Wednesday, July 24

Lake Superior Circle Tour, Canada

Lake Superior Circle Tour and Camping Trip

If you have a sports car or motorcycle this is a drive well worth the time and miles.
The views and scenery are breathtaking and absolutely amazing.  
But you can enjoy them nearly as much from a camper, full size car or van. This is merely the highlights of our Circle Tour trip.  
There is so much more to see and do it is impossible to do on one trip.

What is the Lake Superior Circle Tour? 
It is a 1,300-mile circle tour by highway around the world’s largest and most famous freshwater lake, with scenic shorelines, sandy beaches and towering bluffs.  (We actually ended up driving around 2400 miles)

The tour is accessible from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada.
We began our tour in Mackinaw City, Michigan, because it’s closest to our home state, Ohio. 
Things to keep in mind: Gas was around $5.50 a gallon, adult beverages were double as in a 12 pack of Budlight is around $20.00.  There is not much in between larger cities such as restaurants and gas stations.  Bring provisions and fill up on gas whether you need it or not.

Although we spent only one night in Mackinaw City, I gather it is a wonderful city with much to see and do.
While there we visited the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, viewed the Mackinaw Bridge from Bridge View Park and had Pasties for dinner.  If you have not experienced the U.P.’s exclusive meat pies you are missing out.  I am in love with them, but that’s another story!

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Mackinaw City, Michigan

We continued our route to highway 17 and Canada’s Transcontinental Highway, through Sault Ste. Marie and customs. You must have a current passport to enter Canada.
You may want to stop at the visitor’s center in Sault Ste. Marie (Sue Saint Marie) for more information on things to see and do along the Circle Tour.

It is approximately 380 miles from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. Cross the International Bridge into Canada for the drive west along Superior's wild North Shore. For two days, the lake rarely will be out of view. Ahead is a ruggedly majestic realm of rocky coves, pebbled beaches, high cliffs, countless small lakes, endless miles of tall firs, and Lake Superior's sparkling blue waters.

Canada's Transcontinental Highway

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Pancake Bay Provincial Park.
This wide, sheltered, sandy bay is on Lake Superior's east shore.   From a viewing platform you can see the lake and the spot where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a fierce November gale in 1975.
Voyageurs used to stop here with just enough flour left to make pancakes before restocking supplies in nearby Sault Ste. Marie

Tent camping on the beach, Lake Superior, Canada

Our first camping site in Canada we tent camped in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
The campsites choices at Agawa Bay are primitive or electric, wooded, sandy or right on the beach.
We chose right on the beach.

Agawa Bay Beach, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Canada (The tiny orange dot is our tent)

Because it was June and the weather was cooler (high 60’s and 70’s) there were very few people… anywhere.  Having a beach all to ourselves was a wonderful thing.

Lake Superior Provincial Park, Canada

Agawa Bay sunset, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Canada

Here's is where I need to tell you about mosquitoes. 
Many many mosquitoes, being bitten by lots of mosquitoes, being nearly carried away by same said mosquitoes.  Because of the West Nile Virus, you should try to reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.  Proper clothing is great and we do all that. And I brought along my all natural mosquito spray, how cute.  It wasn’t.  I am against using chemicals, but for this trip, we finally stopped at a hardware store and purchased a spray with lots and lots of Deet.  I now understand the saying “mosquitoes big enough to carry you away.”

Once the mosquito problem was solved, we decided to stay in this area hiking, exploring and enjoying the scenery for a couple days.

Stone stairs to Pictographs
  The hike back to Agawa Rock Pictographs is beautiful,
  with   steps cut into rock walls, and an end destination to
  check out the ancient pictographs. 

  The trail descends steeply to the pictograph rock, a
   towering boulder at water's edge.

  A historic site, it bears many red-ocher paintings made by
  ancient Ojibwa Indians (as the Chippewa are known in
Info and viewing of pictographs

Ancient Pictograph

There are many falls to see while in Lake Superior Provincial Park: Agawa Falls, Sand River Falls and Baldhead River Falls. We hiked back to Agawa Falls.

