Atikokan: On the doorstep of Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park
The Town of Atikokan, known as the Canoeing Capital of Canada, is located about 200 km west of Thunder Bay and 130 km east of Fort Frances, Ontario, and about 30 minutes from the famous Quetico Provincial Park. The town has roughly 2,800 people which are some of the most resilient people I know. Through the years Atikokan has seen many industries come and go—from the fur trade to hematite mining to the logging industry—but one thing that remains constant is the fighting spirit of the local residents.
Another thing that remains constant is the wilderness and beauty that surrounds Atikokan—it's what brought many of us here in the first place. With that comes plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, fishing, and much more.
Here are the top 10 things to do in Atikokan
1. feel the spray at Little Falls
Little Falls (shown in the top photograph) is a scenic natural waterfall located near the golf course. Park at the Walleye Hatchery and walk down the short path to see the falls. There's a sheltered picnic area as well as benches and picnic tables as you explore the falls. If you walk over the bridge it will take you closer to the second set of waterfalls.
2. play a round at Little Falls Golf Course
Enjoy a round of golf at the most challenging course in Northwest Ontario. The Little Falls Golf Course is a beautiful course consisting of rolling hills, off-camber shots, and creek crossings. You can even see the waterfalls from the 7th hole.
3. discover Quetico Provincial Park
Quetico is a wilderness park filled with towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls, virgin pine, and spruce forests, picturesque rivers, and lakes. It's famous in the paddling circles for its backcountry canoeing and kayaking in over 2,000 lakes and 460,000 ha of remote wilderness. Paddle for a few days or a few weeks. I'll bet you'd be hard-pressed to see many other canoeists or kayakers. If you do, it'll be only in passing. You certainly won't see any motorized boats as they are banned in the park, making your wilderness backcountry trip all that more remote and quiet. There are over 2,200 interior sites throughout the park which you can reserve through the Ontario Parks Reservation Service up to 5 months in advance or by calling 1-888-668-7275 or 1-519-826-5290 (Outside of Canada & U.S.)
For families that don't wish to have such a remote experience, the drive-to Dawson Trail Campgrounds in Quetico Park is located 30 minutes east of Atikokan on Highway 11. There are many hiking trails, a beautiful beach, a playground, Heritage Information and Pavilion, camping and RV sites as well as a few rustic year-round cabins if you like to explore Quetico on skis in the winter.
Dawson Trail Campgrounds map. Download a high res version from Ontarioparks.com under maps.
4. ride, ski, and bike at Charleson Recreation Area
The Charleson Recreation Area was named after the original Canadian Charleson Iron Mine, which operated sporadically on these grounds from 1958-64. The CRA has recreational opportunities for snowmobilers, 4-wheelers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, anglers, hikers, picnickers, snowshoers, skiers, and more! It's also got an amazing motocross track that's a must-visit for motocross riders. Enjoy one of the events such as the Mudfling or use one of the many recreation trails in the area. View the maps of the trails in the Charleson Recreation Area to see just how extensive they really are.
5. tour the Walleye Fish Hatchery
The Walleye Hatchery is operated by the Sportsmen's Conservation Club. The club started in 1958 with a group of dedicated volunteers, and their efforts over the last 50 years have dramatically improved the walleye population in local lakes.
The fish hatchery is part of the Atikokan River system and uses fresh water from the falls to provide a perfect habitat for the eggs and fry as they develop. Tours can be arranged.
6. fish and have fun at the Atikokan Bass Classic
The Atikokan Bass Classic dubbed as the "Funnest Bass Tournament" is held mid-August each year. Even if you're not fishing in the tournament there are plenty of activities in the days leading up to and during the tournament. There's a free-to-enter ABC Kids' Fishing Tournament, free swimming, a Teddy Bear Picnic, BBQs, fish fry, mixed golf night, the parade of boats, pie sale, busking, age of majority dance, weigh-ins, and much more.
7. get educated at the Atikokan Centennial Museum
Learn about Atikokan's logging, mining, and pioneer history including the exhibit of the Steep Rock Iron Mine, a world-renowned engineering and diversion project. Visit the museum itself or wander around the Historical Park where you'll find a collection of heavy equipment from Atikokan's early logging, mining, and railroad days. The Shevlin-Clarke engine is one of only six surviving Lima Shay logging locomotives in Canada! Follow the Centennial Museum on Facebook for upcoming exhibits and events.
8. buy some local art at the Pictograph Gallery
The Pictograph Gallery is located in the Voyageur Mall, Lower Level at 115 Main Street. The gallery is a volunteer-driven, non-profit gallery that showcases the work of local and regional artists. The gift shop is filled with handcrafted artwork, art cards, jewelry, pottery, and woodwork. Workshops are often held in the gallery as well.
9. ski the Beaton Path Nordic Trails
During the winter, life in Atikokan doesn't stand still. The Beaten Path has some of the best cross-country trails in Ontario! Just minutes south of Atikokan you'll find more than 50 km of trails. Quality groomed skate lanes and track-set classic trails provide skiers with different options to experience wilderness surroundings on safe challenging trails in any weather conditions. Visit the Beaton Path website for more information and for a map of the cross-country ski trails.
10. enjoy world-class Snowmobiling
The Atikokan Sno-Ho Snowmobile Club maintains the beautiful trails near Atikokan in OFSC District 17. They maintain 500 km of snowmobile trail including a section of the Provincial A Trail. A couple of the more popular snowmobile loops in the area are the NWOSTA Wilderness Loop and the White Otter Loop. Whether you are heading out ice fishing on the snowmobile or just doing some sledding, you'll really enjoy the snowmobiling in the Atikokan area.
For more information on Atikokan contact:
- visitatikokan.com or their Facebook Page
- Atikokan Economic Development Corporation: Website, Facebook or call 807-597-2757 or 888-334-AEDC
- Town of Atikokan: Website or call 807-597-1234
- Atikokan Resorts and Lodges and Canoe Outfitters
- Atikokan Sno-Ho Club
If you'd like a map of Atikokan and more information on the area. please order the free Ontario's Sunset Country Travel Guide & Map and it will be mailed directly to your door.