You’d swear you were on a rocky Isle Royale point in the middle of Lake Superior.
On a foggy day, when you enter the dining room, you stare out into the fog and the only thing you can see is a large navigation marker looming in the mist. You’d swear you were on a rocky Isle Royale point in the middle of Lake Superior. You can literally feel the lake around you. In fact, you’re not in the middle of the lake, you’re on an “island” on Lake Superior connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land. This island is on the western side of the mouth of the Michipicoten River about 10 km./6 mi. from the town of Wawa, Ontario.
…It is the Connect with the Lake that Makes this Facility Unique.
This is Rock Island Lodge and if you happen to be travelling around the lake, by vehicle or vessel, it is a place you want to see, or rather experience. Like other lodges and hotels around Lake Superior, the lodge offers accommodation and meals but that’s not what this article is about, and that’s not what the lodge is about either. Rather, it is the connect with the lake that makes this facility unique. You can sit out front of the lodge in the evening staring at a vast, uninterrupted stretch of Lake Superior, high hills in the distance. You simply won’t get any closer to the lake. In fact someone very close to the lake himself recently related to Infosuperior that this is the, “most beautifil place on Lake Superior.” That comment, from someone who has boated the lake extensively and lived very close to the lake since childhood. Infosuperior staff have visited Rock Island Lodge on two or three occasions and this was no news to them. The setting is stunning.
What makes the place unique is its setting. The lodge is situated at the very mouth of the Michipicoten River with Driftwood Beach just across the river. This beach is a breathtaking stretch of Lake Superior sand over two kilometers/1.24 mi in length, almost always entirely deserted. At the end of the beach closest to the lodge is a sandspit, stretching partially across the mouth of the river, appearing close enough to touch from the lodge. On the inland side of the spit the river forms a basin, providing calm, protected water, even when Superior is kicking up. The Michipicoten River is also accessible by larger boats. Buck’s Marina is located further up the river.
Learning by Lake Superior
Rock Island Lodge, which also operates, “Naturally Superior Adventures,” makes use of this unique setting by offering a range of activities, most of which are connected to the lake. Paddling forms a core activity, both instruction and trips, in boats ranging from kayaks to voyageur canoes. Photography is another activity with courses like, “Fall Gales Photography.” Most of the photographs utilized in this article were taken by photographer Lois Nutall during Naturally Superior’s 2018 “Superior Woods and Waters” seminar offered by James Smedley. Other activities include hiking, stand up paddle boarding, yoga, dance, or even a combination of activities, like hiking combined with photography.
Calm waters on the Michipicoten River, just inside the sand spit, provide a safe place to learn paddling skills. When conditions are right, kayakers can then venture onto Superior, with or without a guide, depending on level of experience. Naturally Superior Adventures also offers everything from day trips on the lower Michipicoten River through to multi-day paddling adventures. Trips include the Pukaskwa National Park coastline, Silver Islet to Rossport through the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, northward from the U.S/Canada border at Pigeon River, or another route of your choice.
Visitors Do Not Need to Take a Course or Participate in a Paddling Adventure
Rock Island Lodge is open from mid-May through October and visitors do not need to to take a course or participate in a paddling adventure to stay there. Contact the lodge in advance to check availability. There are four rooms only. This is not a luxury lodge and not meant to be so. Accommodation is great and included breakfasts are eaten around a large table in the dining room with other guests. The dining room/common room is so close to the open waters of Superior that the lake really does seem, “in your face.” Mealtime banter may involve an eclectic mix of photographers and paddlers. Everyone is here for one reason and one reason only – Lake Superior. Conversation reflects this.
All rooms are just steps from Lake Superior and the Rock Island Lodge website states, “In autumn storm season, the building all but shakes in thundering surf.” Keep in mind though, that a nice time to visit Rock Island Lodge is high summer, when it is warm enough to sit out on the rocky peninsula in front of the lodge. Beach camping is also available, as is camping in a geodesic dome. Some lodge staff camp out all summer.
The turn-off to Rock Island Lodge is located approximately 5 km./3 mi. south of Wawa on the Trans-Canada Highway at Michipicoten River Village Road. Directions provided by the lodge’s website can direct you from there. The lodge is about 4 km./2.5 mi. from the highway. Be prepared for a ramble along side roads slowly winding down to Superior. Some of the roads are unsurfaced.
What Sets the Lodge Apart is its Proximity to the Open Waters of Superior and its Stunning Setting.
The website for the lodge states that, “David Wells purchased the 12 acres at the mouth of the Michipicoten River in 1994 with the dream of creating an environmentally responsible lodge and a world-class paddling centre.” The accommodation and meals at Rock Island Lodge are excellent but you can get those anywhere around the lake. What sets the lodge apart is its proximity to the open waters of Superior and its stunning setting. Just being there brings a close connection to the lake. If you choose to participate in any of the range of activities provided at the lodge, that lake connection is even closer.
It says at the top of our newsletters that, “Infosuperior fosters interest, knowledge and respect for Lake Superior, building broader public support for restoration and protection.” Its safe to say that Rock Island Lodge is doing just that.