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The James Bay Road
Distance: 620 km. Plan for 3 to 5 days.
Regions: Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nord du Québec
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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 of it, from south to north. Along the way are rest areas, interpretation panels, trails and lookouts to help you absorb the majesty of the land. At some of the lakes and rivers you’ll find fishing docks, launching ramps and rustic places to camp.
1. Travellers taking the James Bay Road are strongly advised to stop at the Municipality of Bay James tourism information office and leave their vital information. While you’re there, you can pick up brochures for more information about your itinerary.
Position: Km 6 on the James Bay Road
2. From Amos, take Road 109 north, toward Matagami. Along the way you’ll see gorgeous scenery and a few curiosities – such as Paradise Lake (lac Paradis), whose water is the colour of deep jade. Stretch your legs at the Cartwright rest stop for a splendid panoramic view.
Position: Km 157 on Route 109
3. 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 filling station is 380 km away. And don’t forget to take a picture of yourselves at kilometre 0 of the James Bay Road!
Position: Km 224 on Route 109
4. There’s an interpretation panel at Broadback River describing what went on at James Bay during the last ice age, when the area was covered by the Tyrrell Sea. It has a fine hiking trail with a lookout, making it a good place to get out of the car and stretch your legs.
Position: Km 232 on the James Bay Road
5. If you and your family are getting hungry about now, the falls at Rupert River make for the perfect place for a 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 on the James Bay Road
6. The Relais routier SDBJ is a filling station open 24 hours a day. It also has first aid services and dormitory-style accommodations.
Position: Km 381 on the James Bay Road
7. You really must stop at the Eastmain River. From the lookout there, you can see the most impressive of the 11 bridges built along the Bay James Road, which earned a prize for their architecture and engineering.
Position: Km 395 on the James Bay Road
8. Vieux Comptoir (Old Factory) Lake and River make for 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). 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 on the James Bay Road
9. At km 600, you come to the junction with LG-1 and Chiasibi Roads. At this point, you’re less than 100 km away from James Bay.
Position: Km 600 on the James Bay Road
10. You’ve arrived at your destination – at the base of the largest damn in the world. People come from all over the world to see the Robert-Bourassa generating station, incontestable proof of the expertise and ingenuity of Quebeckers when it comes to 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 damn, 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 sur la Road de la Baie-James