Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: September 2021
Lake Superior Provincial Park is one of the oldest and largest provincial parks in Ontario. It is located along the eastern shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. Lake Superior offers a variety of recreational activities including canoeing, swimming and hiking. It also provides a few different options for car camping and backcountry camping.
Day 1: Beaches
We approached Lake Superior Provincial Park from Wawa. Naturally we stopped in Wawa to see the giant goose. It’s located right off the highway and isn’t hard to miss. There are a few signs here which highlight the history of Magpie River, the Trans-Canada highway that runs through the 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 Ojibway 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.
We then made one other detour to Sandy Beach Eco-Interpretive Park to find a Moments of Algoma art installation. This required driving down some sketchy gravel road, but it was worth it. From the parking lot there’s a short boardwalk that leads to a beautiful sandy beach. It was super windy and the water wavy, but the scenery looked incredible.
In 1918, Algoma became a place of inspiration for the Group of Seven. One of the members, A.Y. Jackson co-owned a cottage here on Sandy Beach from 1955 until he died in 1974. The painting featured in this Moments of Algoma installation shows a scene that is at the end of Sandy Beach in a tiny cove.
By the time we passed the Lake Superior Provincial Park entrance sign, it was just after 6p.m. We planned to spend the next two nights at the Agawa Bay Campground, which is located on the other side of the park, so we still had some driving to do. But that didn’t prevent us from making a couple of stops along the way since the weather was fabulous.
We first stopped at Old Woman Bay to check out one of the three beaches in the park. Legend has it that the face of an old woman among the towering cliffs looks out over the bay.
We then stopped at Katherine Cove, another beach sandy beach located within the park that contains a Moments of Algoma installation. The cove is sheltered by the Lizard Islands and is reputed to have warm and shallow waters.
By the time we arrived at the Park Office at the Agawa Bay Campground, it was just after 7pm. We drove to our site, which was situated right on the beach. As we were setting up our tents, we were rewarded with great views of the sunset right from our campsite.
Day 2: Pictographs and Views
We woke up bright and early at 7a.m and decided to start our day off at the Agawa Rock Pictographs (0.5km loop, rated moderate) to beat the crowds. The trail leads to a rock ledge along the shore of Lake Superior and contains red ochre paintings which are believed to be 150 to 400 years old from generations of Ojibwe that recorded their dreams and spirits. The site can usually only be accessed from mid-May to mid-September when the lake is calm, so we weren’t sure what to expect since it was mid-September.
It’s a short, but steep path down to the rock ledge. Along the way there are a few signs that contain more information about the geology of the area and history of the pictographs. The water was a bit wavy and the ledge slippery, so we only made it about half-way along the ledge and didn’t see all of the pictographs. There is a chain in place to help shuffle across the first half of the ledge. There’s also a few ropes that dangle into the water that can be used in case you fall in. Since we visited early enough in the morning, we had the ledge all to ourselves. I have no idea how it’s even possible to pass anyone along the ledge.
We then drove to Trapper’s Trail (1.5km loop, rated easy) to squeeze in another early morning hike in the hopes of seeing some wildlife. The trail is relatively flat and follows the shore of Rustle Lake. It features two viewing platforms and a floating boardwalk. When we hiked along this trail last summer, we spotted a moose at one of the boardwalks, but unfortunately we didn’t have as good of luck this time.
Afterwards we drove to the Rabbit Blanket Campground and found an empty campsite near the water to make breakfast. Darker clouds were moving in, which wasn’t ideal, but at least it was still warm outside.
We then returned to Old Woman Bay to hike along the Nokomis Trail (5km loop, rated moderate). We parked at the Old Woman Bay day-use area and crossed the highway to get to the trailhead. The trail winds through the boreal forest, along an old river bed filled with lots of pebbles and rocks and features a number of scenic viewpoints over Lake Superior and the Old Woman River Valley.
After the first lookout, the terrain levels out considerably. There are still some minor ups, but mostly downs. From the last scenic lookout, it’s a steep descent down the rocky terrain and back to the trailhead.
Once we wrapped up our hike, we drove back to the Agawa Bay Campground. Along the way we stopped at the Visitor Centre to check out the swag and to find another Moments of Algoma easel. The Group of Seven used to visit this region even before Lake Superior Provincial Park was created.
After checking the weather forecast, we decided to pack-up early. It was windy and overcast and we were supposed to get 10mm of rain overnight, plus some more the next morning. And we didn’t want to pack up in the rain. So we instead decided to drive to Sault Ste Marie and stay in a motel.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here