The Rupert River has been home to the Cree peoples for thousands of years, has hosted fur brigades and the historic Rupert House, first HBC post in Canada, and has more recently seen numerous recreational canoeists paddle north to James Bay. Although the river was recently dammed by Hydro Quebec, it is still possible to paddle many sections of this exciting and historic river.
Hydro Quebec’s project involved diverting about 50% of the Rupert north hundreds of kilometres to the already existing power facilities on the La Grande River.
We are offering a 9 day trip on a section of the upper river. We’ll paddle waterways that have been traveled and lived on by the Cree for thousands of years. The trip will end at the still stunning Rupert Falls on the James Bay Development highway. Time permitting we may also try and visit historic Waskagenish (Rupert House).
(Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary)
Meet in Metagami Quebec, Hotel Metagami for evening trip briefing.
After an early breakfast, we’ll load the van and head north up the James Bay Hwy. We’ll stop at the Rupert bridge to view the stunning Rupert (Oatmeal) Falls, stretch our legs and take photos. This thundering waterfalls will be reduced to a mere trickle within the next year or two. Shortly after this we’ll leave the hwy and head east on the Route du Nord to where the road crosses the river. (near Lac Mesgouez). En route (time permitting) we will stop at the inland Cree village of Nemeska on the headwaters of the Pontax River. When we reach the bridge we may set up camp right here or time and conditions permitting could take the portage around the picturesque falls and camp just below.
We’ll take the 600m portage around the beautiful falls (assuming we didn’t carry it the day before) and head out onto the water. Here we’ll take the time to practice maneuvers and get used to the awesome power of the Rupert River. Across the bay there is a class 3-4 rapids, we will likely portage this (depending on water level some groups line). 1km down is a class 2-3 rapids. Again whether we run, line or portage depends on conditions and on the group. Less than 1 km downriver we must again portage r.r., this time only about 50m around a class 4 rapids. This is followed by an enjoyable class 1-2 rapids which we can paddle. Here we enter into a widening, (we could camp here) time permitting we will continue on portaging 200m r.r. once more around an awe-inspiring R4-5 rapids. There is a great campsite at the base of this portage. We’ll set up here in view of the surging current. This will have been a very full and exhilarating day. The waterfalls that we will have bypassed are beautiful to behold, you’ll definitely want to be taking pictures. Although we will have only traveled 5km the good news is that we will have already finished 4 of the 6 portages for the whole trip. We’ll have traveled 5km and will have got much of the hard work for the trip over with.(km5)
Below the campsite is yet another enjoyable class 2 rapids that we can run. Here we may stop and practice some whitewater maneuvers. About 5km downriver is another falls. We portage this 450m river left. Below this falls is a nice class 2+ rapids where we once again get to enjoy the whitewater of the Rupert. 8km of scenic river travel with good current brings us to a class 3 rapids. We may stop for lunch beside the rapids. Afterwards, we may run or may line this rapids, that depends on water levels, group interest, weather etc. Four kms of river travel is followed by an enjoyable class 1+ rapid, then a class 2 rapids, one km of calm water and another class 2 rapids. This is a fantastic part of the river. Below the river slows and widens slightly and there is a great rock point campsite about 7km along. Being August we may well enjoy the northern lights during the evening. Some may decide to fish in the evening, others may just enjoy the serenity of the northern forest.
We get a bit of a breather from the rapids today and can make some miles. 2km along is a short class 2 rapids, otherwise the day, while beautiful is relatively easy in terms of paddling. There is still good current and swifts but there are no other real rapids. We’ll try for 25-30km or so before camping. (km 60)
We’ll pass the Marten River, one of the Rupert’s main tributaries and a traditional trade route, in the morning. At km 78 we’ll encounter another short class 2 rapids. Perhaps we’ll lunch at the campsite here. Six km later we have an 800m portage around a picturesque fall. Below this, there is a wonderful 1km long R1-2, one of the best on the trip. We’ll set up camp in this vicinity. (km 88)
It’s about 22km down to Lac Nemiscau, the current should help us along nicely and we could be there for lunch. We’ll stop briefly at the abandoned original town of Nemiscau. This town, once a thriving post, was relocated in the 1960s because of pressure from Quebec Hydro. On our way again we’ll head north stopping further up the Lake near our exit.
At the end of the Lake we enter the “link” (a small channel of the Rupert) where we’ll encounter a shallow class 1 rapids followed by a falls which we must portage 500m. About 5 km of paddling brings us to several more shallow class 1 and 2 rapids just above where we re-enter the full Rupert again. 2.5 km down the fast flowing Rupert will bring us to a nice rocky point where we will camp.(km 139)
This will be our final full day on the river. We’ll paddle some swifts, in the afternoon we’ll encounter two class 1 rapids. We’ll be aiming to camp only a short paddle above Rupert Falls, either at km169 or 174.
Just downriver at km 175 we’ll encounter a class 1 rapids. A few km below this is our final destination, Rupert (Oatmeal) falls. We’ll have to carry about 900m up to the highway where our van will be waiting. For those carrying on to Waskagenish, you’ll be joining the new trip participants who will arrive in the same van that takes the others back to Metagami. We’ll be back by late afternoon or early evening.
* Please note: It’s the nature of remote northern travel that uncontrollable factors like poor weather, pilot judgment, forest fires, and mechanical problems can affect our schedules and cause delays. We regret these situations but cannot accept responsibility for hotels, flight rebookings, and other costs you may incur.