Route de la Baie James


Driving the North Road

The North Road is 406 km (254 miles) long, and it is unpaved for its entire length.

There is only one gas station for the entire length of 406km, at Km 300. There are no other facilities whatsoever for the entire length of the road. 

Scenery: Generally the scenery is fairly level (some people will say it's downright boring). For most of the length it runs through forest and taiga: spruce and jack pine forest, bogs, rocks, and low hills. This is about all you'll see apart from birds and some wildlife, and the occasional cabin a short distance off the road. Make sure you stop and view the spectacular rapids of the Rupert River, at km 238.

The road is open year-round, however it gets VERY cold up here in the winter, so if you go in the winter, or even the fall or spring, be prepared for the cold. Carry a warm sleeping bag in your vehicle in case you break down. In the summer it can get just as hot as down south.

There are scary stories of people blowing all four tires along this road, and having to have new tires flown in. However, having driven the entire length of the road and back in an ordinary automobile and having no problems whatsoever, I offer the following tips to prevent flat tires and blowouts:

  • 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.
  • Observe the speed limit. This will enable you to better watch for and avoid these larger stones.
  • 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 still 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.

There are regular picnic and rest areas to stop and take a break. There is only one campground. You may instead to choose to camp in old gravel pits, which are plentiful and usually not all that ugly. Cell phones do not work here except at km 106 & other "top of the hill"  locations.

Although this is a modern gravel road, it is nevertheless a very remote road with little traffic. Please read the cautions below before traveling on this road.


  • This is a very remote area. Travel in a reliable and well-maintained vehicle. A breakdown could be very costly in terms of towing fees. And may place you in a truly serious situation in the winter. Traffic is very sparse even on the "main drag" - the James Bay Road - in the summer. The other roads have significantly less traffic.

  • Go to the Travel Information section and read everything there before going.

  • 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!

  • Fill up with fuel whenever possible. Opportunities to fuel up are sometimes quite a distance apart, or may be closed, particularly off the James Bay Road (although the service depot at Km 381 of the James Bay Road is open 24 hrs).

  • This is not a trip for children or families. There are basically no child-oriented activities or facilities. You'll likely be stuck with a carful of whiny & bored kids.

  • This is a very long road trip. You really do need to love driving to undertake it. It's even a long trip just to get to the start of the James Bay Road! See the Trip Planner page for an idea of the distances involved.

  • Cell phones do not work in this area. There are emergency phones located along the James Bay Road and Trans-Taiga Road.

  • It gets very cold in the winter (down to -40 degrees C). Carry appropriate emergency and survival equipment. You could be in very serious trouble if you break down or lose control and go off the road, if you're not prepared. Carry a warm sleeping bag in your vehicle in case you break down. See the Weather page.

  • Summer is bug time: mosquitoes and black flies are extremely plentiful. Read about them here.

  • Black bears live here.

  • The scenery is not spectacular. This is low, flat or gently undulating country. Don't expect the Rocky Mountains. The main natural attraction of this area is the remoteness and silence.

  • If you are traveling on a motorcycle or bicycle, please read "The James Bay Region on a Motorcycle or Bicycle"


Logging trucks: These trucks can be very dangerous! And when one of these huge trucks passes you, NEVER NEVER STOP your vehicle on the side of the road to wait for the dust to settle down. Keep going slow instead. Another of these trucks might be somewhere behind you ... At least one person got killed by this situation (1998).

Other traffic: Of the road is dry, expect a complete whiteout after a truck passes you. Slow down and pull to the right as far as you can safely go. This will help preserve your front windshield, as well as keep you out of the way if the oncoming driver does not pull over to their side of the road far enough. Generally speaking, the truckers tend to be very considerate of the other vehicles on the road. It's the occasional passenger vehicle and pickup truck being driven by a maniac that are the problem. Watch for graders that are continually working on the road.

Flat tires: The North Road is "a tire eater road"! If you drive something heavy like an SUV or a full-size pick-up truck, it is a must to have 6 ply tires. In summer, the road surface temperature can be quite high. This high temperature can literally chew up and destroy your tires. In about 75% of the cases of flat tires along here, the tire is not any good afterwards. If you have a flat tire on this road and there are logging trucks traveling up and down, try as much as possible to stop your vehicle for repairs on one of the numerous small side road entrances, out of the way, your tire is possibly kaput anyway. One person got injured in the summer of 2000 when a truck drove by while he was changing his flat tire. He was hit on the ribs by a ball sized rock that came from underneath the truck!

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