James Bay Road website

Travel Guide to the James Bay Road

Copyright © 2008 by Walter Muma 

Please read Driving the James Bay Road first!

To view photographs along the James Bay Road, take the Virtual Tour of the James Bay Road. In this guide, the Km numbers are linked to these Virtual Tour pages. Please also see the Travelogues section of this website.

I have verified all distances along the Road, and most distances along access roads leading to campgrounds etc. Please note that in some cases the distances in this guide (actual distances and locations) are different from what is shown in official tourist guides for the Road & even different from signs posted along the Road.
Please note that hours of operation and availability of services may change.
Feel free to print this guide and take it along on your trip.


Km 0

BEGINNING of the James Bay Road, just outside Matagami. This is the last town you'll see for 620 km (375 miles)!! Stock up on what you need for the trip, especially fuel. There's only one gas station between here and the end of the road.
The Shell station (the first one you encounter on your way in to town) is open 24 hrs, 7 days a week. There's a basic store here as well where you can get ice, some groceries, and other things.  In Sep 2005 gas was $1.21 per liter, and diesel was $1.07 per liter. But this was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when gas prices went a bit nuts.
You may encounter logging trucks through km 200 or so.
The James Bay Road is reached via Hwy 109. CLICK HERE for more info on Matagami.
Info Panel: Pioneers

From Here (Matagami) to: Km Miles
Amos 182 113
Brisay 1126 698
Caniapiscau 1220 756
Chibougamau (via James Bay Road & North Road) 696 432
Chisasibi 690 428
Eastmain 454 281
Nemaska 391 242
Radisson 620 384
Wemindji 614 381
Waskaganish 339 210

Km 2

Bell River. This is the longest bridge on the James Bay Road. The Bell River flows into Matagami Lake. The northern part of the lake then becomes the Nottaway River which flows north to James Bay. You can drive carefully off the left side of the road here (going north) and park, and walk down to the river.

Km 3 Snowmobile trail.

Km 6

Junction with bush road R1005, just south of the Checkpoint, running east from the road. This bush road leads south & east to Lebel-sur-Quellivon on Hwy 113, via R1000. Gravel and washboarded the whole distance.

Km 6

Checkpoint: Stop here and register. Open 24 hrs, 7 days per week. Tourist information, maps, souvenirs, restrooms, picnic tables, shelter, telephone. You can also register for tours of the hydro-electric power installations of Robert Bourassa and LG-1, and make reservations for hotel rooms in Radisson & Chisasibi. Open 24 hours, all year. (819) 739-4473. You are strongly urged to register here, due to the remoteness of the country through which you will be passing.
Information panel: "One territory ... six seasons".

Km 8 Info Panel: Bogs & fens.
Km 9 Snowmobile trail crosses the road here.

Km 10

Mount Laurier to the west of the Road. The top of the hill is at an altitude of 1550 ft (about 480 m), a climb of 560 ft (about 185 m). You can climb to the top via trails and enjoy a magnificent view of Matagami's surroundings. There is a network of trails surrounding the hill, and extending to km 12 & km 18.  A straight hike up and back would take about 1.5-2 hours. Note that it is a lot farther and higher than it looks from the road. The trail starts at the "Telebec Laurier" sign and is directly across the road from the Information panel.
Click here for more info about the Mont Laurier area.
Information panel: "Mont-Laurier - A taste of northern environments".

Km 13 Second access point to the Mont Laurier hiking trail system. Park along the road or drive in a short ways and park off to the side. No sign along the road.
Km 18 Third access point to the Mont Laurier hiking trail system. No sign along the road. Park along the road.
Km 23 Access road to Gabrielle Lake (east from the road).

Km 37

Matagami Lake campground. 76 camping sites, running water, sewage system (for RVs), showers, restrooms, fire places, beach, shelters, pavilion, boat launching ramp, fishing, playground, picnic tables. Open mid-June to Labour Day. There's a fee for camping here. (819) 739-4473.
Information panel at park entrance: "Surface deposits and the nature of forest populations".

