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Lake Manicouagan 2013
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Author:  chad9477 [ September 9th, 2013, 10:46 am ]
Post subject:  Lake Manicouagan 2013

The cat came back, he couldn’t stay away… :lol: Solo paddled the reservoir again this summer June 23 – July 4, three years after I did (this paddle). That previous report says most of what I think would help someone plan a trip, but I’ll add some additional perspective, especially as I got up into Memory Bay for the first time.

Had better paddling conditions this time around, but the weather was often drab; several days were dry and calm but hazy, meaning fewer opportunities for dramatic landscape photos. However it also meant that I was able to make it around Rene in 8 days (6 paddling, 2 lost to weather) rather than the 11 days it took last time (9 paddling, 2 weather). A few photos here.

Day 1: After spending $95 on a hotel room at the dam, I drive to Relais Gabriel in the morning. While arranging to leave my car there, I meet a Maine native by the name of Robert Burke who tells me he moved here in the 1990s and spent ten years living in a primitive cabin on Memory Bay. He lives on the mainland now and guides geologists to interesting rock formations when asked. He says he’ll be at his old cabin in a few days and invites me to stop by. Great guy, worth talking to if he’s around (photo of us in RG in flickr album). I’m on the water by 1:30 pm and I paddle through whitecaps out of the bay to the Three-Thirty Islands. It calms down so I turn northward up the lake's main channel and make the Two o’Clock Islands. Very hazy, I can barely see 10km.

Day 2: Still hazy but calm. I go north along Rene, then across the main channel to the islanded bay in the NE.

Day 3: Hazy once again, gloomy, breezy. Rain after breakfast. I nap till noon but it’s still coming down. +9C outside. I read a bit then go back to sleep till dinner. The clouds are showing signs of breaking but still wet and cold out there. Good day to rest anyway.

Day 4: Up at 5 am. It’s +2C outside but the sky is clearing, so I put on polypro and get on the water at 7:30. I head straight west, have a snack at Rene’s extreme north point, skirt the coves on the mainland, and make it to a peninsula on the mainland east of Ten-Thirty Island.

Day 5: Flat water all morning, then a bit of breeze in the afternoon. Whitecaps keep me close to Rene. I make it perhaps 38km to a spot on Rene with a view of the Eight-Thirty Archipelago. A lovely dusk at last. One of the small islands looked good for a campsite but I landed 3m away from a loon nest with an egg inside, army camo green; decided not to freak out the parents. :)

Day 6: Heading south, the wind comes up after a couple of hours and grows steadily stronger all day. I must have misread the map because I end up going outside Seven o’Clock Island rather than inside it, and the breeze wears me down. I spot a building on the peninsula near Rene’s six-thirty and though I'm tired I hike up to investigate. Turns out Kruger left a group of prefab trailers where they housed their logging team … been abandoned for five years. The doors are open and there are mattresses in some rooms, so it can serve as shelter if you get into a jam. Kind of a bleak place, but the rain starts and I’m beat, so I sleep in this ghost town.

Day 7: Rains most of the day. I read and walk down to the water to refill my bottles during a respite. I take a few pictures from their old boat landing, hoping someone gets Kruger to clean up its mess and then turns this whole place into a forest preserve.

Day 8: Back on the water; it’s flat with a light breeze. I dislike looking at the clearcutting around here so I hit it and go 55 km all the way into Memory Bay, where I stop in at Robert’s cabin. Robert is there and I take him up on his generous offer to stay. His place is built of logs and repurposed materials, with a sod roof on which he used to grow berries and other edibles. We swap stories over dinner and crash.

Day 9: My plan is to head up Memory Bay, which I didn’t get the chance to see three years ago. I don’t get far though because the wind is whipping, and even staying close to the shore and cove-hopping, I only get about 5km before I realize I’m just getting beat and soaked. I pull in for awhile but the wind stays brisk all day, so I end up staying the night.

