Northwestern Ontario-based adventurer Mike Ranta is a modern-day voyageur. The native of Atikokan, Ontario, has canoed across Canada twice—in the process discovering that his favourite places in the country are found practically right in his backyard. Ranta and his dog, Spitzii, canoed from Vancouver to Cape Breton in 2014. Smitten by Canada’s scenic beauty, challenging waterways and friendly people, Ranta and Spitzii repeated the impressive 7,500-km journey in 2016. His quirky and inspirational posts have made him popular on social media, with nearly 9,000 Facebook followers.
Ranta doesn’t hesitate when asked his favourite part of the trip. “Lake Superior, hands down,” says the 45-year-old. “That lake has such great energy from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.”
In fact, most of his top memories come from the Algoma region of Northern Ontario, which encompasses Lake Superior and the North Channel of Lake Huron. Here are four of Ranta’s recommendations for travellers.
#1: Rock Island Lodge
“Outfitter David Wells has something good going on just outside of Wawa, at the mouth of the Michipicoten River. Rock Island Lodge is the only accommodations you’ll find on this part of the coast. The lodge is cozy, the food is great, and it’s a perfect spot to launch a paddling trip—whether you want to go out for a day or a two-week trip. You can rent gear, take a training course or book a guided trip with Naturally Superior Adventures. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
#2: Voyageurs Lodge
“I love what Frank and Gail O’Connor have done with the Voyageurs Lodge and Cookhouse at Batchawana Bay, just north of Sault Ste. Marie. First of all, they’re located on a gorgeous beach. They serve fantastic food and have great motel-style rooms for rent. It’s always a tough place to leave.”
#3: St. Joseph Island
“You feel a change in the landscape when you paddle the St. Mary’s River from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, past Sault Ste. Marie. The water warms up, you see more white pine and oak trees, and the geology changes to glacier-polished granite—classic Canadian Shield. I’ve always loved stopping at Richard’s Landing on St. Joseph Island. It’s a safe haven for a long-distance traveller: The people are friendly and it’s a great community.”
#4: Thessalon and the North Channel
“I’ve always stopped in the town of Thessalon, at the Carolyn Beach Inn. This marks the beginning of the North Channel, a passage of mostly sheltered water all the way to Manitoulin Island. There’s always a good place to camp—usually on smooth islands beneath tall white pines. It’s very picturesque.”