Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigades
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in the summer of 2017, Naturally Superior Adventures recreated the Canadian fur trade experience with the Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigade.
The program was a success and we are excited to announce the return of the brigades in summer 2018.
The program consists of guided, all-inclusive wilderness adventures in replica 36-foot voyageur canoes. Each “brigade” travels 5, 7 or 10-day legs, wilderness camping along the way.
The routes trace the same coastlines that were paddled by the fur-trading voyageurs in Canada’s early days, two centuries ago. This shoreline is officially designated as the Lake Superior Water Trail, a part of the 24,000-kilometre-long Trans Canada Trail.
Each of the sections, or “brigades,” of our journey focus on a quintessential Canadian theme, including First Nations, voyageurs, French-Canadian culture, Canadian art, music, and explorers. Each segment may also feature a “paddling minstrel” to serenade participants around evening campfires. Stay tuned for host announcements.
Voyageur canoes are 36 feet (12 metres) long, 5 feet (1.5 metres) wide and carry 12 to 14 paddlers (and their camping and cooking gear and food) on multi-day trips. They’re very stable, seaworthy, easy to paddle and well suited to Lake Superior.
Strength comes from numbers, so voyageur canoes are perfect for beginner and novice paddlers, individuals and diverse groups. Our canoes are fully outfitted according to Canadian Coast Guard regulations including paddles, lifejackets and other safety equipment.
Just like in the days of the fur trade, each brigade will be guided by experienced trip leaders who have an intimate knowledge of the coastline, including the best campsites and great stories to share. Your guides are experienced paddlers with leadership training and wilderness advanced first aid. They are also talented wilderness chefs.
Trips include all meals and are fully outfitted including tents, canoe packs, all group camping, cooking, eating, sanitation, first aid, safety and communication gear, as well as transportation to and from the starting point and finish. Return transport from nearby airports (Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay) will be available at a reasonable additional cost. You’ll be responsible for personal clothing, sleeping bag and sleeping pad (these are also available for rent).
A joy of travelling on Lake Superior is the lack of portages. This combined with a high-volume canoe means that our trip menu is hearty and healthy, including plenty of fresh foods. Meals are planned, packed and prepared by guides; with sufficient notice, most dietary preferences (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) can be managed. Participants are welcome to help with camp chores or relax and enjoy Lake Superior’s beauty.
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A detailed trip package will be sent following registration.
Spirit of Superior: Sinclair Cove to Michipicoten
Paddling a voyageur canoe, it’s easy to see why First Nations people revered the rugged coastline of Lake Superior Provincial Park. This 80-km journey from Sinclair Cove to Michipicoten radiates a special energy from its ancient rock paintings, enchanting rock monoliths and mysterious moss-covered boulder beaches. Here, the French Canadian voyageurs were quick to adopt the Native tradition of making tobacco offerings at sacred places like the Agawa Rock pictographs and Nanabush Chair. We’ll do the same, asking the spirits of Lake Superior for safe passage along the exposed sections of shore between spectacular sand beach campsites.
Lake Superior Provincial Park encapsulates the best of the North Shore: A diverse geology ranging from lunar landscapes of volcanic rhyolite to stalwart granite cliffs; sheltered coves; outstanding hiking; and wilderness camping. If you crave solitude but don’t have the time to paddle the Pukaskwa coast, this is your next best bet.
The Big Wild: Michipicoten to Hattie Cove
Pukaskwa National Park is the wildest freshwater coastline in the world, a 180-km stretch of roadless wilderness that’s changed little since the voyageurs plied these waters two centuries ago. Expect solitude like you’ve never experienced before as we discover secret campsites and trackless beaches. Some of the journey’s landmarks speak to the impressions this coast made on the voyageurs: The bold headland at Pointe La Canadienne, the still waters of Bonamie Cove and the endless beaches of Oiseau Bay. If you listen hard on a still morning you can still hear the voyageurs’ chansons in the mist.
Pukaskwa was a favourite destination of Bill Mason, a legendary Canadian filmmaker, artist and environmentalist. In 2017 we were fortunate to travel with his daughter, Becky, who has carried on her father’s legacy of wilderness canoeing. Join us for stories, solitude and adventure on a wildly enchanting shore.
Group of Seven Landscapes: Hattie Cove to Rossport
The rugged coastline, stark islands and hardscrabble villages of Lake Superior’s north shore inspired some of Canada’s most famous landscape paintings. Today, Pic Island in Neys Provincial Park still captivates the senses the same way it did in the 1920s, when Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris immortalized its smooth curves on canvas. In fact, this 120-km stretch of wilderness coastline is one of the most infrequently travelled paddling routes on the Great Lakes. You’ll revel in the stunning scenery and intense solitude—the perfect elements to inspire your own photographs and sketches.
While the spectacular campsites and views of the Coldwell Peninsula are this trip’s greatest highlight, you’ll also encounter ghost towns that bustled with fishermen and railroad workers in the days of the Group of Seven. Travelling by voyageur canoe, we’ll cruise along this rocky, islet-dotted coast, resting at age-old campsites that provided shelter for First Nations travellers and French Canadian fur traders alike.
Is your interested piqued? Might we suggest you watch the award winning documentary "Painted Land. In Search of the Group of Seven" which is available online at tvo.org.
Guest Host: Michael Burtch:
Michael Burtch, a retired Director-Curator of the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, has published numerous articles and catalogues on artists including J. Barry, David Bierk, Ken Danby, John Howlin and Evan Penny and most recently he contributed his curatorial essay to the Art Gallery of Algoma's “One Hundred Years of Art in the Sault”. He is a published author and filmmaker. His documentary film, in conjunction with Gary and Joanie McGuffin, identified and documented the exact painting sites of the Group of Seven in the Algoma Region. It just won the Barbara Sears Award for Best Editorial Research. Check out the trailer for it here...
Guest Musician: David Archibald
David Archibald; songwriter, composer and playwright, his work on Great Lakes marine heritage Spirit of the Inland Sea has been featured at National and Provincial Parks. Pukaskwa: Songs of Superior is a CD created for the National Park on Lake Superior. Have a listen to Pukaskwa Wind now.
The Singing Wilderness: Rossport to Red Rock
Musical gifts were cherished in the community of voyageurs. The best singers were awarded extra pay and an esteemed place in the canoe; folk tunes and ballads were the soundtracks of voyageur brigades, setting the pace for flashing paddles. Guest musician for 2019 TBD.
Sign up for this trip if you love great music and wilderness camping. The island-strewn waters of western Lake Superior are unique, marked by agate beaches and rugged volcanic geology and protected by the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Reserve. We’ll enjoy secluded campsites and a special night at a wilderness sauna. Be sure to bring your own musical instruments to jam with a Canadian music icon around the campfire.