Day 10: Calm and flat, so I try again, this time making it to the top of Memory Bay and back. My route follows the western shore up to the bay’s northernmost point. There are several cliffs visible on both sides of the southern section, and a few dramatic hills further north before you see Mont Babel rising behind them to the west. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks the bay is beautiful, as cabins dot both shores. (Most look spartan, but one is amazing and has a helicopter parked outside next to a free-standing solar array.) I discover the inlet in the NW is fed by a gorgeous 10-meter waterfall, the outlet for several lakes in Rene’s interior. Definitely worth a visit. There’s also another tall set of cliffs right at the top of the bay ... It’s late, but I’m short on days and after yesterday’s wind I worry about getting stranded. I paddle back to yesterday’s campsite near the bay’s mouth, arriving after sundown.

Day 11: Breezy enough that I feel good about having decided to paddle back yesterday. I head back out of Memory Bay to the Three-Thirty Islands, where in early afternoon the wind starts picking up in earnest. I start to make the crossing back to Relais Gabriel bay, but the whitecaps get worse in a hurry and after 15 minutes I turn back. After waiting a couple hours it calms down a bit, so I try again and make it across the main channel. It’s hazy yet again. I want one more night on the lake, so I camp on one of the big islands in the mouth of RG Bay.

Day 12: I paddle slowly back to RG, taking time to explore the islands in the bay’s northern section. Lots of gorgeous rock formations and enough islands that you can get pleasantly lost for a few hours. I spot Pourvoirie Boreal 51, an outfitter that can only be reached by boat, but I don’t pull in, as a woman on shore says everyone there has the flu. I’m back at RG and driving south by 3PM, making B-C by dinner.

If you go:

Relais Gabriel now charges $20 a week for parking.

There is no marked trail up Mont Babel that I could see, and from what Robert tells me you need a permit to climb it anyway, as it is First Nations property.

As I understand it, the river feeding the NW corner of the lake is strictly off limits, as there is a First Nations burial ground up there and signs warning you off. I did not see them myself but be aware.

Author:  littleredcanoe [ September 10th, 2013, 7:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Manicouagan 2013

Thanks for posting. We didn't visit this area this year as we had planned. Next year is a go. Nice for planning too. I was not aware of the O'clock islands.. I hope that youngsters in the digital age still know the meaning of clock hands.

Author:  chad9477 [ September 12th, 2013, 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Manicouagan 2013

littleredcanoe wrote:
I hope that youngsters in the digital age still know the meaning of clock hands.

Ha! I love it :D Glad to help and hope next year happens for you!

Author:  tintin [ June 8th, 2018, 5:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Manicouagan 2013

Hi Chad,
We are 5 yrs later but I've just discovered your trip report and I thank you for that!
I'm planning to go there this summer... so in case you are still an active user here, can I ask:
* how much camping gear you had (in kilos or liters)
* and how did you carry it along? just attached to the kayak or did you towed an inflatable small boat ?
* what kind of food and what quantities ?
* did you try fishing and did you catch any fish?
Thanking you in advance,

Author:  chad9477 [ June 20th, 2018, 1:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Lake Manicouagan 2013

Hi Constantine,

Everyone is different. My strong recommendation is that you first take some shorter trips where you paddle a few hours a day. That way you can test your gear and learn how much food your body will need.

I paddle a Prijon Seayak and kept my gear in its dry compartments. I would not feel comfortable towing a second boat — the weather can change quickly and high waves would make a towed boat dangerous.

I recommend winter sleeping bags and a good 3-season tent that has a rain fly and vestibule. Even in summer it gets cold. On both of my trips around Manicouagan I had long delays because of chilly, rainy weather that I spent huddled in my tent, so it’s good to have a vestibule where you can boil water in any conditions. I carried dehydrated food from a camping supplier. While I took fishing gear for emergencies I didn’t do any fishing.

Tell me more about your plans and I’ll try to advise you further. It’s a beautiful place but you should thoroughly know yourself and your gear before you go.

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