Lake Nipigon Kayaking

 In Paddling, Picture

Night Kayak

Lake Nipigon is a four hour drive from Grand Marais. This four hours puts it an equal distance away from me as the Apostle Islands, so it becomes a hard call on which way to drive for a sea kayaking trip. I’ve put some thought into this now and have come to the conclusion that for me, Lake Nipigon is a better destination than the Apostles.

Lake Nipigon Map

Saying Lake Nipigon is better than the Apostles is sure to make a few eyebrows rise considering that many people think that the Apostles are the premier kayaking destination on Lake Superior, but a few points and thoughts about why I believe Lake Nipigon is better may get you thinking about a trip there.

The above map shows our route on Lake Nipigon. We paddled around 70 miles over 6 days with one day spent in camp only moving to a better campsite in 20 to 25 knot winds. In those 6 days, we saw one other group. I expect that it would be considerably busier in the summer, but during the fall, it was vacant.

There are over 500 islands to explore on Lake Nipigon and to get to some of those islands there are significant crossings involved. We had two four mile crossings, one two mile crossing, and one 8 mile crossing over the course of our 6 days of tripping. And the many islands involved some map reading work. All of these contribute to the fun.

And, of course, the several sightings of bald eagles a day, black sand beaches, towering palisades plunging hundreds of feet into the water, 2 foot chop daily as the norm, weird weather with winds showing up out of nowhere. And no development! (We did find one cabin and one–probably illegal–hunting camp with all the goods covered by a tarp.

Kayaking on Lake Nipigon in light chop.


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Showing 3 comments
  • Joel Truckenbrod
    Reply

    Thanks for the read Bryan; lots of good thoughts. Interesting that you find Nipigon a better kayaking destination than the apostles, though I imagine they are quite different places in many regards (I have yet to get to either, though they are both high on my to-do list). I assume there’s motor access on Nipigon; if so, did you encounter many motorized craft during your excursion?

  • Travis Novitsky
    Reply

    I would have to agree that Lake Nipigon is better than the Apostles… unless, of course, you like to see lots of other people. Lake Nipigon is much more remote, and is at the doorstep of a wilderness that makes the Boundary Waters seem pitifully small in comparison. There is more country than one can possibly see in a lifetime in Ontario. Love that picture on the water, Bryan…. sitting on top of a wave! How cool is that? :-)

  • Bryan
    Reply

    @Joel – There’s motor access on Nipigon. I saw only one other group out on the lake. The group consisted of two small motor boats, and they were in the Virgin Islands, which are south of Shakespeare Island. On the map, we saw them west of Pipestone Point (not sure if the rock there is real pipestone or not – it sort of looked like it). There’s a boat ramp in South Bay, so we assumed that’s where they put on. In summer, it’s probably much busier in the southern sections.

    @Travis – Thanks! I agree with you about the staggering amount of wilderness there. I really want to go back and head north into the wilder sections of the lake. Also, those conditions that made the wave picture were pretty typical of what we saw. In the past, I’ve always been nervous about getting a camera out during 1 to 2 foot chop, but with the G9 and a small Pelican case that I just keep in the cockpit of the kayak, it’s much easier.

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