Rousseau: Batiscan River (4 days / 86 km)

Class IV and V rapids coming up

The Batiscan River is certainly a river for advanced paddlers. Moderate-level paddlers can be coached on this trip but it is a physically demanding trip so skill set and general fitness abilities are important. Coming back from the Batiscan River I was very tired and beaten down but it really left me wanting to go back. The challenge is really what motivates me to return eventually.

It’s a fairly wild river but you will come across many cottages along the way. You also camp often by the train tracks so you hear it go super late at night and early morning. At the same time though it’s also because the train track follows the river north that you get to use VIA Rail as a shuttle service, which makes the whole experience pretty fun. How much more Canadian can you get but to pack your canoe in a train travel north to then paddle down a river?

Trip Completed: August 2022

Batiscan River
Batiscan River
Navigating a class II rapid
Navigating a class II rapid
A gentle paddle between rapids
A gentle paddle between rapids
Portaging on the railway track
Portaging on the railway track
Rugged terrain on the shore of the Batiscan River
Rugged terrain on the shore of the Batiscan River

Trip Summary

Starting Point: km 170

Ending Point: km 84 

Total Distance: 86 km

Duration: 4 days

Difficulty: Advanced


Rousseau, QC (North of Trois Riviere)

Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of Nitassinan & Nitaskinan (source).

Maps & Resources

Map: cartespleinair.org

Campsite Reservations: Campsite reservations are needed for the nights in Réserve Faunique de Portneuf. You can find more information about permits on this website. The easiest way to get make your reservation is by calling them at (418) 323-2021.

Permits: No

Know Before You Go

Season: Summertime is a good time to go.

Cell Reception: None

Water: You will have to process your water.

Wildlife: Bear, moose, … the usual wildlife.

Waste: No thunderboxes (use catholes for poop) and you will have to pack out your garbage.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Shuttle: Via Rail from Station Rousseau to Lac Aux Perles.

Put in lac Aux Perles

Take Out Rousseau

There is parking for you to leave your car at Station Rousseau on the side of the road.

Trip Report

Day 0: Shuttle

We left Ottawa around 1 or 2 pm on that day to make sure we would be a couple of hours early at the train station VIA Rousseau. You have to get to the station 2 hours early as per Via Rails’ recommendation. The best way to book your ticket is by calling because you cannot add your canoe as extra luggage when booking online. The shuttle through Via Rail is easy, cheap, and an overall fun experience. The best shuttle I have ever taken for sure.

The train was 2 hours late that day. Apparently, this is pretty usual. Around 10 pm we jumped on the train and were shuttled up to Lac aux Perles. About 2 hours north by train. The train ride is fun. If you bring cash you can buy snacks and drinks!

We were dropped off by the river at Lac aux Perles at around 12:30 am. We set up camp real fast in front of the cottages, had a quick fire to cook some sausages because we were hungry, and went straight to bed.

Day 1: km 170 to km 143 (27 km)

As soon as we woke up the next day we had a quick breakfast and jumped on the river as early as possible. We were pretty tired and the river started almost immediately with a set of Class II and III at km 169. The river was rather low at the headwaters so both of those rapids were very bony. We had to get out of our canoe and pull the canoe over rocks. You really had to pick good lines not to get caught.

Then from km 164 – 159, we went through another series of Class I and II that were extremely bony. It was very frustrating and physically demanding to always have to get out of the canoe and pull the canoe and wade in the water but we did push through. At km 159 we stopped to grab a quick lunch.

We were pretty tired from the travel and the lack of sleep to be honest. So we needed to rest for a bit. After an hour and a half, we jumped in our canoes and continued down the river.

From km 157 to km 155 there is another set of ledges, Class II and III. We experienced them to be extremely bony and difficult to navigate. The first real rapid we could actually run, although very technical, was at km 152. Again, since the level was low it was just a very technical Class II but really fun nonetheless. We portaged our gear to be sure and we then paddled it. We were pretty happy to have maneuvered through it.

The river continues in a similar fashion until km 145. At km 145, there is a very large and technical Class IV, III, and II. It is recommended to go straight for the portage on river right and at the very least portage the Class IV section. There is a trail that goes back to the river after the Class IV section. 

We made a mistake when we got there. We thought we could line the Class IV and jump back in our canoes. We thought since the water had been this low that it would be possible. We had to turn around midway through lining and backtracked to the portage. We were caught in the dark because this ordeal took way longer than expected. See video for the full story.

In retrospect, this set of rapids was just downriver to where Rivière aux Éclairs meets the Batiscan River. The rapids had a little bit more water than what we had experienced so far.

We ended up getting to camp at km 143 at 10:30 pm beaten down. We made camp, barely had dinner, and made it to bed around 1:30 am.

