Canoe the peaceful lakes and watch the lilies freshly bloom in the morning light as you drift over the water. The lake grasses move underwater like mermaid hair. Startle a moose and her new baby on the edge of the water as you search amongst the lakes edge for the entry to the estuary, hidden in grasses and reeds…and paddle the afternoon away along tranquil waterways teeming with birds and wildlife.
Imagine a place with over 1 million acres of park land filled with unexplored waterways. Where there over 2000 back country campsites are only accessible by canoe, in more than 600 lakes. This is Quetico Provincial Park. Just south of Highway 71 between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay, along the northern border of Minnesota lies this merging of three eco-systems within the arctic watershed. Once known as the “Voyageurs Highway” in days of history gone by, it is now considered to be the canoeing capital of Canada. And access by water is the best way to really experience the park.
Enjoy a morning paddle on the waters, or walk the many hiking trails in the area. Find flowers and unusual mushrooms, or the odd garter snake that drops in to say hello out of unexpected places. Bird species abound, with the evening call of the loon becoming almost common; but little surprises like the bohemian waxwing fly in on a whim. Home to wildlife large and small, it is also an ideal location for ecological and climate change research. The active Quetico Foundation is focused on preservation, documentation and research of the parks flora and fauna, but also on education and promotion of the area.
Sign up for the Artists in Residence program in the park and immerse yourself in nature and creativity with accommodation and paddling supplies provided by the park
If you have had enough of being on the water, there are waterfalls in the area worth a visit. Beautiful and very easy to access are Little Falls in Atikokan. Accessible from both sides of the river, both with viewing platforms, these “little” falls contain a surprising volume of water. It makes a lovely spot to stop for lunch. From the Dawson Trail campground there is also a hike to French Falls. Depending on the route you choose, this can be a bit of a bush whack, down trails most likely last travelled by moose or bears. But easier, more travelled routes are available by following the trail maps.
Canoe rental is easy and cheap in Quetico. Outfitters just 5km from the park gates will give you full gear and access to a canoe for 24 hours, delivered to lakes edge for only $25. The canoes are not brand new, but they are water tight and entirely functional. Canoeists wishing to camp do need permits and can only enter the park via one of 6 ranger stations, three of which can be reached by car (Atikokan, Dawson Trail and Lac La Croix). Drive in camping is only available at Dawson Trail. For information on the park, head to the either Dawson Trail or Quetico Park Headquarters in Atikokan. Signs in town will direct you to their office. Here you will find a wealth of information with helpful staff who clearly love the park for all that it has to offer.
Atikokan is on the doorstep of one of Ontario’s most traditional wilderness areas, as Quetico Provincial Park stands among the best for its beauty and its ruggedness. We’re only too happy to have you here, whether it’s for a day, for a week, or a lifetime. We are the Canoeing Capital of Canada. We are the Gateway to Quetico Provincial Park. We are Naturally Wild.
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