Noire River: Rapides de l’Islet to Black River Inn (6 days / 64 km)

The Noir River is part of the Ottawa Watershed and is one of 3 rivers on the Quebec side that are referred to as the Three Sisters. The other two rivers – the Coulonge and Dumoine rivers – are more popular. Despite being less popular, the Noire River offers amazing whitewater for intermediate paddlers and plenty of smooth, sandy campsites. As the Noire is not located in a provincial / national park campsite reservations are not needed, making the Noire excellent for a last-minute adventure.

Trip Summary

Starting Point: KM 90 below Rapides de l’Islet

Ending Point: Black River Inn 

Total Distance: 64 km

Elevation Gain: N/A

Duration: 5 days

Difficulty: Intermediate – Class 2 at higher water, class 3 all rapids have good portages 

Location

The Noire River is located on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki and Algonquin People.  More information about the people who live in the area today can be found on the Algonquin-Anishinabeg Nation Website.  

The headwaters start just below the LaVerendrye Wildlife Reserve and flow into the Ottawa River near Pembroke. The Noire and its sister river the Coulonge have recently become a Protected Area (2018), which will allow this wild and intact watershed to remain as it is for ecotourism and sustainable development. Mining and logging are prohibited. The third sister, Dumoine, was listed as a protected area in 2016. You’re a visitor on this land and home, ensure you do your research to help keep this watershed pristine.

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley by Hap Wilson

Map: 31K/2 Lac Usborne 

Campsite Permits: There are no campsite permits / reservations.

Outfitters & Shuttles

We worked with Esprit Whitewater Adventures for this trip.  We all met at Esprit in Davidson QC and stayed in their cabins for the first night.  In the morning they shuttled us to our put-in location.  They met us again at the end at Black River Inn and took us for a half-day of rafting on the Middle Channel or the Ottawa River.  We stayed in their bed and breakfast for our final night. https://whitewater.ca/ 

Our food was provided by MHOadventures and they helped us get started with the planning

Trip Report

Day 0: Getting to the River

My co-guide and I drove to Esprit Rafting to meet our two families in the late afternoon.  We got everyone settled in the cabin dorms at Esprit with their gear for the trip.  Then went for dinner at the local chip truck. We finished our evening with a trip overview and planned for the morning.     

Day 1: Rapides de l’Islet to KM 85

Distance: 5 km 

Rapids: No. #40 and #41

Portages: 60m (from drop off to the river) and 175 m 

We drove 1.5hours mostly on a gravel road to get dropped off what felt like in the middle of the push.  Once the bus was off though you could hear the rumble of the Noire River.  We portaged our gear down to the river on a 4 wheeler trail about 60m.  We were starting at KM 90 on the maps, which is just below a large rapid called de l’Islet’.  You can start higher up on the river if you have more days, however, the portage around this rapid is technical as it involves lowering boats down a cliff. 

We used the first few KM of flat water to teach some basic paddling skills and get familiar with our boats.  It did not take long to come up to our first rapid.  Which we portaged the first class 4 section and lined the bottom class 2. 175 m total.  This bottom section was pretty bony, but you could still paddle it.  As it was day one for us we were not ready to paddle this yet, so we worked on lining boats.  There was a beautiful rocky outcrop where we had lunch and a swim before continuing on. 

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon paddling flat water and arrived at our first sandy campsite in the middle of the afternoon. 

Campsite: Km 85. Sandy beach with a ledge higher up for tents and our kitchen close to the water.  

Day 2: KM 85 to KM 63

Distance: 22 km  

Rapids: Hut Camp Rapids #42 and #43 

Portages: None

We push off with lots of excitement around paddling our first rapid today.  We used the flat meandering river to teach more skills like turning and side slipping as well as changing boat partners to give everyone the opportunities to learn. We stopped and had some lunch around KM 71.  In the afternoon we ran Hunt club rapid.  We did a hydrology lesson and some swimming at the bottom of the rapid and scouted our line.  At low water, there is a nice clear line starting in the center and then moving right,  just watch for a few rocks at the bottom.  You could run the rapid anywhere though.  

Campsite: KM 63 a beautiful sand bar that had a great pool for swimming. Being out on a point made it challenging to get into the wood to set up a toilet.

Day 3: KM 63 to 50-50 Rapids

Distance: 12km  

Rapids: Double Ferry #44 and  50:50 Rapids #45

Portages: None 

We pushed off with more excitement for more rapids today and our group of families was challenging themselves in new positions in the boat again, making for lots of learning.  When we got to Double Ferry we had a scout with our group and they were all excited to paddle this rapid, keeping it simple by heading down the center and then moving to the right and finishing again in the center.  At this level, there were no big hazards, just lots of rocks to dodge.  

