Quebec Quandary

Jacques-Cartier River
Jaques-Cartier River Practicalities
Length : Varies. The total run is about 45 miles but you can run each stretch separately.
Difficulty : Class I-V
Hazards : Rock gardens, boulder fields
Cautions : Advanced skills are needed in the Taureau Gorge. The steep walls prevent easy access and egress.
Location : One hour north of Quebec City
Best time to go : Mid June to mid September
How to get there : Highways 175 or 371 north from Quebec City
Permits, fees, and special regulations, if any : Portions of the river run through the national park. Check with the park office for regulations.

If you want the pleasures of an international city and the adventure of challenging whitewater in one trip, the Jacques-Cartier River is for you. You can experience European-style ambiance over a leisurely evening meal at a cafe within the stone walls of Quebec City, and within an hour be paddling through some of the finest whitewater in eastern Canada. Wilderness? Not on this trip.

The selection of water on the Jacques-Cartier is as varied as the cafes' menus. The upper section squirts through the narrow 1500-foot high walls of the Taureau Gorge. One of the hairiest stretches of river in eastern Canada (the gradient is over 100 feet per mile), the gorge is full of Class IV and V drops. Twenty-five miles of almost continuous foaming whitewater and arduous portages demand advanced skills. Over two dozen major rapids and inaccessible stretches of canyon mean this is a two-day trip. If you are an accomplished kayaker, give the gorge a try.

If not, put in just below the gorge and float through the Parc de la Jacques Cartier. The river here is a leisurely ten miles of Class I flatwater and gentle ripples. Odds of spotting moose and bear are good--as well as fellow boaters. Canoes fill this section of the river on a summer day.

Too tame? Put in at the town of Tewksbury and run to Highway 371. This is a short six-mile stretch but worth the trip. The river is challenging on this section with a strong flow through rock gardens and boulder fields that will test your technical skills. River levels are variable and can drastically affect the character of the water, but unless the level is very high, an open canoe can make this run. This is also a very popular part of the river and kayaks, canoes, and rafts share the water.

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


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »