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Woollett Lake - Bellinger Lake - North Channel Rupert River- Lac La Bardelière - Lac Mesgouez  - Rupert River - Moon River [Misticawassee Creek] Confluence

Knowledge Base

Federation Quebecois du Canôt Camping notes



Maps (1:250,000 scale)

Lac Mesgouez 32-O         Lac Baudeau 32-P

What follows is the Rupert River's North Channel route through the Archipelago from Woollett Lake to the Moon River [Misticawassee Creek] confluence, just past Lake Mesgouez. The notes pick up the route at the outlet from Woollett Lake. I do not have 1:50,000 maps for any of this stretch nor have I paddled this route. The route described here is taken primarily from notes (Xeroxed marked 1:50,000 maps) acquired by Gary Schrier from the Federation Quebecois du Canôt Camping (F.Q.C.C.) for us in Montreal in 1991.

Day 1

Follow  the western branch of the Rupert at the fork at 51º 13’ North, 73º 50’ West.  We had lunch at the far end of the portage at the head of the Woollett Lake side of the fork in 1993. The Cree camps on Woollett lake make for interesting anthropological distraction. 

The first rapids of the west fork occurs approximately seven kilometers, as the crow flies, downstream from the fork, where the river flows northwest into the second “lake.”  The main course of the river flows along the north side of a large island, and the rapids is found between the east shore and the island’s northernmost point.  The F.Q.C.C. notes mark it as a 15-meter-long RII.  Steve and I found that the volume of the river rendered most rapids marked RII by F.Q.C.C. are unrunnable for us in our heavily loaded 17-foot cedar-canvas Prospectors.[1]  The waves in these rapids tend to be large enough to swamp even our experienced lads.

The river narrows significantly a kilometer downstream, as it flows into a long west bend.  The narrows are choked with heavy rapids.  This gorge is marked with an “E.V.” for “Eau Vive,” “quickwater” or whitewater (that’s “lively water” to you and me Danny) on the F.Q.C.C. maps.  These maps indicate a short portage on the south bank bypassing a 10 meter RIII at the head of this gorge, followed by a 150 meter RII.  Then, a kilometer downstream of the sharp southwest bend they mark a second RIII of 30 meters where the river opens up into a broader western channel.

This stretch seems a little rough to me for the path of the Cree.  I would suggest looking to see if there is evidence of a Cree portage route leaving the preceding lake midway down its west shore and connecting to one of the creeks just to the west.  A route here would be consistent with the prevailing Cree logic.

Two kilometers downstream, where the river turns back north along the path of an esker, look for a short RI where the river narrows again.  Two kilometers farther along, beyond the ensuing lake-ish section, just before the east bend in the narrows, the F.Q.C.C. marks a couple hundred more yards of Eau Vive, this time as RI.

The river jogs north and then back east a kilometer downstream.  There is a short RII at the east end of this jog.  There is more Eau Vive where the river bends back west a half-kilometer downstream.  And there is one last RII just before the river widens out again due north of the jog (half a kilometer downstream again).  This one is 200 meters long.  I would be surprised if there wasn’t a Cree portage that cut north across this bend.

Four kilometers downstream, midway through the SE-NW narrows, the F.Q.C.C. mark a short portage on the west shore past a 10-meter drop.  The 1:50,000 maps show two rapids above this in the narrows, and one after it.  The F.Q.C.C. shows no annotations for these swifts.

There are several campsites marked along this stretch.  None of them received high marks.  They are all found in the west bend below the first stretch of Eau Vive.  The most promising is on the south shore at the base of the second RII.

Day 2

The last rapids described above flows into the large body of water at 51º 22’ North, 73º 53 West.  I would guess that this lake is a good spot to plan lunch if you keep to our schedule which errs to the side of bad weather and the pervasive effects of road dust.

The 1:250,00 maps do not offer an accurate view of the waterways here.  The Rupert flows through myriad braids here.  The Rupert flows through the lake at 51º 22’ North, 73º 53 West via a long NE-SW channel from Woollett Lake, and a narrow, creek-like channel that flows west from its large western bay . 

But it also connects to the braids to the north through shallow, steep, creek-like channels.  The westernmost channel leaves the lake north of the large island in the large western bay, and connects to the eastern, and closest finger/bay to the north (at approximately 73º 55’ West).  The second channel leaves the lake a kilometer to the east, from the north side of the long east-west point, passes through a small pond, and meets the long finger/bay just to the north. 

