Canoes on the Missinaibi river surrounded by trees
Canoeing the Missinaibi River takes you deep into Canadian wilderness. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

The Missinaibi – A True Wilderness Canoe Journey

The Frontier Bushcraft Missinaibi River expedition is a two-week voyage through the Canadian wilderness of northern Ontario, on a river which was one of the arterial trade routes.

The journey involves canoeing a wild and remote route, covering over 200km of river with over 50 sets of runnable rapids, all through wonderful boreal wilderness.

The Missinaibi River holds an important place in the history of Canada and is one of the country’s Heritage Rivers. In the days of the fur trade, the Missinaibi River was the main route between James Bay at the southern end of Hudson’s Bay and Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes.


Fur trade canoe black and white photograph
Fur Trade canoe from Brunswick House, Missinaibi River.

The Missiniabi River’s remoteness has helped protect its natural heritage from development and the river now sits within the Missinaibi Provincial Park that includes Brunswick Lake, which we will also explore in the latter part of our trip.

This journey is a wilderness canoe expedition in the truest sense and there is great potential for spotting and observing wildlife throughout the trip.

Hap Wilson’s guidebook to the Missinaibi describes it thus:

“Few North American Rivers possess as strongly mystical and culturally provocative a history as does the Missinaibi. This legendary river defines the shortest route between the arctic waters of James Bay to the north and Lake Superior, the “inland sea”, to the south. For this reason, it played a vital role in the days of fur-trading and northern exploration. Like many northern rivers, its strongest appeal to the seasoned paddler may be the exhilarating opportunity to navigate untamed water. Whitewater enthusiasts will find a wealth of challenging rapids along this waterway, yet alternate routes offer quieter adventures and time for introspection in a true wilderness setting.”

Missinaibi Expedition – The Journey And How We Travel

We will make considered use of a combination of careful running of rapids, lining, lift-overs and portaging to take us and our canoes safely through this wild land. The intention is to involve you in the decision making (mentored practice) and to develop your skill in your judgements on how to negotiate the river features and terrain.

Two men lining a 17 ft canoe on rocky rapids on the Missinaibi river
A full range of wilderness canoe-journeying techniques will be employed on this trip, enabling you to develop your own skills and put them into practice in a real context under the guidance of experienced trip leaders. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

In addition to the full application of a wide range of expedition canoeing techniques, there will be ample opportunity to employ your campcraft skills each day. There are also many interesting trees and plants to learn about in the area, the opportunity to take advantage of fantastic fishing and the ever present potential for some amazing wildlife viewing all along the way.

Otters on a log in Canada
Otters in the middle of the Missinaibi river wilderness. Photo: Paul Kirtley

With the route, at times, running through or alongside marsh land we intend to slow down, move quietly and take the time to look out for wildlife such as moose, otter, beaver and, if extremely lucky, black bears.

There are also historic remnants of the logging industry, the remains of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and an abandoned mill at the Peterbell Railway Crossing, as well as and the heavily overgrown but notably large Hudson’s Bay post on Brunswick Lake.

Snubbing a birch bark canoe on the Missinaibi.

In the latter part of the trip, we will take the opportunity to portage the trail from the Missinaibi river through to Brunswick Lake, which we will explore for its wildlife as well as remnants of historical trading outposts. Flowing from the lake is the Brunswick river, which joins the Missinaibi. We’ll follow this route back to the main river, then complete our journey.

Sunset over remote wilderness lake in Canada
Sunset over Brunswick Lake. Photo: Paul Kirtley

To minimize impact on the environment, to maintain travelling efficiency and to be able to camp together in one spot each night within park rules, we have opted for a small group size. Therefore, spaces on this trip are limited to only 8 people.

Missinaibi Expedition – Your Guides

During your time on this trip you will have the opportunity employ, and further develop, both your canoeing skills and your wilderness bushcraft skills under the guidance of Paul Kirtley.

As well as being a highly regarded wilderness bushcraft instructor, Paul is qualified as a Canoe Leader and a Level 3 Canoe Coach. He has worked alongside renowned canoe coach Ray Goodwin for over a decade, including co-leading multiple wilderness canoe expeditions. Paul has also undertaken a number of solo canoe expeditions in Canada, which have further fine-tuned his wilderness sensibilities.

Paul and Ray continue to work closely together on skills training courses and guided canoe journeys in the UK, bringing a unique blend of skills and experience to the mix, all of which you will benefit from as you travel with Paul on the Missinaibi.

