Today’s post comes from Bob Elliott, a past superintendent of the winter wonderland that is Lake Superior Provincial Park. Please note: so far in 2020, no ice caves are present.
Every so often, the winters around Lake Superior are cold enough to freeze the waters of Gitchee Gumee, providing a magical opportunity to walk on the ice of the world’s largest freshwater lake (by surface area).
The winter of 2017/2018 was cold enough to provide that magic, and the winter of 2014/2015 was the ultimate ice walkers dream; the polar vortex froze 95% of Lake Superior and there were dozens and dozens of ice caves along the shore on the north side of Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Old Woman Bay, with its towering cliffs, is one of the iconic places in Lake Superior Provincial Park, and is depicted on the park logo.
A walk on the ice at Old Woman Bay in early March revealed some interesting ice formations. Just before the towering cliffs, water had frozen into some very unusual patterns.
Fingers of jagged icicles jutted out at every angle, and one formation even resembled opaque moose antlers. Very cool stuff!
The towering cliffs of Old Woman Bay are a magnificent sight, whether viewed from the beach, on the water or one of the lookouts from the Nokomis Hiking Trail. Being able to walk out on the ice, stand at the base of the cliffs and look up, way up…well. It gives you an entirely different perspective as to how big those cliffs really are.
If you want to put in a full day’s walk on the ice, carry on past the cliffs, around the point and head south for roughly another 5 km to Till Creek. Till Creek is very scenic, with its reddish rock and small boulder beach at the mouth of the creek. There is one campsite here, on a small cobble beach just south of where the creek flows into Lake Superior.
On a nice, calm summer day, Till Creek makes for a nice day paddle from Old Woman Bay. Of course, everything looks different in the winter with the landscape covered in snow and ice.
About a 10 minute walk up Till Creek, you’ll arrive at Till Creek Falls, a lovely waterfall that is totally frozen and covered with ice in the winter. You may not need snowshoes to walk on the ice down to Till Creek, but you will definitely need your “boreal flip-flops” to walk up to the falls.
When the ice conditions are favourable, there are many other places for a walk on the ice in Lake Superior Provincial Park. The north side of Old Woman Bay, up to Entrance Island and Brule Harbour, is a nice walk. Caves and other ice formations are often found, and the bigger rocks and rock faces become encased in ice.
The Indigenous pictographs at Agawa Rock are another must-see when Lake Superior is frozen. Snowshoe down the road to Sinclair Cove, then around the point to the pictographs. Standing on the ice, one certainly gets a different perspective of “the Rock” than from a summer visit.
Winters in northern Ontario can be long and cold. But when conditions are right and Lake Superior freezes, those fortunate enough to see the park in the fourth season are treated to some magnificent scenery.
Before heading out on the ice, always check the ice conditions (remember: Lake Superior doesn’t always freeze for the winter), dress appropriately, and tell someone where you are going.