In spring when the runoff swells the rivers, the Montreal is one of the really fun ones to paddle. It flows out of Montreal Lake and heads west and north until it curves back towards Air Ronge where it empties into the lake there just south of the town.
This little river has up to Class II rapids but most of the route is fastwater riffles and Class I, which makes for a fun ride. There are sections of quiet paddling where the river valley widens and some grassy places along the bank where you can pull out and have lunch.
Some of the rapids require skill to navigate as you need to avoid boulders and shallow rock gardens, and there are sometimes sweepers (blown down trees that extend out over the water). For these reasons we recommend there be at least one experienced paddler in each boat, and your group should be a minimum of two boats in case a rescue is needed.
To get there, drive north on Highway 2 towards La Ronge until you get to the Montreal River Picnic Site. It will be on your left after you cross the bridge over the river. The take out point is about a 4-6 hour paddle (31km on the water) at the bridge where Highway 165 crosses the river. This secondary highway is gravel. You'll need to shuttle vehicles to the takeout so you have a way to get back.
You can either put in from the bridge on Highway 2 or from the picnic site, which has short trails down to the water. You can see Jeff in this photo checking out the fast water just downstream of the put in.
Water level fluctuates on this river and really affects how you will paddle it. The best time to do the Montreal is in spring (May - early June) when levels are highest, but it's always a good idea to check before you commit to the trip. When the water is high you can take a fiberglass boat down but when levels drop you may find yourself scraping rocks in many places.
Some of the staff did the Montreal on May long weekend this year. Water levels were very high and there wasn't much skill needed to navigate the rapids, but we did do a lot of bailing!
Near the end of your trip you'll have a great run of continuous rapids - there are some sections that go on for 2-3km! You will come out into some quieter flatwater which soon leads you to the bridge take-out.
This is a great little day trip and every time we do it we vow to do it again soon. If you're looking for something longer you can extend the trip by starting from Montreal Lake and continuing past the Highway #165 bridge.