The Great Trail

Excitement is growing in the summer of 2017 as the Grand Opening of The Great Trail is fast approaching. Learn about paddling 1,200 km of beautiful waters between Thunder Bay and Whiteshell Park.

Excitement is growing in the summer of 2017 as the Grand Opening of The Great Trail is fast approaching. The Path of the Paddle Association has been tirelessly working toward connecting over 1,200 km of waterway, portaging, and hiking trails spanning from Thunder Bay, Ontario all the way to Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. This pathway is divided into six segments that trace the paths of our ancestors. These same trails were used by First Nation, Métis, and trappers alike. The hard work of all the staff and volunteers of Path of the Paddle is about to pay off in a big way for everyone who loves to canoe, kayak, or row.

In support of the opening of The Great Trail, the Lake of the Woods Museum and Lake of the Woods Art Community have put together incredible exhibits which showcase the vast and diverse history behind canoeing and rowing in the area. No matter what your experience or interest level in canoeing, kayaking, or rowing, the following exhibits are something you’ll want to see.


The Lake of the Woods Museum is offering a unique double feature for the summer of 2017 from July 1 to September 2. Stop by and enjoy both exhibits showcasing many examples of the history of canoeing and rowing in and around the Lake of the Woods area. You’ll see many examples of the tools of their trades at this amazing exhibit, including a striking birch bark canoe and handmade containers for carrying rice and other such goods off the lakes and rivers.

Handmade cedar strip canoe
Handmade cedar strip canoe by Cecil Burns

The biggest highlight of the exhibits for me was this handmade, cedar strip, Pocket Prospector canoe! It sits majestically gleaming under the lights of the museum. Instantly I’m transported to a calm lake with the call of the loon in my ear, the sun peeking through a light fog making the water glisten on a quiet summer morning. Maker Cecil Burns has graciously loaned this beautiful canoe to the museum. He and his colleagues spent more than three years building these canoes in their "Tuesday Night Canoe Club." The work they have done here is incredible and I, for one, thank them for their efforts. This is truly beautiful!

Antique Rowing Machine

Highlighting the rich history of rowing on Lake of the Woods is this example of one of our earliest rowing machines. The design really isn’t that different from what we use now in gyms to practice on. There are many other examples of rowing history in the exhibits, but I’m not going to give it all away: you’ll have to drop in and see them for yourself!

Interactive Puzzles

Also included in the event are interactive pieces such as the one in the photo above, a great way for parents and kids to have some fun together. There really is so much to see: check out all that the Lake of the Woods Museum is offering.


Lake of the Woods Arts Community (LOWAC) is presenting an outdoor Art Exhibit, which spans much of downtown Kenora, including the Harbourfront, Memorial Park, and select local businesses. Examples of local artists’ interpretations of local canoeing are, to say the least, awe-inspiring! 

Reflections of the Path

This beautiful glass-adorned piece, called Reflections of the Path, is just one example of all the artwork that decorates the streets of Kenora! One of my favourite summer things to do in Kenora is to wander the streets in search of this year’s offering from LOWAC. I’m never disappointed by what I see, and this year is no exception. Our local artists have a unique and inspirational way of seeing, interpreting, and presenting the essence of our life in Northwestern Ontario. Spanning from the Harbourfront to the storefronts, you’ll be treated to truly gorgeous pieces of art from our many talented artists.

Even the kids got together to help adorn our city with their own vision of canoeing in Kenora and the surrounding area! It’s awesome to see how LOWAC is encouraging even our youngest artists to reach out and share their artistic vision with everyone. If you would like to see more, just take a stroll throughout downtown Kenora, and don’t forget your camera! Drop into the various businesses displaying more of this exhibit and vote for your favourite pieces (but good luck picking just one). You can learn more about the event and perhaps purchase one of the pieces by going to the events page for LOWAC.


These artworks are reminders of the exhilaration, freedom, and self-empowerment I feel when I’m out paddling some new waterway. I love how pieces like the one in the photo above capture that moment when "you’ve done it"—when you've overcome some obstacle or trial and feel that sense of accomplishment. The medium is aluminum and must have taken many painstaking hours to complete. It really reminds me of the feeling of being out there on the water. Now, where is my canoe?  

