rapids into Weakwaten can be portaged in its entirety 750 yards on the
right shore. I suggest scouting and seeing whether you could run the
top and cut 200 yards off of the trail. There is a campsite just
above the portage bay at the west end of the narrows preceding the rapids.
were told in Némescau that the Cree believe that a spirit used to live on
Weakwaten at the top of a bald hill on its north shore. They told us
that at night you could see sparks from the spirits conjuring in a large
pit at the top of the hill.
paddles under another set of power lines at the large island five
kilometers below the portage.
southwestern end of Lac Weakwaten is tricky. The river braids again
as it leaves the lake. The braids are more complex than they appear
on the 1:250,000 maps. We stuck to the main channel, passing several
good campsite possibilities, as we paddled to the main drop. The
shore is granite here, a long, flat, rock shelf for a campsite. The
river divides around a prominent island in two steep chutes. The
left or southern one is a steep three-foot ledge. We lined a back
channel one island south of the ledge to a short portage that takes out
from a sloping granite campsite and is well walked. The rain fell so
hard on Lac Tésécau that we essentially felt our way across.
channel between Lac Tésécau and Lac Poncet begins with a horserace, ends
with a horserace, and flows with good current all the way. The wind
kicked up here so hard that it took all of our effort to paddle down the
last rapids. It was all we could do to get to a set of islands a
mile off shore and huddle in their lee for shelter. We ended up
making an impromptu, and cramped, camp here. A better place to stop
would have been on the west shore of the outlet bay where several sloping
rocks make good-looking possibilities.
just before the Marten Turn.
Photo: Bill Seeley
started the day with a snack of dried fruit and a paddle four miles across
the lake to breakfast where we were treated to evidence of a recent wolf
visit. We crunched two days into one today by traveling something in
the neighborhood of 55 kilometers. I would advise doing this day in
a day and a half or two.
is a rapids to run out of Lac Poncet. At the bottom look due east
for a short creek that cuts off the long paddle around the first bend.
This creek does not appear on the 1:250,000 maps. Lac Legoff is
quite nice. There were beaches in the first north bay and a Cree
camp at 51° 08’ North, 76° 10’ West, on the east side of the long
point that dips down from the north to form the narrows that separate the
east-west from the north-south bodies of the lake. Lac Legoff is
called Lac Bruton in Heb’s book. The east-west body of the lake
has suffered some recent fire damage, but it did not extend beyond that
part of the lake.
followed the river north out of Lac Legoff, following the west/southern
channel. The rapids out of Lac Legoff was runnable starting left at
the top and finishing off right at the bottom. There were two
campsites towards the north end of the lake-ish section below.
Remembering that we had started at 5:30, with a 45-minute break for
breakfast, it was 2 p.m., when we reached the straight channel beyond Lac
says that a portage trail leaves the river well before the next cascade,
in a willow thicket (I would guess at about 51° 12’ North, 76° 15’
West). There was an obscure trailhead in the willows 800 yards
upstream of the cascade. But, we were game to check out the falls,
and we were making great time. I am going to guess that the trail
connects up to the bay east of the second rapids, making it a good
900-yard walk. In the end it would have been quicker to walk with
the Cree, but the first rapids, actually a falls (14 foot by Heb’s
calculation) is beautiful. With a little creativity a campsite could
be etched out here. We ran the first chute down into a large eddy
bay above a short falls. This is classic James Bay, Quebec.
Tall rocky hills, craggy and forested in dense black spruce, encroach upon
the river. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous afternoon.
first chute is a steep ledge that tumbles through a split in the short
granite hills. The run is no more than 50 yards. Stay left
below making your way to the lip of the falls 100 yards downstream.
