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Ontario's Mississagi Provincial Park is an unspoiled Natural Environmental Park located just north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the city of Elliot Lake, and Lake Huron's North Channel.

Hikers on Helenbar Lake Trail
Hikers on Helenbar Lake Trail
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

There's a hike for everyone here, ranging from the easy one-kilometer Flack Lake Trail, to the more challenging 25-kilometer Mackenzie Trail. The vast 4,900-hectare park is a hiker's haven, with eight trails totaling 75 kilometers in length.

Flack Lake Trail

Flack Lake Trail is famous for its ripple rock, formed by ancient waves rippling beach sand two billion years ago. Water pressure cemented the formations and fossils into sandstone rock.

Even though logging and fire destroyed many trees in Mississagi Provincial Park, over the years, many large trees remain in the old growth forest. You'll see sugar maple, white and yellow birch, trembling aspen, white spruce, hemlock and balsam fir.

Helenbar Lake Trail

Helenbar Lake is the most popular trail. It takes about two to four hours to hike the seven-kilometer loop through 60-year-old hardwood forest. The gentle incline is easy enough for beginners and families.

Ten thousand years ago, a kilometer-thick ice sheet covered this region. You'll see a remnant of the Ice Age near the start of the trail — a large conglomerate glacial erratic boulder.

Moose often visit this area. Although you rarely see them, you can find signs of their presence — droppings and browsed branches. (Moose is an Algonkian word meaning "eater of twigs.") The large mammals love the bark of the striped or "Moose" Maple, which grows here.

Moose in Mississagi park
Moose in Mississagi park
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Hikers may also spot white-tailed deer and black bear. Birdwatchers can see thrush, vireo and flycatchers.

The highlight of this trail is a lookout, 130 meters above Helenbar Lake. Hikers can use binoculars to spot ospreys and loons below. Dense forest surrounds the shallow lake, which shelters brook trout and lake white fish. From the lookout, you can follow the loop back to the campground.

Semiwite Lake Trail

More energetic hikers can extend their trek nine kilometers by following the Semiwite Lake Trail. It joins the Helenbar Lake Trail at the portage point between the two lakes, circles Semiwite Lake, and ends at the same campground as the Helenbar Lake Trail.

At the portage, make a detour to see what's left of the Gloster Meteor. Semiwite Lake is a good place to stop for a picnic, a swim in the lake or a rest on the sandy beach.

Mississauga First Nations people lived in this region for hundreds of years. Mississagi Provincial Park contains evidence of Mississauga tribal hunting and fishing camps.

The park's visitor centre also protects relics from late 19th- and early 20th-century logging and copper mining eras. On the Semiwite Lake Trail, hikers see the foundations of an old cabin and the site of a logging camp.

Hikers on park trail
Hikers on park trail
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The highlight of the Bear Mountain Trail is a lookout over Brush Lake, with a view that's even better than the one at Helenbar. Hikers follow the trail along a cliff edge above a ravine, old rock formations and old growth forests. You pass a large bog, and then hike along an old logging road back to the Semiwite Lake.

Mackenzie Trail

Mackenzie is the Mississagi Provincial Park's longest trail, offering overnight camping on two interior campsites. The trail, which was named after downed fighter pilot, Lt. Hugh Mackenzie, also connects with the Semiwite Lake Trail. The former is longer and rockier, with more conifers, steeper drop-offs and more lookouts. A number of cliff faces overlook the Stag Lake wetland, a proposed Area of Natural & Scientific Interest.

If you want a sneak one-hour preview of the Mackenzie's lookouts, you can go in the back way from the Semiwite Lake Trail. (See the Mackenzie Trail leaflet available from the park office.)

Mississagi canoeing

Because Mississagi Park is central to many of the Elliot Lake area's canoe routes, it's often used as a base camp by canoeists. For detailed canoe routes, contact the Ministry of Natural Resources in Blind River.

Canoeing on Flack Lake
Canoeing on Flack Lake
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Hikers and paddlers should be prepared for black flies in the spring and slippery rocks after rain. Mosquitoes are gone by autumn, when the forest is ablaze with colored leaves.

Driving directions and camping

Mississagi Provincial Park is 25 kilometers or 15 minutes north of Elliot Lake, via Highways 108 and 639. It's 190 kilometers east of Sault Ste. Marie, via Highways 17 and 546. Sudbury is 160 kilometers to the east.

A campground, on the north shore of Semiwite Lake, has 90 campsites, all with fireplaces and picnic tables. For more comfortable accommodations, consider Laurentian Lodge, just outside the park.


City of Elliot Lake: www.cityofelliotlake.com

More things to see and do in Ontario:

Ojibway First Nations Culture, Crafts and Ceremonies

Point Pelee Bird Watching Tours

Ontario Feast of Fields - Food, Wine and Sustainable Living

Ottawa - Things to Do in Canada's Capital City

Couples Resort Romantic Winter Getaway in Algonquin Park