It is a good five hours drive (489 km) from Thunder Bay to Kenora and another two hours (209 km) to Winnipeg. This area of lakes, rivers, trees and rock attracts fishermen, hunters, cottagers and campers with its pristine stark beauty. The small towns en-route provide motorists with fuel and a place to stretch legs on the long drive west.
The following are organised according to their distances west of Thunder Bay:
Around a half-hour drive from Thunder Bay, these copper-coloured Kakabeka Falls falls, are often called “the Niagara of the North”. They’re unmissable at the peak of spring thaw.
At Shabaqua Corners highway 11/17 divides with highway 17 heading northwest to Kenora and the Manitoba border, and highway 11 heading west to Atikokan and Fort Frances. The Time Meridian cuts through Northern Ontario just west of Shabaqua. Heading west you leave the Eastern Time Zone and enter the Central Time Zone. By the time you get to Upsala you should have reset your watch.
English River is a small community on the canoe route through the Albany River to James Bay and once an important spot in the days of the fur trade. Today, it’s a popular outfitting post for canoe expeditions and also a unique spot for paddlers to catch the transcontinental CP railway to begin or end a long canoe journey.
Ignace was named after Ignace Mentour, the main aboriginal guide to Sir Sandford Fleming when he surveyed for the railway in 1879. Today lumbering and tourism drive the town’s economy. Some 35 kilometers south of town on White Otter Lake stands the unique White Otter Castle, an elaborate three story log building. Unbelievably it was built by hand between 1903 and 1914 by one man, Jimmy McQuat. Folk tales suggest Jimmy hoped to lure his sweetheart to live with him, but sadly she never came.
Dryden is the smallest city in Ontario and halfway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Located on the Wabigoon River it’s a fishermen’s paradise both in summer and in winter thanks to the good ice fishing. The nearby Aaron Provincial Park provides camping, fishing, boating and canoeing in summer, while 45 km further West Blue Lake Provincial Park offers crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and rock climbing. In season Dryden also offers a headquarters for hunters of ducks, geese, white tailed deer, bear and moose.
The beautiful lakeside city of Kenora, some 200 km from Winnipeg provides idyllic “cottage country” for Winnipeggers and is well worth an overnight stay. Or head over the Manitoba border some 50km west of Kenora – to Whiteshell Provincial Park, another wonderful spot for summer play, with camping Falcon Lake or West Hawk Lake, to name only two of the ten campgrounds available.