A Magical Day on the Waters of Lac-Saint-Jean and the Metabetchouan River

We woke early on the second day of our trip, packed up our belongings, and biked back to our car parked near the visitors center of Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon. Less than a 45-minute drive later, we were on the southeastern shores of Lac-Saint-Jean ready to stand-up paddleboard once the outfitter O’Soleil opened up shop at 9 am. Offering paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes, O’Soleil is located on an ideal spot on a placid river that can either lead inland or to the expansive waters of that 45-kilometer long by 35-kilometer wide lake called Lac-Saint-Jean. We paddled on the serene river under bridges and past marinas lined with boats to steady our balance and stroke. Then off we went on a wondrous stretch of water, hemmed in by barrier beaches. Soon we were feeling the chop of this massive inland sea as a steady stream of boats filed out to the lake. O’Soleil also rents bikes to sample a stretch of the Véloroute des Bleuets, the 256-kilometer bike trail that lines the shoreline of Lac-Saint-Jean. The 10 km ride past the charming town of Metabetchouan (stop for sublime chocolates at the small artisanal store, Rose Élisabeth) to Desbiens is one of the finest parts of the bike trail.

Desbiens is where we would start our second adventure of the day, a whitewater rafting trip down the Metabetchouan River with H2O Expeditions. Owner Sylvain Alarie has rafted down many of the finest rivers in the world like the Colorado, but he always returns to his native Quebec rivers. After spending the afternoon with him on an exhilarating run down the Class III and IV rapids of the Metabetchouan, it’s easy to understand why he comes back. Joined by my buddy, Jeff, and a contingent of six students from China studying alloy engineering at the nearby university in Saguenay, we were in for a treat. The clean waters of the river slice through cavernous walls where tall pines cling to the hillside. A master navigator, Sylvain found the perfect line to attack the most rip-roaring rapids as we shrieked with joy each time the raft rolled up and we met the next drenching wave. It was a thrill ride through exquisite scenery I won’t soon forget.