Fort Coulonge: Coulonge River (4 days / 91 km)
If I was forced to pick the best river in the Outaouais/Pontiac region of Quebec I think the Coulonge would be right up there. It has everything. Great white water, good fishing, nice beautiful sandy beaches, falls and it’s remote. Well, not the kind of remote you’ll get from going up north but it certainly feels wild and remote!
Trip Completed: June 2022
Starting Point: km 106
Ending Point: km 15
Total Distance: 91 km
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty: Intermediate (when we were out there it was high water)
The Coulonge River is on crown land in Quebec. The nearest town is Fort Coulonge.
Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ – Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin)
Maps & Resources
Guidebook: Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley – Hap Wilson
Map: The maps in Hap’s books are great with amazing details on them. Especially for the breakdown of the rapids. I followed the Cartespleinair map for my trip.
Campsite Reservations: The entire route is on crown land so no campsite reservations are needed.
Permits: The entire route is on crown land so no permits are needed for Canadian residents.
Know Before You Go
Season: The best time to paddle is in July and August.
Cell Reception: None
Water: You will have to purify your water.
Wildlife: Never heard of issues with animals but certainly a place where black bears and moose hang out!
Waste: You must pack out all your garbage. A few campsites have thunderboxes.
Outfitters & Shuttles
Outfitter: Aventure Riviere Sauvage
Shuttle: Aventure Riviere Sauvage has a great shuttle service!
Day 1: km 106 to km 77 (29 km)
We met the outfitter, Aventure Rivière Sauvage, at Chutes Coulonge Park in Fort Coulonge at 8 am. The shuttle upriver took about 2 hours and 35 minutes.
The put-in at km 106 is just below Gauthier Falls and is a very easy put-in on a cobblestone beach.
From the put-in, you will go through a series of swifts and your first rapid will be Wolfe Rapide (Class 1/11) at km 101. There is no portage trail for this rapid on the map we used; we just ran down the middle and, at high water, there wasn’t much of a rapid anyways.
After this rapid, you will again hit a series of swifts and a section of flat water for the next 15 kms.
At km 86 you will hit Chute du Diable which is a beautiful fall! Very large at high water – the amount of water that goes through this fall was absolutely beautiful. The portage trail (300 m) is on river right.
Walleye fishing at the bottom of this fall is absolutely amazing! We were told by the outfitter that above this fall the fishing wasn’t super great. Indeed we only started to catch fish after Chute du Diable!
A few kilometers downriver, you will then hit Petit Rapides du Diable (Class II/III). Due to high water for us, this rapid was fairly washed out so it was more of a Class II. It was pretty straight down the middle line with a nice wave train. Looking at the Carte Plein Air map, it doesn’t look like there’s a portage trail.
We fished for a while at the bottom of this rapid and we were all successful at catching walleye. I definitely recommend spending a little bit of time to fish from the eddies and to cast on the eddy line.
We were hoping to sleep at the group campsite at km 80 but because of high water the entire beach was underwater. We kept on paddling and came across our first real Class III of the trip, Die Hard Rapid. The portage trail is on the river right and runs for about 200m. We were running late in the day at this point and started to be a bit tired but we decided to run this rapid anyways. You can easily rope your canoe on river right and avoid portaging. Otherwise, the line is on river left and it’s essentially a wave train with a hole at the end. It’s a super fun rapid we really enjoyed it.
At the bottom of the Die Hard Rapid, there are a few campsites but because of the high water, again everything was under water. We ended up tucking in the bush on river left just after the rapid. There was a small beach and we went up in the bush to find spots for our tents and hammocks. Wasn’t ideal but it worked.
Campsite: At the bottom of the Die Hard Rapid River Left
Day 2: km 77 to km 58 (19 km)
The second day of our trip was very easygoing. We spent all morning playing in the waves surfing at the bottom of Die Hard Rapid and left camp around 1 pm. We knew we had a very easy paddle ahead of us so we took advantage of it.
This section of the river is essentially 19 km of beautiful flat water travel with the river helping you giving you a really nice cruising speed. The only rapid we hit was a Class I at km 61 and it was completely washed out for us. We then paddled on to Rapides Enrage which is another set of beautiful falls at km 58. The portage trail is on river right and it runs for about 500 metres. At the bottom of the falls, there is a beautiful group campsite. It was very nice to have such a nice campsite after such a terrible one on the first day!
We made it about 2 hours before sunset so we set up camp as fast as possible and headed to the bottom of the falls to fish! Again a wonderful place for fishing, we caught many walleye and fried them that night for dinner.
Campsite: Groupe campsite after Enrage Rapid on River Right
Day 3: km 58 to km 36 (22 km)
The third day of this trip was an exciting day because we were finally going to hit the vast majority of the rapids. There is a really fun section of 7 km of almost constant white water with all levels of rapids.
We tried to hit the water early enough because knowing how many rapids we had to get through, we knew it would take a bit of time.
Just a few bends in the river, you come across Rapides Gallinotes at km 56, which is another beautiful set of falls. The portage trail is on river right. We portaged the falls but lined the Class I in between them to save on the portage.
At km 45 there was a small set of Class I and Class II rapids that was very simple to paddle. The next real obstacle was Chute de l’ours at km 43. At high water, this is a very large Class III that finishes in a Class IV. The portage trail is on river right and pretty well defined. Depending on your comfort level you can hug the right shore and go down and save a large section of the portage. I did it and it went very well. If you watch the third episode of my TouTube series, this is the opening scene of my friend Mau who gets swallowed by the river. This is for Pro Level Experts only!
The next set of rapids is called Rapides Guenettes and it starts at km 42. A fun set of Class III, ledges and Class II. This runs for almost a kilometer and the best lines seem to be on river right.
Starting at km 41 you enter another long stretch, almost 5 km, of Class I and II rapids. This is a very fun section of the river. At km 36, in the middle of Class I/II rapid, we found a campsite. It wasn’t great because it looked all underwater. But we tucked in the bush and we made it work.
Campsite: Camp midway in a Class II rapid. It was a pretty crappy campsite at km 36 but the water was also super high so maybe it’s better at different levels.
Day 4: km 36 to km 15 (21 km)
The last day of the trip was very uneventful but absolutely gorgeous to paddle! We got in the water and finished the Class II we were camped in and then it was a very simple 20 km of flat paddle to the takeout. This section of the paddle is very beautiful with nice mountains by section and you start seeing more and more cottages as you get closer to km 5.
The takeout is on river right and you then have to walk up the road a little bit to get your car from the parking lot of Chute Coulonge Park.
This was an amazing river to paddle. Most of the time when I paddle a river I’m always looking forward to the next one to paddle. After paddling the Coulonge river, I just knew I was going to return sooner than later. I feel like I’ve only seen one version of the river and I bet you at lower water it’s probably even better! I found at the water level we did it, the rapids were large but there was nothing really technical about the river since all the obstacles were deep under the water.
The fishing, the falls, the sand, the white water, and the remoteness to it are the reasons why it’s an excellent river to paddle.
Marty Morissette. Online content creator. Push your limits | Create Memories
Great video; definitely doing the trip this year!