Wabakimi Wilderness Canoe
Ontario's World-Class Wilderness Canoeing and Fishing
If you are looking for the very best in wilderness canoeing, Wabakimi Provincial Park is hard to beat. Paddle and portage through the stark beauty of the Wabakimi wilderness area, halfway between Thunder Bay, Ontario and and Hudson Bay. The five million acre Wabakimi wilderness area includes over 1800 miles of lakes and rivers. You will marvel at the notion that a wilderness this vast still exists in North America. Choose from dozens of canoe routes that offer spectacular views, exciting fishing, and thundering water falls. Dine on your fishing and berry picking haul, as well as the abundance of good food that we bring. Wabakimi is a true wilderness area, remote, pristine and as wild as any place on earth.
DAY 1: Travel from Minneapolis to the remote Wabakimi Wilderness Area–a long drive but well worth it. Get to know your trip mates and get a good nights rest at the Wabakimi Wilderness Eco-Lodge in Armstrong, ON.
DAY 2: Rise early, get your coffee and breakfast and shuttle to the put-in spot at Caribou Lake. After a brief introduction, load your gear into the canoes and slip into the water.
DAYS 3-7: There are dozens of canoe routes in the Wabakimi Wilderness. Some routes are more challenging than others, but all offer the very best in wilderness canoeing. Regardless of the route choice, you will paddle and portage through the stark beauty of this northern canoe country. Wabakimi's boreal forest consists of black spruce, tamarack and jack pine, and supports all of the species that originally lived here–even the Woodland Caribou. There are also black bears, lynx, white pelicans, and plenty of gray wolves in the park. The terrain is rugged, with rivers connecting placid lakes carved out of the granite of the Canadian Shield.
One of the best features of the Park is that relatively few people camp here. You will enjoy campsites that are thick with Caribou Moss and lush vegetation–like Minnesota's Boundary Waters used to be 50 years ago.
Another highlight is the fishing–most people consider Wabakimi the very best walleye fishing they have ever encountered. It is not uncommon for a group to catch a superb walleye dinner for nine in less than an hour. There's a place called the "walleye kitchen" on the Boiling Sands River that cannot be beat! You can also hike through the woods and fill your hands with blueberries, some of which you might keep for delicious pancakes.
We always try and schedule a "layover" day on this trip, usually picking a choice campsite where you can stretch out in the sun and catch up on a good book. There are several great sand beaches for swimming, and numerous dunk holes where you can cool down in the sky blue waters.
DAY 8: Rise early on your last day in the wilderness to see the sunrise and say good-bye to your home of the last week. Your goal for the day is to paddle down to the take out and load up the waiting van with canoes and memories. Begin the long, but beautiful drive back to Minneapolis and arrive at Wilderness Inquiry around 10 pm.
What To Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: This area lies on the Canadian Shield, characterized by exposed granite with a thin layer of top soil, which is the result of glaciers scraping and grinding as recently as 10,000 years ago. Wheelchair users can expect difficulty at times (rocks, mud, logs, etc.). Generally, though, the lakes and rivers make this area quite accessible.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot Wenonah Champlain canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average day's travel consists of 3-6 hours of paddling, depending on the weather. Travel distances vary from 9-20 miles per day with the exception of scheduled layover days. There will be portages (short and long trail crossings) through the course of the trip. To protect the environment, WI uses Leave No Trace camping techniques.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 35 F to 85 F. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect one or two days of wet weather.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable "Big Agnes" tent. Typically, there are 3 people per 4 person tent (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of a latrine in the woods–we travel light!
MEALS: The fun of camping includes cooking in the wilderness, a challenge with great rewards. With plenty of fresh air and exercise, hungers are at their peak and our meals are especially good. We pride ourselves on providing healthful ingredients for simple, plentiful dishes everyone will enjoy. Count on hearty breakfasts of pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit, trail lunches of cheeses and cured meats, plenty of snacks, and wonderful stir-fries, sautés, and pasta dishes, finished off with campfire s’mores. Of course, there is nothing better than fresh walleye! Bring your fishing pole!
