Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie In The Fall
We found such natural beauty when we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie in the fall. We found waterfalls on our drive north to Sault Ste Marie. And then again when we drove around Lake Superior to Crystal Falls and Chippewa Falls. Everything was bathed in the colours of fall.
On our drive north, we continued our travel around the Great Lakes in Ontario with stops in communities along Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Port Perry was a lovely port town and Sudbury provided us with our first sight of the Big Nickel.
Sault Ste Marie offered us many things to see and do. But we left several things for a return visit.
Heading To Northern Ontario In The Fall
We had a great stay in Lake Rosseau. When the weather stayed great, we headed further in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie. We enjoyed the peak of fall colours and checked out a few of the waterfalls in the area.
Since we often detoured on our road trips, travel always took two to three times longer than the estimated drive time. We planned a few stops along the way and stayed one night in Sudbury and saw the iconic Big Nickel.
As we drove north, we found the fall colours all around us. Trees clung stubbornly to the rock of the Canadian Shield.
But on the way home, we drove straight through for 8 hours to Toronto in torrential rain. So we were very glad we enjoyed the fall colours on our trip north. It reinforced our photography motto – “when you see a photo, take it”. Because it is often not the same on second viewing.
When we left Sault Ste Marie and headed back to Toronto, we were amused when the GPS offered us a shorter route through the U.S. The GPS certainly did not know the border was closed to essential traffic. And that route would not have been fast at all!
A Short Stop In Parry Sound
Our lunch stop on our trip north to Sault Ste Marie was in Parry Sound on Lake Huron. We followed the route to the waterfront. There were boat cruises and small float plane tours available from the pier. We walked towards the small lighthouse and saw the fall colours by the bridge.
It was not hard to know that Parry Sound was the birthplace of the famous hockey player Bobby Orr. By the waterfront we saw the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. And street art that celebrated him.
Street art in the downtown area showed different train murals. And the war memorial by the pier was a tribute to Francis Pegahmagabow. He was the most highly decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian history.
We enjoyed our quick stop in Parry Sound as we headed north to Sault Ste Marie.
Overnight In Sudbury To See The Big Nickel
It was a long drive from our stay in Lake Rosseau when we headed north to explore Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie. So we broke up the drive with a stay in Sudbury. We were so disappointed with the hotel that on our way back we did the long drive straight to Toronto from Sault Ste Marie.
But our stay in Sudbury got us both sunset and sunrise views of Sudbury’s most famous tourist attraction. The Big Nickel was a tribute to the mining industry in this part of Northern Ontario. And to the fact that Sudbury was the nickel capital of the world.
The Big Nickel was located at the Dynamic Earth Science Museum. When we visited the museum was closed due to Covid-19. But the outside was decorated with fun pumpkin art for Halloween.
We were glad we stopped in Sudbury and saw the Big Nickel on our trip to Northern Ontario.
The Landscapes For The Group Of Seven
As we travelled in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie, we were reminded that we followed the “Group of Seven” route. The Group of Seven represented seven Canadian landscape painters. And the land we travelled in Northern Ontario was the inspiration for many of the great art works from this group.
All Canadian art galleries have large collections from the Group of Seven and the McMichael Gallery north of Toronto focuses exclusively on Canadian and Indigenous art. There was a small museum in Sault Ste Marie that we unfortunately did not have time to visit.
When we stopped in Parry Sound, we found the first Artist Station. It was an easel set up with a view of the landscape painted by Tom Thomson. On our visit to the Chippewa Falls, we found another station. This was the spot where A.Y. Jackson painted these falls. We found the third spot by the rail car for the Agawa Canyon Tour. This area was frequently painted by J.E.H. MacDonald.
Everywhere we travelled in Northern Ontario, we certainly understood why this landscape was such an inspiration. We may have headed to Sault Ste Marie for waterfalls but we found so much more natural beauty.
Waterfall Stops On Our Way To Sault Ste Marie
One of our planned stops on the way to Sault Ste Marie was at Chutes National Park. We enjoyed our view of the fall colours as we walked along the water. And we got a view of the waterfall from afar. There was much more to explore in this park for another visit.
We often pulled over when we saw something of interest on our road trips. When we entered the small town of Iron Bridge, we were on the lookout for the bridge. It was not hard to see the Veterans Bridge over the Mississagi River.
When we took the small road up along the river, we found the Red Rock Generating Station where water cascaded down the 100 foot spillway. Up river we found the reservoir dappled with colour.
On our travel in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie, we stopped often and found some great spots.
A Base In Sault Ste Marie
We booked our stay at the Delta Sault Ste Marie Waterfront. With Marriott Ambassador Elite status, we got a great upgrade to the St. Mary’s Suite on the corner of the top floor. There were great 270° views out over the waterfront.
