Mention the Missinaibi to whitewater canoeists,
and watch their eyes light up. The Missinaibi
is one of Canada's great unspoiled wilderness
rivers, located in Canada's most populous
province, yet so remote that it is met by
road and rail in only 4 places. The Missinaibi
is, and always has been, a canoeing river,
traversed for millennia by aboriginals and
for centuries by fur traders. For contemporary
recreational canoeists, the Missinaibi represents
the ultimate in raw beauty, outdoor adventure,
and personal challenge.
"River Travel: Advanced. Portaging:
Difficult. Remoteness: Advanced"
- Don't launch your canoe into the Missinaibi
without careful planning and meticulous preparation.
Except for its lower reaches, as it joins
the Mattagami River to become the Moose River
corridor to James Bay, the Missinaibi is not
a river for inexperienced paddlers. It drops
330 metres as it crosses the Canadian Shield,
falling 60 metres in one dramatic plunge at
legendary Thunderhouse Falls. The string of
navigable rapids just above the Falls must
be treated with extreme caution. Tragically,
several canoeists who have not stayed to the
left side of the shore have missed the portage
and been swept over the Falls.
Eco-Vacation in the Chapleau Crown
You don't have to know a pickerel
from a pike to book a vacation
in the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve,
surrounding the upper reaches
of the Missinaibi River. While
fishing continues to be a big
attraction in the 700,000 hectare
territory, outfitters in the Preserve
are hosting an increasing number
Campground and resort operators
in the Game Preserve, well-versed
in environmental etiquette, now
offer nature hikes and boat tours
in addition to traditional fishing
trips. In an area that has banned
hunting and trapping since 1925,
chances of seeing a moose feeding
in a sheltered cove or a bald
eagle soaring above the shoreline
are high. Count on hearing the
call of the loon from the deck
of your comfortable lakeside cabin
before heading out on nature trails
to search for up to 47 types of
mammals and 135 species of birds.
An abundance of wildlife isn't
the only feature of the Chapleau
wilderness. A total lack of light
pollution allows for spectacular
star-gazing. And if your timing
is right, you may be treated to
a magnificent midnight display
of the northern lights.
Getting to your campsite, cabin
or resort accommodation in the
Chapleau Crown Game Preserve is
part of the adventure. By road
from Chapleau, railway from Wawa
or Sault Ste. Marie, or chartered
float plane, your trip will take
you where few tourists have gone
before - into the heart of northern
Ontario's boreal forest.
Portages along the Missinaibi are frequent
and sometimes difficult. Services are almost
non-existent, and camping spots can be limited.
Make sure that you check water levels before
beginning your trip; low levels can make parts
of the river impassable.
Get a Guide: If you are planning a trip
on the Missinaibi, you will need at least
1 guide. Depending on your experience and
preferences, the guide may be human - an expert
whitewater canoeist who knows the river -
or a publication. Several local outfitters
offer custom guiding services and complete
canoeing packages, including provision of
all gear and meals.
Printed and online Missinaibi route guides,
including a Missinaibi Provincial Park route
description and topographic maps of the area,
are widely available. Some are extremely detailed,
and highly readable, providing not only route
maps, but also fascinating background information
about historical, cultural and ecological
features of the river.
While some canoeists have paddled the entire
550 kilometre route from the Missinaibi's
source to Moosonee - an expedition of up to
4 weeks - most choose to complete one stretch
at a time. The customary dividing point is
the town of Mattice, about half way down the
river where it crosses the Trans Canada Highway.
River Route, Part 1: Missinabie to Mattice
- (238 kilometeres)
The southern end of your trip begins in the
hamlet of Missinabie (note the alternate spelling),
accessible by Highway 651 (north from Highway
101 linking Chapleau and Wawa).
Your put-in point is at Dog Lake, on the upper
part of the Michipicoten river system.
A few short portages take you through
Crooked Lake to Missinaibi Lake, the largest
body of water on your route. You will pass
by the Fairy Point pictographs, Whitefish
Falls, and the ruins of the Missinaibi Lake
Hudson's Bay Company post. (The entrance to
Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park is an alternate
put-in point, accessible by an 88-kilometre
road from Chapleau. Camping facilities are
You will run or portage
through a series of whitewater rapids, including
Cedar, Long, Sun and Barrel, eventually passing
the mouth of the Hay River.
will pass through Peterbell Marsh, renowned
for its ecological diversity.
series of 30 rapids lies between Peterbell
and Mattice, most of which can be run in moderate
water levels. Look for Split Rock Falls, the
"3 Devils," and the challenging
Albany Rapids. Portages will probably be necessary
past Beaver Rapids and Shaprock Falls.