Km 38

Waswanipi River. Boat launching ramp just north of the bridge, east side of the Road. 10 km eastwards upriver from the bridge is the Red Falls, a spectacular sight. Fishing, toilets. "Waswanipi" is a cree word meaning "lake where we are fishing under torch light or water reflections".

Km 48

Junction with bush road R1025, running east from the Road. Leads to Olga Lake (Waswanipi River)(10 km) and Goeland (Gull) Lake (28 km). Campground on Olga Lake/Waswanipi River (10 km), with boat launch ramp, picnic tables and shelters(2), toilets(2). Nice campground, limited space.

Km 49

Canet River.

Km 50

Information panel: "Boosting forest rebirth"

Km 60

Junction with bush road R1022, running east from the Road.

Km 70

Nice view of a quiet river (just pull off on the shoulder).

Km 80

Ouescapis Lake campground, 1.5 km east off the Road. Picnic tables, shelters, toilets, boat launching ramp, fishing. Nice campsite, many sites. Note that the boat launch is ¾km from the actual campsite, and no camping is allowed at the boat launch itself. There appears to be an "overflow" camping area part way along the road to the boat launch, on the left. There's no tables or anything there, but it is an open area where you can park or place a tent.

Km 88

Information panel: "Forestry Activities"

Km 99

Muskeg River

Km 105

Junction with bush road R1023, running east from the Road.

Km 106 Information panel: "Close-up on mining exploration"
Km 116 There's a closed rest area here on the east side of the road, the entrance is blocked with a pile of gravel. Also a small nameless river is here.
Km 130 Information panel: "Glacial deposits and forest roads"

Km 135

Emergency telephone ("Louise"). Forest fire in 1997 here caused by lightning extends through km151.

Km 135 Rest area: picnic table (1), outhouse (1), no shelters. Very basic, mainly just a pull-off area.
Road to the west goes to an abandoned highway maintenance compound about 1 km away.
Km 161 Trail to top of the nearby ridge on the west side of the Road. The view from the top is well worth the short climb! There's an Information panel at the top of the hill. Please stay on the trail to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation.

Km 189

Rodayer Lake campground, 0.5 km west of the Road. Picnic tables, toilets, no shelters, boat launching ramp, fishing. This is a very basic campground, little more than a parking lot.

Km 192 Fishing site
Km 200 Fishing site

Km 201

Emergency telephone ("Colomb")

Km 204 Fishing site
Km 215 Fishing site

Km 232

Broadback River. Picnic tables, toilets, shelters, fishing. Nice short trail leads upstream to view the rapids. There are information panels at a couple of places along the trail.
This is the second of the huge northern rivers that you'll cross. This also marks the approximate beginning of the prehistoric Tyrell Sea. And, this is also the approximate southern limit of the Taiga. Taiga is the word given to the type of forest here: mostly black spruce and jack pine, with numerous bogs, poor drainage, and small trees, growing in sandy soil. South of here there are a lot more deciduous trees (more poplars), and if you are going south, you will notice a dramatic increase in tree size by the time you reach Km100 or so. Going north you will start to encounter more of the taiga. However, there isn't a sudden change in the forest type. The change is gradual and subtle.
This is a good place to stop, get out, and stretch your legs. Please stay on the trail, as the surrounding vegetation is easily damaged and takes a long time to recover.
Information panel: "James Bay, the contemporary heir of ice ages".

Km 237

Junction with Waskaganish Road. Waskaganish is a Cree village located 102 km to the west at the mouth of the Rupert River. The road is unpaved and was opened in August 2001. CLICK HERE for more info.

Km 244 Fishing site

Km 247

Emergency telephone ("Randal")

Km 252 Fishing site

Km 257

Rupert River campground, 1.2 km east of the Road. Boat launching ramp, fishing picnic tables, toilet, no shelters. This is a very basic campground, little more than a parking lot. It's also a pull-out place for canoes and kayaks who are heading downstream. The rapids downstream are impossible to negotiate and are deadly. Be aware of this if you put your boat in here. At least 2 people have been killed by these enormous rapids. They got "swallowed" by the rapid, hence the name, Oatmeal Rapid.

