220 kilometres, 10 days, 1 tandem kayak
By Serafina Orcoyen
Endless horizon on one side of your kayak, mesmerizing waterfalls and towering cliffs on the other. An elite trip for paddlers looking to push the elements and immerse themselves in the rugged wilderness of Northern Ontario and Lake Superior’s coast. A place where evenings end with spectacular sunsets. Not a five-star, but a five-billion-star experience!
Paddling the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on the Great Lakes, from the Michipicoten River to Hattie Cove, in Pukaskwa National Park, is a “bucket list” trip for many. In 2019, to understand what it takes for our visitors to be ready for a trip of this magnitude, I “experienced” their experience!
For my trip, I turned to Naturally Superior Adventures, a local outfitter offering guided sea kayak trips on this stretch of coastline. I was partnered with another woman in a tandem kayak on a 10-day adventure tackling part of The Great Trail.
I met our two guides and the other paddlers at the mouth of the Michipicoten River. To give our awesome guides a full sense of our paddling skills, we went for an afternoon paddle and practiced wet extractions.
Our group of seven set off on our journey from the Superior Highlands area on a foggy morning. The first five days gifted us flat, glass-like water to paddle past areas like the breathtaking 10-kilometre long cliffs of Isacor. It was a stunning experience. However, this stretch is one that requires precise timing with no place to safely pull to shore if challenging weather surfaces. Lucky for us, it was paddling perfection. We camped at exquisite areas offering opportunities to explore on foot, like the short hike to breathtaking Denison Falls.
The next five days the wind picked up, but at this point we were quite comfortable in that big tandem kayak, so the added challenge was welcome. We explored Pukaskwa National Park both by water and land, admired the captivating Pukaskwa Pits, walked along cobblestone beaches, swam under the charming Cascade Falls, and witnessed the wailing calls and stunning aerial displays of peregrine falcons.
Our last two nights, we ended up wind-bound at beautiful Willow River, where paddlers can also access the Coastal Hiking Trail. That windy but sunny day presented a “choose your own adventure” opportunity for the group. Some paddled up the sheltered Willow River, some hiked the scenic rocky coastline of Lake Superior, and others spent the day feeling the soft beach sand between their toes as they mingled with backpackers, who were also on their dream adventure.
The last day, we paddled out with big swells on the lake, but seized the opportunity to meander up the White River for one last iconic Pukaskwa moment: a short hike to see powerful Chigamiwinigum Falls from the suspension bridge across the top of the gorge! The rest of the journey to Hattie Cove was as spectacular as everything that came before.
The opportunity to experience the Lake Superior coastline the way paddling visitors do is one that will forever be entrenched in my mind. Connecting staff and visitors through shared experience, and with enthusiasm, helps Pukaskwa National Park staff deliver the high quality visitor experiences for which Parks Canada sites are known.
Click here more information about paddling in Pukaskwa National Park.