Matagami, photo credit Ville de Matagami
Distance : 620 km (385 mi).
The James Bay Road (La Route de la Baie-James) is a very special attraction in and of itself. You might not expect a road this far north to be paved, but it is – all 620 kilometres (385 mi) of it, from south to north. Along the way are rest areas, interpretation panels, trails and lookouts to help you take in the majesty of the land. At some of the lakes and rivers you’ll find fishing docks, launching ramps and rustic camping spots.
A. The Journey Begins. Travellers taking the James Bay Road are strongly advised to stop at the Municipality of James Bay tourism information office and leave their information. While you’re there, you can pick up brochures for more details about your itinerary. Position: Km 6 (mile 3) on the James Bay Road.
B. From Amos, take Road 109 North, toward Matagami. Along the way you’ll see gorgeous scenery and a few points of interest – such as Paradis Lake, where the water is the colour of deep jade. Stretch your legs at the Cartwright rest stop for a splendid panoramic view. Position: Km 157 (mile 97) on Route 109.
C. Pause écotouristique. At the end of Road 109 lies the town of Matagami, an ecotourism area where you can go hiking, sea kayaking, canoeing and camping. Before you resume your trip, make sure you fill up your tank, as the next service station is 380 km (236 mi) away. And don’t forget to take a picture of yourselves at kilometre 0 of the James Bay Road! Position: Km 224 (mile 139) on Route 109.
An interpretation panel at Broadback River describes what happened at James Bay during the last ice age, when the area was covered by the Tyrrell Sea. It has a great hiking trail with a lookout, making it a good place to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Position: Km 232 (mile 144) on the James Bay Road.
Vieux Comptoir Lake, photo credit Mathieu Dupuis
D. The Falls at Rupert River. If you are getting hungry right about now, this is the perfect place to picnic. There’s also an interpretation trail on the north side of the river that tells you all about this magnificent natural site. Position: Km 257 (mile 160) on the James Bay Road.
The Vieux Comptoir Lake (Old Factory Lake) and River are two of the most compelling stops along the way. From the river’s lookout, you can see one of the largest culverts in the world (16 m wide by 80 m long (52 feet by 262 feet)). Lac du Vieux Comptoir has one of the most spectacular lookouts along the entire route. The Cree called this area the “Painted Hills”. Position: Km 464 (mile 288) on the James Bay Road.
Robert-Bourassa Development, photo credit Hydro Québec
E. You’ve arrived at your destination at the base of the largest dam in the world. People come from all over the world to see the Robert-Bourassa Development, an indisputable proof of the expertise and ingenuity of Québec regarding hydroelectricity. The visit lasts four hours and begins at the Centrale Robert- Bourassa interpretation centre. Next is a 25-km tour by bus to the top of the dam, which is as tall as a 53-storey building. The enormous spillways at the bottom have been nicknamed the Staircase of the Giants. Position: Km 620 (mile 385) on the James Bay Road.