I saw one car leaving Ouimet Canyon as I drove in (10 minutes off the TransCanada Highway near Dorion). An hour later, as I was leaving, I saw one car driving up the hill to the visitor’s centre. The rest of the time I had this marvellous, unheralded and absolutely astonishing bit of Northern Ontario real estate all to myself.
I’d read about the canyon, but, like many things in life and like many things I saw along the way during my recent trip from Thunder Bay to Toronto, the photos didn’t do it justice. Not by a long shot.
A Unique Wilderness Experience
I was a tad nervous being on my own in somewhat remote country where I might see a curious bear or three, but I grabbed a stick (am I a city slicker or what?) and tried singing and humming out loud as I walked the five or ten minutes through the forested area that leads from the parking lot to the first of two solid-looking viewing platforms that have been built for visitors.
I crossed a beautiful, modern bridge over a narrow, deep canyon and then hiked up a small hill (the trails are easy and well marked but I caution they are not suited for anyone who’s disabled or in a wheelchair) and found the first viewing area. And was gobsmacked.
Sheer Cliffs, Distinct Rock Formations
A wide and deep canyon flanked in brown and black ancient stone stood in front of me, bright and deep green trees in the canyon below and other trees and bushes somehow eking out an existence on shelves or cracks in the canyon wall. To my right, the canyon opened up to reveal a pretty lake and a bright green meadow and, in the distance, the glittering water of Lake Superior.
The wind whistled gently in my ear and I stood transfixed and alone. To my left, the canyon swept up into higher elevations with a large curve, fading away as if tantalizing me to learn more about her mysterious ways.
The rocks are hugely impressive; massive slabs of dark, weather-beaten stone hammered and tonged by centuries of snow, ice, rain, sun and wind. Nature has carved large, vertical cracks and small shelves where tiny trees and bushes grow. I didn’t see any, but they say eagles and other birds are a common sight in the skies above the valley.
Unique Flora and Fauna
They say the canyon is so deep (100 metres or so) that the flora and fauna below is the same as you’d find on the shores of Hudson Bay, 1,000 km to the north. Folks aren’t allowed on the floor of the canyon due to its ecological fragility. I’m sure the view from there would be amazing, but it’s hard to beat the one from above.