Pigeon River Provincial Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: September 2021

Pigeon River Provincial Park is located along Lake Superior on the mouth of the Pigeon River at the Canada United States Border. It is part of the Voyageur Boundary Waters Canadian Heritage River that protects a system of lakes and rivers that run along the international border of Ontario and Minnesota. It is a day-use park that is open year-round and offers a range of hiking trails that provide countless opportunities to view the river, falls and surrounding area.

Given the weather situation yesterday, we didn’t bother with our campsite at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park and instead booked a last minute hotel in Thunder Bay to avoid the rain. We headed out first thing in the morning. It was overcast and chilly, but there were some blue skies poking out between the clouds. From Thunder Bay, it’s about a 40 minute drive to Pigeon River.

The park is located close to the United States border. When I entered it into Google Maps, it told me that we’d need to cross the border to get to the park, but that’s a lie. We instead parked at the Ontario Travel Information Centre, which is located just before the border crossing.

There’s a few trails that originate from the Ontario Travel Information Centre. We first hiked along the High Falls Trail (2.5km loop). From the Information Centre, we walked towards the park sign. The path branches off, we turned left and walked underneath a tunnel to get to the other side of the road and the High Falls Trail.

After a few hundred metres, the trail splits off again. We made a detour to hike along the Lookout Trail (1.2km one-way) as it is reputed to provide sweeping views of the surrounding area. The trail is predominantly uphill with a few steep sections. The trail then levels out and provides a series of scenic lookouts of Pigeon River and Lake Superior. The last lookout was easily the best and even had a bench for us to take a break.

The trail continues further to Middle Falls, but we turned around and walked back to the High Falls Trail. Once we reached the junction, it’s about 450m to the scenic lookout of the falls. There’s a viewing platform overlooking High Falls, which plunges nearly 30 metres into a steep gorge. From here we could see there was another viewing platform on the opposite side of the falls in Minnesota.

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a wooden slide to carry logs around the crest of High Falls and into the rock sluice, which channeled logs down into the Pigeon River and in Lake Superior. Remnants from the wooden slide and rock sluice are still visible from the viewing platform.

From here, the trail hugs the shore of the river. There’s even a few staircases to help with the climb back down.

The trail also passes a chimney, which seemed a bit out of place. There was a sign to indicate that it was built in the late 1930s with local rock and that this is all that remains of the resort lodge that once stood here.

Shortly after we reached another plaque that indicates that Pigeon River is part of the Boundary Waters Voyageur Canadian Heritage River. This river was once an important waterway during the fur trade and for transportation. From there, it’s a short stretch back to the trailhead. We crossed underneath the road through the tunnel and returned to our car to drink some water and eat a snack.

We then hiked along the Boardwalk Trail (350m, one-way). The trail leads across a boardwalk to a viewing platform of Lake Superior. The trail connects with the Finger Point Trail, but we turned around and walked back the way that we came as we had other parks to still visit for the day.

From here, it’s about a 45 minute drive to Kakabeka Falls where we planned to eat some lunch and check out some more water falls.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

57 thoughts on “Pigeon River Provincial Park

  1. Darlene says:

    Such gorgeous scenery. I was going to ask you how many parks there are in Ontario but I checked your progress pòst and learned there are over 330 provincial parks in Ontario. Wow!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape at Pigeon River is gorgeous with beautiful views of Lake Superior, the river and waterfalls. It’s incredible how many provincial parks there are in Ontario. About a third of them are operating parks, which means those parks typically offer things like camping, hiking trails, swimming, and other activities. The rest of the parks are not always maintained and some don’t offer any activities or facilities.

