Circuit 63 \"Grande Boucle Chochocouane\"

CanadaQuebec04 Ottawa
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Vesna
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
132 km
Duration: 
8 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
0
Total Portage Distance: 
6870 m
Longest Portage: 
800 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Low
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Multiple poorly maintained, overgrown, and muddy portages would make this an extremely challenging route for the physically disabled.

Technical Guide: 

Put in/take out just before a bridge on Rte 41 12km east of Hwy 117 at the northern end of La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve.
Southeast (up river) on Riviere Canimiti
P250
P500
Southeast across Lac Rivard.
P295
upriver to Lac Gladu.
Southeast across Lac Gladu & Lac Fourmet.
P800 to Lac Denain.
Southeast across Lac Denain & upriver through small unnamed lake.
P375 to Lac Ypres.
P500 on ATV trail to Lac Amyot.
Lac Amyot to Lac Yser.
P400 to unnamed lake.
P200 to Lac Ucciani.
Downstream through Lac Powell & Lac Madonna.
~P250 to Lac Queran.
Lac Queran to Lac Mercent.
Ruisseau Camitakit east to Riviere Chochocouane.
Riviere Chochocouane west & northwest (downstream) to Riviere Canimiti.
Riviere Canimiti upstream to Rte 41 bridge.
Multiple portages available around most rapids on Rivieres Chochocouane and Canimiti

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

I did this route in mid/late July of 2004, and I am writing this report from memory, along with help from the notations on the canoe map that I used. As the name implies, it is a loop, of 132km and takes 8-10 days to complete. I did it in 8, but I was kind of driven. Travel is easier in a clockwise direction.

This route is in the northeastern portion of La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in Quebec. It also includes a fair amount of travel on water and land outside of the Reserve boundaries. Check out the following website for information about canoeing there:
http://www.canot-kayak.qc.ca/la_verendrye/siteEn/index1.htm
A good portion of the route is not maintained and it's a fun route if you want to take your first steps beyond marked portages and campsite, and groomed portages. Put in and take out are about 12 km from Highway 117, along "highway 41" - which is really a one lane track that is fairly rough in places. The put in is just before the road crosses a small bridge over the Riviere Canimiti. It's easy to find. I was able to get to the put in with my boat in the rental sedan I had at the time. Fortunately the rental company didn't know what I was doing with their car.

FRIDAY: The black flies were swarming when I unloaded my car in the later part of the afternoon. I had naively had assumed it would be too late in the summer for bad black flies. I wore a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat. My bug jacket was packed away somewhere, and the flies were driving me insane. Eventually I noticed lots of red dots of blood seeping through my shirtsleeves, and I aborted my attempt to set off that day. I erected my tent as fast as I could, right there next to the car, and dove in for the night.

SATURDAY: The next morning things were either not as bad or I had found my bug jacket, because I don't remember having too much trouble loading the canoe and setting out upstream on the Riviere Canimiti. Sections of this river are very broad and slow, but I did have to pull my canoe up through some rocky swifts before reaching a 250m portage around some rapids. Shortly after this portage there was another 500m portage ending at Lac Rivard. This is where I learned that in the mud on these portage trails one could still make good forward progress if there were footprints in the mud; where the mud did not retain any foot prints I sank in past my knees. At the end of this portage, on Lac Rivard, is the first possible campsite.

Past Lac Rivard another portage (295m) got me around a set of rapids and falls, and a bit more paddling and pulling the canoe up through C-I rapids got me to Lac Gladu. For a much shorter loop you can head southwest from Lac Gladu down through a chain of lakes and streams to the Chochocouane. I continued southeast and camped on an island at the far end of Lac Fourmet (site 63-11). I had traveled about 18km.

