One of our favorite places to introduce canoeists to Lake Superior is the Rossport Islands. The largest archipelago on the largest lake on the planet is also the gateway to the largest protected freshwater ecosystem in the world. The forest here is boreal, and it is festooned with hanging lichens and thickly carpeted with mosses—attractive habitat for woodland caribou, moose, black bear and wolves.
Paddle Lake Superior’s Rossport Islands
Each island in the archipelago provides a unique natural and cultural experience for the modern-day adventurer and naturalist. In shallow channels, paddlers can feel the powerful ebb and flow of the lake’s seiches, a phenomena caused by changing pressures over the lake’s vast surface. Occasionally, we are treated to the thrill of finding human-made pottery shards pressed with signature-corded patterns, or nature-made agates cracked open revealing sparkling crystal structures. Whether we are camped on the island’s grassy clearings or on smooth bedrock, we are reminded that the traditional campsites have been in use for thousands of years.
Painter Lawren Harris wrote of the North Shore, “At times, there were skies over the great Lake Superior, which, in their singing expansiveness and sublimity, existed nowhere else in Canada.”
Rossport paddling trips
If you have a half-day:
Circumnavigate Channel Island. Paddling southeast from Rossport, navigate between Quarry and Healey Islands to Steamboat Channel where beautiful clear green water meets the low cliffs of Jacobsville sandstone—billion-year-old banded rock that is brick red, pink, grey and black.
If you have a day:
Paddle to the stromatolites east of Rossport. Blue-green algae, the Earth’s earliest producers of oxygen, left geologic footprints in the form of beautiful concentric circles embedded in the shoreline of what is now Schreiber Channel.
If you have a weekend:
When your weather radio reads fair weather, a trip to Battle Island Lighthouse is high on my must-visit list. In its 140-year history, the light station has been witness to some of the Lake’s greatest storms.
If you have a week:
Pack and paddle from Rossport to Silver Islet taking in the varied coast of the outer islands. My favorite features are Superior’s own Giant’s Causeway of honeycomb black basalt and the infamous island of silver off the tip of the Sleeping Giant.
Rossport Island stats
Island population: 65
Summer temperature: Can range from 5°C to 25°C, pack accordingly.
Wildlife: Lake trout, salmon, eagles, herons, black bear, woodland caribou, wolves.
Diversion: Hike a portion of the 53-kilometer Casque Isles Trail between Rossport and Terrace Bay as an alternative to paddling on a windy day.
Must-see: Meet the potter of Island Pottery, whose Lake Superior-inspired work is rooted in the ancient tradition of ceramic making in these islands.
Best eats: Serendipity Café and Gardens is famous for its trout, salads and desserts. Dine while enjoying the view of Rossport Harbour.
Luxury: Stay at the Willows Inn B&B overlooking Rossport Harbour.
Must-have: A seaworthy canoe with full spray deck cover.
Gary and Joanie McGuffin fell in love with Lake Superior while paddling across Canada in 1983. Years later, a summer-long circumnavigation of the lake began and ended near Rossport. Ever since, the McGuffins have been championing the world’s largest freshwater lake, even forming the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy and building a water trail to encompass it.
Watch THE CANOE, an award-winning film that tells the story of Canada’s connection to water and how paddling in Ontario is enriching the lives of those who paddle there. #PaddleON.