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Once you get to the James Bay Region, there are 5 major roadways to help you get from place to place:
• The 625 km entirely paved Route de la Baie-James, covers the west part of the region, from the south to the north all the way to Radisson and Chisasibi and links to the gravel roads that lead to the Cree reserves of Waskaganish, Eastmain and Wemindji.
450 miles of road in 450 days, a record! Designed by the Quebec engineering firm Desjardins-Soriol (Dessau-Soprin), the James Bay Route was built during the big hydro-electricity projects of the 1970´s, in order to allow heavy machinery and workers to access the construction sites by land. Much larger than "normal" roads, they can support vehicles weighing up to 500 tons. Eleven bridges cross rivers, 940 culverts and roughly 32 km of canals ensure proper drainage. Part of the road covers what was once the Tyrell Sea. Moraine deposits, left behind by passing glaciers, can still be observed!
The James Bay Route is 620 km in length and is the extension of Route 109. It passes through the region from South to North and links the cities of Matagami, Radisson and Chisasibi. The James Bay Route is paved, well maintained and ploughed in winter. The landscape is hilly but not at all steep.
Near the beginning of this route, at km-6, you´ll find a tourist information center managed by the Municipality of James Bay and open year round. Take advantage of their expertise and complete your documentation about the region by adding some pamphlets or brochures such as the interpretation and companion guide of the James Bay Route.
The James Bay Route will also allow you to access coastal Cree villages, the first inhabitants of this ancient land. Once isolated, the Cree communities of Waskaganish, Eastmain and Wemindji are now connected to the James Bay Route by gravel roads that are about 100 km each in length. Although, there are no inhabited communities that line the James Bay Route, you may notice a few camps made up of a couple of cabins and, more often than not, a tepee. These are fishing and hunting camps that belong to the Cree of the aforementioned communities.
There are many rest areas that line the James Bay Route allowing travellers to relax and enjoy the trip. These areas may include hiking trails, wharfs, boat launch ramps, rustic camping sites, portable toilets, etc. In addition, at km-381 of the route you will find a relay site. It is the only public building along the route. You will find a cafeteria, a gas station as well as dorm rooms allowing travellers to get some rest.
Route 167 passes through Chibougamau and is paved for 100 km North-East, to Mistissini.
The portion that goes to Lake Albanel Campground is gravel.
Route 113 has made travellers, workers and visitors very happy. Prior to its construction in 1967, mine and forestry workers from Abitibi and employed in the Chibougamau-Chapais region had to go through an exhausting detour to get to their work sites.
If you can believe it, departing from Val d´Or, you had to go down to Montreal, head up towards Trois-Rivieres and then head North via the Lac Saint-Jean area to finally head towards the Chibougamau-Chapais sector. A long 1200-km journey! Nowadays, by taking Route 113, the Abitibi - Chibougamau trip takes approximately 4 hours.
Visitors will discover charming and beautiful places and people in each village along the way.
• The gravel Route du Nord is 407 km long. It connects Route 167, from the northernmost point of Chibaugamau, with the Route de la Baie-James at the 274 km mark. It allows access to wildlife reserves (Lake-Albanel-Mistissini-and-Waconichi) as well as to the Nemaska Cree reserve.
The 407-km all gravel Northern Route links Route 167, from the Northern tip of Chibougamau, to the James Bay Route at km-274.
Much like the James Bay Route, taking the North Road is an experience in itself. Visitors will experience never before seen landscape and observe significant differences in the ever changing scenery. Heading North, you will find that the trees start to change from leafy trees to conifers, slowly the woods start to disappear, the forest becomes clearer, black pines get further and further apart and get smaller and smaller until they slowly disappear and the ground becomes covered with lichen. The landscape changes from hilly to flat due to the passage of glaciers.
As you continue your trip north, you become aware of how small humans seem compared to the immensity of the territory. If you go walking in the taiga forest, you will feel like a giant compared to the dwarfed trees. A unique feeling that only the James Bay region can offer visitors!
Make it a point to stop at the Cree village of Nemaska for a little pit stop as well as to meet the local First Nations artisans who will charm you with their arts and crafts!
The Northern Route was inaugurated in 1993. Built mostly for the Eastmain hydro-electricity project, it is also used by the region´s lumber companies for the transportation of logs. Sometimes, you will come across these rigs carrying tons of pine logs. Nowadays, the route is used more and more by hunters, anglers and tourists looking for an unusual experience. In winter, you are almost assured of coming across a caribou.
Near the beginning of this route, you will find a seasonal tourist information bureau that is managed by the city of Chibougamau. Take advantage of their expertise and complete your documentation about the region by adding some pamphlets or brochures such as the interpretation and companion guide of the Northern Route. There are many rest areas that line the Northern Route allowing travellers to relax and enjoy the trip.These areas may include hiking trails, wharfs, boat launch ramps, rustic camping sites, portable toilets, etc.
• The Route Transtaïga, is a 688 km gravel road. It joins the Hydro-Quebec plants to the Caniapiscau dam. You can access the road via the Route de la Baie-James at the 544 km
The development of the La Grande projects created the necessity for an east-west roadway . So, the 700-km Transtaïga Route (435 miles) was built. This gravel road begins at km-544 of the James Bay Route and links the hydro-electricity complexes of La Grande-3, La Grande-4, Laforge-1, Laforge-2 and Brisay as well as the Caniapiscau reservoir.
Much like for the James Bay Route, the Transtaïga Route follows the curvy path of the eskers, a little bonus that facilitated work during its construction! This route also serves as the access road for many outfitters. Admire the beautiful scenery of the Taiga and be aware that numerous species of animals are observing you: caribou, wolves, lynx, partridges, foxes, etc. Make sure your car is full of gas, as the nearest distance between two gas stop areas is 500 km.
You will find more information on these roads in the section Itinararies Suggestions. You can also view these roads on the regional map.