SUNDAY: Another very muddy 800m portage brought me to Lac Denain. There is a run down camp on the left at the end of this portage On the lake there was a stiff wind at my back and I went surging along into the growing waves. The far end of the lake has a number of chalets/cabins/cottages, including one that had a float plane at the dock. The waves on the lake were growing to scary proportions and I jumped out of the canoe in a shallow area with a sandy bottom and snapped on the spray deck while standing in the rough water. I found in the convoluted southeast end of Lac Denain the mouth of the short stream leading to the next (small and unnamed) lake and from here took a portage to Lac Ypres, which is a very pretty lake. This portage, though only 375m, had 5 trees down across the trail, and it took a while to traverse. My map indicated a campsite on the north shore (site 63-20), but even with a pretty intensive search I could not find it. I ended up tenting on a small narrow beach with the waves reaching within a foot of my tent. I had only traveled about 14km today. There was some blown in wood on the beach and I fashioned a small "seawall" to protect the tent. Large and small wolf prints led from the beach up a path into the woods. In the morning I realized I left my walking stick at the last portage, but I chose not to paddle all the way back to get it.

MONDAY: It took me a good long while to locate the portage trail to Lac Amyot. I thought I had found a trail east of a cabin (that was not shown on the map). But the trail petered out in the woods and I had to turn back and reload the boat. The unoccupied cabin had a dock & I tied my boat up here and looked around. To the right of the cabin was an ATV trail that seemed to go in the right direction. It did indeed go up over a hill to a dock on Lac Amyot. There were moose tracks in the mud near the top of the portage. When I went back for my canoe and food barrel some guys had arrived to work on the camp. They also had an ATV sitting on their boat, ready to be driven onto the dock. We just nodded and waved to each other and went on with our business.

Lac Amyot is a very pretty lake and it connects to Lac Yser through a long narrow section lined with conifers and exposed bedrock. I was glad to be getting away from the cabins, although I did see one in the trees on Lac Yser, and there also was one the southeastern shore of Lac Amyot. Although this is a remote trip the evidence of people is everywhere. I saw a number of duck blinds on the small chain of lakes between Lac Yser and Lac Mercent. From Lac Yser a muddy 400m portage leads to a small unnamed lake, and from this lake a 200m portage leads to little Lac Ucciani. The length of this portage was only discernible as a vague thinning of the heavy undergrowth of chest high connifers. The first beaver damn at the outlet of Lac Ucciani was the highest I have ever encountered, and held back a 4-5 foot difference in water height. There was a second dam shortly after the first, with another 1-2 foot water drop, so in combination they raised little Lac Ucciani 5-7 feet. Lac Ucciani leads to Lac Powell, which leads into Lac Madonna. From Lac Madonna there is a lovely portage of 300-400m that passes through a conifer forest thick and green with very lush moss. The soft moss was even underfoot on the portage trail. Unfortunately this portage ended with a crossing of a very wide gravel road. It was a startling and unpleasant change after the lush greenery I had been traveling through. Lac Queran, at the end of this portage connects with Lac Mercent. You will probably have to camp here since it's the only campsite between Lac Ypres and the Chochocouane River. I did. I had traveled about 15 km today. The campsite is on a very nice long arc of sand. There were fairly fresh bear prints along the edge of the water. I camped at one end of the beach and left my food barrel at the far end for the night.

TUESDAY: From Lac Merchant it is mostly travel down a small river called Ruisseau Camitakit to the Chochocouane River. When the river exits Lac Mercent it passes through a dangerous broken dam. I can't remember if I portaged or lined this. Then there are some rapids and a ledge which I very well remember lining because I botched it and swamped my boat - even with the spray deck on. It was a lovely warm sunny day and I remember laughing as I watched it slowly swamp in the waves. Better than cursing. I ran down into the water and walked the swamped canoe into an eddy where I could drain the boat. My pack was lined with a contractor garbage bag, but much of my gear still got wet. My sleeping back was in a stuff sack lined with a trash compactor bag and fortunately it remained dry.

Travel down the remainder of Ruisseau Camitakit was mostly very enjoyable and picturesque. I crossed beaver dams, ducked under some sweepers and cut others out of the way. Much of the river is winding, though there are sections with quick water and C-I whitewater. I saw beaver and muskrats and photographed wild irises on the river banks. Unfortunately in one section logging south of the river had left just a single layer of conifers intact on the high bank. I stopped at one point and scrambled up the bank to take a look across a very broad expanse of 2 and 3 foot conifers growing up to replace what had been cut.