Campsite: Great campsites with plenty of room for many many tents and a nice fire pit. No real interesting swimming opportunities though. The put-ins are ok. You do have to hike all your gear up on the bank though. Also, if you are a hammock camper like me this site doesn’t have many opportunities for hammocking but I made it work. You are right by the train track so expect to hear it go by late at night and early in the morning.

Day 2: km 143 to km 124 (19 km)

After another short night of sleep, we woke up to a little bit of rain. We ate and packed as fast as we could and tried to be on the water as early as possible.

The first stretch of the day is a nice calm paddle. You come across really nice-looking cliff sides along with a few cottages. 

The first sets of rapid you come across are from km 138-134. They are all fairly easy Class Is and IIs to navigate. We scouted them from our canoe and were able to slowly navigate them safely. The sections aren’t very long with plenty of eddies to take a break along the way.

At km 134 you come across a good size ledge that you have to portage. We kept to river right, went over a little rock slide, and were able to just portage our gear over a 20-30 meter rock. We put in just below the ledge and ran the Class II/III by sticking to river right (km 134). The line was pretty easy and fun to run.

Just after this set of rapid, you come to a fairly big island. The map says to go around the island on the left side and about a kilometer after you come across a massive set of rapids. From km 132 to km 131, there are three major obstacles and are all Class IV and V. Another significant river dumps into the Batiscan right at the beginning of that set and we experienced much higher water on the river starting there. The portage is on river left and is on the train tracks. This is a very long 1.3 km portage so we decided to have lunch during this portage at the campsite at km 131 after the first set of Class V.

Portaging on a train track is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the trail is well-defined and has next to no elevation gain. A curse, because train tracks are filled with large rocks and it is very difficult on your feet to travel. If I remember correctly I had to do the portage three times so it took a good chunk of the day and a lot of energy.

Once you are back on the water you come across Class III rapids just a kilometre down river (at km 130). It’s not a very hard Class III but there are lots of boulders to navigate around and it’s not the shortest. Just take your time to read your lines and it should be a good run.

For the next 6 km, until we got to camp, was flat. We camped on Îles à la Croix so we had to go around the left side of the island to get to camp. We made it to camp around 4 pm that day. We didn’t make it as far as we wanted to but we were so tired and the team just needed a good night at camp around a good campfire to boost morale.

Campsite: The campsite on the island is a massive campsite with endless opportunities for tents. Not many opportunities for hammocks though and firewood is hard to find. Not the prettiest campsite but did the job nonetheless.

Day 3: km 124 to km 109 (15 km)

Breakfast, coffee, pack up, and back on the water as early as possible because we were about to enter a section of the river called Hell’s Gate. This is the beginning of Portneuf Wildlife Reserve. This is the only section you need a camping permit for and you may spend one or two nights there depending on the speed of your travel.

This is by far the most challenging part of the river and it is for advanced or well-supported moderate paddlers. This section is an 18 km section of continuous Class III with some Class IV sections and some Class II sections

Right as you come around the first bend, at km 121, you will hit a first small Class I Rapid and then you come across a very technical Class III with a Class IV hole that you need to paddle around. The rapid is called Rapide des Trois Roches. To portage it or to scout it you stick to river left and go up on the train tracks.

After scouting Rapides des Trois Roches, we decided to run it and this rapid was done in three major sections. The line is on river right and it starts with a nice hole and a wave train. If you take water during this rapid, don’t hesitate to eddy out and empty your boat because you need all the flotation you can get. It is a long Class III.

After hitting the first hole and wave train we took on water so we eddied out on river right. We emptied the boat and ferried across that wave train into the eddy on river left. The next obstacle is the Class IV hole that you definitely need to avoid by padding to the left of it. We re-entered the current but stuck to the eddy line on river left and just hit to the left of the hole and eddied out again on river left just after it.

We had taken water again and I preferred taking my time going down. Once emptied, we reentered the current and at this point, it was a garden of rocks but you can navigate it pretty much how you want it at this point. This was certainly a nerve-racking rapid to do but I was really happy we did it. I think it took us 20 minutes to run because we had to empty the canoe twice.

Not a kilometer later you come across another Class III/IV called Le Rapide des Rouleaux (km 120). We scouted it from river right on the rocks but you can always access the train tracks on river left if you choose to portage it. This is a big rapid with, if I remember correctly, 5 to 7 consecutive holes with a really good wave train. The line is pretty straightforward, you will take on water and there is no way out but to push through. One of the party swam on this rapid and it really wasn’t the nicest swim. They hit a few things along the way but they also tried a different line than the center line. I would recommend hitting all the holes dead on one at a time; maybe try to ride a bit of the eddy line on river left but ultimately you will submarine finish as I did.

