The Mattawa is a Canadian Heritage River, as it was an important transportation route for Indigenous Peoples, fur traders and the Voyageurs. You will get to paddle in their footsteps, walk their original portages and camp on sites they used during their voyages. This is a great weekend trip suitable for all skill levels, with entry-level swifts and small rapids, making it a relaxing yet exciting route for even the more experienced paddlers.
Starting Point: Blanchard’s Landing Boat Launch
Ending Point: Chant Plein Lake Rd (unofficial boat launch)
Total Distance: ~25km
Duration: 3 days / 2 nights
The route runs between the town of North Bay and Mattawa, through Mattawa River Provincial Park and Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.
Traditional Territory: The Mattawa River lies on the traditional territory of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) and Anishinabewaki (source).
Maps & Resources
- Guidebook: N/A
- Map: Mattawa River Map – Chrismar Maps
- Campsite Reservations: Not needed, as long as you don’t camp in Samuel de Champlain PP
- Camping Permits: No. Mattawa River Provincial Park is a Non-Operating Park therefore no are permits required.
Outfitters & Shuttles
Algonquin North Wilderness Outfitters is conveniently located between the starting and ending points. They can provide full outfitting and shuttle service as well. If you have two vehicles you can pick up your rental canoe with your own car before your trip.
Day 1: Blanchard’s Landing to Elm Point (9.5km)
Departing Mississauga early in the morning, I met up with a friend from the Ottawa area at our planned take out point, which was the end of Lake Rd on Chant Plain Lake. We left my vehicle there (no official parking but a few spots to pull off on the side of the dirt road) and took her vehicle to Algonquin North Wilderness Outfitters to pick up our rental canoe, before heading to Blanchard’s Landing boat launch to put in. This made for a busy morning but having a car waiting for you at your finish line makes the last day super convenient! Blanchard’s Landing boat launch has plenty of parking and a small dock to make loading easy.
After a short 2km paddle heading East, you reach the first portage (Portage de Talon ~330m). This is the most challenging portage because of the more rugged terrain but the short distance allows for two trips if need be. The end of this portage is a great lunch spot, make sure to walk back up the portage and check out the Talon Chutes. Below the chutes is also a good spot to do some fishing. If you’re up for the adrenaline rush, the cliffs right at the end of the portage have three levels where you can jump off. We were told by the locals this is a popular day trip spot in the area.
The route continues through Pimisi Bay, if you are an angler this is the spot to try your luck for some pike and bass. You then travel through a series of swifts and rapids that can all be bypassed by signed portages.
We decided to run the first three sets (Décharge des Perches ~150m, Unnamed Portage ~200m and Portage de la Cave ~100m), which are all swifts and Class I rapids. This is a good spot to practice some whitewater skills for beginners!
The next set of rapids can be run in high water but require good whitewater skills due to hazards. It is recommended to use the portage (Portage de la Prairie ~290m) to bypass Petit Paresseu Falls. The next portage, Portage des Paresseux (~400m) is mandatory as it bypasses Paresseux Falls, a 6m high falls with some great little swimming holes just below. This is another good spot to try for some fish!
Shortly after leaving Paresseux Falls, on river left, you can paddle up to Porte de L’Enfer/ Hell’s Gate, which was an ochre mine used by the indigenous peoples of the area. It should be noted that the cave is not open for exploration to respect the cultural significance of this space. Additionally, frequent rockfalls are a hazard but you can paddle right up to the entrance.
Campsite: After a 2km paddle from Paresseux Falls you will have two campsite options. First on river right you will see an island with an established fire pit, good privacy but only suitable for two small tents at max. This is also the better option for hammock campers. The second campsite is only a short paddle away at Elm Point. Located on river left, the site has a sandy beach and a large open area for larger tents or groups.
Day 2: Elm Point to Chant Plein Lake (13km)
The first part of the day is spent paddling the river gorge to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. There are three sets of swifts/rapids along the way, we ran them all but low water levels can make these impassable and even with higher water paddlers should take note of large rocks and boulders along the route. All can be bypassed by portages (Les Epingles Portage, Portage des Roches ~160m and Portage Campion ~180m).
The paddling is easy once in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park and there are no more portages along the route.
Campsite: A campsite can be found on river left, a few hundred meters after you enter Chant Plein Lake.
Day 3: Chant Plein Lake to Lake Rd Take Out (2.5km)
A short paddle across Chant Plein Lake will lead you to your take-out spot on Lake Rd. Make sure to watch for boat traffic when crossing the lake as this area does have private properties on it. There is a decent amount of space to unload your gear where Lake Rd meets Chant Plein Lake.
Day 1 was the most exciting stretch of river, with lots of great swimming holes, fishing opportunities and picturesque sites. Looking back we are glad we had an early start so we could take full advantage of this part of the route!
We considered making this a longer trip – it can be travelled from Trout Lake all the way to where the Mattawa River flows into the Ottawa River. This would require travelling on some larger lakes, with boat traffic and cottages, so in the end, we were happy with the more secluded section we chose.
Agata works for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, spending all her free time outdoors, travelling and browsing maps to plan future trips. Canoe is her preferred method of transportation and she will most likely be carrying a box of wine in her food barrel.