Nature Challenge
Pukaskwa National Park

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Pukaskwa National Park Pukaskwa is the only true wilderness park in Canada's National Park system in Ontario. Located on the shores of Lake Superior just below the town of Marathon and to the east of Thunder Bay, the park is a mix of boreal forest, Canadian Shield and Superior shores. The coast alternates from rocky headlands to bays that open up on natural beaches. The parks interior is rugged and wild as you might expect of a Canadian wilderness park.

The heart of the park is located at Hattie Cove campground near the northwestern tip. You'll find 67 front country campsites that are easily accessible, as well as the launch points for most of the parks activities. The parks visitors centre is also located here allowing you to easily get information on the parks backcountry activities.

 
 
 

The park is open throughout the year and cross country or backcountry skiers can take advantage of an ungroomed trail in the Hattie Cove area. Snowshoers of course can make their own way in many areas of the park, if they are well versed in orienteering and winter survival. Winter camping for those with the skills and equipment is available at the Hattie Cove campground (there is no car access to the campground in the winter).

 
 
    In the warmer months you'll find opportunities for hikers, backpackers, wilderness canoeists and intrepid sea kayakers. Hikers have a number of short trails to choose from while backpackers can take advantage of the Coastal Hiking Trail. Experienced canoeists have two wild rivers to run, the White and the Pukaskwa. Kayakers can paddle the bays around the park or tackle the Superior shoreline if they are experts.  
 

Camping

Front Country Campsites

There are 67 front country campsites in the park at Hattie Cove. Twenty nine of the sites have electricity (south loop). Two of the sites with electricity are also wheel chair accessible. Toilets and showers are available in both campground loops.

 

Backcountry Campsites

The parks designated backcountry campsites are located along the Coastal Trail. Each camping area has a privy, a bear box and a fire pit. See the backpacking section for more information.

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Nature

The park represents three distinct natural systems Superior shoreline, boreal forest and Canadian shield. Large mammals to watch for include moose and wolves and if you're very lucky you might catch a glimpse of Woodland Caribou. Plants rarely found outside the arctic may be encountered along the parks shoreline.

 

Hiking

There are 3 hiking trails in the park that start near the Hattie Cove campground. The Southern Headland Trail is 2 km long and follows the shoreline. It takes about 1 hour to complete. The Beach Trail takes you to three beaches along the Lake Superior shores. Its about 2 km long and will take about 1 hour to compete.The Halfway Lake Trail is a more rugged and hilly trail that takes you around the lake. It's about 3.5 km in length and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete.

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Backpacking

Feature: Found a Friend in Pukaskwa - Backpacking the Coastal Hiking Trail

Coastal Hiking Trail - 57.8km, linear, advanced This multi-day trip is an excellent introduction to the areas wilderness. The trail follows the Superior coastline from the Hattie Cove campgrounds to North Swallow River. Designated campsites are available on route. Several river and creek crossings are involved, including the suspension bridge (photo op) over White River. This is a wilderness trail and a tough hike, with the only exit point back from where you came, so be prepared for a round trip of almost 120km. Permits and registration are required and limits may be imposed so contact the park early to enquire about you're planned departure date. Trail guides are available from the Friends of Pukaskwa. The trail is a part of the longer Voyageur Trail which will stretch from Manitoulin Island to Thunderbay when completed.

 

Canoeing

There are two major canoe routes that run through the park, the White River and the Pukaskwa River routes.

White River - 82km, 5-7 Days, 21 Portages, Advanced

You put-in is where the river widens at White Lake, down river from the town of White River. Some of the rapids cannot be run, those that can will depend of course on your skill level and conditions. To return to Hattie Cove from the mouth of the White requires an open water paddle along Superior's shore. Most of the canoe route is outside the park and none residents (Canada) must have permits to camp on crown land from the Ministry of Natural Resources. There is a shuttle service for Umbata Falls, for information visit the Umbata Hydroelectric Project website. Access to the put-in is within White Lake Provincial Park which can be reached from Highway 17, east of Pukaskwa's entrance. For information on White Lake Provincial Park see the listing at Ontario Parks Topographical Maps: 42 C/12 Cedar Lake and 42 D/9 Marathon The river between White Lake, the Town of White River and Negwazu Lake is no longer maintained. The river can be run at most times of year when there is open water. Contact the park for complete information and current conditions.

