The drive from Sault Ste. Marie along Highway 17 North is a beautiful drive in which the road parallels the shoreline of Lake Superior. In Lake Superior Provincial Park, along the rugged coastline of Lake Superior, is a pristine and rugged hiking trail called Agawa Pictographs that leaves one in awe and imagining what it was like walking this trail back in history. Agawa Rock is a sacred site of the Ojibwe people, the original inhabitants of this region, who still have a vital and dynamic presence here today. But these pictographs take us back to another time—a time before the settlers made their presence in the landscape. Here is where you will find the Agawa Pictographs of the Anishinaabe. We are so fortunate that these paintings on the granite rock wall are still visible today.
Agawa Bay is situated 139 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It is about an hour and a half drive via Highway 17 N along the Trans Canada Highway.
To park in the Agawa Parking lot, you need a day pass, as Agawa is in Lake Superior Provincial Park. You can purchase the day pass at the Agawa Bay Welcome Centre, which is the park office for Lake Superior Provincial Park. Once you park in the Agawa Pictograph parking lot, put your day pass on your dashboard and lock up your vehicle.
You will need footwear that is good and sturdy. The trail is quite rocky and steep in places, so watching your footing is a must. It is about a 1/2-km hike to Agawa Rock along the shore of Lake Superior and will take you about a half-hour to an hour, depending on if you hike half the trail or go full circle. It is a moderate hike and steep in parts descending 30 m (98 ft).
The trail is well marked. Walking on this trail is like walking into the past with its rich mosses, delicate flowers, rugged boulders, rich green ferns, and coniferous and deciduous trees along the way. Please stay on the trail and only take pictures and not artifacts to protect the integrity of this area. There are many signs along the trail that are very informative regarding the history of the Ojibwe People, the Rock Canvas, the Pictographs, and their meanings, as well as warning signs for your safety.
If you are interested in the geology of the area, click here for the GeoTour guide. The geological site of the pictographs is within the area of the Canadian Shield. Scroll down to "Stop 4" for detailed information on the geology of this area. Along the trail, you will pass through a rock chasm of pink granite.
The Agawa Pictographs are a must-see on the edge of a rock cliff on the edge of Lake Superior. The most predominant image is that of Mishipeshu—a reptilian-looking animal. The Agawa pictographs were painted using ochre, a natural earth pigment consisting mostly of hydrated iron oxide.
The location of the paintings is a natural wonder in itself. Why this location on a steep rock cut with the wave action of Superior? Lake Superior needs to be calm for you to venture out onto the rock shelf to get a good look at the pictographs. It is quite dangerous and slippery in this area. Please use caution and common sense to keep yourself safe. Click here for an in-depth read about the pictographs and their history.
There is a plaque commemorating Selwyn Dewdney, the father of Rock Art Research in Canada. He studied many areas in Canada where pictographs were prevalent, but Agawa was very special to him. Upon his death, Dewdney’s ashes were spread into Lake Superior close to the Agawa Pictographs site. He discovered the pictographs in 1958.
This hike is a must whether you just want some exercise, to study this area's geology, or to study the historical significance of the Agawa Pictographs. You will not be disappointed, as this is the most famous pictograph site in Canada.