Km 257

RUPERT RIVER  DEFINITELY STOP HERE AND TAKE A LOOK!! THIS IS A MUST-SEE! Stop here to view this huge wild northern river's spectacular rapids and falls. Toilets, picnic tables, shelters, scenic viewpoint. The Rupert River will be diverted upstream from here in late 2009.
The rapids/falls here are known as Oatmeal Rapids, and as Kaumwakweuch Rapids on the topo maps.
A hiking trail follows the north bank upstream to a viewpoint - cross the Rupert River on the bridge and follow the trail upriver on the north side. Part of the north shore was burned by a forest fire in the summer of 2002, so the trail is closed past the first viewpoint. But if you wish to walk further upriver at you own risk, you will be rewarded by a couple more places to get close to the Rupert River rapids and experience up close the full power and majesty of this wild river. This is in fact the old portage trail, probably in use for thousands of years by the Crees. Part of the ancient trail is now buried under the road. Going upstream, the trail leads to the beginning of the portage, it was never "officially" closed. This is about 1200m. Downstream, the trail leads to the end of the portage - very tricky going down there.
The Rupert River is different upstream vs. downstream from the bridge. The scenery and vegetation are very different. Upstream it is sandy and rocky. Downstream it is mostly rocks and clay. Sometimes in high water, the bridge is almost the limit for drinking water from the Rupert. According to some, the Rupert River water is pure and perfectly drinkable without any treatment.

The compound on the west side of the Road here is an SEBJ camp. I heard it was re-opened in March 2005 and had some lodging available ($110 per night), cafeteria, limited supply of gas for emergencies, garage for do-it-yourself repairs with an air compressor. However, I do not know if this is still the case, therefore don't count on it.
There is another boat ramp, for smaller boats, behind all the camps. Caution: the first rapid, "White Beaver" or Wapamiskush in Cree, is only about 6 km downstream. It is a Class V rapid with no way out. You must portage 25m.
This spectacular sight will be no more by the end of 2009. For more info on the threatened Rupert River visit the Rupert River website.

Km 272 Fishing site

Km 275

Junction with the North Road, which runs east and south to Chibougamau, 440 km away; Nemaska is 117 km away; the North Road is 424 km long. Fuel, food, supplies and lodging are available in Nemaska.
Rest area: picnic tables, toilets, shelters. Information panel: "Fire-devastated forests". Lightning caused a forest fire here in 1983.
Fishing site nearby.
Click here for more information about the North Road, including a detailed guide and photos.

Km 294

Pontax III River. The "Pontax" name is a corruption of the Indian name "Pontacks", a Cree trapper who used to live in this area. A forest fire was caused by lightning here in 1986.
Fishing site.

Km 301

Emergency telephone ("Pontax")

Km 303-308

Forest fires burned here in July 2002

Km 307

Pontax I River. Lightning caused a forest fire here in 1986.

Km 313

Pontax II River (Enistuwach River). These are actually three separate rivers. The three rivers are named according to their flow. ie, Pontax I is the largest of the three, & Pontax III is the smallest. Additionally, this is one of the few river systems up here that has been excluded from diversion and development for hydro-electric projects.

Km 324

Mirabelli Lake campground, 2.5 km east of the Road (the sign is wrong - it says 4 km). Picnic tables, toilet(1), no shelters, boat launching ramp, fishing. Large informal campground. Nice view of the lake from the hilltop. Forest fire here in 2005. This site was originally a road construction camp.

Km 326

Jolicoeur River. There's rapids is directly under the bridge.

Km 335 Fishing site
Km 343 52nd parallel of latitude

Km 351

Junction with the Eastmain Road. Eastmain is a Cree village located 103 km to the west on the shore of James Bay, at the mouth of the Eastmain River. The road is unpaved. CLICK HERE for more info.

