A Bird's-Eye View of Thunder Bay: Why Mount McKay Lookout - Anemki Wajiw is a must-do in this Northwestern Ontario city

Located on the Fort William First Nation, this lookout rewards adventurers with an incredible view of Thunder Bay, the north shore of Lake Superior, and the Sleeping Giant.

I first spotted the reference to this Thunder Bay attraction as a small marking on my tourist map.

As I wolfed down a Sausage McMuffin at a fast food joint near the airport, I looked over to one side of the map and saw a marking for a lookout point on Mount McKay - Anemki Wajiw.

What the heck, I thought, as I wanted to get a bird's-eye view of Thunder Bay, a Northern Ontario city that I was exploring for the first time.

Mount McKay giant view

I drove down, crossed the Kaministiquia River onto the Fort William First Nation and followed the signs, admiring the view of a rocky outcropping looming high overhead like an ancient beacon.

I paid a guy at the gate $5, then drove the pretty, winding road to the top, 1000-feet above the city of Thunder Bay, where I was greeted with a lush, green, wide open meadow and sweeping views.

Out to my right I could gaze to the south and spot the happily named Pie Island.

A little further on, near a giant statue of an eagle with outstretched wings, I could look east and see the city stretched out along the north shore of Lake Superior and the outline of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

Mount McKay eagle statue

I snapped away for a minute or two, soaking up the view and the sky and the lake and the deep green trees, then wandered over to check out a tepee sitting on the edge of a meadow.

It was a little dusty and cool inside on an 18-degree day but you could see how it would be a cozy spot to bed down for the night or hide from the elements, not that Thunder Bay ever has elements.

As I walked over to a raised platform with lookouts to the north and east, I passed under a tree and decided to see what the mountain looked like from that angle.

What I saw instead was sheer, unexpected magic; a giant rainbow encircling the northern Ontario sun. I might have heard of a sun circle or a sun ring, but I’d certainly never seen one.

Mount McKay sun ring

I quickly grabbed my camera and started snapping, my fingers awkwardly slipping the exposure buttons to and fro so I could offer up different types of shots.

Within seconds the ring started to dissipate. Perhaps 10 seconds (I don’t know, to be honest, I was mesmerized and felt time was standing still in some sort of spiritual rite) went by and the ring started to fade. I took a couple more shots and shook my head, trying to comprehend what my eyes had just seen.

I walked across the meadow a few feet and spotted a guy with a nice camera, who turned out to be a professional photographer visiting from Calgary. We compared notes and photos and exchanged business cards, all the time with a “did we really just see that” look on our faces.

I took a couple pictures of a family out enjoying the view, then walked back to my car. I drove back into town, smiling the whole way.

About Jim Byers

Jim Byers recently retired from the Toronto Star after 32 years (and a day) at the paper. He served as travel editor during the last five years at the Star. Prior to that he covered municipal politics and was twice the paper's City Hall Bureau Chief. He also covered the Blue Jays in the glory years and was the paper's Olympics Editor for years, leading the Star's team at six Olympic Games.


Jim now works as  a freelancer and writes for The Star every two weeks. You also can find him occasionally in the metro papers and at www.jimbyerstravel.com

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