The hotel restaurant was open but operating under Covid-19 restrictions. When we visited the outside patio was not open. But we enjoyed the specialties created by the chef for dinner.
The hotel location made it easy to enjoy the sights along the waterfront.
Enjoying The Waterfront In Sault Ste Marie
The St Mary’s River Waterfront Boardwalk ran right outside the hotel. In one direction we found the steel and glass Spirits Rising display. This display was meant to symbolize the unity of management, labour and community following the restructuring of Algoma Steel. Further along the walkway were the Sault Ste Marie Canal and high overhead the bridge between Canada and the U.S.
In the other direction we found the Roberta Bondar Park and Tent Pavillion that we saw from our hotel window. In normal years, this outdoor space was available for a variety of special events. It was named for Canada’s first female astronaut. Otters welcomed us to this space.
Along the shore we also found a trio of bear statues fishing from the dock. Of course we did not pass without posing.
We found much to see when we walked along the waterfront in Sault Ste Marie.
Visiting The Sault Ste Marie Canal
On our travels around the world we visited many of the big lock systems. We travelled through the Suez Canal. And also transited the Panama Canal twice. During our travels around the Great Lakes in Ontario, we visited many different lock systems. So when we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie we stopped and saw the locks between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.
When the Sault Ste Marie Canal was built in 1895, it was the world’s longest lock and the first operated by electricity. It was also the last link in the seaway from the Atlantic to Lake Superior. The much larger Soo Locks were built on the U.S. side and commercial traffic takes that route. There are two locks on the U.S. side – the Poe Lock (1,200 feet) and the MacArthur Lock (800 feet). So today, the Sault Ste Marie Canal is used mostly for recreational traffic.
Parks Canada operated the Sault Ste Marie Canal. As we entered the parking lot, we saw the signs for Covid-19. The buildings were not open. But we wandered outside and explored the canal system with virtually nobody around. We started our walk below the lock and saw the big lock doors. Then we walked up the hill and around the various buildings. Signs were located everywhere that talked about this history and operation of this lock.
The Sault Ste Marie Canal Operations
We walked along both sides of the lock. When we looked up the lock channel, we saw the bridge between Canada and the U.S.
At the far end of the canal was the Emergency Swing Bridge Dam. This was the safety dam that swung closed if there was a major failure in the main canal or when the main canal was under repair. The signs said this was the last Emergency Swing Dam in the world!
We were glad we stopped in to visit the Sault Ste Marie Canal in Northern Ontario.
Travel North Along Lake Superior
When we researched the area around Sault Ste Marie we identified three waterfalls to visit. On this trip we only visited Crystal Falls and Chippewa Falls. We did not have time to visit the more distant series of three waterfalls on the Magpie River in Wawa.
But we were really sad we missed the train trip through the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park. Black Beaver Falls & Bridal Veil Falls were also in the park. We saw the ticket office and the trains. But unfortunately, Agawa Canyon was closed this year due to Covid-19.
The trip north along the shore of Lake Superior was amazing in the fall. The hills were painted in all shades of fall colours. We stopped many times and saw the beautiful views.
Even if we never saw waterfalls on our trip north, the drive along would have been worth a day trip.
Travel Lake Superior To Visit Crystal Falls And Chippewa Falls
Our first waterfall stop north of Sault Ste Marie was at Crystal Falls in Kinsmen Park in the heart of the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area. We walked the path up alongside the waterfall for great fall views.
We then drove north until we hit the Chippewa River. From the road we got our first view of the Chippewa Falls. We walked along the path and got a closer view from the rocks as the water tumbled over the rocks.
It was no wonder the Group of Seven created such masterpieces from this area.
A Busy Three Days Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie
Every local trip we made during the Covid-19 pandemic was done assessing the risks versus the rewards. We were glad we had a fun trip as we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie.
The Delta Sault Ste Marie was a great base for exploring. There was much to see in the city but we left several things for a return visit. Even though the skies were grey for most of our visit, the sun peeked out for a lovely sunset and said goodbye!
We were delighted we headed north to Lake Superior and saw the waterfalls around Sault Ste Marie. The autumn was the most glorious time to visit with the fall colour show on display. We were sad we missed the opportunity to take the Agawa Canyon Train. But we know we will go back one day for that treat.
As we headed back down Hwy 69 to Toronto, we passed the signs for Lake Rosseau. We waved as we planned our return visit to Muskoka. But before we headed north again, we headed along Lake Ontario to Kingston and explored the Thousand Islands area. We still had several stops left on our travels around the Great Lakes in Ontario.
Have you explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie? Did you head further north and see more of the national parks and waterfalls?
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