Quebec Route 389 is in eastern Quebec. It runs north from Baie-Comeau to Fermont in Caniapiscau, Quebec, continuing as the Trans-Labrador Highway through Labrador City. Route 389 (R-389) is a challenging/fun road to drive. The road alternates between sections of asphalt and gravel. In places it is narrow and twisty. There are few services. You often have to share the road with lumber trucks that travel quickly when they are heading north empty.
The longest secondary road in Quebec, it passes the Manicouagan Reservoir and large hydro-electric dams along its way to some very remote mining communities. This road passes through Manicouagan (in unorganized territory of Rivière-aux-Outardes) and Caniapiscau (unorganized territory of Rivière-Mouchalagane).
It begins at Route 138 in Baie-Comeau, which is connected to the rest of the Canadian highway network through Quebec City. It travels 567 km (352 mi) north the turn off for Fermont (4 km (2.5 mi) south of the highway), and then another 6 km (3.7 mi) to the border between Quebec and Labrador, where it becomes Highway 500 (part of the Trans-Labrador Highway). The Trans-Labrador continues through Labrador City, Goose Bay and Forteau, returning to Québec 1125 km later at Blanc-Sablon, the easternmost point in the province.
Some drivers may find it a challenging and demanding drive, even when weather is good and roads are dry. Experienced gravel drivers will find it fun. The gravel portions are well signed, with warnings for every significant corner. It is a popular motorcycle trip in the summer. RVs and travel trailers can manage this route if experienced and adequately prepared. Close attention is constantly required, and in places the scenery is distractingly beautiful. Including stops for fuel, a brief stop at MANIC-5, and supper at La Pourvoirie Relais Gabriel, it will take 9 hours in good conditions.
A comparable western Canadian road for driving conditions and length is Alberta Highway 40/Forestry Trunk Road between Lundbreck and Nordegg.
The road is unpaved in parts, and there are few gas stations en route. Make sure that your vehicle is in good working order, and that you have a spare tire and the necessary tools. Gravel highways can be hard on vehicles and tires. There's no mobile telephone signal on most of the route (a satellite telephone may work) and roadside assistance is expensive in such a remote location if it can be had at all.
Bring food and water: the water you will find along the way may not be potable. Be sure to keep your gas tank filled. Motorists continuing to the Trans-Labrador (where there's a 410-km gap between stations at one point) often carry a spare can of fuel.
Prepare yourself with music or other media to keep you focused for the long hours of isolation along this route.
If you're travelling in winter, check the road condition updates provided by the Quebec Ministry of Transportation. Make sure that you have winter tires on your vehicle (not so-called all-season/all-year tires: it is illegal to drive a Quebec-plated car in Quebec in the winter if it does not have winter tires), and have a winter emergency kit with you.
There are flights to Baie-Comeau Airport from Montreal and Quebec City. Hire car firms may refuse to allow their vehicles on gravel highways.
Section 1: Baie-Comeau to Manic 5 (213 km)
- This road serves a string of massive hydroelectric generating stations (Manic 2, Manic 3, Manic 5) operated by Hydro-Québec. "Manic" is an abbreviation of "Manicouagan", not a reference to the level of activity. Hydro-Québec is owned by the provincial government. From June 24-Aug 31, Manic 2 and 5 offer a few free scheduled public tours daily (en français, tours in English may be requested in advance for groups of 10 or more). Allow 1½ to 2 hours. Reservations required.
- There are a lot of logging trucks along this stretch. Travelling north empty, they can and do go really fast. For your safety, you should pull over where you can to let them pass.
- As of June 2023, the road was in good shape. It has many sharp turns and with a lot of climbs and descents. Long sections are easily driveable at 110 km/h. There are many corners posted at 65 - 70 km/h, but those warnings seem to be randomly distributed. They are usually OK at warning speed + 10 km/h. Extensive construction is underway to improve this section
- If the warning is 25 km/h, usually accompanied by red directional arrows, brake and obey. Those corners are tight.
Public or emergency phones: at km 23, 52, 95, 165 and 203
km 21 - Manic-2
- 1 Jean-Lesage Dam and Manic 2 Generating Station, toll-free: . June 24–August 31: Daily tours in French: 09:00, 11:00, 13:30 and 15:30. Reservations required. 1.5-hour tour of the hydro-electric plant. Jean Lesage was premier of Quebec from 1960-1966.
- 1 Le repos du passant, Route 389 km 23, ☏ . Motel. Restaurant open M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa 09:00-17:00.
- Camping Manic-2, Route 389 km 23, ☏ , fax: . Seasonal camping, Jun-Sep. $34-45/night plus tax.
km 94 - Manic-3
2 Manic-3: There is a gas station, motel, restaurant (open 05:00-20:00), convenience store, and camping at Relais Manic-Outardes.
- 1 Relais Manic-Outardes, ☏ . Restaurant, convenience store, beer, fuel station, rooms, trailers and caravan park with RV hookups.
km 211 - Manic-5
3 Manic-5: There is a gas station, motel, restaurant (open 04:30-20:00), and convenience store at Motel de l'Énergie. The fuel station is the last for 104 km.
- Daniel-Johnson Dam and Manic 5 Generating Station, toll-free: . June 24–August 31: daily tours in French: 09:00, 11:00, 13:30 and 15:30. Reservations required. Two-hour tour of the hydro-electric plant. Daniel Johnson Sr. was premier of Quebec from 1966-68.
