A Line that Connects
There’s a line that connects Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba and distant Lake Superior in Ontario and it’s called the Path of the Paddle. At first glance, the region between is a maze of waterways, a labyrinth of rivers, lakes, creeks, and the portages that connect them. For paddlers, the water route, a segment of the Trans Canada Trail, is an 1180km adventure that delivers you into a wilderness experience in the heart of the Canadian Shield.
For those on a staycation, the trail is an opportunity to access the wilderness in various day-use scenic areas. Whether you plan to thru-paddle the entire route for months or paddle for the day into Moose Lake on the trail's Eastern edge, paddlers are immersed in an experience of towering white pines, bedrock ledges of jack pine, the song of rushing rivers, thousands of years of Indigenous land-use history, and the experiences of intimate wildlife sightings.
The Path of the Paddle is Northwestern Ontario's finest canoe route and comprises 152 portages through 6 sections called the Animikii, Omimi, Quetico, Maukinak, Migizi, linoo Oowan trails. Here is what you need to know to plan for your dream canoe trip on this scenic trail:
Day Use Access
For paddlers accessing the Path of the Paddle for the purpose of day trips, there are exceptional opportunities. The main access points in Ontario are Minaki, Keewatin, Kenora, Rushing River Provincial Park, Vermilion Bay, Dryden, Browns Clearwater West Lodge, Atikokan, Nym Lake, Red Pine Canoe Outfitters on Northern Lights Lake, and North Fowl Lake.
Of particular beauty, for out and back paddles are Northern Lights Lake, where Bob at Red Pine Canoe Outfitters can rent you canoes and paddles, and the islands in front of his resort offer shelter from the big lake winds and the fishing is exceptional. North Fowl Lake is a great option as there are camping options at the lake access and a portage leaves from the west end of the lake and will deliver you into Moose Lake, with a scenic lunch spot beside the crystal clear water.
French Lake in Quetico Provincial Park offers canoe rentals and provides paddlers a sheltered paddle down the French River into Pickerel Lake, where a beach awaits swimmers and lunch. Nym Lake offers access to a beautiful island-studded lake where paddlers can rent canoes from Voyageur Wilderness Program, a portage takes you into Batchewaung Lake in Quetico where motorboats are prohibited.
Canoe Canada Outfitters can outfit you anywhere in the Atikokan area, though a paddle from town on the Atikokan River is a serene experience to enjoy a northern town in the middle of canoe country. Other canoe outfitters in Quetico include Branch's Seine River Lodge and Canoe Outfitters and Camp Quetico.
Dryden’s access on Wabigoon Lake provides paddlers with an option to set a second vehicle south of the access point, allowing for a day trip of 15km and a few portages later on Trap Lake. Kenora offers a day trip where paddlers can enjoy the feeling of island mazes while catching views of Kenora, or they can enjoy the excellent fishing of the Winnipeg River on the city’s north end.
For the adventurous spirit, the Path of the Paddle is an opportunity to challenge yourself on a multi-month expedition through the wilderness of Northwestern Ontario. Starting at either Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba or in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Lake Superior, thru paddlers can expect a challenge and experience not offered anywhere else.
With various resupply points along the entire route, as well regional trail committees to keep portages as up to date as possible, your trip is one of immersive wilderness paddling and brief forays into the rugged towns of the Canadian shield.
There are various outfitters on the route, though most are strategically centered in the town of Atikokan. In Thunder Bay, Wilderness Supply is your one-stop expedition shop for rentals and gear. In Kenora, Green Adventures and The Hardwear Company provide canoe and kayak rentals. On Northern Lights Lake, Bob at Red Pine Canoe Outfitters can rent you all you need for extended trips and his knowledge is invaluable.
Visitors enjoy the opportunity to photograph various wildlife sightings along the entire trail including moose, bears, wolves, and deer. Birds include various ducks, grouse, trumpeter swans, geese, eagles, osprey, owls, hawks, and falcons. The landscape is a canvas for light and cloud, with sunsets accenting the rugged landscape by silhouetting pine-studded points and turning the water into velvety rich hues of pink and purple.
Indigenous Peoples History
The Path of the Paddle region travels through the traditional territories of Treaty 3 and the Robinson-Superior Treaty. The portage trails and water routes have been used for at least 8,000 years by Ojibway people and their legacy lives on in the continuity of these waterways. Along the route, there are various opportunities for paddlers to view pictographs, though we ask you not to photograph or touch these sacred sites. An offering of tobacco and a thank you is a traditional way to honour the spirits and ask for safe travels.
How To Plan Your Trip
The essential tool for planning a trip is to purchase a planner map from the Path of the Paddle website. Additionally, the association is working to have digitized, GPS downloadable maps with portages, campsites, and all the route info you need ready for purchase by late spring. If you need help beginning your trip, arranging shuttles, or are looking for tips, please reach out to the Trail Coordinator.