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Over the Edge at Ouimet Canyon (Thunder Bay, Ontario)

By touring - Posted on 16 October 2010

Over the Edge at Ouimet Canyon (Thunder Bay, Ontario)

I wasn't expecting much when we pulled off of the Trans Canada Highway east of Thunder Bay and into Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. At the end of a short boardwalk, I immediately froze after taking the first step onto the viewing platform that overhung the steep wall of the canyon. I wasn't scared of heights until I peered through the thin slats in the wooden platform and saw the canyon bottom far, far below. A visit to Provincial Park was unforgettable and should not be missed.

Ouimet Canyon is a scenic gorge, 3 kilometers long, 150 meters wide and up to 105 meters deep. It was formed by the mighty glaciers from the last ice-age and it's hard to believe that Gulch Creek, the tiny stream at the bottom, once had a raging flow that created this deep gash in the Canadian Shield.

There are two spectacular viewing areas that overhang the edge of Ouimet Canyon where you'll have unobstructed views of this colossal gorge. The steep walls plunge straight down to boulders and vegetation. On the valley bottom, there are Arctic & sub-alpine plants that are rarely found this far south in Canada. For this reason, hiking is prohibited on the canyon bottom.

Plants on the valley bottom include moss, lichen, ferns and other slow-growing, cold weather vegetation. In fact, snow can linger here into early June.

Even at the height of summer, you can feel the cool air wafting past as slow air currents bring the fresh air up from the gorge. Birds float and flutter on the drafts while humans are confined to watch from the lonely edge.

Hiking at Ouimet Canyon

Hiking is limited in this provincial park since the valley bottom is closed to visitors. There is a network of trails and boardwalks leading to scenic lookout points and about 2 kilometers of interpretive pathways. Most trails are well back from the canyon's edge but children should still be restrained from wandering.

For people with a fear of heights, the edge of Ouimet Canyon will only reinforce your phobia.

When to go

The park is open from mid-May until mid-October. This is a day-use only park and outdoor adventures are limited. In the summer, the look out can be crowded with tourists. The best time to visit is in the fall when the car-loads of family have disappeared and the weather is warm and dry. September is particularly quiet.

The park gates are closed at night and venturing on your own after dark is not recommended. It gets VERY dark here.

Picnic areas are placed well back from the viewing platforms. There is no camping in the park. Toilets are available.

For more information on Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, contact (1-807-977-2526 - the office of the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park).

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Ouimet Canyon is not Canada's version of Grand Canyon, but it is a fascinating place that shows the might power of the ancient glaciers and the amazing beauty of northern Ontario. Don't miss it!

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