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12/18/2018 4:07 pm  #1

Mattagami river (Last dam to Moosonee) Aug. 2018

Not an Algonquin report but thought it might interest some members that travel outside the park.  I won't get into minute by minute detail here (pm me if you're looking for specifics) but I thought an overview as well as some tips might help others thinking about attempting it...

- We traveled from the last dam (below smoky falls) to Moosonee/Moose Factory, it took us 6 days covering an average of 30-35km/day.

-Water levels were low, we spent a lot of time standing at the stern looking out for gravel bars hidden under a few inches of water.... in a river that (for 3/4 of the trip), never got narrower than a 1 km in width.  It's not hard to imagine that a trip earlier in the year would be a very different experience.

-Based on previous trip reports, we assumed this would be mainly a straight-forward, flat water paddling trip, with a few rapids along the way.  Because of the low water, what we ended up with was a never ending series of shallow class 1 or 2 rapids, separated by 500-1500m of flat water.  It's hard to describe these features; the landscape is flat, the river wide, the rapids are not distinguished by a narrow bottleneck, they just appear like a mirage out of what looked like miles of flat water, randomly all over the place.  Often there were multiple routes that could be taken through them, less a danger, more a headache that slowed us down as we zig-zagged through them trying not to run aground. The name of the game was "Go With The Flow", even if it didn't immediately appear like the route would take us in the right direction.  Personally this made the trip more entertaining and broke up the monotony of flat-water paddling.  For people without much experience in rapids, it could be frustrating as a wrong turn might leave you dragging your loaded canoe through ankle deep water.

-There are a few serious rapids as well:  Grand Rapids was a maze of huge limestone slabs with 3-4ft drops, the path at low water is to start right of center, slowly working towards the deep water outlet on the far right shore, the left and center were too shallow to paddle through.  It was a full 35 minutes of white knuckle steering (we had about 10 seconds after each drop to decide which way to go next) before we came out at the other end!  Long Rapids is much shorter and more closely resembled what we see around Algonquin, with some large boulders forming some deeper channels with distinct v-shaped drops.  Both rapids were run on the same day and we were primed with adrenaline afterwards... There was also one set of rapids just before the mouth of the Kwetabohigan river that caught us off guard; it was more of the same shallow stuff until the very end, when it turned into a set of deep, Class III haystacks, luckily in this instance there are safe routes around it.

-I brought a simple, downwind sailing rig with me that I ended up being able to use for 2 full days during the trip, just make sure it's quick to setup and break down so you can navigate the small rapids.

-We also had to make adjustments to our idea of a "campsite".  For starters, make one of your campsites at the huge sandbars around Adam Creek, it'll be the best campsite of the trip (CAREFUL, because of the dam, the water level rose 5ft over the course of the night).  If you're looking at the river with satellite pics, you might get the impression of a nice, sandy shoreline with some grass, followed by the treeline.  The "sand" is cobble, the "grass" is an impenetrable thicket of head-high thorny bramble and the treeline is usually sitting on top of a 30ft embankment.  So leave your hammock tents at home and keep an eye out for little islands of flat sand, among the cobble or a patch of high reeds around a creek mouth.

-We didn't have to deal with any bears but another group we met at the Missanaibi had one that followed them down the river and wandered into their campsite each night, they had to sleep in their canoes....

-There is absolutely nothing for miles around the river until you get to the rail bridge, so anyone doing this needs to have their sh*t together.  We planned our trip to finish on a Thursday, so that if we were delayed, we'd have an extra day to catch the train back from Moosonee before it shuts down for the weekend.  A self-guided tour around Moose Factory is worth the $15 water taxi and the train has a "beverage car", we drank them out of Canadian on the way back!

-If you're in half-decent shape I highly recommend this trip, it's a great entry-level experience to paddling in northern areas of the country.



Board footera

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