We walked an easy 50 yards over a smooth granite spillway on the
south/left side of the falls. It is worth having a look at this as
we had a low-water year and in higher water this terrain would look quite
different. In fact, Nishe checked it out in 1964, and he and Heb
opted for the portage.
lined the second rapids down the left shore. This one looked
impassable in any water, although a little more volume may have opened up
a shore run on the left. The banks are choked with thick willows.
ran the third and last rapids of this short east-west stretch easily down
the right shore. Now we were on the fly. Worth and I bumped
ahead to find the next obstacle. We ran the first set of the long NW
bend easily, starting left at the top and crossing over to the right at
the island split for the lower half. The run is shallow at the top
for the top ˝ kilometer or so, culminating in a steeper drop of several
hundred yards below. My notes say that we worked back right for the
lower half. I surmise this is the same as the description of the
island split I describe just above. I remember this as a fun long
stretch of horserace rapids.
next set of rapids were shallower. We were on the right bank.
The river bends left to meet the left channel around the island. It
then straightens out and flows NW into a small lake-ish section at the
first cutoff (“The Link” in The Rupert That Was). It looked as
if we would have to line a bit so we hauled out for a look at the rapids.
tricky spot was just above the bend back to the right (where the channels
meet and the river turned back NW). There was some debate about the
route through, but the guide was certain it could be run. Worth and
the staff, yours truly, offered to be guinea pigs. We ran it close
to the shoal of rocks sticking out of water in the center of the river
(i.e. left side of our channel) and were able to squeak through. In higher
water I imagine there would be no difficulty here but, be sure that you
can get back to the right because the ensuing run is in deep water on the
right bank, and the river is choked with boulders on the left below.
1964 notes say that Warren Chivers 1948 notes indicate that one can paddle
through “The Link” here. The Link is a shallow, creek-like
channel that cuts across a long southwest bend in the river. It is
marked by a big boulder just past the SW turn in the river. The Link
was shallow with shoals in 1998, but I imagine it easily paddled most
Link rejoins the river just below a small falls. There is an old and
overgrown campsite at the end of the spit of land separating the last
channel of the Link from the river (at 51° 15’ North, 76° 18’ West).
It would take some clearing to get a group of 12 in there now, but a
smaller group would do fine. The sun was low and the day long, but
we elected to move on to Marten River Falls.
eschewed the second link and followed the western braid five kilometers
below the overgrown campsite. Heb says that the second link was
shallow, in higher water, in 1966. There is a falls a couple hundred
yards downstream. We portaged the falls on the north bank of the
river. It is a 200-yard walk on a forgotten, but deep, path,
followed by a beautiful paddle through a narrow, steep-walled gorge.
Marten River Falls (Rapides Kapimitapiskach) is two kilometers downstream. The picturesque campsite Heb describes, on the right bank at the beginning of the chutes above the falls, is burned out now. In later years I would stay at the portage around the falls just upstream. Heb’s kitchen was intact on the narrow chute that separates the island from the mainland. This would have been a White Mountains-like cascade prior to the burn, a narrow stream tumbling over granite ledges. It was dusk when we arrived, sometime just past 9 p.m. So we had been on the water almost 16 hours. That was a day that a voyageur would have been proud of!
portage past Marten River Falls is still visible in the burn on the right
side of the river. It is 300 yards. The portage at the ensuing
falls, six kilometers downstream, is on the river left, at the lip of the
falls. It is a 200-yard walk past another postcard cascade, this one
not affected by the burn above.
next portage is on the right side of the river at what my notes call
“the outlet of a granite-walled channel.” I recall that it
begins in some willows and walks several hundred yards to a creek,
bypassing a section choked with rapids.
portage petered out at the top of the last set of rapids. We found
no easy way down. I have to imagine that this was a by-product of
the water level as the portage clearly went no further, and I have not
found the path of the Cree to ordinarily incorporate lining. I
watched the river banks below the rapids for a portage landing on the west
shore, but found nothing. Heb and Nishe ran the rapids all the way
down, avoiding the portage we walked. But they too were unable to
avoid a liftover where the river splits around a craggy island just below
the creek confluence. They lined on the left shore (with the
exception of Heb who chose our island liftover with the same deleterious
Rupert is wide and sluggish at the confluence of the Marten (although it
is still ripping along at a significantly quicker pace than the,
significantly smaller, Marten). We had a ritual dip and, following
the lead of the Brigades, offered the river tobacco for the second time.
There is a campsite on the east shore of the island just NW of the
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.