Agawa Falls along the Agawa River, Canada

I think our favorite off road trip was a last minute decision to follow an 9 mile, unpaved, rough and rocky one lane dirt road off Highway 17 called Gargantua Road.  The road ended at a secluded bay, primitive campsites, and a sandy, multiple colored rocky beach called Gargantua Bay. 
This is the area we will return to on our next visit!!   

Gargantua Harbor beach

Rocky sandy secluded beach at Gargantua Harbor

I have since found out that the Batchewana First Nation will be conducting ceremonies in this area in August, 2013.
Also from here you can hike the Coastal Trail to Warp Bay (2 miles) and on to Devil's Chair (1.2 miles) 

Our little rock stack on the beach at Gargantua Harbor

It began to rain midweek so one night we stayed at The Parkway Motel in a small town called Wawa. The town of Wawa takes its name from the Ojibwe word for "wild goose", "wewe". The motel was small but very clean, recently remodeled and they allow dogs.

We had dinner (and breakfast) in a small diner called Columbia Restaurant & Pizzeria.  If you love pizza they make a pretty good one, and the breakfast was cheap at $3.99.

You may also want to take a drive by the Wawa Visitor’s Center, scenic overlook and three huge Goose statues. 

The next morning we back-tracked a mile or two to see Scenic High Falls and Silver Falls, just outside of Wawa.
High Falls, Wawa, Canada

Continuing our drive around Lake Superior on Route 17 we stopped at Neys Provincial Park for a picnic lunch and a walk on the beach.

Neys Provincial Park

Back on Route 17 we stopped in Terrace Bay to see the Aguasabon Falls.  
These falls are not very well marked as to where they are located, but if you can find them are worth the stop.

Aguasabon Falls, Terrace Bay, Canada

We camped at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, near Terrace Bay 
The park is named for the rainbows that often rise from the glittering cascades that fall down the rocky steps from Whitesand Lake to the Whitesand River.

Our campsite in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Canada

Our campsite was right on the lake.  Along the shore here are huge smooth flat granite and quartz rocks instead of a sandy beach.  A heavy fog rolled in during the night changing the appearance of everything when we awoke in the morning.

Heavy fog at our campsite, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Canada

After making coffee on our camp stove we hiked through dense woods, down many wooden stairs and over a bridge to view Rainbow Falls splashing down a narrow, rocky channel. Again, amazing.  (Enough waterfall photos for a little while!)

Continuing our trip we stopped at Sleeping Giant ProvincialPark, outside of Thunder Bay. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is so named simply because the rock formation resembles a sleeping giant.  This park is about a 30 minute drive south off Highway 17 so plan extra time for this stop.  And don’t miss the Thunder Bay Lookout!!

Thunder Bay Overlook, cantilevers over cliff face

Wow! This lookout is not for the faint of heart.  The drive up to the lookout is rough, bumping and a lot of driving over large rocks.  The lookout structure cantilevers well beyond the cliff face, hundreds of feet above Lake Superior! 

View from Thunder Bay overlook
The Thunder Bay Overlook road is rocky!

Our Canadian black bear sighting was in this park also. 

Black bear sighting
No, I'm not that crazy. Wait, yea, I am, but not with bears.  This time I'm using a zoom lens so calm down.

After days of peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, granola, apples and bananas we needed good old fashioned comfort food.  

Our stop at The Missing Horse Diner on Route 17 outside of Thunder Bay did not disappoint.  The food was just good old fashion diner food, with friendly service, was very clean, and food was fresh and hot.

 Our accommodation for the night was a chain hotel in Thunder Bay.

Fort William Historical Park, Canada
The following day our first stop after breakfast was Fort William Historical Park.  
This was one of our favorite stops, or at least in the top five.

Originally, this headquarters was located at Grand Portage, Minnesota on Lake Superior. 

After Jay's Treaty established the boundary between the United States and British North America, the Company was forced to relocate or pay taxes to the Americans for goods and furs shipped across the border.

Fort William Historical Park, Canada

In 1801 the company began building its new headquarters on Lake Superior at the mouth of the Kaministikwia River.  

In the 1800s, Fort William was a major center of commerce whose history was deeply intertwined with the economic and political development of North America.  

