. Seeley mentions a 100 yard portage around the creek draining into the boot-shaped bay lake. I was able to navigate the creek with 2 short lift-overs.
Creek entrance UTM (derived from map): 0538470 5734100

Portage out of “boot-shaped” bay, 250 meters. West shoreline boulder marks portage start. Keep conifers on right until meeting Caribou trail and follow to the creek. Field GPS Northing waypoint was in error, substituting map coordinates.
Landing UTM (derived from map): 0536395 5733590

Portage in creek between boot-shaped bay and mushroom-shaped lake, 50 meters, River Left. Boulder field necessitates a short lift.

Portage into Moon River from “mushroom” lake outlet creek, 200 meters. Starts in the creek just before its descent and rapids. Beware if false portage ascending hill on River Left about 100 meters before creek narrowing. On south shore climb atop eroded bank and roughly parallel creek as you drop through a small Alder filled drainage. Breaking through the Alders find the portage skirting a hillside paralleling creek. Work onto the crest near end and follow down to shoreline of Moon River lake section.
Landing GPS: 0534915 5734338

Portage over island, blazed, 50 meters.
Landing GPS: 0526799 5731300

Portage around congested creek to “horseshoe” lake/creek stretch, 600 meters. Start at west shoreline boulder 40 meters from outlet creek, up a bouldered hill and along short granite ridge. Some blazes are found on initial 120 meters and portage is easily followed after that. Comment: loved the “horseshoe” stretch.
Landing GPS: 0523658 5729185

Campsite opposite rock face, 1.2 kilometers from end of northeast-southwest lake section. An additional campsite is located at the head of the portage bay, but I found this setting more engaging, excepting the mud lake bottom.
Campsite GPS: 0509321 5717577

Portage to small east-west pond out of long northeast-southwest lake section, 100 meters. Starts on west side of creek inflow. Find Caribou trail to small granite ridge, follow ridge left 30 meters to relocate trail and complete short portage to west end of pond.
Landing for portage to pond (derived from map) UTM: 0508530 5716850

Portage to Moon River “long back bay”, 900 meters. Starts on south shore midway down the small east-west pond. I blazed a shoreline conifer to mark the spot. Balance of portage is per Seeley’s description. This trail is the roughest of trip and well blazed, though blazes are overgrown. Total portage time (2 carries) 1 hour 30 minutes.
Landing GPS: 0508702 5716678

Campsite, south shore. Seeley mentions a site close to the portage end and this one I noted was on a point.
UTM (derived from map): 0508200 5715810

Rapid, lined. Seeley discusses the running of the last of three rapids in a series, the portage located on River Left before turn to rapids. I lined this rapid.
UTM (derived from map): 0505615 5714900

Portage around falls, 50 meters. I found the lift over falls on River Left to be best. Unfortunately did not note position. Approximate location given.
Landing UTM (approximate): 0494620 5715600

Portage, island liftover, 50 meters I ran this shallow rapid and incongruously dumped right at its bottom, the only wetting of my trip.
UTM (derived from map): 0491400 5716600

Portage, at head of “horseraces”, 100 meters. Location of portage not logged; possibly over shoreline.
UTM (derived from map): 0486520 5716600

Portage, Riviere Rupert, 100 meters. Takeout is on River Left in small bay immediately following a small rapid.
UTM (derived from map): 0472450 5707775

Portage, Riviere Rupert, 300 meters. Takeout is on River Left in bay.
UTM (derived from map): 0471430 5707650

Takeout from Riviere Rupert at Route du Nord. Portage is on River Left (south shore) in small bay approximately 200 meters before highway bridge. Maintain River Left and take care on river while approaching the portage bay: if you dump or overshoot the portage, you will be swept into an extremely violent falls. My understanding is that there is an access road in this area where a shuttle vehicle could be left, but I was not able to pinpoint it. There is sufficient area for shuttle parking on the portage on the east side of Route du Nord.
Landing at Route du Nord Portage GPS: 0468509 5708708