Pukaskwa River - 122km, 8-10 Days, 42 Portages, Advanced

Like the White this is a wilderness river but is an even more isolated and difficult paddle. The route starts outside the park east of the Town of White River, where the White River crosses the Trans Canada Highway. Take the White the short distance to Sangina Lake, then on to Pokei Lake where you head south to the Pukaskwa. At the mouth of the river you'll be faced with a very long paddle along Superior's shore either to Hattie Cove in the north or Michipicoten in the south. Most of the canoe route is outside the park and none residents (Canada) must have permits to camp on crown land from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Topographical Maps: 42 C/6 Pokei Lake, 42 C/5 Lurch Lake, 42 C/4 Pukaskwa River The river can only be run in the Spring when water levels permit. Contact the park for complete information and current conditions.

For detailed information on these routes have a look at Canadian Canoe Routes from the Wilderness Canoe Association.

For an easy paddle launch your canoe onto Halfway Lake when the water levels permit. Canoeists can also take advantage of the Hattie Cove area but be very careful if you venture beyond the protected bays and islands and always stay close to shore. Canoeing superior's shores is possible but best left to experience canoe trippers. Remember Superior's waters average a bone chilling 4 C.

Sea Kayaking

The parks' coast is accessible for intermediate to expert kayakers, novices should hire a guide. For ambitious paddlers the traditional trip is from Hatttie Cove at the north of the park to Michipicoten, a good distance south east of the park. This is an extended paddle which will take from 10 to 14 days. Be aware that the weather can change in an instant and fog can roll in at any time and stay for days on end (budget one in four days where you'll be tent bound due to conditions.) While Lake Superior is a renown kayaking destination the park's shoreline is largely exposed, with areas that make landings difficult or even impossible in the event that the weather turns. They say that Superior is usually calmest in June and July. For those with lesser skills the area around Hattie Cove makes for a nice day paddle but don't venture too far from the sheltered bays. Remember Superior's waters average a bone chilling 4 C.

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Winter Adventure

Cross country skiing and backcountry skiing can be done in the Hattie Cove area on an ungroomed trail. Snowshoers can break their own trail almost anywhere in the park, if they are well versed in orienteering and winter survival. Skiers, winter hikers/backpackers and snowshoers can camp overnight in the park at Hattie Cove campgrounds if you have the equipment and skills. In the winter the campground is not accessible by car.

 

Interactive Map of Pukaskwa National Park


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Pukaskwa National Park
 

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Resources

   

Getting There

The park is located just south of Marathon, in northern Ontario. The only road access is at the north end of the park near the town of Hattie Cove. From Toronto head north on the 400 and continue along passed the 11 split and on to the 69. Just south of Sudbury take the 17 and head west to Sault Ste Marie. From the Sault follow the 17 north to the 627 east of Marathon. From Thunder Bay head east on the 17 which wraps around Superior's north shore and takes you to the turn off to the 627 just east of Marathon.

 
 

Resources

Surrounding Area

Thunder Bay
White River

Marathon
Wawa
Nipigon
Northern Ontario

Park Weather - From the Weather Network ZZZZ

Found a Friend in Pukaskwa - Backpacking the Coastal Trail


Province of Ontario
- From Out-There
Province of Ontario - Official Site


Black Feather
Friends of Pukaskwa National Park

Naturally Superior Adventures
North of Superior Climbing
Pukaskwa County Outfitters


Ministry of Natural Resources - Crown Land Camping
Ontario Land Trust Alliance

Ontario Provincial Parks
Superior Outdoors Magazine

 

Related Links

 

Links of Interest

Canadian Geographic
Conde Nast Traveler

Islands Magazine
National Geographic
National Geographic Adventure
National Geographic Traveler
Outside Magazine
Sunset Magazine
Travel and Leisure Magazine
Wavelength Magazine

 

Out-There's Destinations

 

 


Pukaskwa National Park
P.O. Box 212
Heron Bay, Ontario
P0T 1R0

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