A Backcountry Paradise - Wakami Lake Provincial Park

Campsite B1 viewing northward on the lake

Let’s be real here, my expectations of this relatively small provincial park, tucked away in Northeastern Ontario, were low. Not that I ignored its presence, rather it just wasn’t as high up on my “places to visit” list - which is a long list!

I thought maybe I’ll visit it in a couple years or so, however like most of my adventures, this was a rather spontaneously planned trip. Certainly, some things require months, maybe years to plan out, but a mere few weeks was all it took to set out on this beautiful backcountry getaway.

Taking my 62 year old father on his first ever, interior camping trip was quite exciting. Growing up, we car camped across many Ontario Parks, but once I turned 18 and moved away from home, our camping trips took a pause. Since last year we started to pick it up again, making sure to set aside time annually to go out on a father son trip like we used to.

Since our lapse, I have been introduced to backcountry camping more and more. The added challenges would bring bigger rewards, lots of wonderful places with fewer people that were a hike or paddle away. But the idea to make this year’s trip into a canoe-in expedition was mainly because both Lake Superior and Mississagi Provincial Park’s were booked solid! Initially, we were thinking about going to either of those spots which we have explored some times before, and usually you can just get up and go in the middle of any week and get a killer spot with no worries or crowds. Covid-19 changed that this year, maybe it will be a permanent change, who knows, only time will tell, but there was just no chance for us to head up to those parks without having planned further in advance.

So, I looked at some options and that’s when Wakami Lake came into the picture. They have a small campground, which wasn’t too busy during our time frame, but they also have waterfront backcountry sites. This could work, I thought, and really well actually! It’s a 4.5 hour drive from my home in Sault Ste. Marie, so a decent way out there, and it would provide us a very beautiful place to just simply relax.

We opted to stay at B1, one of the closer campsites to the boat launch located at the campground. The paddle out is pretty quick, varying on conditions of course. Wakami Lake is a long lake, measuring a mere 17km from the north to the south, and only about 1km at its widest from east to west. The narrower width helps keep waves down in most situations, but obviously depending on weather conditions, that all can change. Whitecaps can still occur on the lake, which mainly was one of my biggest concerns before heading out here, but its many inlets and small coves makes it a genuinely good place to paddle.

Motorized water-crafts were also another thing that didn’t necessarily jump out to me, but they didn’t bother us at all. Most folks exchanged friendly waves in passing or were trolling slowly as they were fishing, a big draw for most people to this lake. All together, we hardly noticed them existing during our stay here. Heck, if I had a fishing boat, I’d be here too, but the canoe will always be my personal favourite choice of watercraft.

B1 though, was a beautiful site. It’s situated on a nice point, giving you two sandy beaches to lounge on. This came in clutch with one of days that featured a rather strong wind coming from the north. We basically stuck around on the southern facing shore which was sheltered from the wind. I felt like I was on a deserted island, except I didn’t want to get rescued. Bliss would be a good word to describe it.

On that same windy day, I decided to illustrate a nice scene inspired by Wakami Lake onto a wood panel that I brought along on the trip. This piece has already been sold, but you can watch a short timelapse video here on my Instagram of the creation process.

There’s just something about drawing in the outdoors. It’s very freeing, and it was nice to be in the very environment that inspired it.

The illustration featured a canoe in the foreground, giving you the feeling of what it would be like paddling out on this lake. Loons were very prominent on the lake, with the first call we heard only occurring within the first hour of our trip. Tiny islands are also scattered across the lake. They feature these thin, fir trees, bunched together. I really like how they looked. So Ontario-ey. I love it. It felt like I was home. And of course, adding a nice big orange sun was a given signature this piece could not go without.

Northern Ontario is home to me. I can go on and on as to why, but it stems back to all those camping trips my dad took me on. Having lived for a few years in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, and enjoying a brief summer in Nova Scotia, the longing for a Northern Ontario lake was something I wished for. Quite interestingly, one of my first impressions of Wakami Lake was of Lake Kejimkujik, the place I worked and lived at in NS. Although the flora was different, both lakes featured boulders along their shores. It was incredible to make that connection. I hope to revisit Keji someday, and I wonder if it will bring me memories of Wakami when I do.

Speaking of revisiting places, I look forward to the days that I get to return to Wakami Lake. We only scratched the surface of discovery on this trip, and looking at the map of the lake, we only explored a small section of this massively beautiful area. Regardless, it has still embedded a special memory in my heart. The crystal-clear waters of this Northern Ontario lake are part of me now. As a token of the memory, I illustrated the lake. Its long size was rather challenging to draw within it, but it all worked out swiftly in the end. The original is hung up in my living room, to serve as reminder of that memory and to keep me inspired of adventures to come, as it is often the places we may have low expectations for that will leave us with lasting impressions for the rest of our lives.

We may have not had the whole lake to ourselves, but there was no shortage of true solitude here. Being unplugged from the connected world, not knowing what time it was through out the whole trip, definitely made me slow down, appreciate every single moment and just allowed me live in true harmony with the environment. You couldn’t give me any amounts of money to trade me for that feeling, because happiness is real out there. It’s a true place of paradise.

On a very final note, please feel free to share your story of Wakami Lake, or whatever place that leaves a special imprint on your soul, I would love to hear it! Our stories are what keeps these places special and protected. Prints of the Wakami Lake piece are available to purchase through this link for those who share a connection with this wonderful provincial park. A portion of the profits will be donated to the park directly.