Paul will be backed up by assistant leader Henry Landon, who has worked with Paul since 2012. Henry has a varied and solid background in wilderness tripping. He is also a qualified Canoe Leader under the British Canoeing scheme.

Missiniabi Expedition – Pre-requisites and Considerations

Suitability and Previous Experience

This trip is not suitable for novice canoeists, nor is it suitable for those who only have flat water paddling experience. A reasonable level of fitness is also required for both paddling and carrying your equipment on portages. The longest portage on this trip is around 1.3km, which will have to be walked three times in one day, in order to take through two loads of gear and food each.

The Missinaibi is certainly suitable for those who possess or are working towards British Canoeing’s 3-star open canoe award or equivalent. This being said, the award is just a standard measure of experience/capability and it is the experience and capability which are more important than a piece of paper.

Regardless of certificates, if you have undertaken our River Spey trip or have already joined us on one of our other Canadian canoe adventures such as on The French River or The Bloodvein River, then you have the experience necessary to join the Missinaibi trip.

Yellow canoe in the wilderness of north eastern Ontario, Canada
River running on the beautiful Missinaibi. Photo: Paul Kirtley

In terms of camping, you should be comfortable with living outdoors and sleeping in a tent for the best part of a fortnight, packing your gear each day and moving on to a new location for each night’s camp. In camp you will be expected to help with firewood collection, fire management, food prep, cooking, water purification and other daily campcraft. Our wilderness trips are a group effort, which involve everyone, guides and participants alike, immersing you in living and traveling in the environment.

Misty sunrise on the Missinaibi river, Ontario, Canada
Misty early morning view from one of our camping spots on the middle Missinaibi. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

If you have other experience and are interested in joining us on this trip, please pick up the phone or drop us an email. Paul or Ray will be more than happy to chat with you. All our contact details are here.

Travel, Food And Accommodation

All food, ground transfers and accommodation during the trip are included in the trip price. This includes one night in hotel accommodation in Timmims on the day we meet and one night in hotel accommodation on the day we come off the river. Transfers from Timmins to the start point of the actual canoe trip at Missinaibi Lake and pick up and transfer from the end point of the trip at Mattice back to Timmins are also, naturally, included in the trip price.

We will convene in Timmins, Ontario in the evening of the first day of the advertised trip schedule (dates stated here). Timmins is a short internal flight from Toronto. International and internal flights are not included in the trip price but flights can be obtained at a reasonable price.

After we come off the rive, we will return to Timmins, where we will stay the night. Once cleaned up and changed, we will go for dinner to celebrate the trip. This time in Timmins at the end also provides something of a buffer before onwards travel. The following morning, we will all head our separate ways. Hence, the finish time of the trip is stated as 09:00 the day after we come off the river.

If you have any questions about timings, travel, or other aspects of the logistics, please just get in touch.

Personal Kit And Canoeing Equipment

The trip price includes full outfitting, meaning all group camp equipment, cooking equipment, barrel packs, portage packs, canoes, paddles and any other canoeing or camping equipment you need.

This being said, as well as our outdoor clothing, we tend to take our own personal buoyancy aids, helmets, tents and tarps as we are used to them.

The Frontier Bushcraft Missinaibi Trip – Itinerary Overview:

We meet on day one in Timmins, where we will stay overnight. The next morning we will be picked up from our hotel and taken to an organised campground on the edge of Missinaibi Lake. Here we rendevous with our outfitter to collect our group equipment and familiarise ourselves with it. Here we will re-pack our personal gear into portage packs and make final preparations for our trip. Travel clothes and other items not wanted on the canoe trip can be left for safekeeping with the outfitter. We will be staying on the camping ground overnight, before setting off on our journey the following morning.

The canoe trip starts at the Provincial Park access point on Missinaibi Lake. We will then paddle around half a day to the end of the lake and camp in the area of Quittigene Rapids. Here we enter the river proper.

The descent of the river then takes us northwards through wilderness for 13 days. Throughout this time we will be self-contained and self-sufficient, taking all that we need with us and wild camping all the way.

Canoeist on river in Canada
We will travel completely self-contained, with all food and equipment, through the wilderness of a legendary Canadian river system for 13 days. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Towards the end of the trip we intend to portage from the river into the scenic Brunswick Lake with its myriad of islands. A chance to soak up seclusion and the nature of the place before running the short Brunswick River to rejoin the Missinaibi. We finish at the small town of Mattice.

Click here for Missiniabi River Expedition dates and prices…