C&K On Assignment
Wabakimi Provincial Park
Imagine a tract of roadless wilderness the size of the Boundary Waters and Quetico combined that’s laced with whitewater rivers and interconnected lakes, peppered with smoothrock campsites and is home to one of North America’s most southerly herds of woodland caribou. At 2.2 million acres, northwestern Ontario’s Wabakimi Provincial Park has been coined “the world’s largest wilderness canoe area.” Yet it receives a tiny fraction of the visitors compared to North America’s so-called canoe country, partly because the only way to get there is by late-night passenger train or floatplane charter from Armstrong, Ontario, an end of the road hamlet 150 miles north of the city of Thunder Bay and 20 miles east of the park boundary.
Photographer Ryan Creary and I spent a week canoe tripping in Wabakimi on a Canoe & Kayak assignment, lake hopping across obscure portage trails in search of “Uncle” Phil Cotton, a brash, outspoken canoe route reconnaissance man who spends over 100 days each summer tripping in Wabakimi’s hinterland. He is shunned by park staff but has attracted a cult-like following of like-minded wilderness canoeists. Read the full story in the June 2010 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine. – Conor Mihell