Natural Wonders

Waterfalls of Ontario’s North

Guest Blog by travel writer and blogger Jim Byers

The first was the most impressive. The last probably the most fitting.

There’s a lot of water in Canada. A lot of lakes. A lot of rivers. A lot of waterfalls. And if you’re lucky enough to make the drive from west of Thunder Bay down to a bit north of Sault Ste. Marie, you’ll find some beauties.

Kakabeka Falls, a half hour from Thunder Bay on the way to Kenora, is sometimes billed as the “Niagara of the North.” But you won’t find a Sky Tower or hotels alongside the falls or a wax museum anywhere nearby.

What you will find is a beautiful, isolated, powerful set of falls that tumble fiercely over a precipice on the Kaministiquia River and fall a couple dozen metres. There’s a slab of black, triangle-shaped rock that separates the falls into two smaller pieces and it’s home to a couple of trees and bushes that have somehow managed to eke out an existence on this bare patch of Canadian stone.

It’s a beautiful spot, easily accessible, with a pretty visitors centre and nice viewing platforms and a pretty canyon walk that you can do with a stroller and a couple kids in tow. If you look closely you might find an explanatory marker that talks about how a road was somehow built through this treacherous terrain and how exhausted workers would go to bed at night cursing the man who laid out the route.

Kakabecka Falls

I undoubtedly missed several others due to a bit of rain or simply missing the signs. But the next set of falls that set me to oohing and aahing was Rainbow Falls, just south of Rossport and north of Schreiber and Terrace Bay. There’s no huge drop like in Kakabeka or Niagara. Instead, what you get is a long, long, long set of rapids and small falls that cascade down a pretty canyon, spilling over pink granite that occasionally gives the water a pinkish hue and ultimately heading down to Lake Superior. It’s a beautiful provincial park with campgrounds and a lake and easy to navigate hiking trails. The falls are only a few feet away from a parking lot and there’s a solid set of stairs to take you further down the canyon for nice views if you so choose. I was there on a pretty day in August and saw one other couple, and that just as I was getting into my car.

Rainbow Falls

It’s not far from there to Aguasabon Falls, just outside of Terrace Bay. You drive maybe a couple minutes off the highway and you’re in the parking lot, and it’s only a short walk from there to the viewing platform. Nothing prepared me for the sheer force of these falls, which appear to be shot out of a cannon and absolutely thunder down a drop of about 30 metres. The force is earth-shaking and the mist rises thickly around you, so be careful with your camera. The water collects at the bottom of the drop and then spills quickly down a narrow slot canyon with high black walls and heads to Lake Superior. It’s hugely impressive and yet another spot I’d never heard of.

Photo via GoWaterfalling.com

There are beautiful falls galore all along the Trans Canada Highway, including Magpie Falls outside Wawa. Some I didn’t have time to check out, others I admired but forgot to check the names of.

I finished my waterfall tour in a place I didn’t know even had one. As I was researching my trip to northern Ontario, I’d read somewhere that the halfway point of the Trans Canada was a half hour or so north of Sault Ste. Marie, near Batchawana Bay. I expected a bigger deal, but in true Canadian style the marker for the halfway point was fairly small and modest. Still, I managed to pull into the parking lot and find an explanation of how tough it was to build this road that links our country from coast to coast. I also spotted a small trail off to one side, leading to a river. Sure enough, I walked past a few pine trees and spotted another waterfall. Not an amazing, earth-shaking, Niagara-like fall, but a pretty one nonetheless.

Photo via GoWaterfalling.comAnd how fitting to find it just steps from the halfway point of a highway that bridges a nation with more fresh water than any country on earth.

Here’s where to find the waterfalls Jim visited:


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