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Adventure story: 7 days kayaking on the river in Côte-Nord

Coucher de soleil sur la Côte-Nord

Kayak trip: adventure story on the turbulent river

This winter, my partner and I have had a lot of time to dream of warmer weather and outdoor adventures. We began planning a trip to visit a region of the province that deeply intrigued us: the North Shore. Jean-Thomas, my partner and boat officer, has seen its rocky shores from the ships he has worked on. For my part, I had never gone further than Sept-Îles. We therefore set ourselves a challenge: to go on an adventure aboard our tandem kayak and to camp as we traveled along the coast of the St. Lawrence River. 

Plan an expedition to the North Shore

This adventure, which took place at the end of May, obviously required careful planning. My partner did most of the prep work the month before our trip, and we went camping every weekend to test our gear and prepare our minds (and arms!) for the challenge that awaited us. . We camped on the Sorel Islands (keep an eye out for the exciting project we're doing in the region this summer!), and we practiced our navigation techniques in the Laurentians well before the usual camping season. 

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What to eat when you go on an adventure?

By the time mid-May arrived, we had assembled and tested our equipment, and knew exactly how to organize it. Jean-Thomas had prepared a rotation of dehydrated meals: pesto pasta, butter chicken, chili and lentil stew. I had made an energy-dense oatmeal mix to start our mornings. Lunches consisted of rye bread with sardines or other canned goods. We had a water filtration and disinfection system and an epic bag of snacks. All that remained was to make the 15 hour drive to Kegaska, where our journey would begin.

Départ de Kegaska en kayak
Once the kayak is assembled, we are ready!
Départ de Kegaska en kayak
Departure from Kegaska by kayak. You still have to assemble it!

Starting point: Kegaska, end of route 138

Kegaska is where Route 138 ends. To get to the coastal villages north of Kegaska, you have to take the plane or the boat. In winter, you can take the white route by ski or by boat. snowmobile. 

So, early on Sunday, May 22, it was in Kegaska that we launched our kayak. Just beforehand, we activated our satellite tracking device and informed our family and the Coast Guard of our departure and our expected return date.

When seasickness sets in

Everything was going well during the crossing of the first bay, until I got seasick. I managed to last the first two hours, but when we had to cross a bay with a 5 foot swell, my morale started to drop. No amount of ginger candy was going to make me more excited about crossing this last stretch, and the presence of hidden rocks near the shoreline made us hesitant to go around the bay. 

You know what ended up helping me? My dignity. The presence of the Coast Guard patiently waiting nearby gave me the boost I needed because there was no way I was going to complain while they laughed about it. state of our stomachs.

Première nuit de camping en Côte-Nord
First night of camping on the North Shore

So we paddled for a good hour and arrived at a beautiful cove where we settled in for the first night of this adventure on the North Shore. As we arrived at low tide, we had to go out and walk our kayak to the target site, which would become a habit over the next few days. We would leave with high tide in the morning, stop for lunch along the way, and arrive with low tide mid-afternoon. Unpack our things, set up camp and take the time to rest before taking a short hike and preparing our dinners. We brought books and a game of cribbage for the evenings, but we were usually too exhausted to stay up late.

Greatness in small moments

My seasickness persisted on the second day of this kayaking trip to the North Shore, during which we had to face strong headwinds. I needed encouragement to get to my destination that day, but the reward was worth it: we arrived at a beautiful sandy crescent of beach with a small stream flowing through it and a grandiose pastel sky looming .

Other notable moments of our North Shore kayaking trip were exploring impressive geological formations, meeting the many birds of the area (my favorite being the Arctic terns that danced and dived for fish around us) and the many magnificent sunsets that we were able to see disappear over the rocky coast.

Côte-Nord - Innuberge à Unamen-Shipu
North Shore - Inn in Unamen-Shipu
Adapt to the unexpected

On the sixth day, we made the decision to cut short our last night of camping, as the next day was expected to be rainy with gusts of 70 km/h. Luckily we found last minute accommodation in Unamen Shipu, where we stayed in a beautiful cabin – and oh the luxury – had our first hot shower after sleeping outside all week! The next day, the Bellefleur family, who work in community health, showed us around the reserve and the La Romaine village, sharing with us their experiences of life in this community. I can never thank Isabelle enough for welcoming us so warmly and for taking the time to share with us the rich history of the region.

A difficult return to Montreal

Our week-long camping trip to the North Shore ended with the arrival of Bella Desgagnés. With our gear and kayak packed, we boarded this cargo ship, which carries both passengers and cargo, bound for Kegaska. There, our old but faithful Subaru was waiting for us. What had taken us 7 days to explore by kayak, we would complete in 2.5 hours… usually! But the 70 mph winds that had cut short our time on the water slowed a big ship like Bella. We therefore arrived in Kegaska on time, but the winds made a safe docking impossible. We ended up spending most of the night on board – and you guessed it – I tried as best I could to sleep despite another dose of seasickness. 

Côte-Nord - Fin de la route 138
North Shore - End of route 138

These days, I have both feet firmly on the ground and I am back in Montreal. I already miss the salty smell of the Bay of St. Lawrence. Although the days are sunny, we have already started thinking about our next trip to the North. This time we will probably start from Unamen Shipu and go to Harrington Harbour! But until then, I'll be on the water here in southern Quebec, exploring the beautiful regions on our doorstep. 

Picture of Lena Szymoniak
Lena Szymoniak

Lena is our former water quality project manager. Trained in earth sciences and water treatment, she is interested in issues of environmental regulation and public participation in the management of our natural resources.

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