Our big excitement for the day was 50-50 rapids where we arrived early so we could have lunch at the camp and play in this rapid.  It is a short 80 m portage so with unloaded boats, we could lap it.  At the bottom is a fun wave train, with big eddies on either side so we practiced ferrying and C- turns and got really good at tilting in our boat and swimming!! We swam for fun as well as having a few tips!  The line in 50-50 was to drop in the center and then move to the right to avoid some big rock and waves on the left.  Great day on the water!    

Campsite: 50-50 Rapids. This is a campsite tucked up in the woods on the river right. It is a big enough campsite for two groups with two fire pits. This site is really popular for river travellers as well as weekenders from local areas as it is road accessible. If you plan on camping here take into consideration if it is a weekend or not and collect firewood prior to arriving at camp.   

Day 4: 50-50 Rapids to KM36

Distance: 15km

Rapids: #46 Tight Right, #47 Manitou, #48 Jam Rock  

Portages: None  

Even the 4-year-old today was excited for a big day of rapids, people confidence was up having paddled some more challenging rapids the day before and getting some repeated practice to improve skills 

We had nice flat water for about 6 km before approaching Tight Right.  This name is perfect for this rapid, it is a really tight right between the river right wall that was about 3 feet high at this level with some sweepers to watch out for. On the left, there are some rocks and ledges.  We scouted the river right.  Everyone was successful at running this rapid and there was a big pool at the bottom to collect anyone who might not have been successful.  

Manitou Rapid was a longer scout, on the river right side, there were a couple of different lines all the rocks to dodge or shallow water.  Everyone decided to run down the center and then move right.  The first drop into the rapids was really shallow and we all hit rocks with the bottom of our canoe. Both of our little kids (4and 7) walked this rapid with their mother. We eddied out on river right where there was a small sandy beach to laugh and celebrate the most challenging rapid so far and have lunch 

Jam Rock rapid was my favourite rapid to look at, with large rock islands in the middle and all the water being pushed down a shoot on the river left finishing in a wave train with boiling eddie lines and a large rock in the center where a lot of water was being pushed into.  Channels exist on either side.  This was also a beautiful spot to camp and the second to last one on the river. After a good scout and setting up a safety boat, everyone ran this rapid and was successful again.  We set a safety boat at the bottom as right after jam rock there is a small pool and then another rapid.  As one of the boats peeled out of an eddy on the river left they tipped on the large boil-y eddie line.  Fortunately, we were able to get the boat and adult in the bigger eddie on the river right.  Two of the girls (10 and 12) ended up having a big swim into the next rapid.  Both of these girls had practice swimming in the water before and were able to get behind rocks in the middle of the river before swimming all the way down.  They enjoyed being rescued by throw bags and expressed excitement about running the rapid still 

Right on after Jam Rock is a rock garden rapid with a clear line down the center for about 200 m.  We paddled on down and continued to camp scooting through some more Class I boodie water on our way. Everyone was stoked on the day of paddling but expressed gratitudes for arriving at camp and having a relaxing evening after a full day of adrenaline.

Campsite: KM 36. This is the last campsite before Black River Inn. It is marked in the guide book on river right. Between Jam Rock and KM 36 there was one other small sand bar at KM 40.5 that could work depending on water levels. This campsite is beautiful at lower water levels, with a small sandy beach and tent sights tucked in the woods. It is another site that has seen a lot of impacts.  We cleaned up some garbage here and broke down two of the 4 fire pits before we could make it to our home on the final night 

Day 5: KM36 to Black River Inn

Distance: 8 km 

Rapids: Class 1 continuous 

Portages: None

We pushed off early today in order to get to the Black River Inn by 10 am. This section of water moved pretty quick with fun class one boogie water, dodging rocks, hitting little waves and staying in the fast-moving current kept everyone engaged.  

We arrived at a Black River Inn where we met raft guides and a bus from Esprit Rafting. They loaded up our gear and we rode the bus to the Ottawa River. At the put we had lunch and Esprit got us ready to raft the middle channel.  It was a fun way to finish our trip! 

We returned to Esprit and with tired happy faces, we moved into their Bed and Breakfast, ate woodfire pizza from Esprit and watched the sunset in the hot tube.  

Reflections

What a great trip for families finishing with rafting at the end. As tired as we were after paddling already in the day and having a lot of transitions to get to the Ottawa, it was awesome knowing that we had a Hot Tub waiting for us back at the B&B.  Since this trip, I have been dreaming of going back with other families who are new to whitewater and teaching them skills to be able to expedition paddle The Noire was so friendly and short enough to take a week off work in the summer to enjoy all the magic whit water canoeing has to offer.  

Gallery


Author Bio

I am a full-time guide and outdoor educator. On my days off you can find me back on the river paddling in my canoe, riding my bike or running somewhere.  I try to take time off every year to go back into the backcountry for myself.  On these trips, I love to go with friends and read books about the river we are travelling on to get the most out of the experience.  

Instagram; @riannasterk 

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