Canoeists cross Quetico Park on 600-mile Path of the Paddle expedition

A Path of the Paddle team member portaging in Quetico Provincial Park. (David Jackson/Path of the Paddle)

A team of canoeists recently traveled through Quetico Provincial Park on a more than 600-mile trip along part of a Canadian national trail. The Path of the Paddle travels by water and portage from Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario, comprising part of the prestigious Trans Canada Trail.

Led by Thunder Bay-based photographer and adventurer David Jackson, the team launched at Whiteshell on July 5, expecting to take about 30 days to complete the 1,183-kilometer route back home. They are not only keeping up a strenuous pace across challenging country and promoting the Path of the Paddle on social media, but also maintaining the 152 portages along its length, verifying the accuracy of official maps, and updating signs by applying new stickers where needed.

Jackson is working with the Path of the Paddle Association for the trip, a non-profit organization that works to develop, stewardship and sustainability of water trails, including the Trans Canada Trail, in Northwestern Ontario. Path of the Paddle connects six regional trails, many with long histories. The organization says Path of the Paddle portages and waterways have been used for at least 8,000 years by Ojibway and Cree people.

Path of the Paddle on Maukinak Trail. (David Jackson/Path of the Paddle)

To reach Atikokan, the four-person crew traveled the 170-mile Maukinak Trail, which they described as containing 60 portages and a rigorous route that “jumps through a dizzying amounts of lakes, ascends two creeks, goes down one river and up another, all the while with the giant lakes northwest of Atikokan to guard the section’s ending.”

They posted an update from Atikokan on July 24, and on July 31, left Quetico. Despite difficult conditions, they couldn’t ignore the beautiful scenery.

“After so many storms and windy days, Atikokan was a sigh of relief. The Maukinak Trail is a beast of a trail and we portaged a lot in the last 9 days and 270km, yet all the while we couldn’t help but be entranced by the landscape that lured on,” Jackson wrote. “We are at the beginning of our hard push to Lake Superior now and we can’t wait to see the big lake, first we have Quetico, Omimi, and then the final stretch on Animikii.”

On their way out of the park, Jackson said they paddled with “legendary warden” Chris Stromberg, who is also coordinator of the Heart of the Continent Partnership. They witnessed forests burned by the wildfires that affected about 20 percent of Quetico last summer, and followed the trail out of the park at Cache Bay on Saganaga Lake.

“We moved fast through so many falls and were awe struck by some of the charred scenery of last year’s fire stricken summer in [Northwest Ontario],” Jackson wrote. “The team’s over the height of the land and looking at a windy Lake Superior. More to come… hopefully less rain, storms, and wind.”

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