- 2 Motel de l'Énergie, ☏ , toll-free: . 80-seat restaurant (04:30-20:00) with four daily specials and wine list, or order à la carte. Wi-fi, satellite TV in motel. Refrigerators in 24 of the 48 motel rooms (at higher cost). Convenience store with hats, sweaters, clothing, coffee mugs and placemats en 07:00-23:00. Fuel is much more expensive than in Baie-Comeau. Motel rooms with private bath: $115-135 single, $125-145 double. Youth hostel with shared bath: $84 single, $96 double.
Section 2: Manic-5 to Relais Gabriel (104 km)
Gravel road in fair condition, somewhat narrow and winding. Approximate driving time of 1 hr 30 min; speed limit: 70 km/h.
In June 2023, it was hard-packed gravel in fair condition with a thin layer of small gravel on top. Depending on your vehicle, you can push the speed to 85-90 km/h with constant vigilance. Moderate washboarding. Every significant corner is signed.
There is a restaurant, motel, convenience store (05:00-21:00) and gas station (24 hr) at La pourvoirie Relais Gabriel. The gas station is open but the food offerings are minimal. This is the last gas station until Fermont. The business has a For Sale sign displayed.
- 4 La pourvoirie Relais Gabriel, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Fishing supplies and services, boat rentals available. Seven-room lodge (two beds per room, with a TV); shared bath. Chalets, unserviced campsite, mobile homes for workers. Double room with sink/shared bath $200+tax.
- Great little restaurant, rough and bare-bones, but congenial and cheerful. Good food.
Public or emergency phones: at km 272
Section 3: Relais-Gabriel to Gagnon (77 km)
Paved road in good condition, easy to drive up to 110 km/h. Approximate driving time of 1 hr; speed limit: 90 km/h.
- There is no gas station until Fermont.
- At km 336, a 2-km gravel road takes you to 1 Station Uapishka. There is a sign on the road that is visible only from northbound direction. Just before reaching this point, there is a small parking area on the east side of the 389 that leads to a bivouac area for hikers doing multi-day trips through the mountains and also to a display of artwork in the forest that is worth the stop.
- 3 Station Uapishka, km 336, route 389, ☏ , email@example.com. Accommodation in camps, chalets or dormitories and catering near the Groulx Mountains and the Manicouagan crater. Scientific facilities for research and studies of the northern environment. Organized outdoor activities such as kayaking or canoeing on the crater, hiking and expedition in the Groulx Mountains, abseiling, archery, snowmobiling and zodiac excursion. Vast wilderness to explore.
- At km 391, you come across the ghost town of 5 Gagnon. It was closed and largely dismantled in 1985 by the mining company that owned it. There are no services here. All that remains are the curbs and centre island. There is a rest area and 500 m further north there is a pullout with a flag and plaques about the townsite.
Section 4: Gagnon to Fire Lake (101 km)
Paved road. Fair to good condition. Approximate driving time of 1 hr 15 min; speed limit: 90 km/h.
- As of June 2023, this section of the road was in fair to good condition. Construction crews are resurfacing the pavement in areas. There are a number of patched frost-heaves.
- The iron ore mine was closed in 1984, as was the hamlet of Fire Lake a year later. Everything has been dismantled except for two massive silos. ArcelorMittal continues to mine the seam further north at Mount Wright.
Section 5: Fire Lake to Mount Wright (52 km)
Gravel road, fair condition, narrow and twisted. Approximate driving time of 1 hr; speed limit: 70 km/h.
- There is no gas station until Fermont.
- The road crosses the railway nine times in this section. This is an active railway, and there are crossing signals but no barriers - you are responsible for ensuring that you can cross safely. Slow to a crawl and carefully assess each crossing. In June 2023, the crossings were smooth.
- In June 2023, the condition could be described as fair with some minor washboarding.
Section 6: Mount Wright to Fermont (17 km)
Paved road in good condition. Approximate driving time of 10 min; speed limit: 90 km/h.
- There is no fuel station until 2 Fermont (population 2874), a small community established near the Labrador border to house workers for the Mont Wright Mine.
- See the Fermont article for listings of accommodation, and restaurants. Fermont has a Métro grocery store. It is somewhat famous for the 1-km wind wall, a housing and commercial structure that is easily visible when you enter the city.
Section 7: Fermont to Labrador City (18 km)
Paved road, in good condition. Approximate driving time of 20 min; speed limit: 90 km/h.
- There are no gas stations between Fermont and Labrador City.
km 575/km 5
- Duley Lake Family Park - inexpensive camping sites near Long Lake or along Walsh River with washrooms, showers, dumping station, but few other services. Its 79 sites can fill up with seasonal residents. ☏ .
km 585/km 15
The northbound route is used by logging trucks returning empty. They can and do travel very fast. For your safety, pull to the side where it is safe to do so, to let them pass. If you're travelling in winter, check the road condition updates provided by the Quebec Ministry of Transportation. Make sure that you have winter tires on your vehicle (not so-called all-season tires), and have a winter emergency kit with you.
Mobile telephones will only work close to Baie-Comeau and Fermont; elsewhere, there is no signal.
- Télécommunications de l’Est (TdE), Centre Manicouagan, 600 Laflèche Blvd., Baie-Comeau, ☏ , toll-free: . M-W 09:30-17:30; Th F 09:30-21:00; Sa 09:00-17:00; Su 12:00-17:00. Offers satellite services through Iridium (telephone and text messaging), and Globalstar (telephone, text, Internet access) and sells their handsets.
- Rivière-aux-Outardes (Unorganized territory)
- Labrador City and the Trans-Labrador Highway