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The Beaches of Algoma

Updated: By Rob Stimpson

Mention a beach to most Canadians, they immediately think of some tropical paradise that has crashing surf, palm trees dancing in the wind, a daiquiri in hand and a glowing white sand shoreline. Some of us know of a few other beach paradises a little closer to home.  I am thinking of the beaches of Algoma along Lake Superior’s immense coastline. Places like Batchawana Bay, Agawa Bay or Old Woman Bay are a few but there are many you can only access by foot or boat.

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Photo Credit: Rob Stimpson

Have you ever thought about how these beaches came to be, how long it took nature to deposit the grains of sand and wear down the rocks to create these marvels of nature? The thousands of years it took to create them and continue to change. If you are a regular visitor to this wild coast, watch how the lake changes the look of the beaches and the river mouths on a yearly basis.

I am sure if you are a paddler, especially on Superior, you round a headland, there is a wilderness paradise staring back at you. A sand-covered oasis with a stand of pine for your tent, that just calls out for a stay. I have witnessed paddling days cut short because of this exact scenario.

Lake Superior Provincial Park boasts a few sand beaches. A 2-hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie is Agawa Bay, which probably mimics an ocean-like beach. It’s a favourite with many travellers who make the journey along the Trans Canada Highway. Easy access from the highway, with a campground, a visitor centre and close proximity for those just planning a day trip. Spend the day watching the waves or walking the beach and for the hardy soul, a swim. The shallow waters and westerly view allow the warming rays of the sun to keep the lake a little warmer than the average summer water temperatures of 9 C.

Photo Credit: Rob Stimpson

Another favourite is the beaches at the mouth of the Sand River and Katherine’s Cove just a little further north. First, take a short hike up the Sand River canyon; then cross the highway and follow the trail down to the lake. Unbroken horizons greet you as you make your way out to the lake. The call of the gulls will fill the air, and f the wind is doing what this lake is noted for, the waves will be breaking over the beach in an ocean-like fashion. Walking along this beach or any Superior beach grabs your senses, from the natural fragrance of this huge lake that permeates your nostrils to the visual array of this wild landscape.

The legendary Old Woman Bay, a little further north, is a place that leaves you gobsmacked. The towering cliffs stand at the entrance to the bay in the distance. The beach seems to go on forever with great stands of spruce and birch blanketing the hills. From a Canadian film perspective, the noted paddler, filmmaker and artist, Bill Mason filmed part of his Water Walker film on these shores.

If you are travelling south on Highway 17 and you start your descent of the hill towards Old Woman Bay, the cliffs of the bay look back up at you and create in my mind, one of Canada’s iconic views of the lake. I always thought, why not put a scenic lookout along the hill similar to the one overlooking Agawa Bay. One could then pull over to just take that view in.

Photo Credit: Rob Stimpson

Further north, where the Michipicoten River near Wawa, empties into the lake is another beach that is a few kilometres in length. You can access it by an old road that takes you down to Michipicoten Post Provincial Park. Another spot is at the Government Dock Beach, which is close to the mouth of the river but requires a canoe or kayak to get over to the beach.

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Photo Credit: Rob Stimpson

For the really adventurous, a canoe or kayak trip along the coast of Pukaskwa National Park. No roads in this part of Ontario, just wilderness and the huge expanse of an inland sea. A word of caution, unless you are backpacking the coastal hiking trail, a high level of outdoor skills is required to paddle the coastline. One of my favourite beaches in Pukaskwa is Oiseau Bay, a safe haven for the voyageurs to get off the lake when the winds started blowing. It is the same for today’s canoeists and kayakers. Go to Pukaskwa’s website for trip info.

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Photo Credit: Rob Stimpson

Algoma is a region of over 70,000 sq km and if you were to paddle the big lake from Sault Ste. Marie to Marathon, the distance is over 300 km. Have a look on Google Maps of the Superior coastline using the satellite view, to see how many sand-covered shores in that distance that is hidden from the well-travelled highways.

Plan a trip, pack the car, and make your way to Algoma; there is much to explore.

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About Rob Stimpson

Rob is an internationally published, award-winning photographer best known for capturing the wilds of the Canadian outdoors. In addition to teaching photography at Fleming College and doing workshops, Rob’s work can be seen on Ontario Parks, Ontario Tourism & Parks Canada web-based and print publications. With covid he is teaching and doing his talks over zoom as well his gallery is open with social distancing protocol.

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