Your trip ends just 1 kilometre north
of Highway 11 at the boat ramp in the town
Route, Part 2: Mattice to Moosonee - (316
Like the upper portion of the Missinaibi,
the lower section demands advanced whitewater
skills, and includes several challenging portages.
You will encounter a series of
rapids and boulder gardens immediately downriver
from Mattice, including Rock Island Rapids
and Black Feather Rapids. A portage is required
around Kettle Falls.
A long string
of navigable rapids beyond Alice Island leads
to a mandatory portage well above Thunderhouse
Falls, where the river falls in 3 distinct
Thunderhouse Falls marks
the beginning of the river's turbulent descent
from the Abitibi Uplands of the Canadian Shield
into the James Bay Lowlands. You will portage
around Stone Rapids and Long Rapids, but may
be able to run Four Mile Rapids in good water
You will pass the
site of an 18th century Hudson's Bay Company
trading post, and paddle between the steep,
layered cliffs that begin midway between the
mouths of the Pivabiska and Soweska Rivers.
The river begins to widen and
flatten downstream of the Soweska River, and
is joined by the Mattagami River, forming
the Moose River.
You will reach
Moose River Crossing, a stopping point for
the Ontario Northland Railway.
You can choose to continue for 72 kilometres
through flat water and sub-arctic vegetation
into the estuary that leads to James Bay,
reaching Tidewater Provincial Park and the
town of Moosonee, with rail connections back
Fishing for northern pike? Good choice: if
you're looking for sport, these fish are full
of fight. If you're looking for dinner, they're
full of flavour.
But don't spend too much time worrying about
which spoon or spinner to use: these carnivorous
freshwater sharks will eat anything they can
swallow without choking, including walleye,
frogs, crayfish, muskrats, ducklings - and
whatever is in your tackle box!
Missinsaibi "northerns" don't have
to look very far to satisfy their prodigious
cravings. The river is full of fallfish and
crayfish, both well-known pike palate-pleasers.
Since it is also clean, remote and unspoiled,
its pike grow big and strong - your chances
of hooking a 10 or 12 kilogram northern are
good. When you do, expect a challenge: the
pike will use its long, slender body to generate
force and make powerful runs.
A Fish for All Seasons: Trolling, drifting
and casting for northerns, especially in the
afternoon, will all produce good results.
Big minnows make the best bait; your fishing
guide can show you how to make a fool-proof
rig. In spring and fall, the fish prefer shallow,
weedy areas near rocky points and narrows.
In summer, they retreat to deeper water.
Pike remain active when other fish are hard
to catch, making them a favourite target for
ice fishers. In the Missinaibi area, there
is no closed season on northern pike. Check
with your fishing guide for catch and possession
limits, based on regular or "conservation"
Missinaibi Multitudes: Of course, there's
more to the Missinaibi than pike. You can
also anticipate limit catches of walleye,
yellow perch and smallmouth bass (plus sturgeon,
splake, lake trout and whitefish - and brook
trout in the river's tributaries.) Perch are
particularly plentiful, with no catch or size
limits. Use a night crawler, and look for
lily pads or bulrushes, in about 1 metre of
water. Guided fishing trips to the Missinaibi,
with comfortable accommodation and hearty
meals, can be easily arranged.
If you're planning to canoe the Missinaibi,
you will need a provincial park permit. Like
a thin, green arm reaching down from just
below James Bay, almost three-quarters of
the way to Lake Superior, Missinaibi Provincial
Park dominates the map of northern Ontario.
The Park follows the corridor of the Missinaibi
River, encompassing Foster Lake and Brunswick
Lake south of Mattice, and including all but
the south-west tip of Missinaibi Lake at its
Missinaibi is an Ontario waterway park, part
of a provincial system of river corridors
that provide canoeists with high-quality recreational
and historical river travel. The Park covers
99,090 hectares, with an addition of 20,719
hectares proposed for the lower stretch of
the river in areas surrounding Thunderhouse
Falls and the Pivabiska River. According to
provincial regulation, the Missinaibi's park
designation protects it from logging, mining,
sand and gravel extractions and commercial
hydroelectric development; new roads are not
permitted "without prior written commitment,"
but access to existing mining claims and leases
Although Missinaibi is officially a waterway
park, campers and canoeists should be aware
that it is also a wilderness park. There are
only 36 front-country campsites at the southern
entrance of the park, located at Barclay Bay
on Missinaibi Lake, and 103 backcountry sites
in the interior, open from early May to late
Heritage is an important aspect of Missinaibi's
park designation. The Fairy Point pictographs,
some of Ontario's most significant aboriginal
rock paintings, are located within the Missinaibi
Lake portion of the Park, and the river itself
is an historic fur trading route.