  2. kagould17 says:

    What a beautiful area Linda. Love the rugged rocks tumbled everywhere, the waterfalls and the forest viewpoints. So glad the weather cooperated for this visit. We got as close as a stop at Kakabeka Falls in 2018. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was our first day without rain during our Northern Ontario road trip and I’m glad we made the most of it. The hiking at Pigeon River was fantastic and all the trails were all well signed. The views just kept getting better and better. Thanks for reading. Linda

  3. Little Miss Traveller says:

    This looks a very scenic park Linda and it’s a lovely photo of you both taken on a much warmer day than we are experiencing now. Interesting to learn about how the logs were transported from there too.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. I’m glad we finally had nice weather during our road trip as the views of Pigeon River and surrounding area were outstanding. It’s pretty impressive to learn about the strategies people would use to transport logs over rapids and waterfalls. Logging back in the day seems like difficult and challenging work.

  4. Ab says:

    What a beautiful park and trail and day you and K spent together. Thank you for sharing it with us. It made me smile and recall the beauty of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay.

    I’ll have to add Pigeon River to my itinerary next time we head up there and remember not to cross to the US!

    The view of High Falls is awesome! And funny that you can see Minnesota from where you were.

    And that picture of you and K is wonderful. You seemed to have such a blast! I look forward to reading your Kakabeka Falls recap!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was finally nice to see some blue skies and sun while hiking. I’m glad we had such beautiful weather as the views of Lake Superior and Pigeon River were beautiful. It’s too bad that the borders were closed because of COVID because it looked like there were some great viewpoints of the river from the other side in Minnesota (no wonder Google Maps was trying to direct us there).

      We had such a great time at Kakabeka Falls as well. I’m glad we returned to Northern Ontario to explore more of the area around Thunder Bay.

  5. Rose says:

    It would’ve been fun to wave to you from the other side. The ‘North Shore Drive’ in Minnesota is the route along Superior, from about Duluth, MN to Grand Portage, MN. It is a gorgeous road to drive in the fall, or any time of year. 😊 Love to see your smiling faces.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Totally! It looked like there were some nice viewpoints along the other side of Pigeon River from Minnesota. It’s too bad that the borders were closed. It would be nice to return and do a road trip around the entire Lake Superior shoreline.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding. I’m glad I did some research beforehand and knew where to park. It would have been nice to venture across the border to check out the views from the other side of the river. Perhaps someday when (if?) this pandemic is over. The scenery is just gorgeous.

  6. alisendopf says:

    What a lovely – and RARE! – photo of you Linda ❤ So nice to see the people behind the words and photos.

    What a lovely park. I love the falls. Sigh…

    My question is, why is there a giant culvert on the path? Was this protecting something?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad we finally had nice weather as the hiking and views at Pigeon River were just outstanding. The culvert was used to safely cross underneath the road and get to the other side. There wasn’t much traffic when we visited, but since there’s a border crossing up ahead, perhaps in normal times it’s busier in the summer. It was a bit sketchy to walk through, but kind of neat since we don’t see those very often.

      • alisendopf says:

        Ah, that makes sense for the culvert. What a cool thing to be able to walk through one. We have giant culverts for the animals to cross under the TransCanada in Banff, but I’ve never been inside one.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Alberta does have an impressive amount of bridges and tunnels for the wildlife to safely cross over the road. This culvert was surprisingly pretty long and was an interesting way to reach the trailhead. It also made for a good excuse to take a picture (not that I need any encouragement with).

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        One of the reasons I love hiking is that you never really know what to expect or what you’ll find on the trail, including something so simple as a culvert. Enjoy the rest of the week and happy hiking. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The landscape in this area is simply stunning. We didn’t have enough time to make it down here last summer, so I’m glad we returned as it was so worth the drive. The hiking here was even better with such beautiful weather. Finally, no rain!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I never really know what to expect with day-use parks, but this one was fantastic. The trails are all well-signed and easy to follow. There’s actually another waterfall along the river, but we didn’t have enough time to check it out. You should definitely add this one to your waterfall list.

