Trip Reports

Paddling the Eye of Quebec 2012

Paddling the 'Eye' of Quebec - 2018 Trip

Paddling the ‘Eye” of Quebec   A cool place to paddle….but…would we go again?
Manicougan routeAbout 214 million years ago a 5 km diameter meteor struck the earth.  It is one of the oldest known impact craters on earth.   
In the 1960’s, a series of dams (power generating stations) created a circular reservoir at the crater site.  ‘Lac’ also known as ‘the eye of Quebec’, can be seen from space and is one of Quebec’s ‘curiosities’.  
This geological phenomenon offered an enticing destination that was also doable and affordable!  If someone had a keen interest in geology it would be a fascinating place to go! Despite impact taking place so long ago you can still see how it shaped the landscape. Amazing to think of how much heat it took to liquidate bedrock and shape the island and surrounding mountains!
Circumnavigating the centre island is approximately 250 km, requiring 10 – 12 days  of  20 – 30 kms per day.    Bonus – no portages !
But…. Beware the weather!  Due to the lake effect and long reaches, it changes quickly from sunny and calm to dark, stormy, windy, waves and  buckets of rain!
How far away is it? It is located about 300 KM north of what is now Baie Comeau.   About 1160 kms from Ottawa or 14 driving hours with the last 4 hrs on a road alternating between asphalt and gravel.  Access is easy – if you don’t mind the long drive. We opted to drive for 2 ‘reasonable’ distance days . On our way to , we camped at Les Bergeronnes right on the shores of the St Lawrence River just north of Tadoussac.  Beautiful!

long crossing- The first view of the lake was breathtaking, water calm, far shores and hills reflected in the water.  
- Gorgeous vistas, sandy beaches, cliffs, hills and ‘mountains’ that ring the crater.  Our campsites were on taiga, sand or pebble ‘tiered’ shorelines.  Lots of room, firewood ….sometimes without bugs… and then, others,  as many bugs as you would ‘like’.
- Mix of weather and insects:  sunshine, calm and bugs OR Sunshine or clouds, wind and no bugs
- Lake calm as glass reflecting sky, canoes and paddlers – exquisite.  
- This area usually has northerly and westerly winds.  However, the winds were predominantly southerly. So… we changed our route to counter-clockwise.  Sometimes that was a good decision!
- We were traveling in the midst of the July-August heat wave spanning most of On and Qc which pushed temperature up into the 30`s whew that was hot!
- Headwinds and 2-3’ waves are a challenge so we set our determination and dug in!  
- Following winds with 2-3’ waves are ‘not fun’. They are trickier than headwinds, requiring well-trimmed canoes and constant vigilance.  Either way - landing was  a relief.
camp sight no 2 - Weather: hot (!) sunny requiring Tshirts and sunscreen OR sometimes cloudy,  a relief from the hot sun!  Several times heavy storms required us to land, haul the boats – loaded – well up on shore and tied to rocks. We set up a wind and rain shelter with our tarps and were very happy that we did!.
- It is wonderful to paddle in a heavy downpour – water beads bouncing like pearls on the lake surface.
- Following the shore of the inner island included 1-3 Km crossings on bays most days: sometimes sunshine and calm water and sometimes wind, waves and rain. We were always glad to have those crossings behind us!  Clearly the lesson is when the going is good……go !

- We met 1 kayaker from Boston, USA who had been paddling for 9 days – traveling in the opposite direction.  He bee-lined over to chat with us and we compared notes about campsites and navigation.


