It had been quite a few years since I had visited Kakabeka Falls when I decided to stop while on a road trip this summer. In the past, I had only viewed the falls from the highway side. This year, we decided to spend some time and cross the bridge to the other side of the waterfalls, and I'm so glad I did! I am truly amazed by the beauty and power of the waterfalls.
The iron-stained water of the Kaministiquia River drops 40 meters (130ft) into a gorge carved out of the Precambrian Shield. The Kam River has cut deep into the rocks to reveal 1.6 million-year-old fossils at the bottom of the falls! The escarpments along the gorge that you can see from the observation decks are composed primarily of unstable shale and are eroding. Due to the fragile rock, access to the gorge below the falls is prohibited.
Here are 5 reasons you must stop at Kakabeka Falls next time you are in Northwest Ontario
1. Easy to get to
Like many other waterfalls in Northwest Ontario, Kakabeka Falls is easily accessible. In fact, it's literally right off Highway 11/17. You exit, you park, and the first view of the waterfalls is right there, a mere 100 ft (or less!) from your car. Kakabeka Falls is only about 32km (20 miles) west of Thunder Bay.
2. The falls are not commercialized
Kakabeka Falls is located within the Provincial Park and thus is set in a wilderness setting. The closest thing to commercialization would be the few souvenirs to purchase at the Ontario Parks Store in the Visitor Centre. Boardwalks and viewing platforms offer excellent views on both sides of the Kaministiquia River. The Natural Heritage Education Program is based at the Visitor Centre where you can find information on the park, enjoy interpretive programs during summer months and speak to a Naturalist.
From a viewing platform, you can not only see the waterfalls, but also the gorge across the river. The Kam River has cut a gorge through the rock layers exposing the spirits and stories of 2 billion years ago.
3. Trails and viewing decks are easily accessed
The Boardwalk Trail begins at the parking lot and wraps around the falls. It is wheelchair accessible with viewing platforms along the trail. The view from the pedestrian bridge is amazing. When you view the falls later in the season, like I did in mid-August, the water is fairly calm on top, reminding me of an infinity pool. I've seen photos in the Spring where the view from the pedestrian bridge shows rapidly gushing water before plunging over the falls.
The Mountain Portage Trail is a 1.25km trail that starts near the Visitor Centre and follows in part the portage that early travelers used to traverse around Kakabeka Falls. The trail provides great views of the falls, gorge, and river. The trail is gravel, however, it is flat, and wide, and pushing a stroller should be fairly easy if you have young ones.
The Little Falls Trail is one that I didn't go down but wished I would have. It splits downward from the Mountain Portage Trail. The trail meanders along the river bank, then follows a creek to a smaller waterfall. This trail is not wheelchair accessible.
4. Great views of the falls from many angles
The boardwalks and viewing decks make it possible to see the falls from various places. My favourite place to view the falls was the first viewing decks just after you cross the bridge. You can see the water just as it's going over the edge. It's a bit more rugged on this side, with more variation in the rock. At one point farther along you could see the waterfalls and the gorge wrap around at the same time.
5. It's a bargain!
For the price of parking a mere couple of bucks an hour, you can visit the waterfalls - the second-highest waterfalls open year-round in Ontario. Not sure what other attractions can be so beautiful to see and yet so inexpensive. You can easily tour the waterfall by paying only for an hour of parking.
The Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park also has a campground if you'd like to stay longer than a visit to the falls. You can call 1-888-668-7275 to reserve or reserve a campsite online. If you are just going to the waterfalls, there's no need to reserve just pull in and get a parking pass.
Plan to stop in at Kakabeka Falls the next time you are driving the Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay, it's such a great view. Plus you can have a picnic in the park, use the washroom and stretch your legs. Enjoy!