Path of the Paddle: The Omimi & Quetico Trails

Your guide to venturing out on the second and third legs of this incredible water trail.

The Omimi Trail, the second leg of the Path of the Paddle route, continues west from where the Animikii Trail ends at Partridge Falls on the Pigeon River, running for 100 kilometres along the U.S.-Canada border until it reaches Northern Light Lake and links up with the Quetico Trail. From here the trail travels through Quetico Provincial Park’s many pristine lakes, before joining with the Maukinak Trail in Atikokan.

Perhaps the most historic and well-known section of the Path of the Paddle spans both the Omimi and Quetico trails: the section of trail running from North Fowl Lake to the north end of Quetico Provincial Park. As the highest point between the prairies and the Great Lakes, this region receives a mixed bag of weather as paddlers near the famous Height of Land portage between North and South Lake on the Omimi Trail. Here, paddlers walk a short portage that separates water destined for the Great Lakes and those which flow to Hudson Bay.

The two trails, Omimi and Quetico, are best grouped together because of the similarities in their landscapes and their relative remoteness. On the east end of Omimi, paddlers have a few access points to the trail, but then are quickly delivered into a remote and wild stretch of lakes, rivers and portages until they reach either Nym or French Lake far to the west at the Quetico gates. In this area, paddlers can plan for great trips that could fill a summer and never see the same lake twice.

Find out more about Planning a Path of the Paddle Canoe Trip and the other water trails composing the route.

Red canoe pulled up on shore.
Find your peace and quiet. Photo: David Jackson

If you have one day

On the Omimi Trail, paddlers can access North Fowl Lake and plan an excellent paddle, lunch and hike with the opportunity to view trumpeter swans and fish for walleye. On the west end of the lake, a portage trail leads to Moose Lake where a short offshoot trail leads to a campsite and lunch spot with great swimming.

If you’re looking to rent canoes, Wilderness Supply in Thunder Bay is your place to go. But if you’d like to visit a spot on the Omimi Trail without having to transport a boat, Red Pines Canoe Outfitters on Northern Light Lake has canoes for rent and cabins where visitors can stay, as well as a lovely campsite beside the island studded lake. Bob Miller, the owner and main outfitter on the lake, can help you plan a scenic day paddle. On your way up to Red Pines Canoe Outfitters, stop for a Big Eats burger at Andy’s Eats and you’ll be ready for a day on the water after the scenic drive up the Northern Lights Highway.

At the north end of Quetico Trail, paddlers can spend a lovely day on French Lake, continuing down the tranquil French River to the wonderful beach at The Pines. Canoes can be rented from Quetico Outfitters daily and all you need to bring is your lunch and swimming trunks. For a more immersive day on the water, consider visiting Michelle Savoie at the Voyageur Wilderness Program where you can learn about Metis and voyageur history, as well the traditional Indigenous roots of the area. One hour with Michelle will ensure a lifetime of paddling in Quetico.

Drone shot of people portaging to lake next to big cliffs.
Hard work makes for beautiful views. Photo: David Jackson

If you have one weekend

Long protected by arduous paddles from distant access points, the Height of Land portage between North and South Lake was never possible for a weekend outing. With a new resort operated by friendly owners who welcome paddlers, the Height of Land and the wonderful campsites of South Lake are now a weekend getaway waiting to be uncovered.

North Lake Resort is a campground on North Lake and here paddlers can park, launch and head for the famous portage which divides the water of the Arctic and Atlantic Watersheds. Paddlers will find campsites on North Lake maintained by Path of the Paddle, as well some lovely sites on South Lake where eager lake trout and crystal clear, deep water make for an incredible weekend getaway.

To avoid the big windy waters of Pickerel Lake in Quetico on a weekend trip, paddlers can head across Nym Lake into Batchewaung, and spend a weekend exploring the current where it flows into Pickerel Lake and the myriad of campsites tucked into lovely pine stands. Rent your canoes at Quetico North Outfitters and enjoy a bowl of locally sourced wild rice soup at their restaurant en route to the start. 

Quetico Park staff stands on dock in front of Quetico sign. Three people portaging red canoe packs through tall plants. Three people dining in log restaurant.
Enjoy a variety of experiences along these portions of the trail. Photos: David Jackson

If you have one week

The best option for a one-week trip on the Omimi Trail is to start at North Lake and paddle the Granite River to Northern Light Lake. This takes you across Gunflint Lake and through the hills en route to Maraboeuf Lake and Saganaga Falls before portaging around Northern Light Falls and winding your way through the islands to Red Pines Canoe Outfitters. If you need a shuttle or canoes, Bob at Red Pines Canoe Outfitters can help get you on the trail and this route can be done in reverse, starting at their outfitter base and travelling to North Lake. This route was once a voyageur highway and the portages, campsites and scenery are steeped in history.

For paddlers looking to do a loop, the Nym to Nym Lake circuit is an opportunity to experience the solitude of Quetico Provincial Park. For this, paddlers head south on Nym Lake to Batchewaung Lake, continuing into Pickerel Lake, then jumping between Dore, Twin, Sturgeon, Olifaunt, Fern, Bud, Beg, and Bisk lakes, and then back into Pickerel, continuing north through Racers Portages into Back Bay of Nym Lake.

It is possible to go from either Nym or French Lake to Northern Light Lake in one week but this requires good luck with winds and a steady pace. Paddlers must acquire park permits for Quetico Provincial Park. 

Person stands next to lake as sun peaks out from horizon during rain storm.
There's beauty in every experience along the Path of the Paddle. Photo: David Jackson

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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