Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigades

Celebrate Canada’s 150th

Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigades Logo

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in the summer of 2017, Naturally Superior Adventures is recreating the Canadian fur trade experience with the Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigade.

The program consists of 6 guided, all-inclusive wilderness adventures in replica 36-foot voyageur canoes. Starting July 2nd from Sinclair Cove in Lake Superior Provincial Park, each “brigade” will travel 6- to 10-day legs, finishing August 19th at Old Fort William in Thunder Bay.

The route traces the same coastline that was paddled by the fur-trading voyageurs in Canada’s early days, two centuries ago. In 2017, as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial, this shoreline will officially be designated as the Lake Superior Water Trail, a part of the 24,000-kilometre-long Trans Canada Trail.

Our plan is for each of the 6 sections, or “brigades,” of our journey to 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.

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. 

Brigade #1: 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.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Sault airport/hotel.

Brigade #2: The Big Wild: Michipicoten to Hattie Cove

Trip Description:

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. We’re 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.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Sault airport/hotel.

Brigade #3: Lawren Harris Country: Hattie Cove to Rossport

Trip Description:

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.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Thunder Bay airport/hotel.

Brigade #4: The Singing Wilderness: Rossport to Red Rock

Trip Description:

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. Singer-songwriter Ian Tamblyn will grace our 75-km journey from Rossport to Red Rock, sharing stories and songs inspired by his travels on Lake Superior.

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.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Thunder Bay airport/hotel.

Brigade #5 Beacons on a Lonely Shore: Red Rock to Silver Islet

Trip Description:

Two hundred years ago, French Canadian voyageurs paddled the coastline on Lake Superior on gut feeling alone, racing fogbanks and navigating the island-choked waters at the lake’s northwest end by the seats of their pants. As commercial traffic grew, the need for lighthouses was apparent to safeguard mariners from disaster. Just as 2017 marks Canada’s 150th anniversary, it’s also the sesquicentennial of the first Canadian lighthouse on Lake Superior. This 75-km voyageur canoe journey visits several lighthouses, providing glimpses of their colourful history and the essential services they provided.

A crescent of remote islands comprises the coastline between Red Rock and Silver Islet, recognized for their unique geology and communities of flora and fauna by the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Sign up for this voyageur canoe adventure if you’re looking to experience a wilder 30,000 islands, unmarred by cottage development.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Thunder Bay airport/hotel.

Brigade #6: En Route to the Great Rendezvous: Silver Islet to Thunder Bay

Trip Description:

Towering cliffs, flat-top mountains and watery horizons mark the final leg of the Lake Superior voyageur route. Here, the canoe brigades plied open waters beneath the 300-metre flanks of the Sleeping Giant, a geological monolith and Ojibwa icon resting at the mouth of Thunder Bay. Tracing the rugged coastlines of Pie, Thompson and Victoria islands, it’s easy to imagine the paddles flashing as big canoes race to be the first to arrive at the infamous rendezvous at Fort William.

Fur trade historian, singer-songwriter and Thunder Bay resident Rodney Brown will be our special guest on this 75-km journey. Not only will you enjoy wilderness camping, stunning scenery and great campfire entertainment, you’ll also experience the timeless experience of paddling a voyageur canoe into the reconstructed fur trade post at Fort William Historical Park, culminating our summer long journey.

Includes:

Experienced guides/hosts, trip meals, all outfitting, safety/communication and group camping gear.
*Includes pickup and drop off at Thunder Bay airport/hotel.

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