Situated in northeastern Ontario, the Missinaibi River flows northeasterly for 426 kilometres from the Abitibi Uplands north of Chapleau to its confluence with the Moose River in the James Bay Lowlands. It offers one of the longest, unimpeded stretches of wilderness river environments found in Ontario. Although this part of Ontario may be reached quite easily by road, rail and air from major population centres in southern Ontario and neighboring U. S. states, the Missinaibi River itself has more limited access, a factor which has contributed to preserving its unspoiled nature.
The Missinaibi waterway provides fine opportunities for recreational activities such as lake and white-water canoeing, camping, wildlife viewing, and photography. Fishing for walleye and northern pike, lake sturgeon, smallmouth bass and brook trout is excellent on Missinaibi Lake and along the river.
Most of these activities may be enjoyed by those using the provincial park campground at Missinaibi Lake, which is accessible by way of an 88 km gravel road from Chapleau. The Missinaibi River itself, however, has only limited access and lacks facilities and services. These characteristics enhance the river’s wilderness appeal, but make it best suited to experienced travelers looking for a challenging, yet reasonably safe, wilderness canoe and camping trip.
Access: Several starting points are possible, depending upon the length of trip desired. Missinaibi Provincial Park campgrounds, at the head of the river, may be reached from Chapleau on Highway 101. The village of Missanabie may be reached via Highway 651 north from Highway 101. Via Rail passenger trains run three times weekly northwest from Capreol, crossing the river at Peterbell and the Ontario Northland Railway runs daily service from Moosonee to Cochrane, crossing the Moose River just below its confluence with the Missinaibi. The lowest possible starting point downriver – accessible by means other than float plane – is at Mattice, on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Accommodation and Services: Since this area is relatively remote, accommodation and services are limited. The village of Missanabie offers hotel accommodation and supplies. Camping facilities are available at Barclay Bay on Missinaibi Lake. Mattice has limited services and some overnight accommodation. No established campground or other facilities are available for canoeists leaving the Missinaibi at Moose River Crossing while waiting for the southbound train from Moosonee. However, fly-in and fly-out services are available, permitting shorter trips.
Canoeing: While the entire Missinaibi may be tackled by experienced canoeists, most approach it in two major sections. The upper Missinaibi River, from Missanabie village or Missinaibi Lake to Mattice is a 236 km route with 28 portages requiring 10–12 days. The longer Missinaibi, from Mattice to the Moose River rail crossing and on to Moosonee, is a 320 km route with 7–10 portages requiring 7–9 days. Detailed descriptions of these routes are available from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Canoeing is good from June to September. Portages, which are clearly marked, vary in length and difficulty, and their locatians change with seasonally fluctuating water levels. The average gradient along the river is less than 1 m/km; however, canoeists wishing to tackle the Missinaibi should be experienced because the river has many difficult sections and numerous, changing portages. Camping spots are limited on some portions of the river. The lower waters of late summer provide additional camping sites on exposed river banks and sandbars, but also expose rocky shallows which must be portaged or lined. For the experienced to expert canoeist, the Missinaibi provides a challenging test of skill and endurance, particularly in June when water levels are higher.
Courtesty of Canadian Heritage River Systems