Visiting Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park has always been on my bucket list. I hate to admit it, but I’ve lived in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area most of my life but have never been to the Park. It is a short 57km (35 miles) drive east of Thunder Bay near Dorion, in Ontario’s Superior Country Region. I finally decided to cross this attraction off my list!
We drove to Dorion and looked for Ouimet Canyon Road. When we found it, we turned North and continued on our way. After a small corner we passed a cow farm. After a closer look we saw that many calves were in the field. Some of the people I was traveling with really want to stop and look at the calves. So, we pulled over to say hello. After taking a few photos we continued toward the Canyon.
Shortly after our stop with the cows we saw a sign leading to Eagle Canyon – home to Canada’s longest suspension bridge and an awesome zip line. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit both canyons, so we continued on our way. A visit to Eagle Canyon would have to wait until next time.
In no time at all we came across an “un-hitching” parking lot for the park. We saw a couple of families disconnecting their trailers from their vehicles. The remaining 2km (1.2 miles) to the park entrance is all up hill and it’s quite steep. So, they recommend unhitching any towing vehicles before proceeding. However, there is a big turn around up at the park so it’s clear that some motorhomes and trailers still make the drive up. Not having to worry about that ourselves we made our way up the hill toward the Park.
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We pulled into the Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park parking lot and quickly pulled out of our van. The Park has a receptacle to accept payment. They ask that you deposit 2 dollars per person before proceeding on the trail. We were happy to contribute as it was clear the money went back into park and trail maintenance. They had plenty of outhouses and kiosks there. The trail itself is extremely well maintained and includes a gravel path, a boardwalk, and a large walking bridge.
From the parking lot we found the trail head easily and reviewed the trail map that was printed and on display. The trail was a short loop, so we decided to do the whole thing to see both Ouimet Canyon lookouts. We began walking the trail. It was extremely easy. A downward slope did warn us that the way back would be a little more challenging but nothing to be worried about. After a short gravel path, it turned into a board walk. We continued and in a short time we saw a large bridge approaching.
We crossed the bridge to where the trail became a gravel path again and to the intersection that created the trail loop. We decided to go right. After a short distance we approached the first look out. We could see the wood platform appear as we walked closer.
Stepping onto the lookout was breathtaking. It’s hard to explain in words the wonderment it makes you feel. The canyon cliffs are over 100 metres from the ground and the gorges is 150 metres wide. To the right you could see a lake in the distance. Looking down you quickly realize that the trees in the canyon are fully grown but look tiny from where you’re standing above. You could also make out foliage on the canyon floor that typically only grows in the Arctic. We stayed on the lookout for a long time admiring the view and discussing how magical this place was. A friend that was in our group had been to the Grand Canyon and said that the sense of wonderment compares to the desert canyon in the US.
We continued back to the main trail and in about 5 minutes came across the second lookout. It was just as breathtaking as the first. From this viewpoint we couldn’t see the lake to the right but to the left was a rock formation coming up from the side of the canyon. It was an Indian head. I quickly walked over to the interpretive panel on the railing to learn more about the formation.
It is said that the Indian head is a giant named Omett who helped the great spirit Nanna Bijou to create mountains and lakes. Omett was in love with the daughter of Nanna Bijou and one day, while relocating mountains, a rock fell and killed the daughter of Nanna Bijou. Omett attempted to hide the body, but Nanna Bijou found it and re-buried her in Ouimet Canyon. As punishment Nanna Bijour turned the giant Omett into stone overlooking the grave.
Our hike was now over, and we made our way back to the parking lot. The whole way we talked about how awesome it was to have such an outstanding Natural Wonder in our own backyard and that we couldn’t believe we hadn’t visited it before. I recommend visiting the Ouimet Canyon to anyone in the area or doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour!