3 Parks to Paddle in Superior Country

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July 12th, 2021

Planning a canoe trip? The choices are many in Ontario. If you reside in Southern Ontario, I can almost bet you will look to the perennial favourites. No need to mention those; let’s set our sights further a field — Superior Country. Driving is required, and if you have the time, you will not be disappointed by some of these selections.

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico is one of my favourites. Tucked away next to the Boundary Waters, it is located in the northwest of Ontario, about 2 hours from Thunder Bay. This is a place that defines wilderness travel. There are no signs to tell you where to portage or camp, just points on a map. It is a landscape that was sculpted by the glaciers in the last ice age. A favourite starting point is French Lake, also the park entrance where you can get permits and check out the visitor centre.

Overnight trips into Pickerel Lake with its sand beaches, and beyond is an easy way to access the interior.  Paddle out of French Lake along the meandering Pickerel River that opens up into the Pickerel. The lake is big, dotted with islands and large stands of pine. Beautiful campsites abound, take your time to explore this slice of wilderness.

Nym Lake is another starting point further down the highway, but not in the park. This might require a car shuttle depending on what route you choose. Paddle across Nym, portage into Batchewaung Lake, which is part of Quetico.

From a Canadian Art perspective, the noted artist and explorer, Paul Kane, painted the French River Rapids here in mid 1800s.  The painting was originally thought to be at the French River that flows into Georgian Bay.

Go to Ontario Parks website for latest covid information as well as information about the park itself.

Wabakimi Provincial Park

Heading north to Wabakimi, a provincial park twice the size of Algonquin, billed as the canoeing mecca of Ontario. Wabakimi is a land of boreal forest, Precambrian rock, and a multitude of lakes and rivers. This is a paddlers dream; remote and wild. The Allanwater, Granite, Wabakimi and Smoothrock Lakes are classic Canadian Shield Lakes. Spruce and jack pine carpet the landscape, and if you like fish, there is world class pickerel fishing.

Budget can be a factor getting into the park. A fly in trip is a great way to start; within an hour you can be at Wabakimi Lake or any other lake of your choosing. Cutting down your cost for pick up, you can arrange to be picked up by car at Caribou Lake just outside of Armstrong.  Or take the train from Armstrong. There are 2 scheduled stops outside of Armstrong,  Allanwater Bridge and Flindt Landing.  With the opening of the province, we are now in stage 2, stage 3 in late July 2021, check Via’s schedule as times and scheduled train stops can change.

Pukaskwa National Park

You can’t talk paddling without including “Gitche Gumee” aka Lake Superior, one of  Ontario’s and Canada’s world class landscapes. Drive the highway, with the many vantage points to view this inland sea, or better yet paddle the coast to feel its power.  There is place called Pukaskwa, a National Park, just outside of Marathon. Get off the Trans Canada highway onto Highway 627, follow it into the park, around 12 km.

The best way to describe the coastal trip is a series of bays, islands, sand covered beaches, granite cliffs and pretty much uncrowded. Places like Willow River, Oiseau Bay, Cascade Falls  are all great camping spots with views of this in-land sea and its never ending horizons. Most like to kayak this body of water; some like to paddle open canoes. For the adventurous, put in at Hatties Cove and take about 10 – 12 days to end up at the Michipicoten River, a distance of about 160 km. There are a few variations to see this coast; hire a boat shuttle, paddle back to your vehicle or just head down the coast and turn around, retrace your route. And if you are not a paddler, the coastal hiking trail might be an option.

No matter which mode of transport you choose, if remote and wild is on your list of musts; this is the place to be.

Go to the Pukaskwa website for all the information to travel in the backcountry.

Ontario is truly a land of lakes and rivers. You could spend a life time paddling in Ontario and still only scratch the surface. Plan a trip north to Superior Country to experience this landscape.