Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: August 2020
Lake Superior really is superior to all the other Great Lakes. So it makes sense that there is a provincial park named after it. Lake Superior Provincial Park is located along the eastern shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. It has a wide range of camping options from car camping on the beach to backcountry camping in the wilderness. It also offers a variety of trails that range in length from 1.5km to 65km that weave through the different habitats and landscapes in the park.
Day 1: Views from Above
We left Neys, where we spent the previous three days, at 12:45p.m and from there it’s just under a 3 hour drive to get to Lake Superior Provincial Park. The drive took longer than expected as there were major delays due to construction along Highway 17. We also stopped in Wawa to see the giant goose. There are a few signs here which highlight the history of Magpie River, theTrans Canada highway through this area, and how the town was named.
The first reference to the word wawa was made by early prospectors while searching for gold with the help of their local Ojibway guides. Wawa Creek was called wawank, which is the Ojibway word for “clear water springs”. This stream flowed out to a lake called wawagonk, which means “place of clear water”. This was then shortened by the European settlers to Wawa. Somewhere along the way wawa may have been mistranslated to wild goose instead of wewe, which means “snow goose”. This then resulted in the Wawa’s legendary Wawa Goose, which was built to symbolize the town’s name.
On our drive to the campground, we stopped to hike along the Nokomis Trail (5.0km, rated moderate). We parked at the Old Woman Bay day-use area and crossed the highway to get to the trailhead. The trail winds uphill through the boreal forest and features a number of scenic viewpoints over Lake Superior and the Old Woman River Valley.
We hiked counter-clockwise from the trailhead. The first part is relatively flat and involves walking along a pebbly path through the forest. The path then becomes noticeably steeper and it’s a steady climb up to the scenic lookouts.
When we returned to the parking lot, we walked down to the beach at Old Woman’s Bay and dipped our feet into the water. Unfortunately it was a little too cold for swimming, but it felt nice on our toes after a long day of hiking.
From there we checked into our site (#R47) at the Rabbit Blanket Campground. While our site wasn’t nearly as nice as when we visited in July (it was on a bit of a slope), it was pretty secluded and quiet. We then started a fire and made dinner. We went to bed reasonably early as we planned to get an early start the next morning.
Day 2: Getting an Early Start
We decided to set our alarm for 6:30a.m this morning. The weather forecast was calling for rain all afternoon, so we wanted to make the most of our day before the rain. As soon as we woke up, we packed up our tent and headed out to do some hiking.
We first hiked along Trapper’s Trail (1.5km, rated easy), which follows along the shore of Rustle Lake. The path is relatively flat and the trail includes two wooden viewing platforms and a floating boardwalk. Last time we hiked this trail we spotted a moose while crossing the boardwalk. We weren’t as lucky in terms wildlife viewing this time, but we still had the trail all to ourselves.
Afterwards we drove to the Agawa Rock Pictographs (0.5km, rated moderate). There’s a short, but steep path down to a rock ledge along the shore of Lake Superior where the pictographs can be viewed. Along the way there are a few signs that highlight the geology or the area, history of the Ojibwe people who lived here thousands of years ago, and some background information on the pictographs.
The rock ledge can be a bit slippery and it can only be accessed when the lake is calm. There is a chain in place to help shimmy across the first part of the ledge. There are also a few ropes from the ledge to help climb up in case you fall in the water. When we visited the pictographs earlier in the summer we felt rushed because there were other people on the ledge and we weren’t able to stay long to look at all the pictographs. This time we arrived at 8a.m and had the place all to ourselves.
The images on the Agawa Rocks are believed to be 150 to 400 years old and were used by the Ojibwe people to record their dreams and spirits with red ochre painting. The cliff wall features several images, including people in a canoe, familiar animals such as fish, moose and a bear, and non familiar animals such as the Mishipeshu, or the Great Lynx, which is the spirit of the water.
Afterwards we drove back north and hiked along the Orphan Lake Trail (8km, rated moderate). The trail winds through the forest and features three scenic lookouts. The first stretch is relatively flat. At the junction, the path splits off and forms a loop around Orphan Lake. This is where the terrain becomes more challenging. We hiked clockwise around the loop.
The trail then follows the shoreline of Orphan Lake before heading down to a pebble beach on Lake Superior. The path overlaps with the Coastal Trail for a few hundred metres, before heading back through the forest. The trail then follows the eastern shore of Orphan Lake. When we reached the junction, it’s a relatively short and easy walk back to the parking lot.
When we returned to our car we took a short snack break. We then drove south to hike along the Pinguisibi Trail (6.0km round trip, rated easy), which is the Ojibwe name for “river of fine white sand”. The trail follows along the river, which used to be an ancient canoe route the Ojibwe used for hunting, fishing and trapping. There are a few signs along the trail that provide more information on the history of the area when it was used by the Ojibwe. There are also lots of great opportunities to view the falls and rapids along the way.
The beginning part of the trail isn’t marked, but the path is pretty obvious. Mid-way through the path becomes signed with blue markers with a hiker symbol. The path continues to follow along the water, which eventually widens and becomes noticeably more calm and quiet. We turned around at the last waterfall, but the trail continues onward for another kilometre or so and ends near a portage for the Sand River.
After wrapping up our hike, we drove to the Agawa Bay Campground. We stopped at the visitor centre to pick up a Lake Superior Provincial Parks t-shirt and came across another “Moments of Algoma” interpretive sign, which explains how the Group of Seven visited the east boundary of the park before Lake Superior Provincial Park was created and painted the Canadian landscape.
We then found a vacant campsite to make a late breakfast / early lunch. We left the park just before 1:30p.m. Within minutes of leaving, it started to rain. According to the forecast, it was supposed to rain for the remainder of the afternoon, which is fine for us because it’s a 3 hour and 45 minute drive to get to our next destination: Mississagi Provincial Park.