August in Ontario
August in Ontario

Canoe Country Adventure -- August 2001

(Click on any picture to zoom in.)

Thunder Bay boardwalk

The Great Lakes and Southern Ontario

August started with our annual family gathering at Clear Lake, just outside Big Rapids, Michigan. Click here to see snapshots of all the gang in Michigan -- My, how they've grown! We had two sunny weeks of swimming, sailing, great meals, kick the can, singing, bonfires on the beach and general family fun with all the cousins. From here, we took a drive over to Stratford, Ontario to the Stratford Festival of Canada. This is theatre at its very best. We saw The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Hentry V and Inherit the Wind. When in Stratford, there are dozens of nice bed and breakfasts to stay at. We like the Cedar Springs Inn run by Lloy and Allan Grose. Though it's 10 minutes outside of town, it's simple, clean and quiet. To really see Stratford and its theatre, plan on staying three nights.

After a few more relaxing days at Clear Lake, Daniel, Mikka and I headed north to Lake Superior. Our first stop was the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie. This is an impressive historical and engineering landmark. Check the shipping schedule posted at the visitor center so that you can be at the viewing platform to watch some of the world's largest ships squeeze through the narrowest of locks. From here we continued into Canada along the north shore of Lake Superior. Lake Superior Provincial Park was a beautiful place for a picnic with a short hike to the petrographs of Agawa Rock.

A few hundred miles farther west across the north shore of Lake Superior, we came to the sparkling port town of Thunder Bay. This is the site of Fort William which in 1810 was the world's largest fur trading post and the primary departure point for all trappers and adventurers into the great Northwest. This is a great family attraction. Give yourself several hours to tour this fully restored Scottish outpost where the docents dress in period costumes and stay in character as they go about their daily business of trading with the Indians, making birchbark canoes, tanning hides and playing bagpipes.

From Thunder Bay, we drove south to Grand Portage, Minnesota. Check out the 18th century stockade here. From Grand Portage, we took the Voyageur II out to Isle Royale National Park. (Note, you can also get to Isle Royale from Copper Harbor or Houghton, Michigan on the Ranger III.) If you take your own backpack and tent to Isle Royale, there are easy trails and scenic campsites all around the whole island. We opted to stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge. The weather turned stormy and we were glad to have a solid roof over our heads at night and nice meals served to us at the lodge. Rent a canoe at Rock Harbor and explore the rocky shores by water. Take a hike to the lookout in the center of the island. Look for wolf tracks on your trail. Don't be surprised if you run into a moose or two as we did. Whether you camp out or stay at the lodge, make your reservations a few months in advance because the park service carefully limits the number of visitors.

From Grand Portage, if you head south, your next stop should be at the Naniboujou Lodge. This hotel was built in the 1920s as Babe Ruth's private club. It's an amazing hotel built right on the shore of Lake Superior. We spent a night here and then took a short drive to Ely, Minnesota, where we hooked up with Canoe Country Outfitters. These guys were great. They provided us with all the equipment we needed for a week in the wilderness: Canoe, maps, food, tents, sleeping bags, pots, pans, cooking utensils, matches, toilet paper, etc. They obtained our Canadian wilderness and border crossing permits. (This is not a minor task.) Finally, they ferried us to the Canadian border where we entered the Quetico Provincial Park. This area is one of the cleanest natural environments in North America. The lakes are so clean you can drink the water unfiltered and untreated. Naturally, this place is a paradise for fisherman, bird watchers and turtle hunters. I can still remember the hauting sounds of the sounds of the loons and the wolves. Absolutely beautiful!

Fully loaded and ready to go

Scouting for our first campsite

Our expert rudderman

A typical campsite

Breakfast of champions


A really long canoe

A really big turtle

A really small turtle

An amazing swimming squirrel

Collecting firewood from
an abandoned beaver mound

Louisa Falls, Agnes Lake

Dinner at sunset

Smooth waters


A final note about our adventure in the Quetico: At the end of our week in the wilderness, it was very convenient to be able to return to Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, use their hot showers and clean towels, and then drive away leaving our muddy packs, dirty sleeping bags, and wet garbage behind. I've never used an outfitter before, but there's a lot to be said for renting someone else's equipment. As a first time visitor to the Boundary Waters, I also appreciated their good advice on which route to take and which portages to avoid. If you have time in Ely, be sure to spend a couple hours at the International Wolf Center. It's something special.

With the summer almost over now and school starting soon, it was time to return to civilization. Our last stop en route to the Minneapolis airport was Duluth. There are two must sees in Duluth:
  • Visit the Great Lakes Aquarium. After having seen all of the wildlife of the Great Lakes in the wild, it was fun to see the same creatures up close and to learn the details of their lives and their environments.
  • Take a walk along the channel that leads from the ore silos to the entrance to Lake Superior. Here we saw the same enormous ships that we saw squeezing through the Soo Locks start their journeys fully loaded. Click here for photos and departure schedules for these giant ships.
  • If you have any questions about our trip, feel free to contact me at
    If this trip looks like fun, you might want to read about our other adventures.