Km 358 Fishing site
Km 362 Telebec "Eastmain" microwave tower. No emergency phone.
Km 366 Power lines leading to the town of Eastmain
Km 368 Fishing site

Km 372

Lac des Saules (Willow Lake) - former campground on the east side of the Road (now closed). No sign. This campground has been decommissioned. If you drive in here beware of nails in the gravel in the far right half of the area.

Km 380 Fishing site

Km 381

RELAIS ROUTIER, managed by the James Bay Development Corporation. This is the only place to get fuel along the entire length of the James Bay Road. If you're going north, this is your last chance for 208 km. Going south, it's your last chance for 381 km. If you're headed north and then west along the Trans-Taiga Road, this is the last chance for fuel for 450 km.
 • (819) 638-8502.
 • Fuel (regular gas & diesel; no high-octane gas) is available 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. The gas bar is straight in past the ambulance garage, near the back.
 • In May 2008 gas was $1.57/liter here; in Dec 2008 regular gas was $1.09 per liter
 • Garage with a mechanic is open 8:00am-6:00pm.
 • Cafeteria is open 5:30am-9:00pm.
 • Lodging is available in the dormitory, 24 hrs a day (819) 638-8502. In Sep 2005 a single room was $55, double $80 (plus taxes).
 • First aid services 24 hrs a day (819) 638-7948.
 • Telephone available at gas bar.
 • Four  cabins are located here.
 • Emergency phone

Km 384 First view of a major hydro transmission line from the James Bay Hydro Project.

Km 391

Information panels: "Experimental reforestation techniques for an outstanding road", and "An exceptional bridge for an exceptional road." This is worth a stop as there are photos of the construction of the Eastmain River bridge (up ahead).

Km 394

Eastmain River campground, 2.5 km west of the Road. Picnic table(1), toilet(1), no shelters, fishing. A trail along a small road leads to viewpoint under the Eastmain River bridge (200 m). This is a very basic campground, little more than a parking lot.

Km 395

Eastmain River. Architecturally this is the prettiest bridge along the Road, but you can't really see it from the Road - there's a short access trail from the Eastmain River Campground (see km394 above). This bridge won a prize for the architecture and engineering.
The partially empty channel of the Eastmain River can be viewed looking east from the bridge. Park well off the road near either end of the bridge, before the guardrail, and walk out to take a look. A large part of the water of the Eastmain River was diverted northward to feed into the La Grande River. This may be what the Rupert River will look like in a few years! There was a forest fire here in 2005.

Km 396

Hydro Quebec access road, leading east. The sign says no unauthorized vehicles allowed. But even though the sign says no access, there is no patrol of any kind. It is possible to drive to the Opinaca réservoir and La Sarcelle.Rough road. Click here for a map.

Km 411

Opinaca River rest stop. Picnic tables, pit toilets. There's a nice waterfall just west of, and almost under, the bridge that may be viewed from a new viewing platform. This river has had a large part of its flow diverted north to the La Grande River in 1983. Lightning caused a forest fire here in 1989.

Km 422

Duxbury Lake is visible to the west in the distance.

Km 440

Chaine du Lacs (Chain of Lakes) campground, 2 km east of the Road. Picnic tables, toilet(1), no shelters, boat launching ramp. This is a very basic campground, little more than a parking lot.

Km 444

Emergency telephone ("Aline")

Km 446 Interesting iron ore rocks by the side of the road.

Km 463-475

Nice scenery, views of rocky hills.

Km 463 View to the east of Kamatapukamaw Lake

Km 464

Riviere Vieux Comptoir (Old Factory River) rest stop. Picnic table(1), toilet(1), no camping, no shelters. One of the largest culverts in the world is here.
A large forest fire was caused by lightning here in 1989, which extended through to Yasinski Lake.
Information panel: "Once upon a time...the Earth".

Km 467

Lac Vieux Comptoir (Old Factory Lake) - rest area right alongside the Road. Very nice view of Old Factory Lake to the west, especially at sunset. This area was called the "Painted Hills" by the Cree.
Picnic tables, toilets, no shelters, camping. No fires. This is a very basic campground.
Information panels.

