Guide to Canoe Trips in Lake Superior Provincial Park

This under-the-radar canoe trip destination has something for everyone.

From the spectacular freshwater coastline of Lake Superior itself, to the half-dozen routes traversing the park’s rugged interior, canoe tripping in Lake Superior Provincial Park is a great many things—but crowded is not one of them. When the backcountry of better-known parks like Algonquin and Killarney is buzzing with paddling enthusiasts, the beautiful boreal wilderness of Lake Superior Provincial Park rewards intrepid paddlers with empty campsites, scarcely travelled portage trails and an exciting feeling of discovery. Best of all, this wilderness redoubt is located barely an hour’s drive north of Sault Ste. Marie.

For experienced and well-equipped open-water canoeists, Lake Superior represents the ultimate freshwater challenge. With adequate skills, time and planning, coastal canoe trips of a week or more are possible, camping on pristine beaches beside the world’s mightiest lake.

Canoe trippers are guaranteed solitude in Lake Superior Provincial Park’s 160,810-hectare interior, where isolated lakes and steep, frequent portages characterize a rugged landscape of ancient, glacier-worn mountains. Stunning whitewater rivers—including the Agawa and the Sand—tumble through breathtaking canyons and valleys as they rush toward Lake Superior.

Here’s an overview of the diverse canoe tripping possibilities on offer in Lake Superior Provincial Park, with resources to help you prepare for your trip.

Two people stand on beach with canoe nearby
Find your own private oasis. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Lake Superior Coastal Route

Suggested time: 4 to 7 days

Difficulty: Moderate to Demanding

Few sights are as humbling as the vast and mercurial expanse of Lake Superior stretching over a watery horizon—especially when viewed from the precarious refuge of an open canoe. A healthy dose of caution and a foul-weather contingency plan are necessary for anyone planning an extended tour along this exposed coastline. However, the summer months bring slightly less chilly temperatures and calmer conditions, making the park’s wild coastline an unforgettable big-water canoe trip for the well prepared.

The Lake Superior coastal paddling route is accessible from several access points along Highway 17, including the park Visitor Centre and campground at Agawa Bay. Backcountry campsites between access points feature breathtakingly beautiful beaches, wilderness waterfalls and sunsets to leave you breathless.

The southern half of the park offers more shelter, easier landings and more frequent access points than the northern portion. Plan on four days to paddle from Gargantua Harbour to Sinclair Cove, and set aside a week to make the full 120-km trip from Michipicoten to Agawa. Guided trips, vehicle shuttles and canoe rentals are available from Naturally Superior Adventures.

Fenton-Treeby Route

Suggested time: Day trip or relaxing overnight

Difficulty: Easy

An excellent overnight option for novice canoeists, the 16-km Fenton-Treeby loop meanders through lovely boreal forest at the north end of Lake Superior Provincial Park. The trip begins at Fenton Lake, which is easily accessed from Highway 17 just south of Wawa, and continues through island-studded Treeby Lake before looping through a series of scenic backcountry lakes. Short portages (all are 150 m or less) make this an enticing route for anyone leery of long carries. Choose from a generous selection of great campsites and pack your fishing rod—the potential catch includes lake trout, brook trout, walleye and northern pike.

Rabbit Blanket Lake Route

Suggested time: 1 to 2 days

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Fringed in boreal lowlands and cradled by hardwood-forested hills, Rabbit Blanket Lake is among the prettiest places in Lake Superior Provincial Park to dip your paddle. A peaceful drive-in campground just off Highway 17 serves as an ideal basecamp for exploring the lake and nearby hiking trails.

A favourite of wildlife-watchers and trout anglers, Rabbit Blanket Lake receives the South Old Woman River through a series of wetlands and shallow channels at its western end. Head here in the early morning or evening for optimum wildlife viewing. A more challenging overnight route continues upstream across 1,000-m and steep 1,200-m portages to Peat, Sundstrom and Surf lakes, where you’ll find backcountry campsites and outstanding brook trout fishing.

Canoes on calm lake.
Your perfect trip is waiting for you. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Mijinemungshing Lake

Suggested time: 2+ days

Difficulty: Easy

The largest of Lake Superior Provincial Park’s interior lakes, “Mijin” serves as a gateway to extended canoe trips in the park backcountry and is an attractive destination in its own right. Plenty of outstanding island and beach campsites combined with 40 km of intricate shoreline invite paddlers to establish a basecamp and spend some time exploring.

Venture among the rocky islets of the North Arm, or ply the narrow channels at the lake’s south end, where an extensive wetland offers prime moose spotting. Portages into neighbouring Almonte and Maquon lakes are also possible. Easy access just off Highway 17, on-site canoe rentals and good trout fishing make this lake a favourite for families and anglers. Just be sure to reserve a campsite during summer weekends to avoid disappointment.

