Trip Reports

Lake Superior Trip Report 2017

Lake Superior Trip Report 2017

pictographsIn the midst of February snow storms, trip options get mulled over maps and cups of tea. With inspiration from Bill Mason’s 'Water Walker', and the McGuffin’s film about Algoma, Lake Superior and the Group of Seven, Dagmar and Dot hatched a plan for a canoe trip for July 2017. You don’t have to go far north to paddle through a stunning and challenging Canadian wilderness. Lake Superior beckoned.

The ‘draw’ was the beauty of the land and a do-able 2 week wilderness trip in July: 2 easy driving days to-from the destination, 10-day paddling distance (intermediate paddling -tripping level), as well as available shuttle services and options for earlier take outs in case of bad weather.


Pukaskwa Provincial Park on the north-east shore of Lake Superior is beautiful and wild with gorgeous camping spots on sand, pebbles, cobble beaches, beside islands, rivers or waterfalls, boreal forest and lots of mosquitoes. Lake Superior shoreline has stunning granite boulders, cliffs and lake views. Memorable moments: crystal clear water, turquoise bays, eagles, no fish, a mandatory freezing cold shower under Cascades Falls, a moose in our campsite at night. A day off at the Dog River was worth it. Some of us fished (no luck) and some hiked up to have a look at the awesome Dennison falls. 'Ca vaut la peine' to find surprises and beautiful places.


It is wilderness, isolated, and Lake Superior is a lethally cold 4 Celsius. There are sections of the coast where landing in a canoe or kayak would be difficult or impossible. Besides adequate skills, equipment, safety plans, provisions for wind bound days, paddlers need the willingness to travel when the ‘going is good’ and the wisdom to stay put when it isn’t. Dagmar`s In-Reach unit had access to weather forecasts which helped guide our plans per rising at 6:30 AM or… sleeping in til 7:30. An extra hour of calmer water makes a difference.

The lake decides if you paddle per wind, waves or fog. Paddling conditions can change quickly from calm to stormy. Superior lived up to its reputation - we had a range of weather: calm sunny days, rainy days, early morning dense fog, easy to pushy headwinds. The lake went from flat calm or easy long swells to big choppy waves (on the edge of our comfort zones), to dangerous reflecting waves off rough shorelines to wild wind and waves we absolutely weren’t going to paddle in.

Our daily paddling distance ranged from 15 – 36 Kilometres. On day 6, the lake offered us a calm weather paddling window so we opted for a long paddling day to get past the 5 km of cliffs and to reach a further, nicer camp site. We had sore arms and rear ends, but were glad to compete the extra distance!  Clear easy paddling was offered up for Day 9, while the weather forecast promised unsettled weather for day 10. The day dawned sunny and warm with enticing calm water on the big lake, so we decided to finish our trip 1 day early. It was easy paddling until the last 5 kms. The wind and waves rose swiftly from a gentle breeze and little wavelets to a very pushy following wind with 3 foot-and-rising rollers slopping at our gunnels. The grand finale for the day and the trip was a challenging surf landing. We were really (!) glad to land and haul our canoes up onto the beach. After setting up camp and supper we watched the crimson sunset on the crashing waves - much more fun to watch from shore, high and dry.

Meeting other travellers is fun: we met Kayakers from a Wisconsin YMCA girl`s camp, hikers from Montreal, 2 very interesting long distance paddlers from Australia, and some research biologists. It’s a small world: as we paddled south, Dot`s neighbours Becky and Reid were heading north with a crew in a voyageur canoe. We exchanged greetings, our boats bouncing up and down, side by side on the big choppy waves.

If you know where to look, there are signs of travellers and communities along this shoreline from the recent and long distant past. Clearings, log structures, chains and metal tools spoke of the `Depot` community from early 1900`s. Mysterious circular `pits`, stone structures and pictographs are signs of inhabitants from hundreds? thousands? of years ago.

To help guide us on our trip, we honour the people who lived and travelled here long ago and to respect the spirit of the great lake, we started and ended our trip with a sweet grass ceremony. After all, according to the Anishnaabe legends: Misshepezhieu (the Great Lynx, spirit of the lake) can bring storms by thrashing his tail. We were fortunate - Misshepezhieu smiled on our travel.

Our team: 4 RACCC members (Dot, Dagmar, Andrea and Fran) and 2 friends from past wilderness trips (Marie-Claire and Claudia). All team members were strong paddlers with extensive canoe tripping experience.  Amongst us there were 4 canoeing instructors (flatwater and whitewater), 3 with Advanced Wilderness First Aid and River Rescue training. It was fun to travel with thoughtful, compatible, strong team members with generous spirits….and good cooking skills! Alas, no fish.

Finally, we send our thanks and respect to the Anishnaabe people whose land we were traveling through.

Photos at bottom of trip report.

Trip info:
Driving: 1,198 Kms Ottawa to Marathon
Land Shuttle: from Michipicoten to Hattie Cove (3 hrs drive)
Paddling Distance: 170 kms from Hattie Cove to Michipicoten River (15 - 35 Kms per day, 1 day off)
10 Paddling days on the Lake (4 in the park and 6 on ‘crown land’)
Portages? None. (Unless you count moving the canoes daily well up on shore to protect them from powerful wind and waves.)

3 solid canoes: 16' and 17`Prospectors (2 whitewater canoes, 1 flatwater canoe)
Sturdy tents and tarps
Fire box: wood is plenty!  with backup: Dagmar’s 2 burner stove and Fran's alocohol stove.
Topo maps, (1 copy per canoe), 2 GPS’s, compasses

Communications and safety:
First Aid Kit
In-reach (with GPS, texting capabilities, access to weather forcasts)
Satellite phone (GPS and texting capabilities) ONLY for emergency use.
Guardian Angels (thanks to Peter and Judith for week #1 coverage and Larry for week #2 support)

Other tourist activities:
Tourist Train to the Algoma Canyon: lovely but would rather spend the day paddling to see the Agawa Pictographs
Agawa Pictographs (camp at Lake Superior Provincial Park) They are amazing. Take time to see them by land and by water (if the lake is calm) ! 

Helpful links:
Info page – includes a link to a trip planner

About Agawa Pictographs:


Our team: Fran, Marie-Claire, Andrea, Claudia, Dagmar, Dot at Hattie Cove, Pukaskwa Park.

Fran Marie Claire Andrea Claudia Dagmar Dot Edit Edit

Lake Superior Blue

lake superior blue Edit Edit

5 km of steep cliffs no landing spot - lucky calm water

5 km of steep cliffs no landing spot  lucky calm water Edit Edit

Andrea and Marie Claire on a calm day

Andrea and Marie Claire on a calm day Edit Edit

Dot and Fran giving arms and bums a rest on the long paddling day

Dot and Fran giving arms and bums a rest on the long paddling day Edit Edit

Unloading boats after a surf landing

unloading boats after a surf landing Edit Edit

A cobble beach camp site

a cobble beach camp site Edit Edit

Dagmar fishing at Dog River .... no luck

Dagmar fishing at Dog River  no luck Edit Edit

Foggy day at Dog River no paddling

foggy day at Dog River no paddling Edit Edit

Campsite at the Dog River

campsite at the Dog River Edit Edit

Lunch spot in paradise

lunch spot  in paradise Edit Edit

Claudia organizing to fish

Claudia orgnizing to fish Edit Edit