Mysterious Michipicoten Island

What’s not to love about an island? They’re isolated by definition, perfect for circumnavigations and often home to unique flora and fauna. Take Michipicoten Island— the remote and mystical “Floating Isle” of the Ojibwa. Michipicoten is the second-largest island on Lake Superior’s Canadian side. Its 25-kilometre-long, submarine-shaped form erupts from the water 65 kilometres offshore from our base in Wawa.

From the windows of Rock Island Lodge, views of the island come and go at the whim of the weather. With an approaching cold front, the island’s 250-metre hills stand tall, making it appear near and imposing. But in mid-summer haze, it barely registers, floating above the heat waves like a surfacing beaver. Most of the time, however, a veil of fog hides the island. At its closest point to the mainland, the cliffs of the island’s Bonner Head peninsula are 16 kilometres from the Lake Superior Highlands shore, just southeast of Pukaskwa National Park’s southern boundary.

The island is shrouded in legends of rich lodes of copper guarded by 20-metre-tall giants and was one of the last places on the Great Lakes to be accurately mapped. Up until the late 1700s, Michipicoten’s chameleon-like tendencies were rendered on charts as three islands. The fledgling United States reckoned these were a fair trade for the ownership of western Lake Superior’s Isle Royale.

Today, a circumnavigation of Michipicoten Island is a bucket-list trip for adventurous sea kayakers. Naturally Superior offers two guided trips for paddlers of different skill levels. Our all-inclusive Michipicoten Island Weekly Escape includes a boat shuttle to and from the island with McCuaig Marine Services. We circumnavigate the island at a relaxed pace, stopping at spectacular campsites like Green Island, a small offshore spit that offers panoramic views of Michipicoten’s southern shore, and Schaffer Point, a gravel beach that’s laced with woodland caribou trails and backed by a bizarre cave-pocked cliff. Your guide(s) will prepare healthy meals using a variety of fresh foods.

Our second Michipicoten Island trip is new for 2013. We’ve enlisted the services of popular Toronto-based sea kayak guide, instructor and blogger David Johnston for an expedition-style Michipicoten trip. This 8.5-day tour is designed for advanced sea kayakers looking to join a team of similarly skilled paddlers on a more challenging trip. We’ll take a boat shuttle to the island, paddle around its wild shores and choose a safe weather window to make the 16-kilometre crossing back to the mainland. From there, we’ll paddle another 70 kilometres of rugged coastline back to Michipicoten Bay. Trip participants will be responsible for supplying their own food and gear on this trip.