TNE Phase Three Section Three – North Rd, James Bay, Trans Taiga


Get ready for some long remote roads.  This last chapter in the TNE route consists of three roads that together cover almost 1500 kilometres.

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This chapter of the TNE starts off in the town of Chibougamau.

Chibougamau has a population of 7500 and has most modern amenities available.  It is the largest community in northern Quebec and serves as the hub to the smaller towns in the area.  Strip malls, motels, garages and the other places one might expect from a town this size all exist.  For many folks travelling the TNT this town makes for a logical stopover as once you leave you won’t encounter much civilization for the remainder of the route.

There is a strong Cree Indian presence in town.  The name Chibougamau translates to “crossed by a river” in the Cree language.  A few early explorers visited this area in the late 17th century but it wasn’t until gold was discovered in the area that white folks began to settle in the area.   In 1903 attempts to prospect the area took place but it wasn’t until 1951 that people started to settle in what is now the town site.  Along with the mines, logging and sawmill industries have helped to keep this town on the map.  Like many northern towns in Quebec, English is rarely spoken.

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Photo: A stop sign written in Cree and French

Shortly after leaving Chibougamau (15 km’s) you begin the Rue Du Nord (North Road).   The North Road is 406 km’s long and gravel for its entire length.  It is on the North Road that you truly begin to feel you are entering the far north.  Gas is available at a hydro camp around km 290 and also in a small native town of Nemiscau which is just off the road at km 300.

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Photo: The beginning of the Rue Du Nord (North Road)

The surface of the North Road is a mix of sand and gravel.  The majority of the traffic is logging trucks.  Use caution as these big heavy trucks travel at high speeds and at times have little respect for the odd bike or truck travelling “their” roads.  Road graders are constantly travelling the roads and the surface can switch from hard packed to very loose sand within a few feet.  The north road is everything you’d want from an overland expedition, its long and very remote.  This means using common sense as you are a long way from help and the chance of a cell phone working is slim to none (At km 106 some peole have look getting a signal).  The time it would take for a rescue would be very long so please use caution.

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Photo: Rolling hills and an abundance of wilderness along the Rue Du Nord

There are a handful of places to camp along the road.  Picnic areas with outhouses are available at :

  • km32 – Baie Penincouane, SEPAQ campground witha boat launch and picnic tables
  • km132 – Cheniapisca rest area, picnic tables and outhouse
  • km238 – Rupert River rest area, picnic tables, outhouse and scenic lookout over the river, informal camping on the right just before the bridge
  • km381 – Bois Robert Lake, campsite, outhouse, picnic tables

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Photo: The Rupert River as seen in early morning light from the Rue Du Nord

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Photo: Informal camping at the Rupert River

The North Road terminates after 406 km’s at a T junction with the James Bay Highway (paved).  There is a rest area on the left just before you reach the pavement and makes for a good regrouping spot if you are travelling with a crowd.

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Photo: Gas stop along the James Bay Highway

The James Bay Highway (JBH) is a 620 km long paved road that was built to access the hydro electricity dams that were built at its terminus in or near the town of Radisson.  You will get onto the James Bay Road at km marker 275.  At km marker 381 you will find a gas station called Relais Outfitter.  This small blip on the map offers telephones, lodging, a cafeteria/restaurant and a gas station.  Don’t expect anything glamorous mind you but given its location it will come as a welcome surprise.  It is certainly worth noting that this will be your last sign of civilization for some time.  In our experience your gas mileage will go to hell after filling up with their gas.  I don’t want to say it’s bad gas but everyone I have spoken with and the experiences I have had have all lead to very bad mileage after filling up here.  Maybe its the strong winds the JBH often has.  Sadly you don’t have an option as it’s the only “place in town”.  I mention this only as there are no other options so plan on using about 40% more fuel than you would normally use.