Where the river entered the Chochocouane I felt like I was changing from a dirt track to a super highway - the Chochocouane is a big river. My guess it that it's often 100m across. So far it had not rained on my trip, but there had been quite a bit of rain beforehand and the water levels were fairly high. The gradually dropped through the days I was on it.

After starting down the Chochocouane River I soon came to the first rapid, listed as RII and RIII (C-II and C-III) on my map. On river right there is a 380m portage around this rapid. I tied my bow painter to a tree and scouted the length of the rapid. Although the water seemed big, there seemed a pretty good line down through it. and it ended in a slow pool with a languid eddy; I would not go far if I dumped. Now back in high school and college I did a lot of whitewater kayaking, but I had done almost no whitewater since then, and I was 43 years old as I stood contemplating this rapid. But there had been times in the previous few years that I had been depressed enough to have suicidal thoughts, and it seemed crazy to have sat at home thinking about killing myself and now hesitate to run some wonderful whitewater. So I put the spray deck on my boat and ferried across the quickening current to catch the right line. The adrenaline was pumping and it was a fun wet ride down to the pool at the bottom. And I felt terrific!

A bit further on I ran an easy C-I under a logging bridge, with an optional 75m portage on river left. After this the river just languidly continues for another 10km before the next set of rapids. I stopped on the left bank at site 60-32 for the night, had a campfire, and strung up some line to dry my clothes. I had traveled about 16km. Somewhere to the south there was a logging road and beginning early in the morning I could hear the rumble of heavy trucks in the distance.

WEDNESDAY: I can't remember if I ran or portaged the next rapid, a C-II/C-III with a P135m on river right. I do remember portaging the following one (ledge, C-II/C-III) after deciding the ledge was unsafe to run. There is a P315m on river left for this one. Shortly after this is an C-II with no portage that I ran, and some quick water beyond it. Then there was what seemed like an endless slog into the wind down the river. The wind was strong enough that it blew me upstream whenever I stopped paddling. The river was of fairly constant width and lined with conifers on both sides. It was a beautiful view, but to me it seemed like the same view repeated over and over. It was during this day that I decided I am not a fan of larger rivers.

Near the end of the day there was an C-II/C-III with a portage on river right. This was followed by a campsite on a beach, and another C-I with a P125m on river right. By this time I knew enough to put on my bug jacket before stepping onto the river bank. I tied up my boat and scouted the C-II/C-III from the trail and met a german man at the campsite (60-51) at the bottom of the trail. I had been hoping to camp at that (1 tent site) He said his wife was taking shelter from the bugs in the tent & he was envious of my bug jacket. They had portaged this rapid, but I decided to run it - down the middle it was mostly big wave trains that would swamp an open boat, but I thought I would be fine with my spray deck. I was, and it was a hoot. My heavy boat bounced up and down and plowed through the waves. I even took one or two in the chest. The german was snapping pictures as I passed. I waved and continued on through the pool and the C-I beyond. He was the only other recreational canoeist I saw in the 9 days I was on this loop. They had come straight down the Chochocouane River - which is a linear route option if you have a shuttle or charter a plane.

Further on I portaged an C-III on river right (95m), ran a C-II that, according to the map, had an overgrown portage trail on river right, and then beached on a sandbar island, where I spent the night. I had traveled about 19km. This was the second time I camped in the sand instead of at a designated campsite. This is against the rules. But the first time I had been unable to find a site, and this time I was just plain pooped and the next site on the map was perhaps an hour further.

THURSDAY: I was glad I had camped up the river because the campsite (60-61) was at the end of a portage across an island, and it was littered with garbage and remnants of food. The 85m portage avoided an C-IV on the left (which I could not imagine being navigated by anything except an expert kayaker in a dedicated WW play boat), and some dry rapids and falls on the right. I still had to run some C-II/C-III after putting in at the tip of the island. Two or 3 km after that I ran some C-I/C-II just beyond a destroyed bridge. About 6km after this there are some waterfalls and a C-IV which I portaged (175m) on river left. It was a scenic spot for lunch.

