The starting point for our circle tour of Lake Superior was Sault Sainte Marie (often abbreviated on the US side as simply 'The Soo'). The city is actually two cities on either side of the Soo Locks which handle the 21 feet (7 meters) of altitude change between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. We drove around the Michigan side a bit, found it rather quiet and dead so we crossed over into Ontario. The good news is that a hotel with a waterfront view is quite affordable. The bad news is that there's not much to do once you're there except look at the waterfront.
Ok, so there's a bandshell with this statue of an otter. (We think it's an otter. It's a bit of a stretch maybe but we can't come up with anything else it's more likely to be.) Mostly, SSM is a good place to stock up on supplies before heading further north into the Algoma wilderness. Algoma is the name of the district of Ontario that spans most of the eastern side of Lake Superior. There seem to be an unusually high proportion of Italian restaurants in Sault Sainte Marie thanks to immigration patterns. One thing we noticed which is at least a little bit unusual was the popularity of panzerotti (the phone book featured six different ads that mentioned them). In this particular part of the world, the panzerotti is basically a pizza folded in half so that it resembles a giant calzone. We should note that panzerotti are very difficult to eat in a hotel room with plastic utensils.
On to the lake! Lake Superior is sort of the centerpiece of this trip. It's the largest freshwater lake in the world (in surface area). It's mostly known for very cold water, unpredictable weather and thus its tendency to spawn shipwrecks. There are entire multi-week tours around the lake that could focus just on shipwrecks. The Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the best known of these thanks to Gordon Lightfoot. We, however, have no pictures of shipwrecks on this entire series of pages. Sorry.
We do have this sign though and that should more than make up for it.
You may be wondering what exactly is 400 meters from Melanie. Well, that would be Misshepezhieu. Misshepezhieu is (or maybe was) a part-lynx, part-sea monster responsible for the rough water conditions in Lake Superior according to one Ojibwe legend. It would thrash its tail underneath the lake to create violent waves. So now that you know that, you might still be wondering about the fact that it's a mere 400 meters from this sign.
Here he is. Or she. Whatever. These rock paintings at Agawa rock are among the best preserved petroglyphs in the Canadian Shield. There are several groupings of petroglyphs here but this particular section includes several sea serpents at the bottom and a canoe (behind Misshepezhieu's tail). The serpents spirits are called Mishikenahbik. The canoe involves a shaman named Myeengun, which also happens to be the word for 'wolf'. Since we're discussing Ojibwe animal words, this is a good time to mention moose. There is a pictograph of a moose on these rocks as well. That word comes from the Ojibwe word 'moos' (or possibly the closely related Algonquin word). There are supposedly moose everywhere around Lake Superior yet there is a distinct lack of moose pictures on our webpages. Why? Because we have no pictures of moose. More on this later.
The Agawa rock paintings are found on a vertical rock face fronting Lake Superior. The walk out there is a little tricky in dry conditions. When the lake is acting up the waves crash against these rocks and make it downright hazardous. Luckily, Parks Ontario was thoughtful enough to add some ropes to the lower rocks here so that you can climb back out of the lake after you fall in.
We should mention that Agawa Rock, as well as Orphan Lake, Old Woman Bay and many other regions are all part of Lake Superior Provincial Park. The park occupies a huge chunk of lakefront land between Sault Sainte Marie and Wawa. There are lots of hiking trails including a couple of very long multi-day trails. On the eastern edge of the park is the Agawa Canyon area which is most accessible by train from Sault Sainte Marie. There are a couple of trail access points as well. The only real downside to Lake Superior State Park is the fact that Canada 17 runs right through the middle of it and is a major trucking route. Incidentally, this picture is of the seeds of an oyster plant (purple salsify).
Due to the heavy truck traffic, it's worth picking a hiking trail that gets away from the road as quickly as possible. For instance - the Orphan Lake trail which circumnavigates Orphan Lake (shown here) and also includes a nice little stretch of beach along Lake Superior. The beach in this case has minimal amounts of sand a whole lot of very smooth rocks. The outlet river from Orphan Lake cascades over several waterfalls (all of which are difficult to see through the foliage) before emptying into Lake Superior down at the aforementioned beach.
The cliffs here at Old Woman Bay are sort of the token iconic image for Lake Superior Provincial Park. When we first arrived here, there was no mist. A mere 10 minutes later the cliffs were invisible because the mist was so thick. By the time we left, it was clear again. Further complicating this effect, there is a small river that empties into the lake just down the beach from where we are standing. The river water is almost 40 F (22 C) warmer than the water in the lake so there is instant fog where they meet.
A little ways north of the park is is the Michipicoten Reservation. The Magpie River flows through and there are several impressive waterfalls along the way. This is Silver Falls which is right in the center of the reservation.
On the short hike from the road up to Silver Falls we came upon this grouse. Or possibly it came upon us. Either way it sat patiently in the dim light and allowed to take about 30 pictures of it so that one of them would turn out okay. Past Silver Falls, there is a rugged trail that continues on up the river for several kilometers before it arrives at Magpie High Falls.
There are hundreds of waterfalls around Lake Superior, a dozen or so of which are major tourist attractions. This probably doesn't count as a major attraction but it unanimously wins the award for our favorite of all those we saw on this trip. If you're driving through Wawa (which could happen to anyone), take the 3 km detour down a dirt road to see Magpie High Falls.
Wawa means 'goose' in the local Ojibwe dialect (just look at all the Ojibwe you've learned on this page!). Therefore there should be a giant goose statue just outside of town, right? Of course. So, here it is. Everyone who has ever done a circle tour of Lake Superior, or who has driven across Canada on the southern route has a picture of this goose. The Wawa tourist office is right behind it, but it was closed when we arrived. Of course, once you've seen the goose, what do you need the tourist office for?
Here is downtown Wawa which sits on the shores of a small lake, surrounded by vast tracts of forest and more lakes. Wawa might be small but it's of particular importance because there is nothing else within 150km of here. Nothing. Nada. We did our shopping here for upcoming camping nights, recharged camera batteries and had an odd meal at the supposedly 24-hour diner downtown. Wawa first became connected into the rest of Canada by road in the late 1950s. Up until that time it was 8 hours to Sault Sainte Marie on a steamship.
Lest you go away thinking Wawa is a one-goose town, here is a collage of geese. Wawa is at least a three-goose town. Probably exactly three because we visited just about the whole thing and didn't find any others. The upper left goose is on the Wawa Motor Inn, and the upper right goose is out in front of Young's General Store (and tourist trap). There's also a life-sized moose in front of Young's. Not a real moose of course. We failed to see any real moose.