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 5 to 7 participants, plus 2 Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however, we ask that you pitch in when you can. Part of the adventure involves participating in daily camp activities such as cooking and dishes.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: If you are new to outdoor activities, you need not spend a lot of money on gear. Wilderness Inquiry will provide all necessary canoeing and camping equipment. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. The fishing is excellent in Wabakimi. We encourage you to bring a collapsible rod and reel. Walleye and Northern Pike bite on 1/2 to 3/8 oz jigs and various spoons. You will need to purchase a non-resident Ontario fishing license for about $25. These can be purchased at the lodge on the first night.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: While not technically difficult, this trip can be strenuous. We do not recommend it if you are in poor physical condition. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip, but you do need to be able to carry packs and items across difficult trails.
PASSPORT/VISA: U.S. citizens need a passport to enter Canada. One blank passport page is typically required for entry stamp. No tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens for stays under 180 days. We encourage you to check the State Department website for the most up-to-date entry requirements.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
Wabakimi Provincial Park is a world-class canoeing and recreational area in the heart of Northwestern Ontario. Home of the elusive woodland caribou, and renowned for its high quality fly-in fishing and hunting, it is one of the world's largest Boreal Forest reserves and wilderness canoeing areas.
The Canadian Shield
The park lies within the Superior Structural Province of the Precambrian Shield, an extensive rock type that underlies half of Canada and is comprised of some of the oldest rocks on earth. A wide range of intrusive and metamorphic rocks form a gently rolling terrain of rock ridges and shallow lake basins.
The Boreal Forest
Wabakimi Provincial Park is situated entirely within the Boreal Forest, a broad belt of coniferous forest that stretches between the mostly treeless arctic/subarctic region to the north, and the mixed hardwood-coniferous transition forest of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region to the south. The waters of glacial Lake Agassiz have denuded many upland areas, producing expanses of dry lichen rockscapes which support valuable caribou habitat. Typical boreal tree species such as black spruce and jackpine, with occasional trembling aspen and white birch, dominate upland areas, while black spruce and larch vegetate the wet, organic deposits commonly found in bedrock depressions.
Wildlife of Wabakimi
The wildlife species of the park are typical of the Boreal Forest region. These species include large game animals such as moose, woodland caribou, and bear; as well as smaller mammals such as snowshoe hare, least chipmunk, red squirrel, lynx, fox, marten, weasel, timber wolf, beaver, muskrat, otter and mink. Typical bird species include raven, grey jay, osprey, bald eagle, boreal owl, spruce grouse, common loon, black duck, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, herring gull, ovenbird and thrushes.
The Woodland Caribou of Wabakimi Provincial Park
At one time, woodland caribou enjoyed a broad geographic distribution throughout Northwestern Ontario and the northern United States. Throughout most of the 20th century, caribou populations declined or were eliminated in the southern portions of their historic range in Ontario. Today they are found only in scattered herds throughout the Boreal forest and are considered a vulnerable species.
An estimated 300 woodland caribou trek the lichen-rich, granite hills of Wabakimi Provincial Park. Unlike their social, northern cousins, the barren ground caribou, these elusive woodland species seldom form large groups or herds. Their survival strategy seems to be based on a pattern of dispersion, with individuals living and travelling alone or in small groups. Scattered about the hinterlands in such few numbers, may give each individual caribou a better chance of eluding predators, especially timber wolves, or possibly lynx and black bear.
The park waterways have been travelled for centuries by the Ojibway and most portages in the region have evolved from this historic use. Ancient campsites, artifacts and pictograph (rock painting) sites found throughout the park tell some of the Wabakimi story.
Evidence suggests that people have called Wabakimi ‘home' for about 7000 years, ranging throughout the area in small family groups, stopping where fish and game were plentiful, or the berries ripe. To survive, these people needed an in-depth understanding and appreciation for their environment.
Wabakimi is a Wilderness park with a capital "W." It is vast. Trails and campsites are not maintained. As a result, portages may have many blowdowns, and your favorite tent site may have a tree lying across it. So few people travel here that portage trails typically are not well worn paths, except in the most used areas around the perimeter of the Park. One man, Phil Cotton, is described as Wabakimi's "renegade caretaker" because he cruises the back country and clears portage trails and campsites–against Park wishes. We've seen Cotton paddle by and we agree with writer Conner Mihell's description of him as a cross "between the Marlboro Man and a backwoods Santa Claus." Who knows, we may see Phil Cotton again on your trip!
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No Dates Scheduled
WI leads trips to Wabikimi but currently has no dates scheduled. If you have a group of people interested, we can set up a customized adventure just for you! Wabikimi is a phenomenal wilderness, huge and hardly visited. Please contact us if you are interested in a group trip to this destination.