Wilderness Paddling in Sunset Country, Ontario
For the wilderness canoeist, the name Quetico conjures up images of giant white pines, crystal clear lakes, and some of North America's best wilderness canoeing. Quetico Park, located in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country is for many canoeists, the ultimate place to paddle. Quetico Park is located west of Lake Superior and stretches 40 miles north and 60 miles east-west from the boundary waters of the Canada-US border. Atikokan, the closest Canadian town is called the "Canoeing Capital of Canada".
With hundreds of lakes and rivers in its boundaries, the waterways wind their way through the vast boreal forest landscape. Once the routes of the Ojibway and later, the fur traders, Quetico is steeped in history as well as mystery. There are few places like it anywhere else on earth. Classified as a wilderness park, Quetico is a place where you can find that ultimate camping spot and where novice or experienced canoeists can find routes that fit their skill level. Go fishing in lakes so pristine you can see the bottom at 15 feet and where bass, walleye and northern pike are abundant. Motorboats are prohibited in the park, so it makes for a very peaceful paddle. The park is so large that often you may only see one or two other canoeists your whole trip.
According to the Quetico Foundation, the greatest concentration of aboriginal rock paintings in eastern North America occurs between Lake Superior and the Manitoba border and in and around Quetico Park. Throughout the Park, there are 28 known pictograph sites, often associated with impressive cliff faces. Usually less than 30 cm in size, the pictographs are reddish in colour because of the pigment, red ochre, a soft oxide of iron. The pictographs show a variety of figures including humans, canoes, moose, caribou, bears, turtles, and abstract symbols.
With its vast size, Quetico presents the opportunity for a vigorous "paddle to a new site every day excursion" or a more relaxed, "paddle in and camp" type of trip. Regardless of what you decide to do, if you love wilderness canoeing then you are going to find this park to your liking. In the Town of Atikokan, located just north of the Park, you will find canoe outfitters who can set you up for a safe trip into the park. If you are a novice canoeist, the option of a guided canoe trip is available. Here you don't have to worry about knowing the exact route to take as an experienced guide will look after all that for you. If you have a lot of experience as a paddler, then you may want to use the services of an outfitter to help you plan your routes before setting out on your own. Local canoe outfitters can also rent you all the equipment you will need for a successful trip into the backcountry.
Although most campsites in Quetico are backcountry sites, there is one drive-to campground. The Dawson Trail Campground is located just off Highway 11 on French Lake, 48 km east of Atikokan on Highway 11 and 167 km west of Thunder Bay. There are over 100 campsites, with about half the sites having electrical and some pull-through options for larger campers. There are comfort stations with showers and laundry facilities. One comfort station is now winterized for year-round use. Yurts are available for rent at Dawson Trail Campground. The yurts sleep up to six, with electricity, a table, chairs, barbeque, and an outdoor fire pit.
Add some adventure to your life. Take a trip into Quetico Park and discover what a true wilderness landscape looks like. Once you do, we know you will return - again and again...
Bonus Link: Canoe Routes Across Ontario's Sunset Country