Perhaps overly conservative, I bypassed the Rupert Crossing takeout by steering south of the headland on River Left one kilometer east of the highway, and made landfall in large western bay. From there I portaged overland approximately 600 meters to the highway, bearing 240º.
Landfall in west bay UTM (derived from map): 0469200 5707910

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
32 P/3 32 P/6 32 P/11 32 P/13 32 P/14 32 O/10 32 O/11 32 O/15 32 O/16
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Lac Baudeau 32 P Lac Mesgouez 32 O Other Maps Province of Quebec and Province of Ontario Highway Maps – Mapart Publishing Nord-du-Quebec (Northern Quebec) Highway Map RO17 – Cartotek Geo
Special Comments: 

The Moon River (Misticawassee Creek) portion of this trip was pioneered by Keewaydin’s Steve Springgate and Ted Kenneally, and documented by Bill Seeley subsequent to his trips. References seeded throughout my notes cite Bill’s accounts, and his logs for Tichegami River Route, Moon River Route and Lake Albanel to Lake Mistassini should be considered primary and consulted in conjunction with this report. Bill originally responded to my request for supplemental information during winter 2000, and following were two unsuccessful solo endeavors in 2000 and 2002. The summer of 2003 was more fortuitous, with both amenable weather and absence of forest fires sustaining my lone passage. Many thanks go to those Keewaydin Alumni who enabled my journey, directly and indirectly.

The extensive forest fires of 2002 had minimal impingement on the shoreline woods bounding the waters of this route, notable exceptions being 7 blackened kilometers along the Tichegami and some burned out areas at Lac de la Marée. Recurrent fires are obviously the norm, attested to by bleached stands of firekill, with new growth of various stages frequently encountered.

The majority of this trip transpires in the Wildlife Refuge of Réserve faunique Assinica and Réserve faunique des Lacs-Albanel-Mistassini-et-Waconichi. Much of this area is deemed “Cree” land, and the overlapping jurisdictions of Cree and Quebec are administered through Sepaq. Formal registration and detailed itinerary of your intended trip must be submitted to Sepaq (include campsite locations and layover days and anticipated windbound days) and prior receipt of their authorization is required before you enter the Réserve faunique, their website requesting one month to process your application. My experience with Sepaq during my three attempts was that they were always friendly and accommodating, though sometimes bureaucratic. Submit your application by email, and follow up with a faxed or mailed copy of your request. Phone within several days to verify receipt, and subsequently ensure that you receive email or written trip approval. When you arrive at their office just North of Chibougamau, they will require payment in cash for the Indian Land component of your fees, with the Sepaq (Province of Quebec) fee balance optionally paid by credit card. Fees for fishing rights are extra to access right charges.

Disclaimer regarding logs of portages and rapids and trip duration: My intention is not to document every portage, rapid or obstacle, but only those that merit special attention. Those rapids that I found easily run or lined do not appear in this log, though Seeley manages a more complete accounting. Riviere Wabissinane is the exception since upstream travel requires portage or tracking of all rapids. Flow rates can vary greatly each year and correspondingly, current flows and rapids. For example, in 2000 all levels and flows were high due to an extremely wet spring, while early summer 2003 followed a dry period and water levels were low. Tandem trippers may complete the route in less time than mine, employing single carry or carry-and-one-half portage technique and paddling at faster pace. Additionally, being in possession of information available in this report, there will be less necessity to search out portages, river courses etc.


Post date: Wed, 06/24/2015 - 08:27


Post date: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 12:24


Please note email change to moeyvonne@gmail.com

Post date: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 17:06


I double-checked the UTM coordinates published here against Google Earth and The Atlas of Canada electronic maps and those coordinates given here to not correspond. For any potential trippers, please contact me for correct coordinates.


Post date: Fri, 01/02/2009 - 00:29


This route was submitted by me in 2003. A subsequent tandem trip was completed in 2004 with 'Krusty', for which I created an updated trip log. Unfortunately, this record was lost before I could submit it. Should a prospective paddler require updated information, please contact me by email.

Mobax, Jan. 01. 2009

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


This is a fantastic trip well documented here by Baxter. The trails he marks as not found were all bushed, or orienteered in my travels. I am not surprised that their evidence has faded in the 10 years since I went that way.