Fort William Historical Park, Canada

This fort is a reconstruction of the original fort that dominated the North American fur trade in the early nineteenth century.

The original location of this fort is 10 miles away and is now part of the city of Thunder Bay.  

Fort William historical park has done complete reconstruction of more than 40 historic buildings.

Fiddle playing at Fort William Historical Park, Canada

To remain on the Circle Tour we took Route 61 south from Thunder Bay, driving into Minnesota, which is heading south towards Duluth.

We stopped at another fur trading post, the first of the North West Company's, which is in Grand Portage, Minnesota.  The North West Company Fur Post is not as grand as Fort William, but is on the original site.  There is also a trail near this site that has been used for 6000 years.

North West Company Fur Post, Minnesota

We camped for the night at Judge C.R. Magney State Park in Minnesota.

Interesting thing about this park are the concrete foundations that are remnants of a transient work camp built here in 1934 by the state.  The camp provided work and lodging for men displaced by the Depression years.

We woke early, packed up our tent and meager belongings, and hiked the Devil’s Kettle Trail back to Devil’s Kettle and Upper Falls along the Brule River.

The Brule River, Minnesota

Driving along Route MN 61 you will see Beaver Falls.  There is a small parking area right pass the falls for better views of the falls and Beaver Bay.  This is supposedly the oldest settlement on the North shore of Lake Superior. 

Beaver Falls, Minnesota

 Our final stop on our Circle Tour was the Split Rock Lighthouse.   The admission to go inside the lighthouse and walk around the base is $9.00.  Because we had a Minnesota Parks day pass, we decided instead to drive to the nearby campground and walk up the shoreline until the lighthouse came into view.  This is where the most famous photos of the lighthouse are shot anyway.

Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota


Our Lake Superior Circle Tour ended here because we left the Tour to visit friends and relatives in Wisconsin. 

The Lake Superior Circle Tour can be continued across Minnesota, through Wisconsin and into Michigan, which is on our list of future trips.

Happy travelling,
Me and our mini Dachshund Josie in Canada


Anonymous said...

Great info for the Circle Tour. Thanks
I also like a lot of your other blog posts!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. We loved the Circle Tour and would recommend it to anyone with a sports car, motorcycle, camper, bicycle, even hiking on foot. Well, so anyone really! And we saw all those modes of transportation on our trip.

Anonymous said...

Write more, that's all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you clearly know what you're talking about. Thanks for the great information on the Canadian part of the Circle Tour. Cheers, Emma

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Why thanks, but not sure about the part where I know what I'm talking about, haha. Just loved the trip so hope that came across in the post. As to writing more, yes hopefully more as the days get colder and all my summer chores are caught up, I can at least write more often,......... hopefully

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I always check your blog posts early in the morning since I really enjoy seeing your new posts. Great photos and info. Keep up the good work!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Mornings are my favorite time of day too, I think. Everything is so quiet and that first cup of coffee is wonderful! Thanks for reading my blog!

Anonymous said...

I love that your blog that's both educational, interesting, and sometimes humorous. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this. We love to travel so may give this trip a try! Thanks!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks for stopping by, glad you like the blog!

Anonymous said...

The part about the mosquitoes is spot on. I just read that a "University of Manitoba researcher is hatching a plan to control the population of the needle-nosed disease distributors by chemically sterilizing a batch of males and releasing them into the wild". Not sure how that will control the blood sucker population but it's good to know someone is trying something!

Anonymous said...

You should be a part of a contest for coolest website photos! Thanks for sharing your trip. Edna

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

The testing with the mosquitoes may be the same thing they do with fleas on dogs. The monthly treatment for fleas sterilizes them so they can not reproduce. It would be a miracle to do the same with those giant mosquitoes we encountered on our trip!

Anonymous said...

I love the adventures you guys tend to be up too. This is clever insight and coverage on travel! Keep up the great work and lets see more travel writing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I do have a couple trips I'm going to write about when I get time, thanks for the compliments!

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Anonymous said...

Howdy! This blog post couldn't be written any better! Looking at this post reminds me
of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this.
I will send this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a good
read. Thanks for sharing!

Rich said...

Great article! Brings back a lot of memories from the time when I did it in 2010.