My husband Tony and I had done a fair bit of canoe tripping in the BWCA, Quetico and Ontario's Algonquin Park, but we had never tackled a remote Canadian river. I had heard of the Missinaibi River many times before and for years it had represented for us a dream trip, but we never felt that we were ready for this whitewater river trip. The company "Missinaibi Headwaters Outfitters" was recommended to me, so I visited their web page and eventually spoke to Julie Morin, one of the owners, about joining a guided group. Julie explained that all their guided trips are designed to teach whitewater skills, while having the safety of an experienced and certified guide along for safety. Man, she was right...
Late one night in July, the Canadian Trans-Continental Train screeched to a stop in the middle of the woods, dropped off 8 Goretex-clad passengers at the side of the Missinaibi River, then sped off into the night. In the darkness that night, I was very glad that we decided to take Julie's advice and go with a guided group.
The river was everything I had hoped to experience, and more. Each night we camped next to stunning waterfalls or rapids. We ran set after set of rapids, and only had to portage 8 times on a 7-day trip. We saw 4 moose, 3 bear, lots of eagle, osprey and beaver. We caught walleye and Northern Pike in the evening, went swimming, and enjoyed excellent meals and great conversation. In fact, the social aspect of the trip, the new friends we made on the river, became one of the most pleasant surprises. In years of canoeing we tried to avoid other people, but now on a group trip, our fellow paddlers gave us the best memories from the trip.
Our guide Dave, the other owner of Missinaibi Headwaters Outfitters, was an excellent teacher. He showed us how to use everything we knew from flatwater paddling and put these skills to use on a river. By the end of the trip, Tony and I were running Class II rapids, scouting and reading rapids.
The Missinaibi River is about 350 miles, and is crossed once by a road. This road became our take out, 100 miles downstream from the train tracks where we started 7 days earlier. We enjoyed the hospitality of the French Canadian village of Mattice before being shuttled back to the Timmins airport. I am sure we'll be in touch with Dave and Julie to see if we can join a guided trip to finish the river.
We went through Missinaibi Headwaters out of Chapleau, Ontario.(www.missinaibi.com) They organized the entire trip, provided all the equipment and guided the trip.
We used Mad River, Dagger, and Nova Craft 16 foot ABS canoes with whitewater outfitting: straps, knee pads and floatation.
The river is a Provincial Park, so there is a fee of $6.50 Canadian/per night. However, since we were on an organized trip, the outfitter took care of obtaining the permits.
We flew into Timmins ON, where the outfitter met us, but you could drive to Chapleau. Cross into Canada at Sault St. Marie MI, Take 17 West to 129 North. Its about 4 hours from the border to the Outfitter's base on Racine Lake.
Hap Wilson's "Missinaibi: Journey to the Northern Sky"