This is an account of my second trip on the Missinaibi River. I led the trip this time for Whitewater Unlimited, a canoe club in Oshawa, Ont. There were three canoes with Marty Hendrix and myself, Ron Sutherland and Mark Clarkson and Terry Sullivan and Tim Stephenson. The intention this time was to run much more of the whitewater since we were all paddling ABS canoes.
Our destination for the night is the Glendale Motel in Iroquois Falls but they have no vacancy when we arrive. They get us three rooms at the Galaxy M/Hotel in Val Gagne 20 minutes away. After registering, I contact Chris Hall who is to be our shuttle driver again. He says he will join us at the motel after supper. Chris shows up and gets acquainted and has a few beers with everyone while we make arrangements for the next day.
After fortifying ourselves and checking for last minute purchases we leave Chapleau on the last leg to the put-in. 85kms of logging road into Missinaibi Provincial Park. With the canoes finally loaded and equipment firmly secured we hit the water at 4:30 and paddle up the lake. The trip up Missinaibi lake takes nearly three hours and we see several moose grazing in the water.
Long Rapids and the other unnamed rapids as well as Sun rapids aren't cause for much concern, but Barrel Rapids is a larger obstacle. We hadn't run this one the last time and I was apprehensive about it because the rapid is not visible from the portage. Terry and Tim are ready to run anything and go through while the rest of us try to get a look from the portage. I was certain I recalled a large ledge at or near the bottom but we go ahead anyway. There were a couple of drops with the last one being quite large which caused us to take on alot of water but both crews survived the ordeal. We make Peterbel by 4:30 under clear skies.
We have plenty of time for exploring and some of our little band meet a trapper and his two friends. This encounter reveals that there is a CN crew working in the area that has been feeding a black bear their garbage and he has become a nuisance. The trapper shot the bear the night before but he hadn't killed it. We were extra cautious with our food and debris that night!
It pours as we set up camp, it pours as we set up some tarps and it pours as we cook our supper. Later on, the rain lets up and we check out the rapid. Terry says he wants to run the whole rapid in the morning while the rest of us decide just to run the lower part.
The water level at Greenhill Rapids is at least two feet higher than normal, so it is a foregone conclusion that we portage the only section that all maps caution about. The portage is 1.6 km and runs deep into the woods through bog and hills. The first trip through takes twenty-five minutes. The second trip with the canoe takes a bit longer because the flat yokes are unbearable. When the last of us finish, Terry and Tim have paddled up river to have a look.
Reunited, we continue to Calf Rapids which is technical but not too difficult. We see an ABS canoe wrapped around a rock. At St. Peter's Rapids, I decide to walk as the standing waves will probably swallow the front of the canoe with me in it. Some of the less confident paddlers are glad to change partners and run this one. Terry and Ron lose a bit of dignity as they broach on a small rock after the big stuff is over but they did remain out of the water. Marty and Mark run it empty without any trouble.
Throughout the day a tailwind has shifted with us as we rounded each bend in the river. It also knocks down numerous trees in the forest. Back with the original crews, we reach Splitrock Falls and camp at around 6:00. There are two campsites here but the majority feels that there is insufficient room for three tents on the lower one so we camp in the trees at the top.
Soon after leaving the falls around 10 am, Terry develops a migraine headache and is vomiting over the side of his canoe. We slow our pace as Tim paddles and Terry curls up. We make our way to Thunder Falls and set up a tent for Terry to recouperate for a few hours. The rest of us carry over the portage and spend some time next to the falls. To keep pace with my first trip we need to cover 60 km today, but that doesn't seem likely now.
When Terry recovers enough to continue, we run a small rapid below the falls and make for Brunswick Portage. The campsite here does not appeal to us so we move on. At an unnamed rapid we find a campsite that suits us. There are lots of flies. There are mosquitoes and blackflies but these are just plain flies! Most of the group cooks and eats out on the rocks and spends some time there cleaning or fishing.
The phrase "How far to this bridge?", keeps ringing in my ears all morning. After running a rapid and drifting, it appears we didn't camp as far along as I thought. We finally reach the bridge around 2:00 and stop for lunch.
There is a pick-up truck parked by the bridge, left there by a fisherman no doubt. At Two Portage Falls, we see some gear at the near end. This turns out to be two Frenchmen in a square-stern canoe fishing the rapids. They give us some tips and say they are from Mattice. They tell us it takes them two hours to drive to Mattice and I tell them it takes us two days to paddle.
Terry runs the 'falls' empty and solo taking a very long time to line up after the first drop. No one else thinks it's a good idea to try it but he makes it down. We paddle on to Pond Falls and set up camp after missing the side trail leading to the campsite the first time over the portage. We all go for a swim at the bottom of the falls before supper. We spend some leisure time on the rocks beside the falls after supper.
The other party paddles over to us at the bottom and we chat for awhile. They are from Ottawa and are paddling their fiberglass flatwater canoes all the way to Moosonee. They started two days ahead of us but have picked a campsite behind the one we are aiming for tonight. We leave them behind and head for the Beaver Falls portage. Immediately afterward is Lower Beaver Rapid which we run. Next is Sharprock Rapids which I have to convince Marty not to run but to line. As we pull the canoe into a niche below the first bad drop and climb in we are pinned as Terry and Tim line their canoe into the same niche. This causes considerable friction and tempers flare but this passes soon after. Close quarters for this long usually makes for a bit of tension eventually but once it is vented things get back to normal.
It begins to rain lightly then heavily and then tapers off again as we reach our last camp at Glassy Falls. The view of the falls makes this an attractive campsite but the evidence of teen partiers and bonfires detracts somewhat. After trudging our gear through the loose sand of the beach and setting up camp I boil enough water for hot drinks and soup to warm everyone up. We are all wet from the rain and the insects are thick. We get a fire going and all have supper. As we are clearing up, two ATV's arrive with four young people out for the weekend. They promise to keep their revelry to a minimum tonight as the big party is tomorrow night. We're glad we won't be here.
Dusk sees the skies clear and the winds pick up. After hitting the sack we hear a chainsaw a couple of times but that is all. The winds get pretty fierce at times but calm down soon.
6:00 finds Marty and me out of our tent and starting to break camp. Soon everyone is up and making breakfast saying "What's the hurry?". We are on our way by 8:00 in bright clear sunshine just a little chilled. The day warms very quickly and we head for another rock garden called Crow Rapids. This used to be a smaller version of Albany Rapids but now I think the roles are reversed. There is nothing too severe except one ledge reaching from one shore to the other. There is only a narrow gap which is hard to see from the stern of the canoe. Tim and Terry find the gap but the other two canoes drop over the ledge. This is fun and has no ill effects on equipment or paddlers.
The last stretch of water is without obstruction so we drift alot and prolong the experience. We make Mattice around 10:30 and find the take-out. There is a party camped here who are from a youth camp. They arrived the day before and are setting out for Moosonee today. We leave our gear to find the restaurant and have lunch and sign the guest book.
Hap Wilson passed through recently and had some equipment stolen so we are glad that there is someone watching our stuff. Chris arrives at the stroke of twelve right on time. We return to the canoes and load everything into the van and begin our three hour drive back to the Galaxy Motel for a shower and clean sheets. After a good night's sleep, we will head for home.