Where to go…where to go…that’s always the first question I ask myself when I’m faced with a week or two of vacation. In the past few years I’ve been staying more locally-based, as my kids were in the time of life when they didn’t have the stamina that comes with age.
Now that they’re older and starting to pull their own weight (and some of mine), it’s time to think about expanding horizons a little. We’re thinking Ontario.
Given most American’s ignorance of Canadian geography, it helps to explain the lay of the land a little. First, Ontario is huge. Not just huge, but huge. I’ll divide it roughly into three parts; eastern, central, and western, based largely on how you access the place.
To visualize the region, remember the lakes which look a little like a moose – Superior is the left antler, Huron the right antler, and Michigan the long snoot. They all come toegther where Michigan’s peninsulas meet near Sault Saint Marie.
Wisconsin paddlers may be most familiar with the western section — Quetico, Wabakimi, and Woodland Caribou among other Provincial Parks. They’re canoe heaven, and easily accessible through northern Minnesota. Many links are available on our site for more information about these gems. Farther north and east and you start running into remote, wild rivers like the Missinabi and the Nahanni.
To access the other areas of Ontario from Wisconsin and Michigan and Illinois, you drive up Michigan to Sault Saint Marie (pronounced “Soo”, not “Salt”). Then things get interesting. You can continue north and follow the north shore to the central area of Ontario, or turn right and head toward the north channel of Lake Huron. The central area is anchored by Lake Superior Provincial Park, and along the shore you’ll find the mouths of a dozen rivers made famous by early explorers and later by Bill Mason. Canoeists love the rivers and kayakers love the shorelines and small islands like Michipicoten Island near Pukaskwa.
The eastern part of Ontario is largely ignored by Americans. You’re more likely to find Kevin Callan, writer and canoe guide, and by a bunch of sea kayakers who have discovered the beautiful archipelago of the North Channel of Lake Huron. Perhaps it’s just that much more remote than we’re comfortable with, or it’s just a little too far away to drive in a long day. I dunno. It’s beautiful, and there are fewer people. A lot fewer. Just ask Kevin.
Head toward the eastern border of Ontario towards Peterborough and Ontario starts to disappear. Ottawa, as cities go, is definitely worth visiting. Then you’re coming up on Quebec and Montreal (another beautiful city) and onward to the Sanguenay Fjords…subject for another reference article someday. After I get back.