Today’s post comes from Joanie McGuffin (t-shirt, author, and Executive Director of Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy (LSWC)) and Holly Drew (Communications and Marketing Coordinator at LSWC).
For thousands of years, people paddled birch bark canoes along the shores of Lake Superior to get from one place to another. Travel and trade, hunt and fish; These were the activities of the historic Lake Superior Water Trail, now celebrated as part of The Great Trail by Trans Canada Trail.
It extends for 1,000 km along the northern shore of Lake Superior between the headwaters of the St. Marys River at Gros Cap Marina Park in Prince Township to Lorne Allard Fisherman’s Park in Thunder Bay.
A historic and extensive trail.
The Lake Superior Water Trail is a Great Lakes nature trail and connects 16 major access points and ten communities. These include the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nations community, Pukaskwa National Park’s Hattie Cove Visitor Centre, two lighthouses (Porphyry Island and Number 10 Shaganash), along with Batchawana Bay Provincial Park and Batchawana Bay Provincial Park. Lake Superior.
Batchawana Bay Provincial Park. Photo: Gary McGuffin
The trail also has numerous secondary access points. These include some on Crown Land, those within Ontario Parks, and the Lakehead Regional Conservation Authority harbors at Little Trout Bay and Silver Harbour.
A remarkable natural and cultural history.
The Lake Superior Water Trail makes up one-fifth of the Great Ontario Trail and is an important section of the international water trail surrounding the largest of the Great Lakes.
Spar Island. Photo: Gary McGuffin
The indigenous peoples of Lake Superior form deep cultural roots with their unique communities and landscapes. So while Mother Nature may have “built” the water trail with glacial meltwater 10,000 years ago, it’s the diverse geology, Arctic botany, and remarkable human history dating back millennia that makes it so notable.
Building those partnerships
In 2011, Trans Canada Trail approached Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy to collaborate on completing the trail connection for 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary..
Red Rock LSWC Working Group. Photo: Gary McGuffin
The LSWC and Trans Canada Trail brought together communities and partners to build accessible access points by installing infrastructure such as docks, restrooms, picnic tables, waste and recycling bins, and signage kiosks.
A cold and unforgiving lake
LSWC considers safety and training to be of utmost importance to water trail users.
Photo: Gary McGuffin
Lake Superior is vast, cold and unforgiving. PFDs should always be worn. Water trail safety information at LSWC kiosks and on the website should be followed.
The dream come true
“The idea of a water trail was not something new,” says Joanie McGuffin, Executive Director of the LSWC, “In fact, in the fall of 1989, after our canoe circumnavigation of Lake Superior in the summer, we were part of a small group who gathered on the shore of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin to discuss the dream of creating a large water trail that circles the entire circumference of Lake Superior. It would be a trail that would unite the shared histories of our nation and give voice to this environment “special freshwater.”
Cutting the ribbon on the Lake Superior Water Trail. Photo: Gary McGuffin
Provincial parks along the trail.
Ontario Parks participated in the LSWT by providing two main access points at Katherine Cove in Lake Superior Provincial Park and Batchawana Bay Provincial Park.
LSWT signage kiosk at Katherine Cove in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Photo: Gary McGuffin
Overall, Ontario Parks offers diverse experiences along the Lake Superior Water Trail. Warm waters and beaches at Batchawana Bay Provincial Park; gorgeous sandy beaches and campgrounds at Pancake Bay Provincial Park; pictographs, waterfalls, cliffs, wildlife and birds and the LSWC Gargantua Islands Reserve in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Lake Superior Provincial Park LSWC Gargantua Islands Reserve. Photo: Gary McGuffin
Beyond the northern shore, the trail connects to Michipicoten Provincial Park, which was the oldest fur trading post on Lake Superior. At Neys Provincial Park, the highlight of the water trail is a huge driftwood-covered beach, a great camping spot, and a landscape that inspired some of the Group of Seven’s most famous paintings.
Rainbow Falls Provincial Park’s Rossport Campground (further west near Rossport Village) is the gateway to a spectacular island archipelago. Porphyry Island Provincial Park is attached to one of the trail’s historic lighthouses, owned and operated by Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior, a non-governmental organization associated with the water trail access point.
Porphyry Island. Photo: Gary McGuffin
And of course, the famous Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, with the highest vertical cliffs in the province, is the iconic feature of the provincial park of the same name.
More than a trace
The Lake Superior Water Trail is much more than just a trail. It is a network of recreational, cultural and social opportunities to tell our unique stories in the largest expanse of freshwater on the planet.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Photo: Gary McGuffin
McGuffin points out the power of connecting a vast region with a trail: “We need look no further than trails like the Maine Island Water Trail, Cascadia Marine Trail, Hudson River Water Trail, and Northern Forest Canoe Trail to find excellent examples of water trails. “
Furthermore, there can be no more important voices to support the story of the Lake Superior Water Trail than those of the indigenous peoples of Lake Superior.
The plans continue
The LSWC plans to develop safe, accessible and inclusive water experiences for water trail users, whether they are paddlers or not.
Photo: Gary McGuffin
They continue to work with designated water trails around Lake Superior in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to achieve the dream of a fully connected Lake Superior that unites lake people with this iconic freshwater resource.
Learn more and see a map of the LSWT here!
Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy (LSWC) is a charitable land trust that brings together people and communities who love Lake Superior and want to protect it. The LSWC facilitated and oversaw the completion of the Lake Superior Water Trail (LSWT) with the Trans Canada Trail organization.