I stopped for the night at a site (60-80) on the portage trail around the next set of unrunnable C-IV rapids. I had time for a cold water jacuzzi in a natural hole at the base of the rapids before I needed to cook dinner and retire for the night. The mosquitoes were pretty fierce that evening and the following morning, and I only opened the hood of my bug jacket to eat. The sunset was beautiful. This would be a nice site for a layover day, with the view and background roar of the rapids and the natural cold water jacuzzi at their base.

FRIDAY: In the morning the tent door was covered with mosquitoes and black flies waiting to get in. By this time I had learn to slip lit mosquito coils out through the bottom of the door to clear the area before I exited. The water after these rapids still had a lot of energy and it took me some effort to try to remain in control of the boat through the boils and eddy lines that extended far from the base of the whitewater.

After another 5-6km I ran some rapids that had an optional P135m portage on river right, and then also ran the following set that had a P560m on river right. A couple km beyond this it was time to turn north paddle up Riviere Canimiti toward the take out. Further down the Chochocouane I could see a fellow with a squared off blue canoe with an outboard motor. I was glad to be headed up the side river and away from him. We met up though at the bottom of the first portage (P145m) on Riviere Canimiti, which goes around a bony C-III. Turns out he was a field supervisor out checking on work crews that were clearing portages and maintaining campsites. Two young guys were finishing up on the trail with brush whackers and a chainsaw. To me the black flies were fierce. I had my bug jacket on. They just had spare t-shirts on like hoods, with their faces pushed through the neck hole and the rest of the shirt draped over their heads. They squinted to keep the flies out of their eyes. Only the supervisor spoke english. I told him I hadn't expected the black flies to be this bad this late in the summer. He just smiled and said, "Welcome to Quebec!"

I got my gear to the top of the portage and returned for my boat. The supervisor had carried his outboard and gas over the port and had returned for his boat, which was a battered and patched heavy fiberglass model that looked to be 90 pounds. He easily shouldered his boat and set off up the trail, but not before seeing me struggle to barely get my 48 pound boat onto my shoulders. I felt like such a wimp. This trip had been pretty exhausting for me. At the top of the portage the crew was starting to drag their heavilyy loaded canoe down through the rocks and whitewater to the lower end of the portage. These three men and the german fellow were the only other people I saw on my nine day trip.

I paddled north and east for about a kilometer before needing to wade and line the boat up a long shallow set of swifts and C-I's. Then I portaged 295m on river right around a C-II and up to Lac Entremont. It was 19km from the mouth of Riviere Canimiti to the bridge where I had left the car. I was feeling ambitious and hoping to reach the car that day but the going was slower than I expected. On the south side of Entremont there was a nice campsite. Perhaps I should have just taken it and made it an easy day. I took the 85m portage from Entremont up to Lac Tetti and then paddled, lined, and portaged (P 125m, 85m, 135m up to Lac Garus, which connect to Lac Suzie. They were really just one large wetland. It was cloudy with rain clouds building and late in the day. I wasn't going to make it back to the car that day. I camped at the east end of Lac Suzie (61-33) and got the tent up before the thunderstorms began. I had traveled about 20km, half of it upstream, and across 6 portages that day.

SATURDAY: The next morning was grey and still. It was my last day on the river. Sometimes grey days can be so serene and peaceful. This was one of them. I had mixed feelings, as I usually do, about finishing the trip. I was exhausted from the hard paddling, portaging, and lining, and I was beyond tired of the bugs. But I love being off by myself in the woods and on the water and if I had another 10 days of food in the car and no job waiting for me back in Boston, perhaps I would have just gone on and repeated the loop. In just a couple hours of contemplative paddling and 1 110m portage I was back at the road where I started. There were few bugs in the parking area this time and loading the car was easy.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31N14, 31N15, 31N11
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
 
Other Maps: 
Canot Carte # 6 from The Reserve.
Other
Special Comments: 

This route can be paddled all season long. Some portions have maintained portages & some portions don't. Some portages are very muddy, and some others are very overgrown. Very little signage for portages and campsites. Best signage is along Riviere Chochocouane, which is the most traveled portion of this route. Fees for canoe camping within the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve must be paid at Le Domaine, near the southeast end of the Reserve, just off of Rte 117. Portages and campsites can change or move from year to year in this dynamic environment. Update your canoe maps or topos at Le Domaine before setting out.