superiortrailsgranite lake in wabakimi Park
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Ontario Canoe Trips: Wabakimi Wilderness Park

kopka river

Our Return Canoe Trip to Wabakimi and the Kopka River happened in the first week in September, 2002. Fewer bugs than in June and July plus our busy summer schedule argued for the later trip. As I had torn my ACL in February, the additional rehab time didn't hurt either.

See Ontario Park's Explorer Guide to Wabakimi ParkThe bargain I struck with Jo to get her to return was reversing our route and only going as far as the bottom of the last of the Mink Falls. This way we avoided the "hairy" portages of the previous summer and because of the shorter canoe route would have more time to explore and relax, I had figured once at our base camp, I may have had a chance to talk her into a day trip up the "portage from hell" to that beautiful little mountain lake in between the four Mink Falls. That didn't work, but I get ahead of the story.

After spending some time "putzing" along Minnesota's North Shore, including a stop in Grand Marais, we arrived early Sunday afternoon at the Wabakimi Wilderness Outfitter's B&B. Enjoyed getting re-acquainted with Bert and Brenda Zwickey, the lodge managers. They recommended a nice little place in Armstrong for dinner. The food was good and the prices quite reasonable. After a good night's sleep and Brenda's breakfast the next morning, we were ready to go with Bert to the put-in.

Wabakimi Wilderness Canoe Outfitting Services

Day One Clicking on a "thumbnail" picture will bring up a larger image
Warning: The Big Pictures come up in a separate window that sometimes becomes "minimized" on your task bar. So to view an image a second time, you need to click on the window's icon on your task bar.

We put in at the Bukemiga landing off Highway 527; a beautiful morning for a canoe ride as the adjacent picture illustrates.

Later on a little chop on the water picked up as we headed west and upstream. Still made good time as the bluffs provided some shelter from the wind.

Nearing the end of the days' journey. The Mink Falls glacial spillway is just around the corner
Looking downstream from our campsite landing at the sheltered harbor below the falls.  
Our destination, lower Mink Falls, and our campsite with its front row view of the falls.
We "putzed" around the next day. I unpacked my new St. Croix backpacking rod and baited up with a Berkley power bait on a texas bass rig. Jo found a nice sunny spot overlooking the falls to catch up on her reading. I fished the pool below the falls and later ran the little rapids that drained the pool.

A couple of northern were caught above and below the rapids. The largest was the first one I caught. I threw him back because I was after a walleye dinner. Same decision with northerns #2 and #3. It was fun catching them on that light action rod.

Later I tried the harbor area below the rapids. No walleye. By this time I was ready to settle for a northern dinner. As luck would have it northerns 4, 5, and 6 were on the snakey side. Too many bones, not enough meat for my taste.
Day Three

The next morning after doing a little fishing and finding no walleye, I talked Jo into at least walking up the "Portage from Hell" to take the pictures we never got last year. So we paddled across the bay and found the trail. Here's one shot looking up the trail as it begins its ascent up the gorge.
The first shot is from Jo's camera looking up the main portage trail at me at the top of the cliff. The second shot is me looking down at her.


Imagine carrying a canoe down this trail . . . and after a rain when the rocks are extra slippery. Have never encountered a portage trail in the Boundary Waters BWCA or Quetico Canoe Parks that comes close to this baby. Sorta glad I couldn't talk Jo into doing a day trip up this trail to the mountain lake. Going up would have been tough, but coming down . . . my knees ache at the thought.

We'd had such nice weather, Jo was nervous we'd catch a change to storms on the way back, so she talked me into breaking camp, beginning our return trip a day early. I was ready to try some new fishing territory anyhow. That evening we camped on an island in Wigwasan Lake. Caught a beautiful sunset.
Days Four and Five
This is the spot where I should be showing you some beautiful walleyes. On day four Jo and I paddled back upstream to the rapids where the Kopka River empties into Wigwasan Lake. On the way in we encountered some guys fishing there and saw them boat one but I couldn't see what it was. But the spot had fish haven written all over it so I was anxious to work it hard. I spent a few hours working the fast water, working the eddies on either side, and working the slower water 100 yards down from the rapids. No go. Switched from power baits to lures. No go. Then portaged above the rapids to fish there. Again no luck.

Later that evening, I fished all around our island. Fished the rocks, fished the points, fished the drop offs. No luck. Big disappointment.

The next day we broke camp late morning and continued our journey to our rendevous at the Bukemiga landing. On the portage trail between Bukemiga and Wigwasan, we met an Indian and his son portaging fishing gear and a motor across the trail to some boats tied up at the Wigawasn end. We talked abit about fishing and my poor luck. That's when I found out the secret.The walleye leave the shallow and faster water to the northern. He said they are about 200 yards below the rapids, where the water depth drops off from 20 feet to really deep water. Also forget power baits and lures. Minnows and leeches are the only things these guys will go after.


Jo and I moved on - wishing them good luck. I fished some on the way back, trolling deeper water off the steep bluffs. No action. With my dinking around fishing, it took us about 4 hours to paddle the length of Bukemiga back to the landing.

Five minutes after we landed, the two Indians pull up in their boat, returning from their fishing trip. They had a mess of beautiful walleye 2 - 4 lbs!


Wilderness Outfitters
B&B Lodge
Outpost Camps

(807) 583-2626
(807) 767-2022

I am looking forward to a return trip; in fact I'd like to get in two trips. One with Jo in late August or that first week in September taking the train into an outpost camp. She is now insisting on the comforts of a cabin. Then we'll do day trips from our base camp and either fly out or take the train back.Trip two involves me talking some buddies into doing a wilderness fishing expedition into Wabakimi.

Wabakimi Wilderness Canoe Outfitters has an interesting guided fishing trip on their 2003 schedule. Might have to look into that one. Don't know how many trips I've got in the old bones, but I know they are numbered so can't afford to let a summer slide by without getting on the water and in the woods.
During 2002 found time to combine two of my favorite hobbies: canoeing and woodworking. Here's three paddles I made. My first paddle (lower center) was of walnut sandwiched around cedar strips left over from my friend Earl's last cedar strip canoe project. My second (upper right) was a Voyageur style paddle. While appearing to be one solid piece is actually a laminate of two walnut boards. The third one, is a modification of an Ojibwe style in a composite of walnut and birch. "Click" on the image for a larger view > > > >

Wabakimi Links

Wabakimi & Kopka River Canoe Trip
Return to Wabakimi & Kopka River - Canoe Camping Trip
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing Canoe Camping trip, Granite and Brennen Lakes,
  Allenwater River
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing & Canoeing Trip, Palisade River & Kenoji Lake
Wabakimi, Train-in, Fly-out Outpost Camp - Shawanabis Lake
Wabakimi, Fly-in, Fly-out Fishing & Canoe Camping - Chance Lake -
  Allenwater River - Granite Lake


Resource Links:
Canadian Canoe Routes
Wabakimi Wilderness  Park
Boundary Waters  Canoe Area
Wabakimi Outfitters  Links




Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)

Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)