8 Stunningly Beautiful Lakes in Temagami You Need to Visit
Best Lakes in Temagami
For lovers of wilderness lakes, Temagami is synonymous with canoe country. Encompassing a vast backcountry region of interconnected waterways and ancient portage trails with more than 3,500 kilometres of paddling routes, it would take many lifetimes to properly explore Temagami’s hundreds of clear-water lakes. Aside from size, what else makes Temagami so special? There are the old-growth pine forests tucked along its shorelines and the sparkling clarity of its fish-filled waters. There are the rugged heights of land that invite wilderness rambles on the “rooftop” of Ontario. And there are the dozens of world-class canoe and kayak routes that loop through it all. Any list of the best lakes in Temagami is only scratching the surface of this stunningly beautiful region, so start with these gems—then see how many more you can discover for yourself!
Te-mee-ay-gaming—meaning “deep water by the shore” in Ojibwe—has long been the hub of the Temagami region. The sprawling arms of this huge lake reach 45 kilometres north to south and 35 kilometres east to west, holding within their nearly 5,000 kilometres of shoreline some 1,200 pine-clad islands. With the village of Temagami at its eastern terminus and several access points scattered around its perimeter, the lake serves as both a rewarding destination in itself and a gateway to the greater Temagami backcountry.
Its size means Lake Temagami is ideally suited to kayak touring or portage-free canoe tripping. You could easily spend a week or more exploring its many bays and inlets: see gigantic 300-year-old pines on Temagami Island, stretch your legs on short hikes to incredible lookout points, sleep beneath the stars at island campsites and visit Bear Island, home of the Temagami First Nation whose ancestors have paddled these waters for millennia.
- If you need to rent equipment, Temagami Outfitting Co. will get you set up for a day, a week or even longer. They provide canoe and gear rentals, guided and self-guided trip packages and shuttles from their waterfront base in Temagami village.
- Centred on the creation of birch bark canoes, Temagami First Nation’s Bear Island Canoe House offers a welcoming place to connect with traditional Teme-Augama Anishinabe art, culture and heritage.
- Treat yourself to a cozy stay and delicious, locally sourced gourmet meals at Ojibway Family Lodge, nestled on scenic Devil’s Island at the peaceful north end of Lake Temagami. Choose from historic lakeside cabins or canvas glamping tents with real beds. Wood canvas canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for use. For the best of both worlds, ask about their lodge stay and canoe trip packages.
- Visit Temagami village in July to experience the Temagami Canoe Festival, a two-day celebration of Canadian canoe culture (cancelled for 2022).
Nestled deep in the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park wilderness, Florence Lake is surrounded by towering pines, beautiful hills and glacially scoured escarpments. Make the challenging journey to reach this isolated lake, and you’ll quickly see why Florence Lake has long been a favourite sanctuary of the Teme-Augama people. The sparkling water is so clear, you can see to a depth of 20 metres below your canoe. Sandy beaches and mysterious caves dot the shoreline, and Florence Mountain—accessible via rough trail—rises almost as high as Temagami’s famous Maple Mountain, with superb views from its rocky summit.
Florence Lake lies along a 200-kilometre, two-week-long loop from Lake Temagami through Obabika and Diamond Lakes and the Yorston and South Lady Evelyn rivers. The route includes long, strenuous portages and powerful current, making it best suited to experienced canoe trippers in search of a truly out-there feeling.
- Paddlers completing the Florence Lake Loop can also see the spectacular waterfalls of the Lady Evelyn River. Treat yourself to a stay at Cabin Falls Ecolodge and fall asleep to the rumbling of a 30-foot cascade outside your door.
- For paddlers short on time, Lakeland Airways offers chartered floatplane flights to many Temagami backcountry lakes, including Florence Lake.
Easily accessible yet incredibly beautiful, Wasaksina Lake can be reached from a number of access points in the Lake Temagami area, making it an ideal destination for first-time Temagami visitors. With its rocky outcrops, pine shores, good fishing and spectacular campsites, Wasaksina exemplifies the features that make Temagami a canoe tripper’s paradise. The lake’s proximity makes it perfect for a weekend stay, or choose from several 3- to 5-day route options.
Obabika Lake anchors one of the most popular canoe routes in all of Temagami—the 5- day, 100-kilometre Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika Lake Loop. The entire route boasts exceptional camping and lovely scenery, but Obabika Lake’s old-growth forests and Indigenous spiritual sites are truly awe-inspiring. Plan an extra day to explore the famous Wakimika Triangle Trails, which lead visitors through an ancient forest of 350-year-old red and white pines to the sacred cliffs of Chee-skon (Spirit) Lake. This dramatic 30-metre column of rock has been a place of pilgrimage for Indigenous people for thousands of years. Just a short paddle down Obabika Lake are pictograph sites and a distinctive twin-rock outcrop perched by the shore. These are ko-ko-mis and sho-mis, “grandmother and grandfather rock”—spiritual sites used by generations of Ojibwe healers.
- Temagami Outfitting Co. and Wanapitei Canoe offer guided Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika canoe trips that are suitable for novice paddlers.
- To gain a deeper understanding of the Obabika Lake spiritual sites and Anishinabe teachings, contact Temagami First Nation at Bear Island to ask about visiting with an Indigenous guide.
Anima Nipissing Lake
The easy accessibility of Anima Nipissing Lake from Highway 11 doesn’t detract in the least from the picturesque beauty of this long and meandering lake. Like Lake Temagami (but with only a fraction of the canoe traffic), Anima Nipissing’s size makes it well suited to touring by kayak or canoe, with many lovely bedrock campsites scattered across its scenic islands and pine-fringed perimeter. As you paddle along the lake’s rugged shores, watch for faded orange figures painted on the rocks—these centuries-old pictographs illustrate visions or events from the distant past. For total seclusion and good fishing, take the short portage into neighbouring Whitewater Lake—where a single campsite perches atop a rocky island.
