Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
The mighty Missinaibi

If you love the Canadian outdoors, Missinaibi Provincial Park should definitely be on your bucket list!

the great lake

It begins at the height of the land that divides the Great Lakes basin from the Arctic basin, northeast of Lake Superior. The small lakes and streams do not travel very far before flowing into the great Missinaibi…

Rock shore with conifers on the side of a large lake with a whispering blue skyPhoto: Doug Hamilton

Lake Missinaibi is a long, seemingly endless stretch of lake surrounded by boreal forest. “Big Miss,” as locals and park staff call her, is very large, 40 km long, with another section, the Baltic Bay, 20 km.

The lake is “Y” or wishbone-shaped, due to massive faults in the Earth’s crust formed by moving continents millions (or even billions) of years ago. Due to this fault, some parts of the lake are up to 100 m deep.

Y-Shaped Lake Missinaibi Map

The wildlife

Despite its size, Lake Missinaibi easily fits within the Chapleau Crown Game Reserve, the largest game reserve in the world. Hunting and trapping are not allowed here. The reserve was created in 1925 to conserve fur-bearing animals, as the fur trade had greatly depleted populations throughout Ontario.

Wildlife viewing from Lake Missinaibi is good, with regular sightings of moose, bald eagles, ospreys, Canada lynx (on occasion), and black bears.

In fact, Missinaibi is bear country. Visitors should be diligent in keeping food away from animals. At the campsite, there are animal-proof storage lockers at each site. In the countryside, food should be hung from trees to keep it out of reach. Maintaining a clean campsite is key to avoiding unwanted contact with animals.

The camping

Barclay Bay Campground in Missinaibi Provincial Park is a small (35 sites, plus a group campsite), well-maintained, rustic and accessible by road campground.

The sites are located on the northeast shore of the large lake, about 80 km northwest of the town of Chapleau, so it’s best to stock up on supplies before heading to the park.

Image of the Missinaibi adventure map, unfolded

Barclay Bay has a jetty and extensive dock system capable of accommodating larger vessels, making it an ideal base for boating or fishing excursions on the lake.

Blue lake with boat moving away from the photographer, forest and gray sky in the background

There are also more than 20 backcountry campgrounds dotting the lake’s extensive shoreline. Each backcountry site has a fire pit, picnic table, and outhouse.

I’ve gone fishing’

Lake Missinaibi has excellent fishing opportunities for walleye and northern pike. Deep waters can also produce lake trout and whitefish early in the season or later in the summer with the right fishing gear.

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A guy in a red cap holding a pikeperch and his index finger, in a canoe

And the fish cleaning house at Barclay Bay Campground makes preparing your catch an easier task at the end of the day.


This was the route of travelers.

The Missinaibi River was an important fur trade link between Lake Superior and James/Hudson Bay for 200 years. The lake itself is large enough to paddle for several days (65 km long) and is also part of several longer canoe routes, including:

    • Small lake Missinaibi — paddling southwest from Barclay Bay Campground to Whitefish Falls, the Little Missinaibi River can be portaged and paddled to Little Missinaibi Lake, which is remote and accessible only by canoe or floatplane. The Little Missinaibi River has many rapids that can be challenging, so a fun alternative is to take the VIA Rail train to the Shumka siding, portage and paddle across the Little and Big Missinaibi lakes to the town of Missinabie, next to the railway (with a slightly different spelling). ), and return to the train
    • From Missinabie Village to Barclay Bay Campground — a three- to four-day paddle from Dog Lake, across the high land between the Great Lakes and the Arctic basins, through Crooked Lake and to Lake Missinaibi. It can be extended to the Peterbell railway stop, which is a couple of days more paddling away, with nice sets of rapids to run. This requires a vehicle transfer service.
    • Upper Missinaibi River to Barclay Bay — the starting point for an eight-day canoe trip along the upper Missinaibi River, with plenty of running rapids, picturesque waterfalls and rapids. Don’t worry: there’s still plenty of flat water to paddle around. Being in the Canadian Shield, the Missinaibi is what is known as a “swirl and fall” river. It contains long stretches of calm water, then falls through rapids or waterfalls, and then returns to calm water again. This route can also be accessed by train in Peterbell for a six-day trip north to the town of Mattice on Highway 11.

Fun things to do!

Cliff with conifers coming out of the lake

Some of the most popular things to enjoy at Lake Missinaibi include:

  • rowing — the lake has many coves, bays and small rivers that flow from the boreal forest surrounding the lake — keep an eye out for wildlife!
  • Hiking through the ancient forest — Reva Island is covered by an ancient pine forest that has been protected from fires on the mainland.
  • Learning about indigenous heritage — Fairy Point, in the central part of the lake, has one of the largest collections of indigenous rock paintings in Ontario. This is a powerful and sacred place, where water, rock and sky meet.
  • Knowing the history of the fur trade. — Missinaibi House was first built in 1777 by the Hudson’s Bay Company on the lake to trade with local indigenous trappers. The site was abandoned in the early 20th century and is now an open grassy area with mounds and hollows that were once trading post buildings. One of those buildings was a dairy… They brought cows by canoe!?
  • Relaxing on the beach — Barclay Bay has a beautiful uncrowded sandy beach near the campground, and there are many sandy coves and islands in the large lake.
  • Fishing — Lake Missinaibi offers anglers good walleye and pike fishing opportunities from a boat, canoe or kayak.
  • Study of the stars – At night, the stars are so bright and so numerous that you feel like you are in a snow globe. With no nearby towns to shed light, every cloudless night is ideal for stargazing, and the lake’s northern latitude provides the opportunity to observe the northern lights all summer long.
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Canoe with paddlers on a lake with a pink sky and forest silhouettes in the background

Reservation Tips

Barclay Bay Campground is open from early May to mid-September, and reservations are not required for car camping or backcountry sites.

There is a large group campground located right on the water. Campers can keep canoes, kayaks, and boats tied directly to their site.

Your group will have its own private bathroom. This site can be reserved by calling the park.

Here’s how to get your backcountry permit for Missinaibi Provincial Park:

  • Stop at the park’s checkpoint/store. at the main campsite at Lake Missinaibi upon arriving at the park; Open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Or they can be obtained through our self-service system (cash only) outside of office hours, at the main campsite.
  • Call our Chapleau office (705-864-3137) and request the permit before your departure
  • Get your permit from one of our supplier partners (below) who sell interior permits on behalf of the park

Planning your trip…


Maps are essential for planning your trip and navigating safely. Buy yours for:

  • order online
  • place orders by phone by calling the Chapleau MNRF office at 705-864-3137
  • visiting the Chapleau MNRF office in person
  • visiting the park shop at Barclay Bay campsite

Boat rental

Barclay Bay Campground has boat and motor packages available for daily or weekly rental, for use on Lake Missinaibi. Call ahead (1-705-864-3137) to reserve a boat and motor as they are in high demand.

Molded polyethylene recreational canoes and kayaks are also available in the park. These are for use in lakes only; They are not recommended for river trips. For river trips, please contact one of our outfitters (listed below).


Local providers that can help you with your trip include:

Plan your trip to Missinaibi today!