Once we were back on the water, everything from there until km 112 is a series of Class II/III that are all fairly doable. We ran most of them without much shore scouting but rather taking them easily one at a time and eddying out when needed. Nothing extraordinary if you managed to get to this point in the river.

The next big obstacle is called Rapide Pierre Antoine at km 112. Again, to scout this rapid you will go on river left on the train tracks. I ran a poor line on this rapid. I really underestimated the size of the hole on river left and headed straight for it. It was full of boulders and quite the drop that surprised my bow paddler quite a bit. We managed really well because we hit it squarely with descent speed but all that rumble can be avoided by sticking to the right side of that rapid, essentially more center in the river. If you do so it will be more about avoiding rocks than holes. Nonetheless, we did have a boat pin on this rapid and that took at least an hour and a half to manage this situation. We almost lost a boat because it was starting to tear. It was completely submerged under water pinned against a rock.

After this rapid, the team was pretty tired and beaten down again so we decided to find camp. We had about 2 km of Class I/II and swifts before we made it to the next major obstacle at km 110.

At km 110, there is a large ledge, and best to not waste time and head straight to the portage on river left. It’s a bit of a tricky portage, the trail is narrow and the put-in on the other side is off a steep cliff but we managed ok. The pin really just took a lot out of us and we were just tired by then. We then paddled on for another kilometer through simple Class IIs and decided to camp at the campsite on river left at km 109. We enjoyed a nice relaxing evening at camp and had to compose ourselves a bit considering the damage we had experienced today. One major swim and one pin.

Campsite: Great little campsite is on top of a Class III rapid. The put-in and take-out are very bouldery but good nonetheless. If you head back up the shore a bit north you come across a sand bar and it’s really nice to refresh and swim there. There are plenty of options for hammocking on this one and tent sites as well.

Day 4: km 109 to km 84 (25 km)

The last day… We were camped halfway through Hells Gate and let’s just say the team was a little apprehensive to start the day with a Class III rapid and another 4 km of straight Class III and one Class IV along the way.

Again we ran each rapid one at a time and turns out, at the water level we were at, we managed really well to navigate the first 2 km of Class II/III rapids. It’s a pretty continuous section of rapid so again not much opportunity to scout and to portage because this section of the river doesn’t follow the train tracks. We took them one at a time with plenty of eddying out as needed to scout the next section.

When we got to Rapide de la Tour at km 107 we just went straight to the portage trail on river left. One of our team did run the rapid with an empty boat but they are 10+ year river guides up north. Their level of experience is very unique. I think for most paddlers this will be a portage. At the very least portaging the gear. 

This portage around Rapide de la Tour was a bit rough, to be honest. We were tired obviously by then but also it’s narrow, with lots of boulders, and just not easy to portage a canoe in such tight space. The put it is also all around boulders and it’s just not ideal, but like anything else so far we made it work. We just took our time so no one would get hurt.

Right after you put in you have another two km section of Class II/III that finishes off with a Class I. Again we just slowly ran them section by section and when we made it to km 105, although we were nowhere near the take-out point, we still had a bit of a celebration because we had just paddle through the most challenging part of the river.

The rest of the river from km 105 until km 86 is a very easy paddle with some Class I, one Class II, and plenty of swifts. So we enjoyed our last day of paddling under a beautiful sunny sky. We stopped at km 102 for a shore lunch and paddled on.

Once you reach Chute du Dix at km 86, you can scout it from river left on the rocks. It’s a Class III hit at the top with a bit of a wave train / calm section for about 300 meters and then you have a significant ledge. We ran the Class III section, eddied out on river right, and then lined the ledge from river right. Once below this obstacle, we were about one km away from flat padding to the takeout at km 85 on river left. The takeout is about 10 minutes away from where the cars are parked. We pulled the truck in, roughly loaded it to avoid all the portaging back and forth, and brought everything up to our cars. 


This was a really tough trip. I only recommend this trip for advanced paddlers or well-coached moderate paddlers. Also, being fit is crucial on this trip if you want to enjoy yourself and minimize the possibility of injuries. The river’s topography is also very interesting. What seems to cause all the rapid is a significant gradient change and boulders. This river is filled with massive boulders and you often have to navigate around all of those boulders and it’s challenging at times.

Nonetheless, as someone who loves a great physical and mental challenge in my canoe trips, the Batiscan river is certainly a river I will run again in the future. It left me wanting to better my skills to then be able to run it more comfortably. I believe when I return I will run it with my solo expedition boat though. It will take way less water in big water and will be easier to navigate and hide behind eddies to scout and run.

Author Bio

Marty Morissette. Online content creator. Push your limits | Create Memories

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