Quebec Quandary

The "Have to Paddle" Moisie River
Moise River Practicalities
Length : 250 Miles
Difficulty : Class II - IV
Hazards : Boulders, rapids, remote wilderness
Cautions : Professional guide recommended
Location : Northeastern limits of the province, near Labrador
Best time to go : Early to mid-June
How to get there : Take highway 138 northeast from Quebec City.
Permits, fees, and special regulations, if any : None
For more information : Contact Sunrise Expeditions

The Moisie was relatively undiscovered until the publication of the mid-1970's book, The Complete Wilderness Paddler, the bible for wilderness canoeing. The book told of a month-long exploration of the Moisie by a group of four men and established the reputation of the river as a prime wilderness destination. The river has since taken on an almost mythical aura and is now one of those"you have to paddle" expeditions for hard core wilderness river rats.

Even so, the Moisie is not heavily traveled, and for good reason. It is isolated, difficult to reach, and intimidating. The bright side of this is that you can spend ten days paddling the length of the Moisie and not lay eyes on another soul.

This is not a river for the uninitiated. It has all the ingredients of a true wilderness adventure: psychologically daunting, technically challenging, and physically punishing. Do not attempt the Moisie unless you have good whitewater skills, proper equipment, and wilderness experience. A trek down the Moisie demands a large amount of self-sufficiency. Outside help may not be an option.

Scared off? Don't be. The Moisie rewards those who canoe her with stunningly picturesque terrain that is hard to find anymore. The Moisie is 18th century wilderness in a 21st century world. There is virtually no sign of human habitation, or even human presence, for that matter. Hulking mountain peaks tower over the river, thunderous waterfalls cascade out of sheer thousand-foot cliffs, wide valleys reach to mountainous foothills, and thick brocades of spruce and balsam fir crowd to the river's edge. The water is clear and cold, rushing over boulders and pebbled bars. Frequent Class II and III rapids interrupt smooth stretches of flatwater.

The rapids can appear deceptively mild. Car-sized boulders and quirky twists in the riverbed result in unexpected crosscurrents, holes and eddies that can grab your boat unexpectedly. The key words are scout and portage. Caution in the middle of nowhere is a good thing. A little trouble can quickly turn into BIG TROUBLE since help can be a good two-day paddle away.

The river flows out of Lake Opocopa and flows 250 miles south into the St. Lawrence River near Sept-Iles. Unless you are extremely experienced, it is best to arrange for the services of a professional outfitter to attempt the Moisie. The logistics of the trip and the remoteness of the headwaters can be overwhelming.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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