The Missinaibi River is a favourite destination for paddlers like me who find it relaxing and fun. This is why I decided to give my description of a typical day on the river in July for anyone considering making the trip. I also chose the trusted MHO Adventures for this guided trip because of their consistent standard. All days will be different depending on river conditions, weather and group size or experience but this article should give you a flavour of what to expect.
Missinaibi River summer adventure: Arrival
Arrival is usually the evening before the adventure begins. You would get to meet the team and be introduced to your fellow explorers. Your (hopefully) light personal effects would be re-packaged in water-proof bags by the guides, who would also give a briefing and answer all the questions that you may have.
Getting an early start
Your day will start around 6:30 AM when the guides start work around the campfire in preparation for breakfast. At 6:45 it is time for you to get out of your tent and do your morning routine.
Tip: Do not put on bug-spray before washing; you do not want to rub bug-spray into your eyes!
Take a morning bathroom break
You may want to pay an early visit to the “bathroom”. On established campsites, this may be a “thunderbox” located at some distance from the camp. If the yellow bag with toilet paper is nowhere to be found, this means the box is occupied and you must wait a few minutes for it to return. You should make your preparations by folding paper before you start—you do not want to spend one second more than necessary with all those mosquitoes!
Breakfast in Missinaibi
Now, coffee/tea and breakfast will be ready and you can relax for a few minutes before the work starts. You will pack your luggage into your personal barrel and prepare your small day bag and fill your water bottle. Then both personal and common luggage will be carried down to the canoes and loaded. Now is a good time to put on sunscreen lotion.
The day’s adventures begin after guides decide who will paddle together. Paddling partners change every day so that all will get the opportunity to be in the stern or bow, and you get a change of conversation partners. This highlights some of the reasons to take a guided trip.
Navigating the Missinaibi River
There will be long stretches of flatwater interrupted by rapids and waterfalls. The rapids which are classified as Class 1 (C1) and Class 2 (C2) can be paddled while higher class rapids and waterfalls are portaged. You will not be required to paddle rapids that you are not comfortable with. However, guides give paddling instructions that make paddling C1 and C2 rapids fun and safe. Still, the good news is there is nothing to worry about. The water is so warm that falling in ends up being refreshing and rather undramatic.
The guides will normally scout C1 rapids by standing up in the canoe before deciding on a route while C2 rapids are scouted thoroughly from shore before running. There are some good YouTube videos showing paddling the Missinaibi rapids and you can read more about the classification of rapids as well. Again, no white water paddling experience is required for the Missinaibi River trips. Instruction will be given.
The Missinaibi River has some shallow sections where one or both paddlers will have to walk by the canoe. This is often only for a few metres, to get over shallow stones.
Protecting your feet on the Missinaibi
As with all wilderness adventures, good footwear is important. It is absolutely recommended that you wear closed-toe water shoes or light walking boots (for ankle support) with socks. Your feet will get wet, but they won’t get cold or easily injured. It is impractical to change to dry shoes at this point as there may also be wet sections or mud along the portages. Most people are not bothered by wearing the same wet shoes until they return to camp at the end of the day.
Dressing for Missinaibi River
On the Missinaibi River, the requirements for clothing is very basic. You simply need one set for day use (sometimes wet) and one dry set for camp. Warm clothes are seldom required in July, but you should consider them for colder periods. One set of warm clothes would suffice. And a small amount of detergent will be useful for washing clothes along the way. Otherwise, the MHO packing list is a good guide.
Safety first on the Missinaibi!
You are always required to wear a life jacket while in the canoe. When approaching a rapid, your helmet also needs to be on. Both life jacket and helmet must be donned when scouting rapids.
White-water paddling position
When paddling rapids, the kneeling position is recommended because of the stability and flexibility it offers. If you have problems with this, you may use the paddling position that works best for you.
Portaging on the Missinaibi River
Portages are necessary to get past difficult rapids and waterfalls. Most portages are only a few hundred metres, but there are also some long ones (the longest on the Missinaibi is 2.3 km). The guides will carry the heaviest loads like the canoes, but other strong participants are more than welcome to display their strength by carrying canoes and full food barrels! There are also lighter loads to carry like personal barrels, lifejackets, paddles and tables.
Tip: Be careful with bug-spray on your forehead before a portage. You will sweat and the bug-spray will seep into your eyes!
Feeding: Missinaibi River style
During the day, there will be a lunch stop and in the late afternoon, the guides will prepare a good dinner over the campfire. As soon as the “kitchen” is established, there could be refreshments in the form of wine and snacks, and later there may even be freshly baked cakes! Most participants are impressed by the good food provided by the guides.
After dinner, there will be good company around the campfire, but very soon the trip participants will drift towards their tents for a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping at the Missinaibi River
MHO Adventure’s outfitting has modern good quality tents. Also, you get your own tent and will not be required to share with unknown persons! When selecting a place to put up your tent, a flat spot is of course preferable. While a small incline from head to feet can be acceptable, any sideways slope will make you slide off your sleeping mat. Also, a flat depression can look inviting but must be avoided because it will turn into a pond during heavy rain.
It’s your turn to do the Missinaibi River
Experience the beautiful nature, excitement and satisfaction of successfully paddling a rapid, good food by the campfire and great companionship during long paddling days! Join MHO on the next Missinaibi River adventure.
Ole Herman Fjelltun is a geologist and a part-time farmer who lives close to Oslo in Norway. He loves outdoor activities like mountain hiking and skiing, canoeing, sea kayaking, sailing and flying small aeroplanes.