Trans-Taiga Road

Trans-Taiga Road: a very remote journey in Canada

Trans-Taiga Road is an extremely remote wilderness road located in northern Quebec, Canada, with a length of 582 kilometres (362 mi) to Centrale Brisay and 84 kilometres (52 mi) along the Caniapiscau Reservoir. All this road is unpaved. At the far end you will be 745 km from the nearest town! This is the farthest you can get from a town on a road anywhere in North America! It’s the northernmost continuous road in Eastern North America.

Make sure you get your vehicle and yourself well-prepared before driving this road. The Trans-Taiga Road runs 666 km east from near the top end of the James Bay Road. The road branches off from the James Bay Road at kilometer 544. It was built as an access road to the hydro-electric generating stations of Hydro-Québec along the La Grande River and Caniapiscau River. This extremely remote road has no settlements or towns aside from Hydro Quebec's settlements for workers (these are private and are not open to the public. The road's northeastern terminus is almost at the 55th parallel north, making it the northernmost continuous road in Eastern North America. Though the terminus is also the farthest point from any town (745 kilometres (463 mi) from Radisson) via road in North America, it is nonetheless relatively close – 190 kilometres (120 mi) – to Schefferville geographically. You should definitely travel this road only in a reliable vehicle with good tires. It is not a rough road; passenger vehicles can drive it, but it is gravel. Vehicle breakdowns here can be very costly. Flat tires can be a serious (and expensive) incident if your tires are damaged. You could be looking at having tires flown in on a non-scheduled flight - there are no convenient "tire stores" up here! There are scary stories of people blowing all four tires along this road, and having to have new tires flown in on an unscheduled flight to one of the airstrips (very expensive).  
Watch out for sudden loose-gravel breaks. The speed limit for the first 395 km is 80 km/h. Past that point it is 70 km/h due to the narrower road surface. This road is unpaved for its entire length. Slow down and pull to the right when oncoming vehicles are approaching. Many drivers are considerate enough to do likewise. But there is the occasional idiot who will not. In this case, slowing down almost to a stop and pulling off to the far right will help to preserve your windshield. Be careful to avoid the temptation of hugging the inside of curves when the inside of the curve is not on your side. Conversely, watch out for others coming at you around curves on the wrong side of the road. Some drivers take a chance that there's no one coming as they go around curves, because there's so little traffic on this road. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with relatively new tires, that have lots of tread left on them
Due its unique location, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The road is open year-round, however, it gets very cold up there in the winter (-40 degrees C), so if you go in the winter, or even the fall or spring, be prepared. In the summer it can get just as hot as down south. There are very few rest areas and campgrounds. There are none past km 203. This is a working, practical road, not a tourist road. This truly is a very remote road. Do not approach a trip along it lightly! This is not one of those "cover-my-butt" warnings. It's real. Although this is a modern gravel road, it is nevertheless a very remote road with very little traffic. The section from Brisay (km 582) to Caniapiscau (km 666) is rougher and a 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. The main reason for this is the very coarse gravel used for this road - there's large rocks littering the road surface. However, people who have driven this road in ordinary passenger cars and they say it is fine. You do have to keep your eyes open for the larger rocks though. This is not a trip for children or families.

The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. Generally the scenery is fairly level. For most of the length it runs through taiga: spruce and jack pine forest, bogs, rocks, and low hills. This is about all you'll see apart from birds and some wildlife. Follow these commonsense tips to help you prevent flat tires and blowouts: be alert and watch out for the larger stones that litter parts of the road. It's these that will blow your tires if you hit them at a high enough speed. Steer around them; observe the speed limit. This will enable you to better watch for and avoid these larger stones. And should you hit one it won't do as much damage at a slower speed; in particular watch out for the sharper stones; where the road is rougher, slow down. Where the road surface is really smooth, you could get away with going faster, but you should still be on the lookout for the rogue larger stone in the road; ensure your vehicle is equipped with relatively new tires, that have lots of tread left on them; don't overload your vehicle. A heavy vehicle or one that is overloaded will be more likely to experience blowouts; please keep in mind that many modern SUVs are not designed for rough road conditions - they're designed for where they are used 99% of the time: paved city streets and highways. You should definitely travel this road only in a reliable vehicle with good tires. It is not a rough road; passenger vehicles can drive it, but it is gravel. Vehicle breakdowns here can be very costly. Flat tires can be a serious (and expensive) incident if your tires are damaged. You could be looking at having tires flown in on a non-scheduled flight - there are no convenient "tire stores" up here.
Pic: By Axel Drainville - Flickr: Réservoir Caniapiscau vu de la route Transtaïga, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20163648

 

 

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NOTICE: Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads are closed and travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.