Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: September 2021
Pancake Bay Provincial Park is located along the northern shore of Lake Superior. It features a beautiful sandy beach that is reputed to be one of the best on Lake Superior. It was this beach that first attracted voyageurs to the region in the 1700s and 1800s. The name Pancake Bay is derived from folk stories that told of voyageurs preparing fried bread or pancakes from their remaining provisions as they traveled from here to Sault Ste. Marie.
We initially planned to spend another night at Lake Superior Provincial Park, but because the weather forecast was calling for a lot of rain overnight, we decided to just stay in a motel in Sault Ste Marie instead. Along the drive we stopped at Pancake Bay, which is conveniently located right off the highway.
We drove to the day-use area near the beach, which features a Moments of Algoma art installation. After two trips along the Algoma Central Railway in the hills behind Pancake Bay, the Group of Seven formalized their art movement, and officially called themselves the Group of Seven.
We then walked down to the beach. It was windy and the water was wavy. The clouds had started to clear and the sun was poking out.
In addition to its beautiful sandy beach, Pancake Bay offers a couple of hiking trails that weave through a sand dune ecology and provide panoramic views of the surrounding area. We went to check out the Pancake Bay Nature Trail (3.5km loop, rated easy), which is located in the Hilltop Campground.
The trail weaves along the Lake Superior shoreline, through the forest over ancient beach ridges and crosses a fen. Along the way there are nine interpretive panels that describe some of the natural features of the area.
The trail begins along the Lake Superior shoreline. This area was once underwater. About 11,000 years ago, most of the sand on this beach was being carried by glaciers. When the glaciers melted they released massive amounts of water, sand and pebbles. Much of the sand was washed into a larger version of Pancake Bay, one that covered most of the park. Over time, deep sand deposits were laid down on the lake bottom and when water levels fell, it exposed this spectacular beach.
The train then meanders through the forest along ancient beach ridges. Along the way we passed a conglomerate, a type of rock that is composed of rounded clasts of a certain size. This one was formed over a billion years ago when fast moving water picked up and carried pebbles that became glued together and were transformed into solid rock. These small pebbles can still be seen inside the rock.
The section through the cedar grove, which looked like a newer path, was muddy and sodden. But it was worth it to get to the boardwalk which crosses the fen. Many of the wetlands in the area around Pancake Bay are found in between the old beach ridges.
From here the path criss-crosses a creek a few times before leading out to the road and back to the parking lot. With that we hopped back in the car and continued our drive to Sault Ste. Marie.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here