Manicougan Fish- Judith and Gerard are dedicated to fishing! Despite their dedicated efforts during the first few days, we despaired of having a fish meal.  The 2nd half of the trip – they were lucky – and so were we!  They treated us to frequent fish lunches and suppers.   We dined on 4-5 pound lake trout. There were many sightings of ouananiche (landlocked salmon) fins on the water surface.   One small ouananiche was caught and one large one missed.  (One keeps track of these things!)
- A moose swimming to the inner island, came across us just 200 metres from her shore destination. Her head swivelled, focusing from the shore to us. She gave a few snorts and substantially increased her already impressive speed.  Once on shore, she eyeballed us briefly and then disappeared into the forest. 
- Our last evening, just as we approached our campsite, a Caribou mother with her baby swimming in her wake, finished their 5 km crossing, landing just 100 feet from us. Once out of the water they did a series of delightful whole body shake-wiggles:  spraying and shedding gallons of water.  They stayed nearby for a while, resting and shaking before meandering into the forest.  Always the question – why did they make the crossing? To avoid preditors?  Just part of their travel pattern?
- Uapishka research station situated right on the shore of Lac , is an excellent launch/return point providing accommodation and a roof over our head to pack odd and ends.  As well as providing us delicious homemade suppers, it was a safe place to leave  our cars, and all important – they had big motor boat capability to come and get us if we needed assistance.
- Our last day started with an ‘exciting’ surf launch, big wind and waves.  We ‘island hopped’ along the way to get some protection from the wind. In the end, we finished in calm serene waters and a gorgeous sunset. …right back where we started.
Our Team:
Judith F, Gerard R, Lynette  C, Andrea M, Dagmar B,  Dot B
All with extensive canoe tripping experience, training, wilderness skills and team work abilities.
( 4 canoeing instructors, first aid training:  wilderness first aid to advanced WFA and a first responder)
Safety Preparation:
Throw ropes, In-reach, Sat Phone, SPOT, First aid kit (all trained wilderness first aiders),  
Thanks goes to our great Guardian Angel  - Suzanne C -  back home keeping an eye out for us and ready to support us if need be.
Topo Maps, GPS, past trip reports, info from the research station
3 canoes:  2 pakboats and 1 ‘hardshell’ canoe – all equipped with spray decks. (In this kind of trip – the 17’ canoes were ideal per stability, cargo carrying and speed.  The other canoe was 16’ and functioned fine –but that 1 extra foot makes a difference)
3 bug tents and 2 tarps 
3 tents
Fishing gear !
Redundancy:  each canoe team carried the basic essentials: food, shelter, kitchen gear, communications technology,  and a first aid kit.
Other considerations:
- Using kayaks or sprays skirts for canoes is strongly recommended.
- The expanses to cross are large for a canoe and wind is the deciding factor for crossing. Having access to weather forecasts via our In Reach helped shape our decisions of when to paddle.  (What a difference from years agao - when we would look at the sky and the water...and take our chances)


sailingWould we recommend this as a canoe trip destination? 
No for a variety of reasons…

- The water level will be raised 3+ metres in the next 1-2 years, thus wiping out all the possible camp sites, leaving only drowned forest at  the ‘shorelines’.  That alone puts a stop to future canoe trips.
- This is definitely an isolated area.  IF assistance was needed, help could be 24 or more hours away.
- The route requires frequent long distance crossings on open ‘big’ water. The water is cold. A swamped canoe several kilometers from shore with big waves and wind, in cold water is a recipe for a very difficult canoe /swimmer rescue scenario.
 - We were surrounded by beauty, but clearly, this is a reservoir, not a ‘lake’.  There is an unsettling feeling of sterility.  We assume that changing water levels (per generating stations functions) throughout the year interfere with eco systems. We have not verified that assumption.   
- Lac Manicougan is a trip for solid intermediate to advanced paddlers and solid wilderness canoe trippers. There were long stretches between useable camping spots, making for several long paddling days into stiff headwinds.
-Unfortunately, the challenges and the isolation make it a danger zone for ‘beginner’ paddlers-trippers. 
More information:
About Manicouagan Reservoir:
A few Trip Reports and info sources we used to plan our trip:
4. A fun video – en français re: curiosities of Quebec. Great pix and commentary.
4. Station Uapishka:

sky above and sky below - a calm day on Lac Manicouagan

manicougan 011

Storm coming!!

manicougan storm coming





















 lunch time under the tarp in a storm

moose closer