Named for the delicious berries that ripen around its shores in late summer, Blueberry Lake is the perfect destination for a rewarding weekend canoe trip. Offering more than just great berry picking, Blueberry Lake’s steep shores escaped the axes and saws of early 1900s loggers, preserving a beautifully intact old-growth pine forest. Arrive early to score one of the two campsites on this small lake, and make day trips to the old-growth hiking trails on the lake’s north and south sides. Blueberry Lake is accessible from Cassels Lake, just outside the town of Temagami. Canoe trippers can also visit the lake as part of a longer loop trip through Sunrise and Rabbit lakes.
- Learn about Temagami’s fascinating history and remarkable natural environment while discovering the Blueberry Lake Ecology Trails.
There’s no place that better showcases the magic and spirit of the Temagami backcountry than the ancient canoe routes and waterways surrounding Smoothwater Lake. Tucked in the remote and isolated northwest corner of Temagami, Smoothwater Lake was the place of world rebirth in Anishinabe legend. It’s a landscape of spectacular white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and imposing rocky ridges. The highest point in all of Ontario, Ishpatina Ridge—or the “serpent mound”—rises from the south end of Smoothwater Lake and lies like a stony dragon along the western edge of the Lady Evelyn wilderness.
For intrepid canoe trippers, Smoothwater Lake is the highlight of a taxing, nearly 100-kilometre loop through Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater and Solace River provincial parks. This route is best done over 7-10 days and also includes Florence Lake and a trek to the top of Ishpatina Ridge.
Why does Wolf Lake consistently rate as one of the most beautiful lakes in the Temagami paddling area? For starters, it’s surrounded by the world’s largest remaining old-growth red pine forest, subject of a longstanding environmental campaign to preserve this irreplaceable treasure. Picture-perfect campsites nestle among the giant pines, overlooking dazzling white quartzite cliffs and shimmering aquamarine waters. Adventurous campers can climb to the top of striking Wolf Lake Hill for gorgeous vistas 150 metres (500 feet) above the lake.
Such a pristine setting feels like it should take days of hard travel to reach, but in fact, paddlers can enjoy Wolf Lake after only 15 kilometres from the Matagamasi Lake access point. En route, you’ll portage past cascading waterfalls and dip your blades in the evocatively named Paradise Lagoon.
Planning Your Trip
More than 30 access points allow paddlers to enter the Temagami backcountry from all directions. Most visitors begin their trip from the east side, off of Highway 11, with the town of Temagami serving as a hub for outfitters, accommodations and charter flights. Whether you’re looking to rent canoes and equipment, treat yourself to a fully guided trip or find a blissful basecamp for your Temagami adventures, the outfitters and operators listed here can help turn your dream trip into a reality.
Temagami Canoe Rentals
- Temagami Outfitting Company offers lightweight canoe rentals, sea kayak rentals, vehicle shuttles, complete outfitting and trip planning services, as well as all-inclusive guided trips for all levels of paddlers.
- Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge is one of Temagami’s original canoe outfitters, based just north of the town of Temagami on Highway 11. Besides offering a variety of lodging options and great meals—a perfect way to start and end your wilderness canoe trip—Smoothwater can provide rentals, vehicle shuttles and complete canoe trip outfitting with top-notch gear.
- Lakeland Airways is your best bet for fly-in Temagami canoe trips. The air base is located on the waterfront in the village of Temagami and services the area’s best wilderness lakes. Canoe rentals are also available.
Temagami Guided Canoe Trips
- Temagami Outfitting Company offers scheduled or customized guided trips to a variety of destinations, for all ages and levels of ability.
- Wanapitei Canoe is one of Canada’s original ecotourism outfitters, with roots in Temagami. Choose from all-inclusive Temagami paddling trips for canoeists and sea kayakers.
- Cabin Falls Ecolodge offers authentic wilderness experiences deep within Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. It is only accessible by floatplane and/or canoe.
- Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge offers a variety of cheerful and convenient waterfront lodging options on a small lake just minutes north of the town of Temagami.
- Finlayson Point Provincial Park boasts a family-friendly campground with great access to Lake Temagami.
- Temagami Shores Inn and Resort provides cozy cabins and luxurious suites overlooking the Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami, just south of town.
- Ojibway Family Lodge offers lakeside cabins and canvas glamping tents on Devil’s Island at the peaceful north end of Lake Temagami. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for use, or ask about their lodge stay and canoe trip packages.
- Temagami Lodge is nestled on eight scenic acres adjacent to Temagami Island’s acclaimed old-growth forest trails. Canoe, kayak or hike right from the door of your rustic waterfront cabin.
- Lake Obabika Lodge is located at the south end of Obabika lake and features seven luxury log cabins and chalets with tranquil water views.
While in Temagami, Don’t Miss …
- Being awe-struck by incredible old-growth white pine forest while hiking the White Bear Forest trails, located in the town of Temagami.
- Enjoying dockside dining at The Outfitter Bar & Restaurant, which serves fresh food and craft beer from Temagami Brewing Co.
- Climbing to the top of the 100-foot-tall Temagami Fire Tower on Caribou Mountain for breathtaking views.
No matter where you choose to paddle in Temagami, you’ll be immersed in primeval forest, clear lakes and the knowledge that canoeists have explored these same waters for thousands of years. Whether you are a first-time visitor or an experienced backcountry paddler searching for new waters, pick one (or more) of the incredible lakes on this list, and go now.