Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Consider Lake Superior route to or from camp
If you've never travelled the highway around Lake Superior you might consider adding it to your itinerary when coming or going from camp this summer.
In most cases it will add at least a few hours to your trip but it's one of the most scenic routes in the world and it's a shame if you've never seen it.
Just about all of our American guests cross the border at International Falls/Fort Frances and then proceed to Red Lake on either Hwy 71 going west and then north to Hwy. 17, or they go east and north on Hwy 502 to Hwy 17. They then go to Vermilion Bay where they turn on to Hwy 105 which ends at Red Lake.
Let's be clear, these are the fastest ways to get to Red Lake. And of these two, the Hwy 502 route is perhaps 30 minutes quicker than going via Hwy 71.
These routes also have beautiful scenery in the form of woods and lakes. But you don't see vistas that go on for dozens of miles like you do if you drive around the shore of Lake Superior.
On the west side of Lake Superior you would take Hwy 61 from Duluth to Thunder Bay, then Hwy 11-17 to Vermilion Bay (Hwy 11 splits off towards Atikokan on the way).
Here you drive right next to Lake Superior as well as along cliffs and through tunnels. There are a bunch of quaint little towns on the way including Grand Portage Lodge and Casino and Grand Marais, Minnesota.
You then cross the border at Pigeon River. It's a much smaller border crossing than is the one at International Falls/Fort Frances and during peak travel times should be a lot quicker to get through.
However, if the border crossing times were identical then this route would add about three hours to your trip as compared to going through Int'l Falls.
If you've got some extra time, check out Old Fort William in Thunder Bay. This is an authentic reconstruction of the old fur trading post that used to exist here. Everybody is dressed in period costume and are busy doing the very things the fur traders and courier du bois would have done in the 1800s. There are dramas and events every day.
It's a big place and you can easily spend most of a day at it.
For a longer but even more spectacular ride, take Hwy. 11-17 east of Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie (again, Hwy 11 splits off along the way).
Here you travel almost entirely on the cliffs and hills of eastern Lake Superior where you can see for dozens of miles across the world's largest lake.
We took the photos above on this route this November as we drove to our annual convention of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario.
Again, there are many neat little towns along the way such as Nipigon, Schreiber, Wawa and White River. Anyone who has taken this route would agree it is one of the most awesome drives in the world.
However it is certainly farther if you are driving from the U.S. Midwest. I would allow an extra day to take this route. You would then cross the border at Sault Ste. Marie in upper peninsula Michigan.