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PostPosted: February 2nd, 2021, 1:01 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
Posts: 145
Location: Eganville, ON
Nibiischii: Riviere de Maures 2020

As everyone is well aware 2020 started off with a bang. By mid-March Ontario and most of Canada were in full lockdown which left uncertainty if my annual summer trip would even be legal. Usually by March I’d blast off an email invite looking for friends willing to join me on a crazy weeklong adventure in the unexplored boreal forest of Northern Quebec. The trips usually involve large amounts of uncertainty and involve some difficult travel in remote terrain. Over the years a few friends have pulled back from these trips, so when I finally got around to sending out an invite in May; I was pleasantly surprised to receive 6 acceptances.

I initially had 2 options planned depending on access rights. The first preference was to travel the De Maures river up to the mouth of the mighty Rupert River, taking a day on the rapids of the south branch, then looping back down through some big lakes. This route passed through Nibiischii reserve as well as a day travel on Cree lands which both required approval. The fallback option in case of restrictions was an all crown land route starting from Lac Courseron on the very edge of the reserve up to the Rupert and back down.
After what seemed like endless changes to covid restrictions, we finally got the green light in early summer. The only drawback was that one of our paddlers from the UK couldn’t travel due to ongoing travel restrictions.
We started detail planning in earnest, and I fired up the dehydrator for a few weeks and on August 29th we hit the road from Renfrew, Ontario driving straight up to the launch on the de Maures river headwater nearly 1000km away. In a normal year we’d break up the drive and spend a night in a motel at the last town; then finish driving the last couple hours early the next morning. This year with 6 of us coming from a few different towns, and 6 different bubbles we thought in the interest of safety we would forgo the restaurants and motels and bring our own food and spend the first night camped at the launch.

One member of the party packed food for lunch and dinner. We stopped in the middle of La Verendrye for lunch at a trailer belonging to the parents of one of our party. After that it was back on the road until stopping at a small park on the outskirts of Chapais for dinner. From there we finished the last couple hours in the dark. Knowing that we would be travelling so late we prepaid our reserve fees, so as we turned onto the route du Nord we did not have to stop at the park building. From here it would be roughly 80km up the gravel road; however in all my planning I failed to take note of the exact mileage we would be turning. We’ve been travelling to the area annually for 10 years now, and recalled the sign to du Maures being quite prominent so were not too concerned. Of course at 9 PM in the dark and after many years of growth the sign passed by us without notice. After some backtracking, map searching, and trying a couple side roads; we finally found the right trail with less than hour or so lost.

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The side road is a narrow sand and gravel road in reasonable shape. You could travel the 15km or so to the launch in a car very slowly and cautiously. We had checked out the launch on a previous trip; so we knew what we were looking for. Before getting to the launch the trail follows along the top of an esker ridge overlooking the lake for a couple of kilometers. Once we got to the steep sandy trail down to the launch we were unpleasantly surprised to find the last couple hundred meters underwater. We dare not drive though in the dark; so we parked on the hill and proceeded to unload what we would need to setup the tents and crash for the night.

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The green route on the right is the de Maures option showing a spider web of options once reaching the mouth of the Rupert.


Day1 - Sun August 30th: 33km, 2 portages

Up with the light and we could finally see where we were camping. We were setup on the beach launch surrounded by esker shoreline. It looked like the water was quite a bit higher than the last time we were here, and had eaten through some of the beach and filled a low lying area behind the beach. After coffee and breakfast we proceeded to haul the remaining gear and canoes down to the beach. After parking the vehicles off the side of the trail we shoved off on another largely unknown adventure!

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Our launch was located on the NW corner of Lac De Maures, from there 1 km would bring us to the outlet. At first the Riviere De Maures was quite wide with marshy shores but it would soon narrow into our first obstacle a picturesque falls and rapids. A short lining and portaging back to the marshy shored river followed by another bony rapid before entering some lake like expansions. We were taking relatively careful note of the portaging and rapids, as the last day of our trip would require paddling upstream back along the same route. Even so we failed to notice old portages in the bush that even included log slides presumably for dragging boats across.

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After another short stretch of river we entered Lac Odon which is bordered on the south by a rather steep hill rising almost 500ft off the water. At the end of the lake the river would begin again heading NE. We paddled through one more lake like expansion, and then came across a short nasty rapid where we were shocked to come across a wide open portage on river right. The rapid looked doable, but was a very narrow run on a sharp corner so we all opted not to take our chances. Besides we would need to scout the portage for the return trip anyway. We were unpleasantly surprised to see tons of garbage along the side of the trail in such a pristine forest.

Soon the river became progressively wider, and we would take a slight detour west off the river into Lac Savignac aiming for a beach campsite visible from the aerial photos online. Finding the way into the lake was tricky as between the river and the lake was an esker running parallel to the river. There is a narrow break in the esker separating the two water bodies allowing passage of canoes without the need for a portage. By now the wind was really whipping up making for a rough ride into our beach for the night. It was a beautiful boreal lake with some old burns interspersed with islands of untouched black spruce. We had our now customary first night dinner of grilled rack of lamb and mashed potatoes capped off with a glass of scotch around the fire and hit the hay excited to continue downriver the next day.

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Day 2 - Mon August 31st: 40km, 0 portages

Up in the morning to another promising looking day. Had our usual oatmeal, bacon and coffee with bailey’s to start off the day right. It was thankfully much calmer as we pushed off into Lac Savignac to start a big day of travelling.

We had to backtrack about 4km into the river, then proceeded downstream almost due north. We shortly came into another large lakelike expansion of the river, this time 2k wide and 4km long. At the end of it we were treated to a rather large beach. We took time to explore. Stretch our legs, eat some blueberries before pushing around the corner where from sat images we expected to find a cree camp. The camp was more extensive then we have seen before, indicating a few families all sharing the same area. We explored a bit; marveling at the amount of garbage strewn everywhere. It had an interesting teepee setup that looked like it was used as a smokehouse. We were surprised to see large numbers of spruce grouse flitting around. In all of our year’s previous travel we’ve only come across a couple of them and here there were at least half a dozen.

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We pushed off and shortly entered the river proper again. In this section we came across 2 more easily runnable rapids. Both had shallow boulder shorelines so we figured we could line back up them on our return journey. After this the river braided through a small marsh into another large lake like expansion. This one was only a kilometer or 2 wide but 16 km long before reentering the river proper. Just as we started into this stretch we took a slight detour to the west shore to scout for a portage for our return trip. We quickly found what looked to be a snowmobile trail cut straight over the ridge separating us from the lakes to the west. It looked too easy from this side; so I failed to properly scout and mark out the far side which would cost me time a few days later.

After a long uneventful paddle across the lake like expansion we entered the river again. We came across some more fun runnable rapids, and thankfully did not have to think about upstream travel in this stretch. We pushed through another 6km or so of river until it dumped into Lac Deroussel our planned home for the night. We scouted a small shorelunch shelter on the south shore before pushing across the lake aiming for a beach site on the far north shore. It was a fantastic large beach in an area of very sparse boreal forest full of blueberries. The weather had cleared considerably so we were treated to a wonderful, albeit chilly night on the beach around the campfire. Char grilled striploins and mashed potatoes with a nip of scotch rounded out our evening. It was a well-deserved rest that night after a full 40km travel day.

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