Great Whale River

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Great Whale River
Grande rivière de la Baleine
Country Canada
Province Quebec
Region Nunavik
Source Lake Saint-Luson
 - elevation 500 m (1,640 ft)
 - coordinates 54°49′30″N 70°32′17″W / 54.82500°N 70.53806°W / 54.82500; -70.53806
Mouth Hudson Bay
 - location Kuujjuarapik / Whapmagoostui
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 55°15′59″N 77°47′23″W / 55.26639°N 77.78972°W / 55.26639; -77.78972Coordinates: 55°15′59″N 77°47′23″W / 55.26639°N 77.78972°W / 55.26639; -77.78972
Length 724 km (450 mi) [1]
Basin 42,700 km2 (16,500 sq mi) [1]
 - average 680 m3/s (24,000 cu ft/s) [1]
Great Whale map.png
Great Whale River basin in yellow

The Great Whale River (French: Grande rivière de la Baleine) is a river in Nunavik, Quebec, Canada. It flows from Lac Saint-Luson through Lac Bienville west to Hudson Bay. While lower section of the river (after Lac Bienville) has very powerful current, with many waterfalls (up to 15 metres (49 ft) or 20 metres (66 ft) in height) and rapids, upper section consists of series of lakes interconnected by steep rapids and ledges.

Great Whale River has also the branch originating from Caniapiscau Reservoir. For canoeists, this is the easiest access (bridge on Trans-Taiga Road at Lac Montausier 54°43′53.41″N 70°11′45.24″W / 54.7315028°N 70.1959000°W / 54.7315028; -70.1959000).

Both the northern village of Kuujjuarapik, whose inhabitants are mostly Inuit, and the Cree village of Whapmagoostui are situated at the mouth of the river, near the site of the former RCAF Station Great Whale River. The villages were formerly known collectively as "Great Whale River" and "Poste-de-la-Baleine."

The portion between Lake Bienville and the mouth of the Coats River has also been called Abchigamich River, but this name was dropped in 1946 by the Commission de géographie du Québec. Also, the name has often been wrongly translated into French as Rivière de la Grande Baleine (not until 1962 did the Commission de géographie du Québec officially adopt the current Grande rivière de la Baleine).[2]


A preliminary camp on the Great Whale River of the Révillon Frères company, 1922

The Great Whale River was a place favored by the Cree and Inuit for hunting beluga long before the arrival of Europeans. Even though both were nomadic, the mouth of the river was often an encampment site and served as unofficial border.

The name of the river was recorded in 1744 in the logbooks of Hudson's Bay Company employees Thomas Mitchell and John Longland, while exploring the bay's coast. The entry for July 25 made the first mention of the "Great White Whail [sic] River". It may have come from the Cree Whapmagoostui, meaning River of the Whale, and referring to the hunting of white whale or beluga there.[2]

In the early 1970s, the state-owned power utility Hydro-Québec planned to construct three hydroelectric power stations on the Great Whale River as a part of the James Bay Project.[3] Although detailed planning for the project was only begun in 1986, opposition from Crees, Inuit, environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth and other activists led the Premier of Quebec, Jacques Parizeau, to announce in November 1994, that the project was suspended indefinitely. However, the project may still be revived in the future.

List of lakes on the upper section[edit]

Lac Saint-Luson
Lac Girauday
Lac Lamberville
Lac Gournay
Lac Prieur
Lac Cognac
Lac Roman
Lac Poncy
Lac Molleville
Lac Chastenay
Lac Turreau
Lac Naudin
Lac Raguideau
Lac Bourgtalon
Lac Bouvante
Lac Novereau
Lac Decoigne
Lac Jacquemont
Lac Delaroche
Lac Sanchagrin
Lac Danneville
Lac Sablons
Lac Maravat
Lac Ducasse
Lac Laurac
Lac Chastenet
Lac Magne
Lac Maurel
Lac Louet
Lac Wasatimis
Lac Bienville
Lac Paimpoint

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Atlas of Canada Archived 2007-04-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b "Grande rivière de la Baleine" (in French). Commission de toponymie du Québec. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  3. ^ James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, ch. 8.1.3, pp. 114-115.

Further reading[edit]

  • Honigmann, John Joseph. Social Networks in Great Whale River; Notes on an Eskimo, Montagnais-Naskapi, and Euro-Canadian Community. [Ottawa]: Dept. of Northern Affairs and National Resources, 1962.
  • Johnson, William D. An Exploratory Study of Ethnic Relations at Great Whale River. Ottawa, Canada: Northern Co-ordination and Research Centre, Dept. of Northern Affairs and National Resources, 1962.
  • Masty, David, Sr. 1991. "Traditional Use of Fish and Other Resources of the Great Whale River Region". Northeast Indian Quarterly. 8, no. 4: 12-14.
  • Wills, Richard H. Conflicting Perceptions Western Economics and the Great Whale River Cree. [Canada?]: Tutorial Press, 1984. ISBN 0-9613076-6-8

External links[edit]