Lake Mistassini - up Wabissinane River - Lake Baudeau - up Tichegami R - up north branch Tichegami River - crossover to a tributary of Eastmain River - unnamed Eastmain tributary south of Lake Lavallette ("Little George River") - Eastmain River - Lac de la Marée - former Neoskweska post site
Maps (1:250,000 scale)
Lac Baudeau 32-P Lac Mesgouez 32-O
This is a beautiful route that takes the intrepid traveler through the 2000-foot Tichegami Mountains. The granite domes and cascading rivers are reminiscent of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The portages are old and well worn (but no more than a caribou’s hoof wide). North and west of Lac Baudeau the area is remote and we found little evidence of even recent Cree activity. An elder at Baie du Poste [Mistassini] told me that the path through Lac Hecla (which was our objective each year but had to be abandoned due to weather days in 1992 and 1993) was the route to his family’s old moose hunting grounds. The terrain is mountainous but the route is not overly strenuous. There is a steady average of five or so portages a day on small rocky rivers that run through spruce and jack pine stands. The highlights of the run are the views of the Tichegami Mountains from Lac Baudeau and a 60-foot falls on the Little George River.
This route runs directly north from Lac Mistassini up the Wabissinane River, whose mouth lies northwest of the Lac Albanel portages across Lac Mistassini. We were told in 1993 in Baie du Poste [aka Mistissini and Mistassini] that the lakes around the mouth of the Wabissinane are the focus of a “heritage education” program that the elders are beginning to implement.
I believe that much of the Wabissinane River near its mouth was burned in 1993. We were unable to use the route to reach the lower Tichegami that year due to a set of fires burning on the west shore of Lac Mistassini. The latter is a Cree route used by Keewaydin to access the Eastmain and points north (see Heb Evans’ and Danny Carpenter’s notes at Keewaydin Map Room). The fires did not spread far to the north though. I would guess that two days north of Lac Mistassini a canoe party would be well out of the burn area.
Kenneally maps mark the first crossing (3.5 miles) to the pass between Ile
Tchapahipane and Péninsule Ouachimiscau at 344° in the Kasapominskat
Archipelago. This is about right. The correct heading for this
crossing is clearly visible on a good day. Lac Mistassini is a
fickle body of water. The weather can change quickly, and weather at
the far end of the lake sends deep swells up the lake. There is no
cover for 60 miles to the southwest and 15-20 miles to the northeast.
The slightest bit of wind makes a big difference. We had an early
lunch on a park site with a lean-to and a picnic bench on the southeast
end of the island in the pass in 1992. The wind came up during the
repast and we were windbound for the afternoon.
The Kenneally maps mark the second crossing at 330°. Again, this is about right. There is a tall mountain visible West-northwest of the pass. Head just to the north of this landmark towards the bay containing the mouth of the Wabissinane River. We headed out under a thin overcast on placid seas just after dinner in 1992. This is the longer of the two crossings at about six miles. There wasn’t even a breeze at the mid-point. Steve turned to me and said, "This is eerie, like the calm before the storm." As Major Reimers1 would have said,” Gitchi-Manitou must have been listening.” Not long thereafter low swells came up the lake from the southwest, like a wake from a distant boat, slow and even. And a slow drizzle came over Mt. Wapaskouch from the west. By the time we passed Pointe Mikoassas and entered the bay at the mouth of the Wabissinane, we were fighting a crossing headwind from the West and good-sized swells. We finally gave up fighting the wind as the swells reached 3-4 feet and turned back to the northeast, surfing into the beach on the swells. We camped at a small Cree camp at the mouth of the creek on the Pointe Mikoassas (the eastern of two creeks on the east shore of the bay; 73° 17’ West). There was a “spring dock” at the north end of the beach that I assume is for bridging the shore thaw to reach more stable ice in the bay. These spring docks are six to ten feet above the summer level of the lake. We saw several of them between Lac Mistassini and the Tichegami. There was room for three of the tents on the small site. The rest of the boys pitched in the pines to avoid the surf.
Photo: Bill Seeley
portage off Lac Mistassini onto the Wabissinane River is 150 yards past
the last rapids on the river on the west bank. The landing is on the
river side of the point. We had hoped to reach the portage the night
before. There is a Cree camp on the far side of the portage, well
protected from the Mistassini weather. At this point we were
suffering our third day of cold misty overcast. We had breakfast
here, finally off the lake and beyond its threatening winds.
portaged a little, round, mid-stream island a kilometer or two upriver.
The liftover portage is a long 50 feet. We stopped for an
anthropological visit to a Cree winter camp on the west bank 2 kilometers
upstream from the island. This site had been recently occupied and
still held a cache of food under tarps. There was a teepee frame, a
round roofed skogan frame and the usual winter detritus.
The river turns northeast, and 2 kilometers upstream there are 2 short portages on the right bank. We camped at the beginning of the second portage. These portages are short walks around short rips. Both cascades had trails on the east bank that climb 15 feet up the sand and gravel to walk between 50 and 100 yards along the river. The campsite was along the portage in an open jackpine park. The boys found a traditional Cree grave marker south of the campsite on the bank here.
1 Major Reimers was the owner and director of Keewaydin Camp from 1976 to 1990. His wry wit and Mississippi accent are as legendary as his commanding presence.
We have attempted to include the most up-to-date and accurate information, but conditions change. We would be grateful for any corrections or suggestions for improvement.