Path of the Paddle


Lake of the Woods Museum and Lake of the Woods Art Community have displayed these wonderful exhibits to coincide with the grand opening of The Great Trail. Part of the Path of the Paddle Association’s mandate is “to develop the route into a sustainable experiential tourism product representative of culture and history.” A 1,200-km part of The Great Trail spans Northwestern Ontario which is set to make its official opening on August 26, 2017. There will be many events in several communities attached to it with some of them reaching from Thunder Bay to Kenora. Keep posted on the events on their Facebook page.

In speaking with Ed Shields, who is the Chair of The Path of the Paddle Association, I learned a great deal about the workings of this amazing organization. They have been working on trailblazing and organizing this path for over seven years, with many long hours cutting through trails. There are four main regions for Path of the Paddle: Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Dryden, and Kenora, each with numerous hard-working volunteers. 

Most notable are three groups of people who have run the entire waterway trail from end to end, mapping, marking, and cutting paths through. We have many thanks to give to Carrie and Jon, Erik and Brynley, and Hadly and Paul. To see more of their incredible journeys, you can read their blog stories at Path of the Paddle Thru Paddlers Blog. They blazed the way for so many volunteers to come behind and fully mark and cut trails for portaging.


The six segments of the paddling trail are Animikii, Omimi, Quetico, Maukinak, Migizi, and Iinoo Oowan, each having its own special sights and rich history. If you are looking to start planning your trip try the folks at Paddle Planner. They have a great site with maps, points of interest, and trip reports, just to name a few.

Kenora’s event has been set as well as the other regions. Check out the event closest to you, take the family and go out and enjoy your trail!

As a canoeist, The Great Trail is now on my bucket list. There is so much to see, and I want to take my time to see it all. I can’t wait to dip my paddle in the vast waters and experience it all even if it takes me years to accomplish!

About Tracey Chartrand

I’m a staff writer for Sunset Country Travel Association and have lived in NW Ontario for six years. I enjoy canoeing, hiking, camping, fishing, and photography so living in this area is like heaven to me. I will endeavor to share with you my joy of living in NW Ontario by sharing some of my experiences and photos with you.  I hope it inspires you to visit us and find out for yourself why they call this Sunset Country.

Recommended Articles

Looking for somewhere new to fish?

The Morson area of Lake of the Woods is fantastic!

Has not having a passport kept you from vacationing in Canada?

It's easier to get than you may think!

Discover The Winnipeg River

From fur traders to trophy anglers, the beauty hasn't changed.

A Guide to Sunset Country Museums

Learn while you visit!

Going fishing in Ontario?

Your lodging has just the boat you need!

10 Reasons to Avoid Ontario

Haters of wilderness, wildlife, and quiet: best steer clear.

5 Amazing Sights You Can Only See By Boat

From mermaids to boat-in museums, the Northwest corner of Ontario has some of the coolest sights to see on water!

5 Essential Boreal Experiences in Ontario's Sunset Country

Freshwater fishing, forest hiking, and sunset views await in this pristine paradise

5 Obscure Facts About Northwestern Ontario: Were You Aware of These?

Here are 5 facts that most people don't know about Sunset Country.

Outdoor Medicine

Here's why experiencing the natural world is good for you—and your health.

Bringing Your Pet to Canada

What You Need to Know

Heading Across Canada?

Here's what you need to know about Sunset Country (from the giant moose statues to the even bigger waterfalls)

Tips for Spring Walleye Fishing

Find out the best places to find walleyes.

There's more than just fishing in the Red Lake Region

Although the fishing's pretty good too!

Outdoor Adventure in Ontario's Northern Paradise

On the links, on the trails, and on the water–discover why Kenora has it all this fall!

Plan your trip

Book the the trip you never got to take this summer

5 Amazing Things About Spring

Spring is a welcome sight after a long winter in Sunset Country!

Spring Fishing for Northern Pike

Northerns are hungry after the spawn and are ready to bite!

Tips from a Fishing Legend

Big Bass, Walleye, Muskie and So Much More

Going Fishing in Canada?

Get the answers to your questions

What makes Wabigoon such a great lake to fish?

Well for one, it has potential for the next world record muskie!

Search Sunset Country