By Conor Mihell
It’s no surprise that a community located in the heart of the Great Lakes would embrace all forms of paddlesports. Not only is Sault Ste. Marie the gateway city for some of the best coastal sea kayaking and wilderness canoeing in Canada, it also boasts amazing options for paddling minutes from downtown. Regardless if you’re passionate about standup paddleboarding, canoe tripping, sea kayaking, whitewater or recreational kayaking, there’s something for you in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Sault College Waterfront Adventure Centre is a community hub on the shore of the St. Marys River. Not only does the gorgeous facility feature a cafe with amazing views, the Waterfront Adventure Centre rents canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards to explore the historic waterway that has always been central to Sault Ste. Marie’s raison d’etre. Evening is the best time of day for a paddleboard tour on the St. Marys River. Head east (downstream), past the Pine Street Marina, hugging the shore to appreciate the wildlife-rich wetlands of Bellevue Park, watching for ducks, mink and beaver. Rounding the isthmus of Topsail Island provides a new perspective on the city’s most popular park. If you time it right you’ll be graced with a spectacular sunset over the International Bridge on your way back.
Thrive Tours, a local Indigenous nature-based tour operator, offers guided canoe trips from the Waterfront Adventure Centre. These beginner-friendly outings share the full story of how the St. Marys River has supported life since time immemorial.
A downriver trip on the Goulais River, located just north of Sault Ste. Marie, is a springtime rite of passage for whitewater paddlers. This section of river requires high water, and the section from Mountainview Lodge on Highway 556 to the Highway 552 bridge can be done in as little as 4 hours thanks to a steady current. It’s best to make it a day trip to enjoy the Goulais’s soaring, pine-clad hills and great wildlife, including moose, waterfowl and beaver. This section includes Class I and II rapids, as well as plenty of swift water, making it suitable for novice whitewater paddlers–just make sure you travel with companions and dress for cold water temperatures. Stay at the nearby Bellevue Valley Lodge and pack a lunch to enjoy on one of the Goulais’s many gravel bars. As water levels decrease in late May and early June this section is great for anglers, with abundant walleye and smallmouth bass, as well as the possibility of rainbow- and brook trout.
Forest the Canoe offer guided nature tours on the lakes and rivers in the area, as well as on Lake Superior.
You won’t find a more remote–and picture perfect–retreat than Norm’s Cabin, tucked away in the Precambrian hills of the Algoma Highlands, north of Sault Ste. Marie. This off-grid cabin is located in Goulais River, a half-hour drive north of Sault Ste. Marie, and is accessible only by food or mountain bike. Rental comes with access to a canoe, and the freedom to explore gem-like lakes atop the rooftop of Ontario. Norm’s is popular for couples, families and getaways with friends. Contact Blaq Bear Eco Adventure Routes to plan your stay.
The hamlet of Gros Cap at the end of Highway 550, only 20 minutes west of Sault Ste. Marie, marks the eastern terminus of Lake Superior. An official launch on the Lake Superior Water Trail (a segment of the Trans Canada Trail) includes an accessibility dock, outhouses, picnic area and kayak storage locker. Paddling west provides an immediate glimpse of Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline: you’ll encounter spectacular cliffs, gravel beaches and a vast, open horizon along the 10-km section to Red Rock. Be sure to check the weather conditions in advance; this exposed stretch of shoreline is suitable for experienced paddlers only, with sea kayaks, sprayskirts and safety gear to mitigate the risk of cold water.
Central Algoma is a bucolic landscape of maple, oak and pine forests and small inland lakes, just east of Sault Ste. Marie. There are several public parks accessible via Highway 638, a quiet secondary route between Echo Bay and Bruce Mines, with great options for canoeing and recreational kayaking on calm and sheltered water. Visit Old Mill Beach Park on Rock Lake to discover a family-friendly waterfront for swimming and quiet paddling at the mouth of the meandering Thessalon River; this area is especially attractive to birders and naturalists, with a wide variety of song- and shorebirds and aquatic mammals. The Central Algoma Freshwater Coalition has produced an adventure map highlighting paddling and other outdoor activities throughout the region.
It’s amazing to discover a quiet, scenic, wilderness canoe route on Crown land barely 30 minutes from downtown Sault Ste. Marie. The Jarvis Circle Route is a perfect long-weekend getaway for novice and intermediate paddlers. The journey begins at a small public launch on Northland Lake, located off of Highway 556. A series of rugged portages (watch for discrete yellow signs to mark most) links nearly a dozen secluded lakes with many options for primitive camping, including Jarvis, Reserve and Crooked lakes—all of which boast excellent fishing for trout. This is a great area to practice your canoe tripping skills and get a taste of the wilderness of Northern Ontario.
