Baie-JamesNorthern Quebec. It is also called Jamésie or Eeyou Istchee.
Two types of vegetation cover the region. The forest is sprinkled with groves, hardwoods, a wide variety of bushes, edible plants, and wild berries. A little further north, the undergrowth thins out, the hardwoods gradually disappear and the spruces become smaller in sizes and number; the boreal forest gives way to the taiga. The cladonie or caribou moss grows very slowly and it takes several years to form large green fronds that line the shallow soils and acidic region.
The forest is home to at least forty species of mammals, including wolves, lynx, foxes, bears and moose. Ducks, snow geese, snowy owls, eagles, falcons, ptarmigans, Canada geese, and loons figure among the bird life of the region.
Anglers travel a long way to fish for walleye, lake trout, brook trout, pike and other species in the region's crystal-clear waters.
Towns and villages
The regional centre Chibougamau-Chapais, a mining town of about 7500 people, serves as the point of entry into this remote and northern region and the end of the paved road. There are a few small towns (and no major cities) in the James Bay region:
- (Cree village municipality) — formerly Fort Rupert, one of three original Hudson's Bay Company posts on on James Bay
- (Cree village municipality, population 500 (2011))
- (Cree village municipality) — a village of about 1400 people
- (Cree village municipality)
- — a village of 470 people that has services for travellers: two fuel stations, hotel, motel, campground (summer only), a general store, restaurants, gift shops, and a hospital
The region's natural resources, particularly its abundant hydroelectric energy, attracted outsiders from the 1970s onward. The area remains remote by Québec standards as the bulk of colonisation has long followed a beaten path that sticks heavily to the St. Lawrence and Ottawa river valleys in the south of the province.
ClimateNorthern weather and climate is widely variable and often inhospitable. In June, it may be hot (25°C, 80°F) during the day but cool (10°C, 50°F) at night with June overnight temperature near freezing not uncommon. In winter, expect bitter, Arctic cold.
One needs some kind of bug protection, and in hot temperatures, one must find a way to keep cool while inside a bug screen of some kind. In a vehicle, about the only way to be comfortable is to keep driving with open windows. Luckily, there are frequent rivers which, while somewhat chilly, are good for swimming.
La Grande Rivière AirportAll air transportation is done to and from La Grande Rivière Airport, which has direct connections to Montréal by the airlines; Air Inuit and Air Creebec, there are usually at least two daily departures on this route, one by each airline. Air Inuit also serves several small Inuit communities further north from the airport.
- Wemindji Airport (YNC): Served by Air Creebec with connections to Montreal-Trudeau, Val-d'Or, Chibougamau, Chisasibi, Eastmain, Kuujjuarapik, Nemaska, and Waskaganish
- There are flights M-F to Waskaganish via Air Creebec from Montreal, Val D'or, Chibogamau and all other Cree communities.
By busThere is one daily bus on weekdays from Val d'Or to Matagami the starting point of the James Bay Road, it takes about 3½ hours and is operated by Autobus Maheux.
The James Bay Road passes through a vast and unpopulated region. There is not much traffic. While driving, one sees nothing but trees, rivers and rocks for long periods of time. Wildlife that may be seen include black bear, fox and moose. The most common wildlife to see during June are ravens and dragonflies. There are mosquitoes in most places, and deer flies in some places. The bugs do not seem to be more aggressive or annoying than in more southern areas such as Michigan or Ontario, however because the whole area is bush, there are few or no built up areas to escape to, to avoid the insects. Having a place to rest with bug screens is a must. Bug headnets and bug jackets are a good idea to preserve one's sanity. Long pants, socks and long sleeve shirts are good to help protect from insects. Staying away from trees and brush, and finding spots in the open in windy areas will help reduce the annoyance of insects.
The quiet and isolation along the James Bay Road can be unnerving. People who are not used to such a vast wilderness may feel some discomfort and fear. In some people, it can lead to exhilaration. After a day or two, one gets used to the isolation. There is traffic along the James Bay Road, but most vehicles are driving very fast to try to cover long distances quickly. The James Bay Road officially begins in Matagami, however the transition from northern Quebec farm country to boreal forest happens between Amos and Matagami. As you travel north out of Matagami, you will notice that the trees become smaller and smaller as the hours and days pass. The further north you go, the fewer people you will see.
Fuel is available 24 hours a day in Matagami, Relais Routier and Radisson. If you fill your tank whenever you pass through these locations, you should not have to worry about running out of fuel (depending on your vehicle's range!) Fuel is also available in the Cree communities of Waskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji and Chisasibi.
In order to best travel the James Bay Road, here are a few suggestions. Drive slowly to allow the driver to enjoy the view and to reduce fuel consumption. Plan on taking two or more days to drive from Matagami to Radisson. Stop at all major rivers and take a walk along the river. Spend time at all waterfalls and climb the rocks a bit. Quite often the natural impulse is to drive as fast as possible to a destination, however, when you reach the James Bay Road, you should take time to enjoy the trip.
Wemindji is an excellent location to observe a Cree village. One must travel 96 km of gravel road from the James Bay Road to Wemindji. In 2009, there was an exhibit of how the Cree tipis were constructed near the boat launch in town. Wemindji appears to be a prosperous town with a great deal of construction. Wemindji is surrounded by islands and a chain of lakes that are connected to James Bay.
North of Chisasibi is Longue Point, a dramatic location which appears to be the furthest north that one can drive to the coast of James Bay. It is a launch site for freighter canoes and in winter is a starting point to snowmobile on the ice of James Bay. To find Longue Point, cross the LeGrande 1 dam near Chisasibi and follow the gravel road to the end. This is truly the end of the road and about as far as you can drive north along the bay.
There s a lodge in Waskaganish.