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PostPosted: February 2nd, 2021, 1:10 pm 
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Joined: February 26th, 2009, 11:13 am
Posts: 148
Location: Eganville, ON
Day 3 - Tue September 1st: 30km, 1 portage

Up to a surprisingly different weather pattern. The night had changed to mostly cloudy, cool and very windy. No matter; we warmed up with the usual coffee, oatmeal and bacon, before preparing for travel in a wet and windy day. We were treated to a ton of blueberries with our oatmeal, as the old burn here made for very thick and plentiful bushes.

We pushed off from the beach heading southeast to the river outlet from the lake. We used the various islands as cover from the wind and waves. In the river we were heading almost due north for another 8km before reaching the maze of islands that mark the mouth of the Rupert outflow from Lac Mistassini. At the end of the river was a nice picnic shelter on shore; so we stopped for a rest and snack.

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After our break we headed back into the water where we would leave the riviere de Maures and enter the large delta full of islands marking the start of the Rupert River watershed. For me this delta marked the beginning of my decade of travelling the area. The very first trip I ever planned in the area was supposed to access this delta, then travel down the river. The trip never happened as we ended up with an odd number of people and it looked too much for solo paddling in our allotted time. Ever since that first trip we kept exploring different areas of Nibiischii, always planning to eventually reach this spot.

We paddled past an aluminum fishing boat with a Cree couple out fishing; the first and only people we would see for the entire trip. The rain was coming down at a steady drizzle now, so we dug in as we made our way through the islands heading due north. 7 km took us to a rapid marking the start of the Natastan, the south branch of the Rupert River.

This river has considerably more flow than what we’ve paddled so far this trip. It is part of the system draining Lac Mistassini, Quebec’s largest freshwater lake at 20km wide and 150km long. The rapid looked to be a solid class 2, with decent standing waves and a small number of boulders and holes to avoid. Being our first large rapid of the trip we scouted thoroughly before running a nearly straight line through to a pond separating it from the next half.

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The second half was similar but the first drop had a very narrow start between a large hole in the center and a boulder on our side. We opted to line the first drop, then paddle the wave train below. The lining on our side of the river was treacherous due to the many van sized boulders on the shoreline. One canoe opted to ferry to the far shore where the footing was better; however waves on that side were pushier. At one point a wave grabbed their boat while lining and started to fill it; so they had to let go of the ropes. The canoe stayed upright and we put on a chase from our side. We managed to grab the boat and ferry it back to them.

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Another 4k of flatwater would bring us to the next big drop. This one was shorter but went around a sharp bend so we climbed the hill next to it to scout. It was a nice fun run center left with some good waves and only a handful of obstacles to avoid. Certainly a number of the waves were enough to dump into the tandem canoes requiring bailing at the end.

From the pool below we could already hear the next drop. This one proved to be quite substantial with some waves over 4ft tall. If it was nice weather it might have been more tempting, but as there was an easy run/line channel to the right of the main drop we opted for that.

The last big run of the day was a very straight run. We did a quick shore scout, than ran tight to river right for a mostly dry run. At the top of this run we were surprised to see some large steel cables in the water. There is almost no human presence in this area, and we are hundreds of miles from the nearest damn. We could only guess that equipment was dragged through the area in the winter for exploration.

After this run there were a few more swifts. We stopped to scout a small island with a campsite that showed signs of recent use. It proved too small for our group of 6, and being only midafternoon we decided to push on. From the here we would exit the river heading south into a small lake. At the end of the lake was a small stream dumping in that we intended to travel up into a larger lake about 4km around that is chock full of islands and peninsulas.

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The bottom end of the small stream dropped quite quickly and was a mess of boulders and deadfall. There was no possibility of travelling up the stream forcing us into the bush to portage. The bush here was thicker than usual for northern Quebec; so although short it was a grueling trip. We portaged about half of the creek; until it started to level out. From here it was a lot of in and out paddling short stretches then dragging or lining over and under deadfall. By the time we finally reached the lake it was now quickly approaching dark and we were exhausted. We paddled directly across the lake then found an island to setup on. A short climb to the top revealed a beautiful boreal campsite in the blueberry bushes and Labrador tea surrounded by a sparse forest of small jackpines, spruce and tamarack.


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Day 4 - Wed September 2nd: 15km, 2 portages

Woke up to another dreary cool drizzly morning; meaning full rain gear to start. Thankfully we bring along the big VCS tarp and screen shelter. It is big enough for all 6 of us to sit comfortably inside out of the rain, and with the Biolite twig stove going it actually warms up a few degrees. We enjoyed some hot coffee with baileys to warm us up along with the usual breakfast. We all reminisced how awesome the previous day on the big river was; vowing to find a way to fit in a full Rupert river trip in the future.

Today would be the dreaded day where we would have to find a way out of this river system back into the big lakes for our return south. An hour or so paddling took us across the crazy lake full of islands and peninsulas into a small lake separated by a beaver damn. Across this lake a relatively navigable stream bought us into another small pond that would mark the end of this system. At the end of this pond was a tiny creek draining a bog that marked the start point for us. From here we would need to find a way through the boreal forest about 700M to the next small pond.

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Before leaving home I had downloaded the aerial maps to allow us to use the GPS on the IPhone to keep us heading in the right direction. Rather than try to follow a straight line through the boreal, we aim to keep on the brighter areas representing lichens or rock which are generally more open and easier walking. We were surprised early on our portage to come across trees cutoff in a straight line decades ago. They were all cutoff a few feet above the ground indicating winter travel in deep snow. They did not appear to be going in the direction we were, so we carried on finding our own way. We used a tiny pond roughly midway in our trip as a drop point for leapfrogging the gear. Eventually we came to a steep hill looking down into our destination pond.

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Once completed we took a snack break before pushing off across the pond. At the end of the pond a short portage across a bog landed us in the next small lake. At the other end of this lake a small navigable creek would bring us into the next system. This was now a very large interconnected bunch of lakes extending 50km north and south. At the north the system rejoins the Natastan River, at the south end were lakes Larabel and Bueil; our destination to cross back over into the De Maures.

We were excited to reach this spot as we were now out of the Cree territory so we could catch fish for dinner, and miraculously the sky cleared and the sun finally came out. After only a couple more hours travel we decided to cut our day short and take advantage of the sun to dry out some gear. It was a short day for us, but nice after 2 days of being soaked to dry out a bit. We also landed a few fish on the travel so it was time for a fresh Walleye shore lunch.

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We found a nice sloping rock on the shore where we managed to squeeze in a tight site. Clotheslines were strung, laden with gear. Then a quick dive in the ice cold refreshing water and we lounged around soaking up some sun and had an incredible shore lunch for dinner. Being only our second night with semi clear skies, we were hoping for some northern lights; but they refused to make an appearance on this trip.

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