  7. John says:

    This is a very beautiful park, I love the views of Lake Superior! And it’s right on our border too, it’s great to have such friendly neighbors! Or, neighbours! 🇨🇦

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Lake Superior is gorgeous. It’s too bad that the borders were still closed when we visited as it would have been neat to check out the various viewpoints on the other side of the river. I’d love to take a road trip along the entire Lake Superior shoreline and spend more time in Michigan and Minnesota.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The hiking trails at Pigeon River were wonderful. I’m so glad we had such beautiful weather to enjoy the nice views. The culvert was used to cross underneath the road. The border crossing is up ahead so I imagine this road was typically busy during the summer before pre-COVID times.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For some reason our Google Maps really wanted us to cross the border. There’s another park located on the other side of the Pigeon River in Minnesota but it has an entirely different name. Who knows, maybe the viewpoints there are better. This is why I usually map everything out beforehand as our GPS isn’t always the most reliable.

      • Third Culture Kid says:

        Yeah, GPS still has its problems. One time when I was taking Uber to the hospital to visit my Mum when she was sick back in October, the driver’s GPS gave out and he needed me to direct him. I had only been to the hospital a couple of times before, but I tried not to panic about it and it did work out. Still, it was a weird experience

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Good for you for staying calm! I would be completely useless without my GPS when it comes to navigation. That’s always one thing I’ve struggled with and should probably work on, just in case.

      • Third Culture Kid says:

        I do wonder how things have changed now that GPS is more popular. I sometimes find geography hard to understand too. It took me so long to figure out where things were in the UK, especially. Even now, I still have problems

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Usually when I’m trip planning I start with creating a Google Maps for that area and will map everything out. That helps me figure out where everything is and how best to organize each day. That’s worked wonders for me when it comes to geography and having a sense of where everything is. I always find navigating around big cities the worst though.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Oh I know. For the trails that don’t show up on Google Maps I try to find the latitude and longitude and enter that into Google Maps instead. It can be very time consuming, but I’d rather put in the effort beforehand because there’s nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception and trying to figure out where something is!

  8. salsaworldtraveler says:

    Great sights and trails. The trails in these parks seem to be just the right length for a pleasant jaunt through nature. On a somber note, the chimney reminded me of Auschwitz. Chimneys are all that remains of scores of wooden barracks used to house prisoners before execution. A chilling sight.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pigeon River is a lovely little day-use park with a nice variety of trails and no shortages of beautiful views. Some of the trails overlap and connect so it becomes a bit of a choose your own adventure depending on how much time you want to spend hiking. I can see why the remnants of the chimney would bring back chilling memories. It seemed very out of place along the trail and I’m glad there was an interpretive sign to help explain its history and how it got there.

  9. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what a lovely park to explore – the views are stunning and so is the sunlit trail waving through the woods and the magnificent waterfall. I am glad to see that you included a photo of you two, too, Linda – it’s always nice to see people behind the blog posts! Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. I’m so glad we finally had nice weather to enjoy the trails and scenery. There were lots of lovely viewpoints of the river, falls and surrounding area. After all the rain we received during the first few days of our road trip, the blue skies and sun were exactly what we needed to boost our spirits. Enjoy the rest of your week. Take care. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The scenery at this park was just outstanding. I’m glad we had such beautiful weather to spend time outdoors and just enjoy the nice views around us. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This is definitely one of the most impressive waterfalls we’ve seen in Ontario. It was a beautiful day to go hiking and for soaking in the nice views. This was our first day without rain during our road trip and I’m glad we made the most of it.

  10. wetanddustyroads says:

    This is now a park with some stunning views! And to see this all in sunny weather – a definite bonus! Oh yes, and like the others have mentioned here … great to see a photo of you guys 😊.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we had such beautiful weather (and no rain!!) to enjoy the lovely views of the river, falls and surrounding area. It was the perfect day to go hiking. It’s funny how the weather can make such a difference in terms of our moods.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery was simply stunning. We had a bit of a rainy start to our road trip, but I’m glad we finally had clear skies to enjoy the lovely views of Lake Superior and Pigeon River. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

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