Itinerary for Magpie Source-to-Sea Packraft Expedition
Arrival in Sept-Îles and welcome meeting
You’ll be greeted at the airport and brought to the seaside Chateau Arnaud Hotel. You’ll have free time until 6:30 p.m. to explore Sept-Îles. At 6:30 we have a kickoff cocktail and go over how to pack your drybags.
Dinner is on your own. Within walking distance, you can choose:
- awesome pub fare with Quebec microbrew beers
- high-end steaks and seafood (lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp are all fished locally),
- or the Quebec chip-stand classic: poutine and milkshakes.
Day 2 – Expedition prep and training
We get up early and begin learning the systems and dialing in your gear. We’ll review the menu, pack, and divvy-up food. You’ll be shown how to:
- pack your bags
- double check our pack rafts, tents and personal gear
- use the stoves, water filters, and gear maintenance
By the end of the day you’ll be packed and geared up like a pro.
If you’d like to learn how to fly fish on this trip, we’ll take time this afternoon to start into casting and equipment set up.
We’re done by 16:00, and you have a few hours free time before we meet our friends in the local Innu community for a traditional meal and send-off.
Day 3– Helicopter to the headwaters
We drive 90 minutes by van down the beautiful coast to our helicopter. After our pilot briefs us on loading the aircraft, we’ll strap in for one of the most incredible experiences of this whole trip: our flight upstream, into the heart of Quebec’s north. Staring down at waterfalls and skimming treetops, we’ll fly over a wild landscape that few have ever laid eyes on.
After some high-fives, we wave goodbye to the pilot. As the sound of the helicopter fades, you’ll be overcome by how remote you are. It is an amazing feeling, realizing that we are the only humans for miles around. Besides our backpacks, everything here is much as it has been for thousands of years. It is worthwhile to take a deep breath and look around. For the next 9 days we’ll explore true wilderness as we paddle, hike, and discover this amazing landscape up close—and make our way back to the sea.
Days 4 to 6 – Packrafting, hiking, rappelling and navigating
There are several route options to get to Lake Magpie. This area has no established campsites or trails. Our guides will help you find the best route to take us from the drop off point to the river. Everyone will have a chance to learn and/or use map and compass-based triangulation techniques, GPS techniques and route planning.
We’ll hike overland and paddle our packrafts—linking headwater lakes, rivers and streams—as we explore our way through this majestic landscape, getting to know its waterways and forest along the way.
As we move across the land, we’ll be rewarded as each new lake and hilltop bring discoveries: a (surprised and confused) beaver that has never seen people before, swimming by its solitary lodge, expanses of untouched moss with caribou tracks, maybe a black bear munching on berries and of course, dramatic sweeping views that few have ever seen.
At the end of each day, everyone works together to make camp. We’ll create a comfortable ‘home’ to relax and fuel up in. We’ll get into a routine and your guides will teach you little tricks of the trade with everything from cooking to setting up tarps. You will have everything you need to get comfortable and recharge in the backcountry.
On long wilderness trips we can really appreciate the little things. With a hot cup of tea (or sip of scotch) around the fire and reclining back to watch the shooting stars, we’ll settle in for restful nights.
Day 6 - Lake Magpie
We’ll have to pick our way through steep terrain and forested slopes as we descend into the large valley surrounding Lake Magpie. Paddling on this lake is spectacular: it feels like a fjord with its steep walls jutting into the sky, and its size and purity are awe inspiring. The Magpie watershed is 99.999% untouched, a rarity today.
Lake Magpie can be windy, and we’ll either sail with a tailwind or paddle into a headwind. Either way, we’ll make it to the lake’s southern tip and our resupply—and it’s all downstream travel from here.
Days 7 to 10 – Whitewater on Magpie River
During the next stage of our trip, we paddle one of National Geographic’s top 10 multi-day whitewater rivers. The rapids are amazing and the scenery along the way a captivating mix of tundra, gorges, waterfalls and Boreal Forest.
We’ll also have a resupply of food and some extra equipment, including a gear raft, flown into meet us at the end of Lake Magpie.
Whitewater river running
Everybody’s backpacks will be strapped into a raft that will be rowed by one of the guides. Without a heavy pack, your packraft will paddle like a lightweight, high-performance, inflatable kayak.
With a light boat you’ll learn more river running skills including reading rapids, rescue techniques, and whitewater maneuvers. There will be lots of opportunities for surfing waves. We’ll spend 4 full days bobbing and weaving our way downstream, picking lines (with the help of your guides) down numerous class I, II, and III rapids.
There are a number of big water class III+ and class IV rapids that we will scout from shore. Everything is ‘challenge by choice’ meaning you can choose your challenge level. At this point in the trip, you’ll understand more about whitewater so you’ll feel good about making decisions on the river. With our experienced whitewater guides, you can decide to run some of those rapids with appropriate safety precautions. Others can ‘sneak’ down the sides; all rapids can be portaged too.
We’ll have our fly fishing and spin fishing gear meet us along with the raft (we’ll bring a couple of lightweight fishing kits on the headwaters section). The speckled trout (brook trout) fishing becomes incredible once we float off the lake and paddle into the first few rapids of the Magpie. If you are into fishing you will have a blast. If you are starting out, this is an amazing place to learn and your guides will help you out as you land your first ‘brookies’. There is plenty else to do if you aren’t keen on fishing:
- side hikes (if you have more hiking left in you) to explore the forest
- whitewater training – your guides can teach you rescue skills like whitewater swimming and throw bagging
With the current pushing us, we’ll have time to play in the rapids. As well, we plan for some extra (and much needed) relaxing at camp.
Day 11 – Canyons, waterfalls, and homeward bound
As we approach the sea we’ll arrive at the awe-inspiring Magpie Gorge where the river thunders through a canyon and tumbles over a series of dramatic drops. We camp overlooking the gorge. This is a world-class setting and the perfect way to enjoy our last evening and morning in the wilderness. There are a couple of hikes we can do to gain different vantage points and take in the beauty and awesome power of the river.
We’ll leave our raft at the top of the gorge (to be slung out by helicopter at a later date), while we take a forest path around the gorge and continue with our packrafts and personal packs. A short paddle across a lake takes us to another spectacular location: the stunning 100-foot Magpie Falls. A beautiful mossy trail takes us to a breathtaking lunch spot amongst giant water-sculpted boulders at the edge of the drop.
From the Falls it’s a short paddle to the coastal highway. The van will meet us and take us the 80 minutes back to the hotel. With a stop in a small coastal village for souvenirs, we arrive back at the hotel in time for a hot shower before dinner.
Day 12 – Flights
After breakfast, we’ll drive you to the airport for your flight home. Alternatively, you can stay in the region to continue your adventure, which we are more than happy to help you plan.
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