Hiking Along the French River on Dokis First Nation’s Papase Trail — Introduction

We did things a bit differently this past Canada Day long weekend. We usually take advantage of the extended break to hike a longer trail or go somewhere further away, but we always miss a lot of stuff going on around French River while we’re gone. So this year, with a couple of family gatherings going on that we didn’t want to skip, we decided to compromise, and hiking along the French River on Dokis First Nation’s Papase Trail seemed like the perfect option.

Scenery viewed while hiking along the French River on Dokis First Nation's Papase Trail

We spent Saturday afternoon at the Dokis First Nation Powwow, then went back the next day for an overnight hike. We’d been for a day hike in the spring, but we hadn’t been able to find the trail head to the Papase Trail, so this time we made sure to call the band office for info.

Once in touch with Clayton, the trails project manager, we received detailed maps, driving directions, and parking and camping information. Since we would be on First Nations land without a guide, we also discussed fishing regulations and were advised where to buy our trip permits.

Clayton also gave us an update on the condition of the trail. The Chaudière and Tikibi Trails which give access to hiking along the French River behind the band office see much more use than the Papase Trail, and for a time, little interest was shown in the longer Papase Trail, so it was never completed. Blue markers lead approximately 5 kilometres to a campsite on Hemlock Lake 2, but the remaining 4 kilometres to Five Finger Rapids are still incomplete. Clayton has already received a few inquiries this year, though, so he’s happily now decided to finish the trail.

With packs loaded, dogs excited, and maps and permits handy, we set off. For the first half of the day, we were hiking along the French River on a well-cleared path, and the going was easy.

Interesting rock formations and scenic lookouts along the way enticed us to stop and observe, sometimes only for a moment, long enough to take a picture, other times for a short rest. We were in no rush at all and enjoyed the varied types of forest, the winding French River, and lush wetlands.

Arrow Rock, a cultural site, can be seen by hiking along the French River on Dokis First Nation's Papase Trail.
Arrow Rock (Photo by Marc Desrochers)

After passing Arrow Rock, the trail got bushier. We had been forewarned that it hadn’t been used much the previous year, and though we did go the wrong way a couple of times, it was no more than usual, quite frankly!

There was a bit more confusion when we thought we had reached our campsite on Hemlock Lake 2, unable to find any more blue markers. Without any flat terrain or even a fire pit, we were skeptical, so we dropped our bags and continued exploring along the shoreline for a bit, finding the right site not five minutes later.

We reconnoitred a little more to see if we could find our way to Five Finger Rapids the next day, and it didn’t take long to find the blue markers we were seeking. Good enough. We’d come back to find them again the next day.

We went back for our packs, and I soon had camp set up while Marc got some food cooking over the fire. Afterwards, he threw a few casts from shore and caught us a snack.

We relaxed by the fire the rest of the evening, observing a lone loon glide silently on the lake’s surface.

The next day was windy, and colder than expected. I just felt like cuddling up with my book and Marc was happy casting for bass from shore. So we decided to make it an at-camp day before hiking along the French River to get back home later in the afternoon.

Since we were just hanging around, we had more leisure time than usual, so we decided to try making fire-cooked flatbread. We’d bought a hand-held toaster from Knives 4 U, which Marc had tried out at home on the element. Now we would see how it worked over the fire, on our new backpacking grill.

To go with our bread, we poached some fresh farm eggs — maybe for a little too long? No matter. It was delicious!

Dishes washed, packs loaded, dogs whining to gooooo, we finally left our campsite sometime after 6 p.m. to begin hiking along the French River on our return journey. We moved quickly now, recognising a lookout where we’d stopped on our way in, or a cool mushroom we had spotted before, but not stopping more than we had to.

Even before we reached our car, we started talking about taking another Papase Trail trip. Since it’s so close and convenient, and since the trail will be finished soon, we’re definitely coming back for more hiking along the French River.

We’ve even got a plan to incorporate the day hike into a French River paddling trip as a side trip. In mentioning that to Clayton, he also suggested a possible hike and paddle loop. Sweet — hiking along the French River, then paddling its waters!

Information on hiking along the French River at Dokis First Nation

For maps, fishing regulations, trail and camping permits, and directions, contact:

Clayton Dokis
Dokis First Nation Administration Office

To read trail descriptions, visit the Dokis First Nation Attractions page and scroll down to the bottom.