Path of the Paddle: The Animikii Trail

Your guide to venturing out on the first leg of this incredible water trail.

From sea caves along cliff-bound coast to gravel points tucked into bays surrounded by flattop mountains, the Animikii Trail has the formula to amaze paddlers. Stretching from Fort William Historical Park to Pigeon River Provincial Park, most of this 136-kilometre stretch of the Path of the Paddle route traces the Lake Superior coastline and is not to be taken lightly. The water is very cold to frigid all summer, waves can reach over 10 feet and there are stretches of coastline where boats have no safe landing.

Your safest option for passage through this stretch is to travel with an experienced guide, like Thunder Bay’s Such A Nice Day Adventures, in sea kayaks for added maneuverability and speed. Their guides can take you on a day trip in the sheltered waters of Sturgeon Bay or on longer journeys down the coast.

Regardless of wind and waves, there’s always something to do in the area. Below are some ideas to get you on the trail. Find out more about Planning a Path of the Paddle Canoe Trip and the other water trails composing the route.

Wildflowers blooming next to water with cliffs across on distant shore.
Simple beauty amid grandeur. Photo: David Jackson

If you have one day

While paddling Superior may not always be an option, there are other ways to enjoy the area and sneak in some paddling too. Little Trout Bay Conservation Area has a range of day use picnic sites with open-fire barbecue pits and picnic tables, as well as a small beach to test the cool summer water.

The best kept secret is a short paddle directly across the bay from the boat launch, where a portage trail is maintained by Path of the Paddle which cuts across the spit into Big Trout Bay. The trail goes steeply up the bank amongst trees before winding a short distance through the forest where visitors are met by a lovely lunch spot with views of a wide-open Lake Superior to the south.

If the lake is calm, exploring the relatively protected waters of Little Trout Bay is a wonderful day trip. You can rent canoes and kayaks from Wilderness Supply and Chaltrek in Thunder Bay before your day out. If the lake isn’t calm, hike the James Duncan Nature Trail for exceptional views of Lake Superior and the surrounding geography. You won’t be disappointed!

Kettle boiling over campfire Campsite on a point with cliffs in background. Canoes, tents and gear on campsite.
Views of camp along the Animikii Trail. Photos: David Jackson

If you have one weekend

Keeping Lake Superior’s unpredictable weather top of mind, there are a few ways to plan a weekend on and near the lake that allows for days steeped in history and adventure with amazing scenery at every turn.

First, a visit to Fort William Historical Park is bound to inspire every paddler as they immerse themselves in the history of the fur trade and the brigades of voyageurs who paddled these same waters. The Fort has allows tent camping and paddlers can enjoy day trips on the sheltered waters of the Kaministiquia River, where the Park is located. The best place to eat beside Lake Superior is Bight Restaurant in the Thunder Bay marina, especially if it’s paired with an evening harbour tour in the big voyageur canoe or a sea kayak with S.A.N.D Adventures.

If you’d like to experience the lake for a night or two, a visit to Sturgeon Bay and one of Path of the Paddle’s excellent paddle-in campsites will give visitors a taste of the lake with the relative shelter of a bay. It is a short paddle from the Sturgeon Bay Landing to a lovely campsite with a fire grill, surrounded by tall cliffs and excellent fishing. On your way to Sturgeon Bay, don’t miss a meal at the Neebing Roadhouse, a locally owned and operated cookhouse. For those looking to stay and play, the Mink Mountain Resort has lovely rooms, hiking trails up Mink Mountain, and a private canoe launch to complete your weekend stay.

Man holds fish up from canoe.
Make sure you take time to fish—and enjoy the views. Photo: David Jackson

If you have one week

For those looking to explore the coast, a trip from Pigeon River Provincial Park on the United States border to either Sturgeon Bay, Chippewa Park, Thunder Bay, or Fort William Historical Park, will provide paddlers with some of the wildest paddling and fishing Lake Superior has to offer. There are campsites maintained by Path of the Paddle in Big Trout Bay and Sturgeon Bay, as well as a few other small sites marked on their official maps along the way.

Paddlers should travel with a marine radio for wind forecasts and speak with Zack at S.A.N.D to arrange a shuttle after the trip or to hire an expert guide for added safety in decision-making on the big water.

Maps

Route planning maps are available for purchase from the Path of the Paddle website, Wilderness Supply and Chaltrek. The overview map is the best way to visualize the entire route  and dream up a trip. When you’ve done this and decided the specific area you’d like to explore, visit this exciting new project Path of the Paddle has put together making their 1:25,000 detailed maps available for free. Donations are encouraged as they are a not-for-profit.

The maps have portages, routes and some campsites marked on them in excellent detail and can be downloaded in various formats either for GPS downloading, PDF viewing or jpegs. 

About David Jackson

David Jackson is an assignment photographer based in Thunder Bay who spends his time between stories by paddling canoes and searching for fish in the north.

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