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.
By Conor Mihell
With water all around, Sault Ste. Marie is one of the best places in Ontario to go paddling. The city is located in the heart of the Great Lakes, with pristine freshwater coastlines, wilderness lakes and rivers located within easy access. Great Lakes Superior and Huron offer some of the best sea kayaking in the world; the St. Mary’s River is a scenic and historic waterway flowing right through downtown; and Lake Superior Provincial Park offers excellent canoe tripping, backcountry angling opportunities and rugged Canadian Shield scenery. Whether you love sea kayaking, canoeing or standup paddle boarding, Sault Ste. Marie is an amazing destination for an Ontario paddling trip.
The Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy offers guided big canoe tours on the St. Mary’s River in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. No previous paddling experience is necessary to join a group tour in a safe and stable 26- or 36-foot canoe. Veteran paddlers will also relish the opportunity to step back in time and experience the watercraft used in the Canadian fur trade. Interpretive guides will share stories about the St. Mary’s River’s rich cultural history and wildlife. Group bookings are available for 1.5-, 2- and 3-hour tours.
Based just north of Sault Ste. Marie in Goulais River, Forest The Canoe provides guided interpretive in Lake Superior Provincial Park. This brand-new outfitter focuses on small-group tours that reveal the wonders of nature in Northern Ontario. You don’t have to be a veteran paddler to participate. Forest The Canoe provides inclusive wilderness programs for families and beginners, as well as rentals and logistical support for more experienced paddlers.
Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa has offered guided sea kayak trips and certified instruction since 1994. The company specializes in Lake Superior sea kayak trips for all experience levels. Multi-day wilderness tours are offered in Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park—world-class sea kayak destinations located within a short drive of Sault Ste. Marie. The company also offers accommodations on Lake Superior, vehicle shuttles and canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Looking for a quick paddling trip in Sault Ste. Marie? Check out the Sault College Waterfront Adventure Centre on the St. Marys River. You can rent a canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard to explore the shoreline and get a new perspective of the city. Enjoy a coffee and baked snack when you’re done on the waterfront patio.
Joe’s Sports is a locally owned Sault Ste. Marie outdoor store that has recently invested in a fleet of canoes, sea kayaks and standup paddleboards with a plan to be able offer rental in 2022. Experienced paddlers can rent gear and set off on their own adventure, near or far.
Bring your canoe or kayak down to this new public dock! Complete with accessible transfer system, this new feature to the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront is located in Bellevue Marina and features user friendly technology suitable for all skill levels. The location is connected to a paved path leading from the car park for greater accessibility.
Standup paddleboards can use it too, just off to the side. Click on this link to view the facebook post, see more photos and join in the discussion!
By Conor Mihell
Put these routes on your canoeing bucket list
From half-day jaunts to wilderness expeditions, these rivers offer the very best canoeing, fishing, and rapids in Ontario.
Ontario has some of the best river canoe trips in the world. I’m especially fond of the wild rivers in Northern Ontario. As an avid backcountry canoeist, I sometimes worry that my bucket list may exceed my longevity. Here is a collection of eleven of my personal favourites in Northern Ontario.
Click here to read more…
By Peter Greve
Take a canoe trip along the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie
Water runs through us, around us, and in our homes. Love water. Respect water. Take care of it. Experience all this and more on the St. Marys River, a great place to go canoeing in Northern Ontario.
We are freshwater people. People of gaaming and people of ziibi. Water runs through us, around us, and in our homes. Water breaks before we enter the world. The Anishinaabe (original people) have many words for nibi, because it can mean many things to life.
In English, we have one word for water. Freshwater is sacred. It is something worth protecting. When the McGuffins, a charismatic, conservation-oriented canoeing couple, travelled the thousands of kilometres of Lake Superior shoreline, they also carried an important message: Love water. Respect water. Take care of it.
Click here to read more…