James Bay Road

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Start of the James Bay Road
Map of James Bay Road in Quebec

The James Bay Road (French: Route de la Baie James), officially the Route Billy-Diamond Highway, is a remote wilderness highway winding its way through the Canadian Shield in northwestern Quebec and reaches into the James Bay region. It starts in Matagami as an extension of Route 109 and ends at Radisson. The road is fully paved, well maintained, and plowed during the winter. It was originally constructed to carry loads of 300 tons, and has mostly gentle curves and hills with wide shoulders.[1] The road is maintained by the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government (formerly by the municipality of Baie-James). Connecting to other routes such as the Trans-Taiga Road and the Route du Nord, the highway draws tourists interested in reaching the remote wilderness surrounding James Bay, part of Hudson Bay.

On November 10, 2020, the James Bay Road was renamed in honour of Billy Diamond, former Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees and chief Cree negotiator of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.[2]

There is currently[when?] a proposal supported by the region's Cree communities to build a gravel extension some 250 kilometres (160 mi) further north to the twin communities on the Great Whale River - the Cree village of Whapmagoostui and the northern (primarily Inuit) village of Kuujjuarapik, in the Nunavik region.


Bridge over the Rupert River.

The James Bay Road was conceived as an access road for the hydroelectric projects developed in the James Bay region in the 1970s and onwards. Construction began in 1971 and was completed in October, 1974. Gravel branch routes have since been built from the highway, including four roads west to Cree villages on or near James Bay (the one to Chisasibi is paved for most of the way). The Trans-Taiga Road (French: Route Transtaïga) was built and reached Caniapiscau in 1979. The 406 kilometres (252 mi) long Route du Nord (North Road), which also is not a numbered route, connects from km 275 (measured from Matagami) southeast to near Chibougamau, Quebec.


Relais Routier at Kilometre 381

There are no services and development along the full length of the James Bay Road, except for a full-service station at 381 kilometres (237 mi) from Matagami. The station at Km 381 is operational 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and is complete with cafeteria and rudimentary lodging.

In view of the remote nature of this road, there is a registration office along the side of the road for travellers to register just a few kilometers north from Matagami. It is staffed 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This office also serves as a tourist office for all communities along or off the James Bay Road.

As further safety provisions, there are six roadside emergency telephones which connect with staff in the registration office.


Km Mi
0 0 Matagami, km 0 marker for James Bay Road
6 3.7 Checkpoint for registration office
135 83.9 Emergency telephone
201 125 Emergency telephone
232 144 Bridge crossing the Broadback River
237 147 Junction with road to Waskaganish, 102 km (63 mi) west
247 153 Emergency telephone
257 160 Bridge crossing the Rupert River
275 171 Junction with the North Road, highway through Nemaska (117 km (73 mi) east) to Chibougamau (440 km (270 mi) east)
301 187 Emergency telephone
351 218 Junction with road to Eastmain, 103 km (64 mi) west
381 236 Relais 381, 24-hr service station
395 245 Bridge crossing the Eastmain River
411 255 Bridge crossing the Opinaca River
444 276 Emergency telephone
504 313 Emergency telephone
518 322 Junction with road to Wemindji, 96 km (60 mi) west
544 338 Junction with Trans-Taiga Road, 582 km (362 mi) east to Brisay, and an additional rough 84 km (52 mi) suitable only for four-wheel drive vehicles, no services; the road ends approximately 160 km (99 mi) west from Labrador, near Schefferville, Quebec
589 366 La Grande Rivière Airport, serving Radisson, Quebec
600 373 Junction with road to Chisasibi, 90 km (56 mi) west
617 383 Junction with access road to Radisson, 5 km (3.1 mi)
620 385 End of road - Hydro-Québec controlled-access roads from here into Robert Bourassa Power Station.

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Driving the James Bay Road".
  2. ^ "Cree Nation Celebrates Renaming of the James Bay Highway" (Press release). Nemaska: Grand Council of the Crees. November 10, 2020. Retrieved November 11, 2020.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata