A Paddler’s List Of Wabakimi’s Top Six

Table Of Contents:

Wabakimi’s Top Six:

  1. Cliff Lake on the Pikitigushi R. system
  2. The Kopka River’s Seven Sisters section
  3. The Albany R. Falls – Upper Eskakwa to Snake
  4. The Misehkow River
  5. The Palisade River
  6. The Beckwith Cabins on Best Island
  7. More Spots Worthy of Consideration
  8. A Spot You’d Definitely Include


The Wabakimi Canoe Area – Overview with Maps

The Wabakimi Canoe Area – with Wabakimi Provincial Park’s 8,920 square kilometers (3,440 sq. mi.) as its core – is one of Ontario’s more remote and vast paddling destinations.  The network of lakes and rivers scratched by retreating glaciers some ten thousand years ago have made this section of the Canadian Shield a paddler’s paradise.

See here to access an interactive Google Maps view of the above for more detail.

Wabakimi Canoe Area’s approximate boundaries are:

  • the Albany River to the north,
  • Highway 599 to the west, and
  • the Kopka River and Lake Nipigon to the south and
  • the Little Jackfish River to the east.

The Ogoki River, the longest river within Wabakimi Provincial Park’s boundaries, runs east from its headwaters in Endogoki Lake just outside the park’s boundary near Savant Lake.  Wider sections of the Ogoki include Wabakimi Lake, Whitewater Lake, and Whiteclay Lake.  The Ogoki Reservoir, meant to divert most (i.e.95%+) of this flow from the James Bay watershed to Lake Nipigon via the Little Jackfish River, was created in the early 1940s with the construction of the Waboose Dam and the height-of-land Summit Dam.


At approximately 27,000 sq. km.  (10,400 sq. miles), the Wabakimi Canoe Area is larger than ten U.S. states or five times the province of Prince Edward Island.  And the fantastic thing is that this remote section of north-western Ontario sees very few visitors.  While some fly-in fishing outposts see some action, the seven hundred or so canoe tripping parties each year have Wabakimi mostly to themselves.

The reward for making the 250-kilometer trip up the highway from Thunder Bay to Armstrong Station is a memorable trip on any one of the many possible combinations of waterways through this slice of the  Boreal Forest, limited only by time and ambition and perhaps the willingness to splurge on a bush plane insertion or pick-up.


Getting Hooked On Wabakimi:

In early 2010, my bro Max and I hadn’t even considered Wabakimi.  Actually, we had never even heard of it!  And if we had, the distance from our southern Ontario homes would have made us think hard about driving that far.  Then we found  Kevin Callan’s book A Paddler’s Guide to Quetico and Beyond; it has a chapter that focuses on the Beckwith Cabins on Best Island in Whitewater Lake.  It provided us with the initial motivation to make the 1800-kilometer drive.

Wabakimi Project Route Maps

Finding the  Friends of Wabakimi  (formerly Wabakimi Project) website led us to Phil Cotton and Barry Simon and their as-yet-unpublished material for Volume One of the five map sets that this Wabakimi advocacy group has published over the past decade.  Now we had what we needed to know about our chosen canoe route.  Ken Kokanie’s downloadable map set also helped provide more details on portages and campsites, making our first Wabakimi trip a reality.

Since that first trip, we have been back a half-dozen times.  The map below shows the rivers we’ve paddled.

Wabakimi rivers we’ve paddled in the past decade

The other day while reminiscing about our five trips – about eighty paddling days in some of what Wabakimi has to offer – we mulled over a list of our half-dozen favourites, those memorable places with a definite “wow” factor.  Subjective as any such list will be, we figure that our attempt to nail The Six has to contain at least a highlight or two that would make the cut no matter who was making it!


Our Wabakimi Top Six:

  1. Cliff Lake on the Pikitigushi R. system
  2. The Kopka River’s Seven Sisters section
  3. The Albany R. Falls – Upper Eskakwa to Snake
  4. The Misehkow River
  5. The Palisade River
  6. The Beckwith Cabins on Best Island
  7. More Spots Worthy of Consideration
  8. A Spot You’d Definitely Include


1.  Cliff Lake on the Pikitigushi River System:

small stretch of Cliff Lake's vertical rock face

a short stretch of Cliff Lake’s vertical rock face – that’s Max on the cliff edge!

Despite having visited Wabakimi the previous two summers, we had not even heard of Cliff Lake and had no idea what we would find.  It took a trip report by Chuck Ryan to make us aware of the lake as one of the great pictograph lakes of the Canadian Shield.  While the fifty feet plus in height rock faces that line some stretches of the lake are awesome in themselves, the presence of two or three-hundred-year-old Anishinaabe rock paintings elevates the lake to an even higher level.

the Cliff Lake Pictograph sites with Selwyn Dewdney’s numbering system

The east-facing orientation of these pictographs provides an interesting counterpoint to those on the west-facing Mazinaw Cliffs found on the other side of Ontario in the much more easily accessible Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Cliff Lake site #219 up closer

Cliff Lake – Dewdney’s site #219

We will definitely get back to Cliff Lake one summer soon – and this time, we’ll spend more than a day there to experience the pictographs with hopefully both a setting and rising sun!

For more info on Cliff Lake, see

rock face at the south end of the lake across from the first of the portages to Bad Medicine Lake

rock face at the south end of the lake across from the first of the portages to Bad Medicine Lake

Update: In September 2018, we returned for a second look!  Check out –

Down The Pikitigushi From Cliff Lake To Lake Nipigon: Logistics, Maps and Day 1 – Cliff Lake


2.  The Kopka River – The “Seven Sisters” Section

The Kopka is one of the favourite rivers of Cliff Jacobson, the U.S. version of Ontario’s #1 canoe advocate, Kevin Callan.  References to the Kopka River pop up in a couple of his books that I have read.  Like Cliff Lake, it wasn’t a destination I was at all familiar with before I started researching.  Max and I ended up with a twelve-day canoe trip from Allan Water Bridge to Hwy 529 and a shuttle back to Armstrong Station.  It took us up the Brightsand and Kashishibog Rivers and down the Kopka River for the last five days from its headwaters in Redsand Lake.


While the entire trip was memorable, the most dramatic was the section of the Kopka from the south end of Lake Kenakskaniss to the bottom of the last dramatic set of rapids.  This stretch makes up the Seven Sisters section of the river.  In the barely two-kilometer distance between these two points, there are seven drops in elevation, adding up to an awe-inspiring 215 feet (65 meters).

Portages on the Seven Sisters section of the Kopka River

looking up to the beginning of the first of three sets of Kopka River falls

looking up to the beginning of the first of three sets of Kopka River falls

We were so taken by this stretch of the river that we are planning another trip that will combine it with a return visit to Cliff Lake – the ultimate double-header and one we can do in ten days or less.  It would start with a plane ride from Mattice Lake to Cliff Lake and then a three-day paddle down the Pikitigushi River to the Mud River VIA train stop.  A train ride to the west of Collins, and we’d access the Kopka via the Aldridge Lake route.  The return visit will include more time spent just being there instead of paddling through.

Update 2018: Instead of connecting the two by train, we paddled down Lake Nipigon and up the mouth of the Wabinosh River to Wabinosh Lake, where the Kopka ends its run.  

Canoeing Lake Nipigon From Windigo Bay To Echo Rock

Kopka River- view between first and second falls in Seven Sisters section

Kopka River – view between first and second falls in the Seven Sisters section

For more info on the Kopka River system, see this post –

A Tale of Three Rivers: Being An Account of a Trip By Canadian Canoe Up the Brightsand and Kashishibog Rivers and Down the Kopka


3.  The Albany From Upper Eskakwa to Snake Falls

You can’t go wrong with waterfalls and sets of powerful rapids on any Top Six list; they demand respect and elicit awe from those paddling by.  While we missed the challenging rapids just upriver from where the Misehkow empties into the Albany, we did get to experience four sets of Albany waterfalls over two days as we paddled down towards Petawanga Lake.


Well-trodden portage trails around all of them made for easy carries; we would dump our gear at the end of the trail and then walk back upriver with our camera gear, hoping to capture a little of the magic.  Upper Eskakwa, Eskakwa, Snake, and Miminiska Falls too – what a buzz to stand there and take it all in!


The Albany River (892 kilometers from its headwaters in Cat Lake to James Bay) shares the “longest river in Ontario” status with the Severn River.  And while it is no longer the river it once was, having been neutered by some water diversion schemes, it is still an impressive river.  We were glad our canoe trip included at least a few days on this historic waterway of the fur trade era.

For More Info on The Albany:  See Paddling The Albany River (From the Mouth of the Misehkow to Petawanga Lake)


4.  The Misehkow River

We won’t soon forget the Misehkow, a short, little-travelled river system that flows about one hundred kilometers from its headwaters east and north to merge with the Albany River.  The only signs of human activity along the river are an abandoned outpost on Rockcliff Lake where we landed and a mining camp just below the river’s one major waterfall, Iron Falls.  What we did see during the three days we spent on the river was a half-dozen moose – more moose than on any stretch of river before.

morning mist on the Misehkow

Morning mist on the Misehkow at Day 3’s “Mooseview” Camp

cow moose and calf on the Misehkow

moose and calf on the Misehkow

my idea of a meditation center - Day 4 camp on the Misehkow by the rapids

at OM on the Misehkow – Day 4 campsite and meditation center!

For more info on the Misehkow, see Canoeing Wabakimi’s Misehkow River.


5.  The Palisade River

The Palisade is another short Wabakimi river that empties into Kenoji Lake after winding its way south and east from its headwaters near Burntrock Lake.  It has some beautiful narrower stretches that add intimacy to paddling through Canadian Shield country.

We did the scenic stretch from Kenoji up to the turn-off for Scrag Lake.  We had actually planned to go all the way up to Burntrock Lake.  Unfortunately, it was the summer of 2011, and NW Ontario was ablaze with a record-setting number of massive fires.  Thunder Bay 50 had its start right near Burntrock Lake, so our route plan changed.


smoke on the Palisade – the Thunder Bay 50 fire makes its presence known


Update Jan. 2021 – our planned trip down the Ogoki river this summer from its headwaters to the Reservoir will include a side trip up the mouth of the Palisade.  This time we will check out a reported four pictograph sites we did not know about in 2013!  See here for their reported locations.


6.  Whitewater Lake – The Ogoki Lodge & The Beckwith Cabins on Best Island 

From Wabakimi Lake, the Ogoki River takes you down to Whitewater Lake, passing through Kenoji Lake.   Located around the lake are several lodges and outposts that make it seem quite busy, yet on our two trips across the massive lake, we saw no one…no fishermen and no paddlers.


When we paddled by the Ogoki Lodge, we stepped on shore to take a look.  We were surprised to find an abandoned set of buildings, the most impressive being the main lodge pictured below and four cabins and a two-storey motel-like addition.  It was an incredible amount of real estate to be sitting there idle, and we wondered what the story was.

main Ogoki Lodge building

Ogoki Lodge – built in the 1970s and now all but abandoned

One story we later heard was that the tipi-inspired building at Ogoki Lodge was designed by an eccentric American hermit named Wendell Beckwith.  He lived on nearby Best Island until he died in 1980.  Since it was just a short paddle to Best Island, we checked out what he called “the center of the universe,” feeling a little like pilgrims as we walked around the site and peeked into the three cabins he had constructed.

one of the beckwith cabins

one of the three Beckwith cabins on Best Island

As impressed as we were with Beckwith’s work, we left with a more depressing thought.  It was clear that if something is not done soon, time and nature will combine to bring down the Cabins.  The largest of them has a massive hole in the roof open to the elements; the blue tarp seen in the image above was someone’s attempt about a decade ago to deal with the problem.  It has been five summers since we were there, and when our thoughts turn to the fate of the Beckwith Cabins, we meditate on the one certainty that nothing in this world can escape.

In 2021 we returned to Best island. Below is what the main cabin looked like. It is the same building Max is standing in front of in the image above.

exterior view of the Main Cabin on Best island – view from the other side

Very little is left of that blue tarp that had been put over the roof in 2007!

a view of the front of Beckwith’s Main Cabin from behind

If only the Cabins could serve as a hook of a different kind to lure visitors to Wabakimi Park.  This is where the voice of reason chimes in with a harsh – “Yes, spend a million dollars to preserve and maintain the cabins so that  all of fifty or sixty paddlers or fishermen a year can see them!”

beckwith cabin interior

For more info on Ogoki Lodge and the Beckwith Cabins, see

The Ogoki Lodge & The Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”.

This post from 2021 brings the state of the three cabins up to date.

A Two-Day Paddle Across Wabakimi’s Whitewater Lake


Other Spots That Should Be On The List!

7.  Brennan Falls/Granite Falls on the Allan Water River

I know – more waterfalls!  The two on the Allanwater River system are especially welcome after spending a day paddling the length of Brennan Lake.

granite falls

8.  Our favourite Wabakimi campsite – a spot on the Kopka 

Had it been a rainy day – or had the water level been higher or lower – it may well have been all different.  On another day, we may have kept going in search of a campsite further downriver.  Instead, we stopped at 2:00 to enjoy one of those perfect afternoons which became a perfect evening.  Looking around, we agreed that we were lucky to be smack dab in the middle of one big WOW.

camp site on the Kopka River

9.  Echo Rock … on the southern edge of Wabakimi

A day’s paddle from the mouth of the Kopka River and Wabinosh Lake along the shore of Lake Nipigon is a majestic rock face we have paddled by on the southern edge of Wabakimi country.  Even though the rain and wind meant less-than-ideal visits when we first paddled alongside it one afternoon and then again the next morning, we will not forget the power and majesty that this spot exudes.  It reminded us of another rock face at the other end of the Anishinaabe world, the one at Bon Echo in eastern Ontario called Mazinaw Rock.

approaching Echo Rock from the east

approaching Echo Rock from the east in the rain


A Spot Not Mentioned That You’d Definitely Include:

If you’ve been to Wabakimi, let us know if we hit some of your high points and what spot we missed that really should be mentioned.   Send us a jpg image and a comment to go along with it, and we’ll post it right here!

You’ll be giving us ideas on a potential route for our next Wabakimi canoe trip!


Here is the complete collection of Wabakimi-related posts we have uploaded since our first visit in 2010:

The Greater Wabakimi Area:

Wabakimi area water we’ve paddled over the past decade

1.  Down Wabakimi’s Allanwater River To Whitewater Lake

On our first visit to Wabakimi, we took the train from Armstrong to Allanwater Bridge and then paddled the route you see on the map below over a ten-day period.  Our vehicle was waiting for us at the south end of Little Caribou Lake.  After this trip, we were hooked on Wabakimi!


Introduction, Logistics, and Maps

Day-By-Day Trip Report


2.  Down the Flindt River to Collins Via the Ogoki, the Palisade, the Grayson, and the Boiling Sand Rivers

Thanks to our first trip, we returned the next summer (2011).  This time we had fifteen days.  Starting at the CN tracks at Flindt Landing on the park’s southwest side, we paddled the route you see in red on the map below.

wabakimi routes in rough

Introduction, Logistics, and Maps

Days 1 and 2 – Down The Flindt River From the CN Tracks

Days 3 and 4 – The Flindt and Ogoki Rivers

Days 5 and 6 – The Ogoki, the Palisade, and the Grayson Rivers

Days 7 and 8 – The Grayson River and Whitewater Lake

The Ogoki Lodge and The Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”

Days 9 and 10 – McKinley Bay To Smoothrock Lake

Days 11 to 15 – From Smoothrock Lake To Collins Via the Boiling Sand River


3.  From Allanwater Bridge to the Kopka R. via the Brightsand, Kashishibog Rivers

For the third summer in a row, we drove back up to Wabakimi, an 1800-km.  trip from southern Ontario.  This time instead of heading north from the CN tracks, we headed south and, after paddling up the Brightsand and Kashishibog Rivers, entered the headwaters of the Kopka River.  We followed it all the way down to Bukemiga Lake and the access road to Hwy. 527, where Clem Quenville was waiting to shuttle us up to our vehicle in Armstrong.


Canoe Trip Plans: From Allanwater Bridge to the Kopka

A Tale of Three Rivers: Being An Account of a Trip By Canadian Canoe Up The Brightsand and Kashishibog Rivers and Down the Kopka


4.  Down The Misehkow and Albany Rivers…

2013 route overview

bush plane insertion and 220 miles of paddling and portaging

and then back south via Petawa Creek,  Hurst Lake, the Witchwood River, the Raymond River, and the Pikitigushi River to the side of the road from Armstrong Stn. where a Mattice lake Outfitter shuttle was waiting.  We were back for the fourth summer in a row!

At 17 solid days, this was one of our longer trips, and it remains my brother’s favourite.  It really was an epic made more interesting because of the gaps in the information we had on what was coming up.  Our posts should help clarify more of what you’ll paddle into.

Overview: Paddling The Perimeter of Wabikimi Provincial Park

Wabakimi Canoe Trip Plans: Misehkow, Albany, Witchwood, Raymond, Pikitigushi Rivers

Canoeing Wabakimi’s Misehkow River

Paddling the Albany River (From the Mouth of the Misehkow to Petawanga Lake)

Up Wabakimi’s Petawa Creek Without A Paddle

Paddling From Auger Lake to Felsia Lake (The Mouth of the Witchwood River)

A Two_Day Paddle Up Wabakimi’s Witchwood River System

Up Wabakimi’s Raymond River to Cliff Lake

Down Wabakimi’s Pikitigushi River From Cliff Lake


5.  The Pikitigushi River From Cliff Lake To Windigo Bay 

After an absence of a few summers when we did trips down the Bloodvein,  the Coulonge,  Temagami, and the French River area, we were back for an early September trip.  We flew into Cliff Lake, one of our favourite Wabakimi spots, and then paddled the route you see sketched on the map below.

The first part of the adventure ended with a descent of the Pikitigushi to Windigo Bay.  We could find no record or information from anyone having done it.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable two-day paddle!


From Cliff Lake To Lake Nipigon:  Logistics.  Maps, and Day 1 – Cliff Lake

From Cliff Lake To Lake Nipigon:  Days 2 & 3 – From Cliff Lake to The Bear Camp

From  Cliff Lake  To Lake Nipigon:  Days 3, 4, &5 – From The Bear Camp To Windigo Bay

The second part of the trip had the potential for some real drama since we paddled out into Lake Nipigon.  Making use of a string of islands that stretches from Windigo Bay to Gull Bay, we spent three days on the lake before hitting the mainland at Echo Rock near Jackfish Island.  We returned to Hwy 599 via the Wabinosh.  On the way, we looked for a reported WWII prisoner-of-war camp a local had told us about before the start of the trip.

The NW Corner of  Lake Nipigon: Windigo Bay To Echo Rock

Canoeing From Lake Nipigon’s Echo Rock To Waweig Lake


6.  Wabakimi’s Upper Ogoki River: From Top To Bottom (Almost!)

In July of 2021, we were dropped off by an MLO Beaver in Endogoki Lake, the headwaters lake of the Ogoki River.  Our plan was to paddle all the way down to the Waboose Dam at the east end of the Ogoki Reservoir before following the redirected upper Ogoki’s water down the Little Jackfish.  As the first couple of posts below reveal, we experienced some “challenges” during the first few days!  They were followed by a week and a half of drama-free paddling down the Ogoki to the Waboose Dam and on to the Little Jackfish.

We now have some new Wabakimi highlights to add to our post on A Paddler’s List of Wabakimi’s Top Six Scenic Spots!

The Ogoki River From Top To Bottom

Bushwhacking The Ogoki Headwaters: Endogoki Lake Days 1 & 2

Bushwhacking The Ogoki Headwaters: Days 3, 4, and 5

A Two-Day Paddle Across the Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake

Down The Ogoki – From Above Ogoki Falls To Whiteclay Lake’s NE Arm

Down The Ogoki – From Whiteclay Lake (NE Arm) To The Ogoki Reservoir (Two Mile Bay)

Canoeing The Ogoki Reservoir: From Eight Flume Falls to “Moose Crossing”

Canoeing The Ogoki Reservoir – From “Moose Crossing” To The Waboose Dam

Paddling The Ogoki Reservoir From Waboose Dam To South Summit Dam

Paddling Down The Little Jackfish River From The Summit Dam To Zigzag Lake


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21 Responses to A Paddler’s List Of Wabakimi’s Top Six

  1. boristoronto says:

    Wow Wabakimi looks amazing. I’ve never been that far north in Ontario, well not past Thunderbay or Timmins that is. Planning a trip up with the girlfriend to Sleeping Giant PP, Neys PP, Pukaskwa NP and Lake Superior PP. Any tips for a first timer to Norther Ontario parks?

    • true_north says:

      Boris, until a few years ago my canoe partner – and brother – and I hadn’t really ventured west of Wawa and the Soo. What we found when we did was an epic country with incredible rivers to paddle.

      The drive to Thunder Bay is a long one but you get to experience – especially in the section from Marathon to Nipigon – one of the most dramatic stretches of highway in Canada. Last summer we paddled the Steel River, which is located in the country just northwest of Marathon.

      A ride up there would be a great introduction to a part of Canada that is sure to draw you back time and again. The parks themselves are in great locations and should provide your camera with a good workout!

      • boristoronto says:

        That’s what I’m hoping. Sadly I’m a very novice canoe-er and this trip is with the girlfriend. so sadly long canoe sections are limiting. But I’m looking at some rental places so I can hit lake superior on different sections.

      • true_north says:

        Hiking – either day hikes or a multi-day at Pukaskwa – might be the way to go. Less complicated than the canoeing option – no need for rentals – and there are some beautiful boreal forest trails to walk. This website should give you lots of ideas!

        Lake Superior Trail sections
        Definitely check out the pictographs at Agawa Rock in Lake Superior N.P. And make sure to stand underneath the giant goose at the entrance of Wawa.

        Happy trails!

      • boristoronto says:

        I got a campsite right on the water at Agawa. Looking forward to the experience. Sadly multi-day excursions won’t happen this time as most will be day hikes. But I do how to get one out and back overnight at Pukaskwa

  2. chris says:

    Just found your site (love it), while researching my summer canoe trip this year – to Wabakimi. Do you have any recommended resources, maps, reading, etc?

    • true_north says:

      You might want to check out any of our Wabakimi trip reports – there are four of them! They all have what you’re looking for. See this blog’s Canoe Tripping folder –


      An obvious first place to go is The Wabakimi Project website for maps and access info. To get started click here

    • Feel free to email me if you have some specific questions in mind; my bro and I may have the answer!

      Wabakimi is an undiscovered paddlers’ paradise that will have you hooked after your first visit.