Gamitagama to Old Woman Lake Route

Suggested time: 3+ days

Difficulty: Strenuous

This difficult route visits two of Lake Superior Provincial Park’s most scenic and interesting wilderness lakes: Gamitagama and Old Woman. The rocky, uphill carry to Gamitagama Lake from Highway 17 sets the tone for a challenging backcountry journey best suited to experienced canoe trippers. Enjoy Gamitagama Lake’s clear, lake trout-filled waters (and a fine island campsite if you arrive late) before embarking on the multi-portage route to Old Woman Lake.

Pack light—seven difficult carries (the last one is a doozy) stand between paddlers and this gorgeous gem. Fantastic Canadian Shield campsites and some of the finest trout fishing in Ontario reward the few hardy trippers who make it to this wilderness hideaway. Return the same way or extend your trip through a series of smaller lakes to the Sand River (see below). When water levels permit, it’s also possible to circle north via the scenic Miramoki Wetlands into Mijinemungshing Lake (check with the park office for water level information).

Sand River Canoe Route

Suggested time: 5 to 6 days

Difficulty: Strenuous

A favourite of backcountry trout anglers, the Sand River is a magical, five- to six-day spring trip with easy whitewater and several stunning waterfalls. It is best paddled in high water—typically late May through the middle of June and after periods of heavy rainfall. Starting from either Mijinemungshing or Gamitagama lakes, you’ll cross a series of pretty, fish-filled ponds and lakes—including lovely Old Woman Lake—to intersect the Sand River at its midway point.

From here, the river flows 25 km over class I to II rapids and stunning cascades en route to the take-out just above Lake Superior at Highway 17. This route is physically demanding and best suited to experienced canoe trippers, but all sections of rapids can be portaged. The Lake Superior Provincial Park website has route maps.

Canoes in the mist.
Enter a world apart. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Belanger Lake Route

Suggested time: 2 days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

A good choice for families or anglers, the Belanger Lake canoe route offers peaceful scenery, excelling wildlife viewing potential and satisfying brook trout fishing in a handful of small lakes. This 13-km out-and-back trip begins from the Gargantua Road just west of Highway 17 and traverses four portages (300- to 500 m) en route to Belanger Lake and its three backcountry campsites.

Crescent Lake Route

Suggested time: 4 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Beginning at a former campground in the southern end of Lake Superior Provincial Park, the Crescent Lake canoe route offers a delightful half-day introduction to canoe tripping in the park. This loop route consists of four small, spring-fed lakes connected by three easy portages. It’s an underrated and infrequently travelled circuit with appealing scenery and decent trout fishing. The park’s Agawa Bay Campground is the nearest option for tent and RV camping; backcountry campsites are not available on this route.

Planning Your Trip

Canoe tripping in Lake Superior Provincial Park offers a more remote and rugged experience than the well-travelled routes in central Ontario’s Algonquin and Killarney provincial parks. Although the number of canoe routes is limited compared to more popular destinations, they are scenic, rewarding and far less crowded than other parks. 

Access

Bisecting Lake Superior Provincial Park from north to south, Trans-Canada Highway 17 provides access to both the Lake Superior coastal paddling route and the park’s interior canoe routes. Popular starting points for Lake Superior coastal trips include Agawa Bay, Sinclair Cove, Katherine Cove, Old Woman Bay and Michipicoten (located just north of the park boundary).

All are found a short distance off Highway 17 on paved roads. The long and bumpy Gargantua Road travels 14 km from the highway to Gargantua Bay, which is a good mid-way starting point for the coastal route. You’ll find space to park your car for an overnight or multi-day trip at all access points.

Camping Permits and Regulations

Backcountry camping permits are required in Lake Superior Provincial Park; reserve online or purchase your permits in person at the Agawa Bay Visitor Centre. Advance reservations are recommended for summer weekends. The park’s Agawa Bay and Rabbit Blanket Lake drive-in campgrounds are extremely popular July through August; book as far ahead as possible (up to five months in advance of your arrival date) to avoid disappointment. The maximum group size for backcountry campsites is nine people and you must stay at designated campsites.

Canoe Rentals, Outfitters and Guided Trips

Canoe rentals are available from Lake Superior Provincial Park at the Agawa Bay and Rabbit Blanket Lake campgrounds, as well as through the Park Office.

Contact Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa for trip planning assistance, vehicle shuttles, canoe rentals (delivery available), or to enquire about custom guided canoe trips in the park. The company also offers weekend and six-day fully guided sea kayak trips along the Lake Superior Provincial Park coastal paddling route.

Goulais River-based Forest the Canoe offers guided day trips and canoe instruction just north of Sault Ste. Marie, as well as canoe rentals.

Find your dream Lake Superior Provincial Park canoe trip

Avoid the crowds, plan a canoe trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park this summer and you’ll be rewarded with lakes all to yourself, stunning campsites, challenging routes and refreshing solitude.

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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