In 2019 Sault Ste. Marie commissioned the creation of large scale murals by both globally renowned artists as well as exceptional talent within our own community. The next year local partners launched the inaugural Summer Moon Festival created to celebrate art and the many voices in our community.
Now in 2022, the Summer Moon Festival has grown to become an arts & music festival that not only includes real-time creation of large-scale public art, but also a pow wow in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day, live music performances as well as interdisciplinary artist workshops. Click here to learn more about 2022’s the Summer Moon Festival, happening June 21st – 25th.
Enjoy the murals year-round on a walking tour of Sault Ste. Marie with all the information below.
Battle for the Seven Clans
Thomas Sinclair is Ojibway from Couchiching First Nation. As a young boy, Thomas was mentored in the art of Woodland style by the late Isadore Wadow. Currently residing in Sault Ste. Marie, Thomas has found happiness in returning to these roots and sharing his art with the world.
The inspiration for this mural comes from the sacred stories passed down for generations through the Anishinaabe Indigenous Peoples. Stories of Aadizookaan, Tales of Nanabijou, and pictographs of the area. The mural features Mishipeshu which is a very prominent mythological water being that is featured in the Agawa Pictographs. Nanabijou was a shape shifter that is part human, bear, thunderbird, and plant.
In the creation story Nanabijou and Mishipeshu were battling one another for the seven clans and overall humanity. In the mural these incredible beings are powered by women on either side. The North wall features a woman with berries in her hair. She has a strawberry heart and is holding a bear cub and thunderbird nest. This woman represents the spiritual medicine. Mishipeshu is powered by a woman on the west side of the building. Her spine made of strawberry and also has a heart berry. Her hand is made of a vine that grows more Berries. Both of these women draw their strength from Mother Earth.
Known for his works lining the alleyways and streets of Toronto, Alex ‘Bacon’ Lazich began painting in the 1990s as a teenager. His work has evolved to deconstructing traditional graffiti spray techniques to create an abstract graffiti style while maintaining letter form.
This mural depicts a Canadian goose found in the Sault Ste. Marie area, painted in a kaleidoscope stained letter style of graffiti lettering, lines, shapes and shadows. The style of this mural is very modern, but is inspired by classic artists including impressionists and Old Masters. Bacon’s goal with his art is to make people smile and change the vibe of neighborhoods.
By Cindy Haat
848 Queen St (North Wall)
Cindy began painting professionally in the medium of oil on canvas following her university studies in fine arts. Photography and sketching have been the main tools used in researching and composing her artwork. Cindy currently enjoy the freedom of painting with acrylics and her work has been described as “…energetic, fearless, full of emotion”. She strives to be free and relaxed in her approach to the actual painting process and enjoys researching subjects and trying to capture the essence of people, animals, and places as vibrantly as possible.
Inspired by the animated movie ‘Spirit’. “When the kids were little we watched it over and over again. At the time I had been exploring Metis heritage through art, exploring Ojibway style woodland type of painting. The horse and sun and land are all connected as we are to Mother Earth. Bebezhigooganzhii is the Ojibwa word for horse.”
Rolling Pictures Horse
Jerry Rugg aka birdO is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto. While his surreal geometric animals can be found on canvas, in digital print, and installation, birdO is primarily known for his large-scale mural work on walls and buildings around the world.
Painting on the side of the Rolling Pictures building, birdO reimagines the company’s horse in his unique surreal style. With a cohesive colour scheme and elements of motion, the large-scale galloping creature is impossible to miss. Painted within the eye of the horse is a reflection of the church on Spring St. in the Soo.
Daniela is from Columbia and was inspired by her homeland to paint a jungle theme with big bold graphics depicting nature and flowers.
A colourful magical jungle piece featuring Bachué. A mother goddess that according to the Muisca religion is the mother of humanity.
Throw Kindness Around
The Kindness Mural, a bold and graphic explosion of line and form, draws attention to the message to throw kindness around like confetti. Painted in the height of Covid-19 Annie was inspired to create a municipal landmark that sparks positivity and connection in isolated times.
Annie’s work melds the borders of drawing, sculpture and media installation, most recently exploring our interactions to the natural environment through observations of natural phenomena, and when she’s not doing that she paints pretty pictures of flora and fauna for no particular reason.
Rihkee Strapp is a two-spirited Métis of the Wolverine Clan and was born in the small Northwestern community of Red Lake, Ontario. They are a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice includes traditional woodland painting, installation, performance, and social practice. Growing up, Rihkee was inspired by their grandmother’s print collective by the Woodland artists of the Triple K Cooperative silk screen company, who came out of Red Lake.