The F.Q.C.C. route follows the western of the two north channels.  There is an RII marked in the short channel, and a campsite just to its north at the east end of the finger bay.  The channels due west of the lake are not annotated, although they do not cross any contour lines, and appear (on my old, twice-waterlogged Xeroxes) passable.  The eastern channel is not marked either.  The long northeast paddle towards Woollett Lake is clear of obstacles by the F.Q.C.C. account.

Paddle two kilometers northwest to the braid at approximately 51º 22’ 30” North (the center channel).  The ensuing 2 ½ kilometers are run through with Eau Vive.  There is an RIII at the head of the braid/channel.  The notes indicate a portage on the south shore.  The portage is immediately followed by a 100-meter RI.  A kilometer downstream the notes indicate that one should line a 300-meter RII on the south shore.  Two hundred meters downstream one more RII blocks one’s way, followed by 500 meters of Eau Vive, a 300-meter paddle, and another 200 meters of the E.V.

This does not seem a likely candidate for the path of the Cree.  But it is apparently passable.  The alternative would be to paddle upstream five kilometers from the east channel above, and meet the route from Woollett Lake that follows the north braid.  There is a short rapids, followed by a 250-meter portage on the north shore where the Rupert flows out of Woollett Lake.  The narrows is formed by two long peninsulas jutting out from the north shore at the west end of the lake at 51º 25’ North.  There is also a long southwestern channel that flows out of Woollett Lake a kilometer south of the marked route.

There is a short RI between the two long islands 3 kilometers west of the portage as the crow flies.  The F.Q.C.C. maps indicate that one should run this chute and paddle two kilometers southwest to the head of the north channel.  There is a 300-meter portage on the north bank bypassing an RIV at the head of the channel.  A kilometer downstream there is 700-meter RI, followed by a long kilometer paddle and another, short, RI.

The river is clear for nine kilometers below the second RI (seven kilometers below the confluence of the center braid).  The river bends north, and then, jogs west, north, and southwest.  There are two, short RI’s at the southwest bend: the first at the island where the river narrows; and the second just before the river turns southwest.

Paddle southwest into Lac Bellinger.  There is a campsite marked on the east shore 4 ½ kilometers from the second RI.   Paddle past the first deep bay (oriented roughly due west).  The campsite is at the north end of  a large, ¼ square kilometer, bulbous point.  It does not receive high marks from the F.Q.C.C.

Day 3

Paddle through Lac Bellinger and follow the Rupert out of the lake to the northwest.  There is a 300-yard portage on the north shore at rapids at the northwest end of the lake.  F.Q.C.C. marks these rapids as an RV.

Six kilometers downstream the river divides around a large island.  The F.Q.C.C. details a route following the north channel, but indicates the center channel, “Ce chemin est plus facile que celui de droite.”    What follows is their detailed description of the way they ran the RII in the northern channel.  Paddle the north shore past the 1st and the 2nd islands.  GO SLOW and CAUTIOUSLY (my emphasis).  The river snakes around the second island and then flows across the direction of the river towards its confluence with the center channel.  Paddle southwest, across upstream shore of the line of islands, to the confluence, and paddle out the west bank of the channel west of the broad island.  The center channel would avoid this long maneuver.

The maps do not show a route through the southern channel.

There is a short RI 4 kilometers downstream, followed a kilometer and a half later by two short RI’s where the river narrows, flows past a long point, and then through some islands.  The maps mark another poor campsite on the south bank below the second rapids.

Paddle the west channels around the next large island.  There is an RI in the small islands just before the river narrows into the west channel.  Follow the west side of the island until the river jogs west, where there is a 250-meter RII.  There is a 700-meter RII at the north end of the island.

There is an RI where the river bends back west, and two campsites (51º 27 30” North,’ 74º 19’ West).  

[1] We used 17-foot Prospectors made from the original Chestnut molds by Don Fraser in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  These canoes can comfortably carry 500-600 pounds of gear, which is what our canoe loads, paddlers included, probably averaged at the start of each trip.  Don’s catalog lists their capacity at 950 pounds.  I would guess that the heaviest load we ever asked them to carry was 700 to 750 pounds, which they shipped easily, even in rapids.

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