The rugged cliffs of the Pre-Cambrian shield rise 305 metres above the cold and restless waters of Lake Superior. Waters steeped with mystery and folklore, yet so clear you can see 30 metres below the surface. Many legends surround Nanabijou, the unique formation of mesas and sills located on the Sibley Peninsula which resembles a sleeping giant. It is believed that Nanabijou watches over Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay and the Lake Superior Coast offer a multitude of activities for visitors amidst stunning natural beauty. Its shores and panoramas have been captured by photographers and artists alike throughout the years, but perhaps most notably by Canada’s Group of Seven; who all painted the North Shore in the 1920s.
Sail the mighty waters of North America’s inland sea
Experience the crystal waters and magnificent vistas first hand. There are tons of great swim spots all along the shoreline. The lake may be too cool for some, but it is ideal for sailing. Lake Superior, often referred to as an inland sea, is the largest fresh water lake by surface area in the world.
Explore this natural marvel with experienced operators such as Sail Superior. They offer cruises or rentals for certified sailors. A variety of trips from 90-minute harbour cruises to multi-day big lake adventures can be booked in town or online prior to your arrival. Harbour tours are offered several times daily, or book a three and a half hour excursion with one or more boats for romantic dalliances, twilight sails or group getaways. Explore the many islands or just take in the awesome natural wonders you will only see by boat. Two-day adventures can take you to Isle Royale, a U.S. National Park (so don’t forget your passport). Or do it yourself and learn to sail with ISPA certification courses.
Lake Superior is very deep and very big with waters that are famous for being unpredictable. Waves in excess of nine metres (30 feet) have been recorded, and Lake Superior has claimed her share of ships. Divers can explore some of these famous wrecks and learn about their histories.
Fish are plentiful in the cool waters of Lake Superior, in fact over 80 species of fish have been found here. With 100,000 lakes in the region there are several options for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you prefer fly-fishing, sport fishing or open water fishing, just grab your rod and see what you reel in.
Just northwest of Thunder Bay you can visit the National Marine Conservation Area, the largest freshwater marine protected area in the world.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is the ideal place to get close to nature. From a distance the rock formations appear to be a giant laying on his back with his hands crossed in repose, this is Nanabijou. The dense forest sings with the melody of the hundreds of species of birds that are found here. Over 80 kilometres of difficult trails wind through the boreal forest and Canadian Shield to the top of the sleeping giant. Cabins and camping sites are available along the way. Cliffs drop 300 metres into the lake and views of Lake Superior from the top of the Giant Trail and Thunder Bay Look Out are unsurpassed.
East of Thunder Bay, in the township of Dorion, you’ll find Ouimet Canyon, a natural wonder with mesmerizing views. At an approximate depth of 100 metres and width of 159 metres, the floor of the canyon contains Arctic plants, usually found on the shores of Hudson Bay. Trails are well marked for hiking but do not lead to the floor of the cavern which is off limits due to its ecological fragility.
Eagle Canyon, 45 minutes east of Thunder Bay, is home to Canada’s longest suspension foot bridge, extending an incredible 183 metres across the canyon and over 46 metres above the canyon’s base where a spring fed lake runs. If you don’t have the gumption for the large bridge, you can cross the smaller 91.5 metre long bridge just below, at a mere 38 metres above the ground. Once across you can explore the numerous trails or for more excitement take Canada’s longest, highest and fastest zip line down. Suspended 46 metres high, this zip line is almost a kilometre (a half mile) long and reaches speeds in excess of 72 km per hour for 60 seconds of exhilaration.
Go back in time to 1816 at Fort William Historical Park where the North West Fur Trade Company and the local Ojibwa people began trading goods and furs, located in town.
Photograph the local lighthouses found along the northern shore of Superior. Porphyry Island, named for the island’s igneous rock – porphyry, was home to one of the earliest lighthouses. Manned lighthouses, the first put into use on Porphyry in 1873, may well be a way of the past, but it is a past rich with stories and of trying times. The current lighthouse on Porphyry was built in the 1960s but fell into a serious state of disrepair and vandalism. Two years ago the land was tamed, the trails rehabilitated and the property restored to its former glory. Today, nature lovers can spend a night at the point by paying a fee or donating their time to upkeep the station. Another one of the island’s oddities is that Porphyry, along with three nearby islands, are the only places where devil’s club, a shrub with a spiny stem and large leaves, can be found east of the Rockies.
The land is filled with oddities and legends. Green spaces, cool waters and blue sky abound here in Ontario’s playground – let your inner adventurer free and discover it.