After leaving Relais you continue north on the JBH to km marker 544 where you will turn off onto the Trans Taiga Road.  Get ready for a whole new definition of remote.  The TT is 666 km’s long and ends at hydro dam and lake called Lake Caniapiscau.  At its terminus you will be in the most remote spot accessible by road in North America, 745 km away from the town of Radisson.

Many people will continue up the JBH to km marker 617, to the town of Radisson which is a small town with gas, lodging and other amenities.  A quick visit to dip your wheels into James Bay will be on most people’s agenda.  Whether you choose to do this before or after the Trans Taiga is your preference and makes for a convenient way to ride out bad weather if you’re faced with it.

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Photo By: Jim Young  –  James Bay

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Photo:  Helping some locals pull their boat ashore after a days hunting at sea

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Photo: Dipping the wheels into James Bay

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Photo By: Jim Young  –  James Bay

Tackling the Trans Taiga is serious business.  The road is gravel for its entire length and other than the local hydro workers is very seldom used.  It is prudent to take caution of these hydro trucks, the folks driving them “own” the road and often hug the inside of corners.  We have been surprised and had near misses of many occasions as one of them comes around the corner in your lane driving very quickly.

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Photo by Jim Young – The start of the Trans Taiga

The Trans Taiga (TT) is a favourite of mine as it offers remote wilderness in abundance.  The road is well maintained and seems to be under constant attention from road graders.  The surface is not unlike what you just drove/rode on the North Road except the TT is 1332 km’s as you need to turn around at the end and come back out again.

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Photo: Smooth freshly graded gravel that seems to go on forever

There are a handful of places to camp along the TT.

km 56  – a pullover called Sakami Lake (1.4 km from the road) that offers a place to camp, picnic tables and an outhouse.

km59 – Sakami, picnic tables, shelter, outhouse  and camping

km 62  – Robert Bourassa Reservoir which is 3 km from the road, picnic tables, shelter, outhouse  and camping

km203 – Pontois River, picnic tables, shelter, outhouse and camping.  This is the one I would recommend if you are planning to camp along this stretch as it’s a nice spot right on a river

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Photo: Pontois River Camp

There are two locations to find lodging and gas on the TT.  At km 286 you will come across Nouchimi Outfitters.  Gas, food and lodging are available “most of the time”.  This isn’t a location that you want to rely on being open as its an “open when I feel like it” type of a situation.  The next location along the TT where you can get gas is at Mirage Outfitters.  This is a reliable location for gas and lodging and makes for a nice place to spend a night.  They offer good food and cold beer.  You can contact them at www.pourvoiriemirage.com

miragegas

Photo: Gas stop at Mirage Outfitters

Gas can also be found “sometimes” at the end of the TT.  I say sometimes as it is not always open and is there mostly to service the hunting industry.  It would be best not to plan on them being open, pack enough gas to get from Mirage to the end and back to Mirage would be our advice.

The scenery on the TT is wide open taiga type of terrain and consists of lakes, rocks and small black spruce trees.

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Photo: Road side repairs after a small crash

An excerpt from Wikipedia on the Trans Taiga Highway

The Trans-Taiga Road (French: Route Transtaïga) is an extremely remote wilderness road in northern Quebec, Canada. It is 582 kilometres (362 mi) long to Centrale Brisay and another 84 kilometres (52 mi) along the Caniapiscau Reservoir, all of it unpaved.

The road’s northeastern terminus is almost at the 55th parallel north, making it the northernmost continuous road in Eastern North America. Though the terminus is also the farthest point from any town (745 km or 466 miles (750 km) from Radisson) via road in North America, it is nonetheless relatively close – 190 kilometres (120 mi) – to Schefferville geographically. It does not, however, provide access to it, as the intervening terrain is unpassable even in an all-terrain vehicle. The road’s end is also close to the southern limit of Nunavik, Quebec’s Inuit region.

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Photo by Jim Young – Trans Taiga

My hats off to anyone who finishes this route, it’s a long ride into the middle of nowhere.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have; there are not too many places on earth where you can get this far into the backcountry.

Ted Johnson

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