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Canoeing in Algoma

A Taste of Lake Superior

Updated: By James Smedley

In a region so inundated with water, a list of places where we can slide our canoe into hospitable waters would be long indeed. One area worth focusing on occupies a broad area of the northern shore of the world’s largest lake, where long swaths of sand and wooded shorelines extend a welcoming embrace to the gentle craft. The canoe is well-suited to this area. It can be carried on our shoulders from lake to lake and carries us across the water under our own power in a quiet, harmonious and tranquil manner; the perfect vessel for exploring Algoma Country.

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Lake Superior

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Whole books have been written about paddling Superior but the 80-kilometre-long coastline along Lake Superior Provincial Park (LSPP) is a spectacular example. Today’s paddlers experience a remote shoreline where little has changed since the 36-foot birch bark Voyager canoes of the fur trade plied the clear and cold waters hundreds of years ago.

Expansive beaches, varying from fine brown sand to surf-pounded cobble, stretch between wave-worn granite and quartz-veined headlands. Clusters of islands and secluded coves and inlets offer some protected paddling amongst sculpted rock formations but much of the coastline is exposed to the open lake.

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Anyone travelling Lake Superior must appreciate her waters as a force to be reckoned with. There are many large vessels resting in her icy depths and the canoe is no match for Superior’s wrath. Fortunately, small craft like canoes and kayaks can be pulled from the water in case of rough weather and multi-day paddlers of the coast build in extra days in case they are required to wait out a storm. Keep in mind that there are long sections of steep and rocky shoreline with no place to safely pull our craft out of the water in rough weather. Even on day trips, it’s important to study our route and keep potential escape habitat in mind.

From mid-May into early July is the most likely time to experience calm weather on the Big Lake. Access points include the sand beaches of Old Woman Bay and Agawa Bays as well as Gargantua Harbour.

Mijinemungshing Lake

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With long arms and deep inlets stretching in all directions, “Mijin” is the largest inland lake in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Enveloped by rolling hills of white pine permanently bent against the prevailing wind, Mijin is representative of many of the lakes in the park’s interior. Her tea-stained waters hold precious reserves of native lake trout and brook trout, their exquisite beauty reflective of surrounding lands and waters. Plenty of campsites around the lake provide options for multi-day trips where several days of paddling will never take us past the same shoreline twice.

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Inland Lakes of Lake Superior Park

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In addition to Mijin, other large inland lakes in the park include Gamitigama and Old Woman Lakes which are connected by portage trail to a number of smaller lakes cradled within this extremely rugged terrain. There is a vast network of canoe routes providing options for anything from day paddles to extended excursions of several weeks. With cedar-lined shorelines erupting into hardwood hills of birch and sugar maple, easily accessible inland waters are every bit as stunning as LSPP’s more remote waters and provide rewarding experiences to novice day paddlers as well as expert canoe trippers.

In contrast to the awe-inspiring power of Lake Superior, we are unlikely to encounter conditions that are not navigable. Even on larger interior lakes, there is always a lee shore, or waters protected by islands and bays, where we can find calm water and tranquil paddling. With paddling possibilities ranging from tame to tumultuous, the canoe is the perfect vessel from which to get a taste of Lake Superior in Algoma Country.

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About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions - more than 400 written pieces and close to 1,000 images - to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines and newspapers have earned him over 40 National and International awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is Travel Editor at Ontario OUT OF DOORS Magazine. James has fly fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.

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