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Route 

Baie du Poste [Mistissini] - Lake Mistasssini - Rupert River - Natastan River - Lac Wabistan - Lac de la Passe - Lac Montmort - Little Loon Lake - Marten River - Rupert River

Knowledge Base

  • Seeley's descents in 1992, 1993, 1998

  • Heb Evan's logs

  • Heb Evans' book, The Rupert That Was [1]

Villages

Baie du Poste (Mistissini or Mistassini Post)

Maps (1:250,000 scale)

Lac Némiscau 32-N     Lac Mesgouez 32-O     Lac Baudeau 32-P     Baie Abatagouche 32-I

Wanderings

In 1998 we were doing, or thought, we were doing the Great Whale River. But after arriving at the La Grande River, fires forced us to find a new destination. I had my friend Tim Woods fax me pages from The Rupert That Was, Heb Evans' book on his 1964 Rupert trip, and we were ready to tackle the Rupert River using the Marten River Route.

There is a gate just north of Mistassini on the road to Lac Albanel.  There is a camping fee for use of the Mistassini Park grounds.  We usually stopped and bought a permit for a couple of nights and were well beyond the park boundaries by the time our permit expired.

Sadly, Mistassini was a little rough.  Bart and I witnessed a fist fight and were accosted twice, before 10 AM, by young adults looking for drugs or booze, and who had clearly already sampled the goods.  While not threatening, the problems of the modern world, heavily supported by road access, are prevalent in Mistassini.  

Mistissini (then Baie du Poste or Mistassini Post) in 1966.

 

Photo: Heb Evans

Day 1

We camped across the channel from the village at their “Cultural Campground”, a re-creation of the old camp at the Hudson Bay Company post (frame skogans and teepees), after asking the band office for permission.  The water is no good here so we purchased some from the Co-op Store.  We didn’t put in until noon on the 4th.  We had been unable to shake the road dust and figured a slow start would behoove us.  We actually had breakfast in town where we met the restaurant’s proprietor.  He and I had chatted in years past.  He told me that he had paddled to Lac Nitchequon [aka Nichicun] the previous summer with some of the teenagers from the village.  He told me, “I cannot forget it now because I have been back to see it.”

The paddle from Baie du Poste [Mistassini] opens quickly into Baie Abatagush, which is 15 miles long, about 1/8 the length of the lake itself.  We passed thee camps en route, two on the west shore, and one on a large island ¾ of the way to the narrows separating the bay from the lake.  The island camp was a family camp with a wall tent that looked inhabited year round.  The first camp was on the west shore at the end of the channel from the village, just as the bay opens up.  The second was a large “ceremonial” camp on the south shore of the first peninsula on the west bank (about nine kilometers from the village at the north end of a long tab-shaped bay).  It is well maintained in a clear, grassy slope surrounded by an open aspen/poplar stand.  It reminded me a lot of the camp at Smoky Hill Rapids, albeit a bit more tamed.  My understanding is that this is the spot where the families of the local band used to gather, after wintering in the bush, before coming into the post en masse.  It is also my understanding that, at this writing, the Cree celebrate the coming of summer with a re-enactment of this event, which begins here with a feast and proceeds like a parade to the village.

We made camp on the west shore in a sheltered and hidden Cree camp three and a half kilometers south of the narrows separating the bay from the lake.  It is marked only by a trail leading up through the alders to a small clearing.  This is an easy half-day.  

Lake Mistassini looking north from along the Kasapominskat Archipelago. This is the start of the "Big Crossing" to the west shore.

Photo: Heb Evans

Day 2

We again took a half-day, not because of road dust, but so we could go over the outfit with the lads.  There are three more camps in the narrows, one on the west shore, one on the east shore, and one on an island on the west shore.  At lunch I realized that I had left my axe.  A Cree named Richard Gunner (who was nearby checking his nets) saw me unload my gear and start back for the campsite less than an hour away.  He left his nets and motored over and asked if it would be easier if he gave me a ride.  The Cree are the most hospitable people in the world!  He was surprised to learn that we would try the river without a Cree guide.  And more surprised still to hear that Keewaydin had been coming down the Rupert since 1934 (I can never find my copy of the Keewaydin Way when I need it).  Keewaydin of Dunmore, Vermont has been paddling the Rupert for many years as well, and part of their tradition is to hire a Mistassini guide to go down the river with them.  Keewaydin of Temagami had never hired a Mistassini guide.  I would imagine that Richard was mistaking us for our Vermont cousins.

We reached the pass between the last two barrier islands in the Kasapominskat Archipelago (my notes say “the pass below Ile le Veneur,” but I don’t know where I got that, and Ile le Veneur is also the name of an island in the braids on the Eastmain above Lac de la Marée, so…) early in the afternoon.  The wind was calm and the lake like glass.  The west body of the lake extends 20 miles to the south and 60 miles to the north here (give or take).  Therefore weather, and especially wind, are extreme concerns. One does not want to be caught even a quarter mile off shore in a wind.  The crossing is five miles at its shortest point.  This could be reduced to three miles by tracking to the south and using some small islands.  The Bear and the Loon were with us and the weather held, but for a brief sunshower midway across.

We met more Cree fishing at the far end 35 minutes later.  Due west of the pass is a long, shallow, “tab-shaped” bay.  We found a camp in the second bay north of this.  It was small, and mostly we camped on the shoreline that had been exposed by the low water.  In higher water this would not have sufficed as a campsite.  A better bet would be to paddle 10 kilometers further on to the next deep (star-shaped) bay where we saw two camps.  There is also a camp in the long shallow bay two kilometers further north.


[1]  Heb Evans, The Rupert That Was, The Highway Bookshop, Cobalt, Ontario, 1978, 219 pp. Follows the 1964 Keewaydin Rupert River trip. Available from Highway Book Shop or call 800-461-2062.

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