Mishiikenh Kwe (Turtle Woman) is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe/Odawa) from the caribou clan, her community is Magnetawan First Nation. She grew up listening to stories from her grandmother who is an Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) teacher from Wiikwemkoong and draw most of my inspiration for paintings from those stories, thoughts and teachings I got from her and from ceremonies I attend.
Mishiikenh Kwe and Rihkee Strapp first began painting murals together at Nimkii Aazhibikong. Mishiikenh Kwe has always loved painting snakes because of her experience working in species at risk. While doing community outreach Mishiikenh Kwe noticed that lots of people expressed fear and dislike for snakes. Together the artists want to honour the snake and to build appreciation. Ring necked snakes are named for their distinct coloured pattern around their neck. This small local snake, if threatened will displays its bright underbelly to scare off predators.
“My work, and by extension, my life; has always been heavily influenced by horror, science fiction and comic books. When the owners of Outspoken brewery requested dragons burning down a city as their contribution to the downtown’s arts initiative, I got the call. My initial sketch was enthusiastically approved as it captured the 80’s metal album cover and post-apocalyptic feel that they were looking for. I don’t often get the opportunity to do commercial work that I can invest so much of my personality into; as a result, this has been amongst the more rewarding commissions of my career. I can only hope that the final product stokes the imagination and creativity of those who visit the terrace, enjoying a pint whilst bathed in dragonfire. “
Thomas Sinclair’s second mural is found opposite Outspoken brewery on Queen street. Its part of the story of Aadizookaan, sacred story. Normally the story is only spoken when snow is on the ground, or when the Pleiades is in the sky. Thomas believes it’s so important to share these stories, because we are losing so many of our elders and knowledge carriers.
Tree of Life on The Rapids
“Tree of Life on the Rapids” was created to make people feel good, and to remind the viewer that all things in this life are connected. It depicts the “Tree of Life”, an iconic symbol for many cultures, which Sault Ste. Marie is becoming a home for. Behind the tree is the sun, which provides the energy needed for everything here on earth relies. From the tree of life comes our food, tools we need, wood for our homes, and the fire we use to keep ourselves warm.
As your eye travels down the trunk, the roots remind us that we need a firm foundation so we can stay grounded in this life. Another essential part of our life is water, which roots will always seek. As your eye scans to the right you can see them transforming into the rapids that Sault Ste. Marie has long been known for. In the middle of this transition is the raven. Before the use of modern technology, they were used to carry messages over long distances. Using the raven as a symbol of communication, visually represents Village Media and their goal of conveying community news.
Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mark Grandinetti is a local artist who primarily creates pop art pieces often featuring cartoon and comic book characters, as well as images and figures from sports and entertainment. Heavily influenced by street art, graffiti, and modern art, his work often employs bold colours and evokes a sense of nostalgia.
This mural is inspired by the Soo Greyhounds, who play hockey across the street from the mural. It’s a recognition of the impact of hockey in the town and Mark hopes the mural will be an inspiration to artists and hockey players alike.
The painting features former Greyhound stars including Wayne Gretzky, Joe Thornton, Matt Murray and Darnell Nurse, who not only went on to have illustrious careers in the NHL, but have also proven to be great ambassadors for the game. Greyhounds hockey brings people together and helps to create a sense of community in Sault Ste. Marie.
“Hockey is more than a game. In Canada, it is a way of life. It encourages us to be gracious in victory and defeat. It teaches us to stay humble and play hard and to never give up ever.”
Cultural Connections is a truly unique collaboration between three great artists. On the right hand side facing the mural is the Falcon. The Falcon is representative of the area.
In the centre is Peru’s art. Peru143 is an internationally recognized Peruvian-Canadian muralist. Rooted in Positivism, Peru’s work aims to heal and uplift people’s spirits by transforming neglected and often oppressive spaces into safe, playful, and imaginative worlds. He describes his style as “playful geometry”. “All my work revolves around one common purpose; to heal, inspire and uplift people’s spirits. I didn’t know what I was going to paint until the moment we were all staring at the wall together. I was given the word “Biindigen” which means “Welcome” in Ojibwe and ran with it. This was the most effortless collaboration I’ve ever been a part of with communication often reduced to a nod. I couldn’t be prouder to have worked alongside legends Bacon and QueRock on this magical mural. 3 guys, 3 days and over 300 cans. One Love.”
QRock’s mural is on the left hand side. It depicts a medicine wheel; seven grandfathers and the thirteen grandmother clan system. Lots of geometry in the painting is based off of the teachings. Medicine wheels is 4 directions, seasons, earth, wind, fire, water. Wanted to create those layers of sacred geometry, so that it gives you a visual healing effect.