Km 469 Mistanikap Lake is visible to the east
Km 482 Hydro Quebec microwave tower ("Sakami"). No emergency phone.
Km 488 Information panel: "The trucks of the north"

Km 503

Miron Lake, 1 km east off the Road. Campground, picnic tables, toilet(1), boat launching ramp, fishing, no shelters. This is a very basic campground, little more than a parking lot. Down the access road a ways, turn left at the Indian hunt camp. This area was used as a trapper's camp and worker's camp in the past. Miron Lake was called "The crosswise house lake" in the past by the Cree.

Km 504

Emergency telephone ("Chantal")

Km 517 Information panel

Km 518

Junction with the Wemindji Road. Wemindji is a Cree village 96 km west on the shores of James Bay. CLICK HERE for more info.
Rest area: toilet(1), picnic tables, shelters(2).
Information panel: "The hidden treasures of glacial deposits".

Km 525 Kaychikwapitcha Lake briefly visible to the east.

Km 542

Yasinski Lake. Picnic tables, toilets(2), shelters, fishing, information panels, scenic viewpoint. No camping. This is one of the most important spawning grounds for walleye in Canada.

Km 544

Junction with the TRANS-TAIGA ROAD. This is a very remote unpaved road that leads east for 666 km.
CLICK HERE for more information about the Trans-Taiga Road, including a detailed guide to the road and photos.

Km 552 East Castor River
Km 556 Hydro Quebec microwave tower ("Yasinski"). No emergency phone.

Km 561

Castor (Beaver) River. Rest stop: picnic tables, toilet(1), fishing, no shelters.

Km 574

Duncan Lake campground, 6 km west off the Road. Campground, picnic tables, toilets(2), boat launching ramp. Nice campground. Forest fire here in 1996-98 or thereabouts.

Km 578

Information panels: "Lands of lichen" and "The jack pine"

Km 579 Radisson garbage dump. Good place to observe bears, ravens, and other scavengers.

Km 581

Junction with Hydro Quebec Road - "Duncan", leading east towards dams and boat launching ramp on the Robert Bourassa Reservoir.

Km 582 Information panel: "A cree moss winter lodge"

Km 589

La Grande Riviere Airport. Fuel is available here at certain times. In August 2002 gas was 86.0¢ per liter, diesel 79.0¢ per liter. (819) 638-8847.

Km 600

Junction with Chisasibi Road. Chisasibi is a Cree village that lies about 90 km to the west on the banks of the La Grande River, near James Bay. The LG1 dam and power station is along this road as well, 62 km west of the James Bay Road. James Bay itself is about 16 km west of Chisasibi. Tours of LG1 are available. There is also access to Longue Pointe on James Bay. CLICK HERE for more info.

Km 602

Hydro Quebec main transformer station.

Km 614 Access road to Robert Bourassa Reservoir lookout and boat launch.

Km 617

Junction with the access road to RADISSON. Radisson is about 5 km north & west of the James Bay Road. Most services are available here. Campground. In Aug 2004 gas was $1.00 per liter here. There is an excellent tourist information booth here, just as you come into town. For more info see the Radisson page.

From here (Radisson) to: Km Miles
Amos 802 497
Brisay 658 408
Caniapiscau 742 460
Chibougamau 766 475
Chisasibi 110 68
Eastmain 372 231
Matagami 620 384
Nemaska 461 286
Waskaganish 485 301
Wemindji 198 123

Km 620

END of the James Bay Road -- You made it! The end of the Road is where the pavement ends. Robert Bourassa (LG2) and LG2A hydroelectric power generating stations are ahead. There's a network of unpaved roads here leading to various parts of the hydro installation. See the Radisson section of this site for a map. Tours are available in both French and English, and well worth the time. You must book these in advance. 1-800-291-8486. The tours take approximately 2-3 hrs, are free, and leave from Radisson.

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