Today’s post comes from discovery specialist Dave Sproule.
It is a rugged landscape worn by time. A fractured piece of the Canadian Shield, with fault lines crossing the roots of ancient mountains for hundreds of kilometres. More than 2,500 lakes fill those faults and, at more than 600,000 hectares, it is almost as large as Algonquin Provincial Park.
Is it any wonder so many paddlers lose their hearts to Temagami?
Temagami lakes are surrounded by towering pine trees. Some of the white pines here are hundreds of years old, and many of the backcountry campsites are atop rocky outcrops surrounded by tall, straight red pines.
While Temagami has a long and historic logging heritage, the rugged nature of the landscape meant that loggers left behind many pockets of pine forests, which are now found within provincial parks and conservation reserves.
Lake Temagami is the center of the region. It is a huge and extensive lake, 45 km from north to south and 35 km from east to west, formed by long, narrow arms like spurs from its center. There are more than 1,200 islands dotting its surface.
Bear Island is in the center of the lake and is home to the Temagami First Nation. The ancestors of this nation were the first to walk the portages and paddle the waters here, after the glaciers melted and before the forests grew.
The town of Temagami hugs the shores of the northeast arm of the lake.
The town was founded in 1903 when the railroad was built to the north. A steamboat line began supplying lodges, cabins, and canoe camps on the lake: Keewaydin, the world’s oldest youth canoe camp, moved from New England to an island on the lake in 1898, after a canoe trip through the region.
Temagami quickly became a thriving center of activity for fishermen, canoeists and mine hunters, as well as Lands and Forests canoe rangers. The old portages also continued, attentive to the telltale smoke of the forest fires. Temagami Canoe Company, supplier of cedar canvas canoes to rangers and canoe campers, was established in 1929. Temagami still has several historic fire towers, including the one above Temagami Village on Caribou Mountain; This tower was recently rebuilt and the public can climb it for stunning views of the village, Lake Temagami, and the ancient pine trees of the White Bear Forest Conservation Reserve.
Temagami is also home to ten provincial parks:
- Five off-piste parks, the goal of many canoeists
- two non-operational parks that protect the ecological landscape
- two (mostly) camping parks with hot showers, laundry facilities, and electrical sites
Which park speaks to you?
Finlayson Point Provincial Park
Finlayson Point is located just south of the village of Temagami, sharing shoreline and part of the Lake Temagami Skyline Reserve, a protected ring of pine forest surrounding Lake Temagami.
Finlayson Point is a great base camp for exploring Temagami. Climb Caribou Mountain and the Fire Tower and breathe in the incredible view.
Visit the third weekend in July and enjoy the Temagami Canoe Festival, a celebration of canoeing, and the Deepwater Music Festival, both on the scenic Temagami Village boardwalk.
Visit the historic silver mining town of Cobalt, 45 minutes north of Temagami. This town is a National Historic Site due to its mining heritage. Visit the mining museum, historic buildings, and a tour of the historic Colonial Silver Mine. Members of the Group of Seven, including AY Jackson and Franklin Carmichael, painted the early 20th century mining town, capturing the austere industrial landscape.
White Bear Forest or Cliff Lake Conservation Reserves for hiking along steep cliffs and forests of northern maple and yellow birch and old-growth pines.
The park’s boat basin offers docking for boaters and anglers who want to take advantage of Finlayson Point’s location on picturesque, fish-filled Lake Temagami.
Marten River Provincial Park
The Marten River is the southern gate of Temagami.
The park was first established as a campground around 1925 on the “Ferguson Highway”, a northern settlement road linking North Bay and the mining town of Cobalt.
Located on the Marten River, the park is connected to a network of waterways that provide great opportunities for paddling, boating, and fishing. Nearby Temagami River Provincial Park is a great playground for canoeing and whitewater kayaking, perfect for day trips or backcountry adventures.
Marten River is home to “Winter Camp”, a recreation of the temporary logging camps that were common in Temagami during the horseback logging era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each year on the third weekend in July, the park holds Lumberjack Days, a celebration of those early days, with music, traditional food, and events that test the skills of visiting loggers.
Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park
The heart of this rugged natural park is the Lady Evelyn River, a waterfall-filled paradise for canoeists. Through transportation, lakes and rivers, the park connects to four surrounding river parks that provide canoeists with 600 km of paddling trips.
Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater, four connected river parks and a series of conservation reserves form the core of Ontario’s southernmost flyable canoe country.
A fly-in canoe trip is a bucket-list experience, but there are many routes that don’t require seaplane access.
Obabika River Provincial Park
The Obabika River and several other lakes form the core of this labyrinthine waterway park. It connects Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater to Lake Temagami and other waterways on the Temagami canoe route network.
The park’s most prominent feature is the Obabika Ancient Forest, a massive old-growth pine forest that may be the largest in Ontario. The trails wind through groves of towering trees hundreds of years old.
Makobe-Grays River Provincial Park
The Makobe River is a classic river of the Canadian Shield. Canoeists practice it during the spring to get high water so they can run as many rapids as possible before it gets “bony” in the summer, and transportation becomes a necessity. The river can be accessed from its headwater lakes at Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater. Many visitors arrive by seaplane and travel to the takeout in the town of Elk Lake.
Sturgeon River Provincial Park
The Sturgeon River forms the western boundary of Temagami Canoe Country, beginning at Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater, flowing south and joining Solace Provincial Park and the Obabika River. Whitewater enthusiasts enjoy six days of Class I and II rapids with the occasional Class III.
Consuelo Provincial Park
Solace is a beautiful chain of lakes that combine the scenic beauty of Lake Temagami with the remoteness of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater. Accessed from other parks or by seaplane, Solace is perfect for canoeists seeking solitude.