(Photo credit from Museums Ontario)
One of the reasons that Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN) have taken the lead in getting the Bear Train on track is to develop their own tourism products. They see the Algoma passenger train service as the ideal way in which to attract and transport tourists to Indigenous tourism destinations in MCFN’s traditional territory, thus both acknowledging and honouring their historical ties to the railway itself. Tourists love taking remote trains. An event was planned in 2013 to demonstrate the kinds of Indigenous tourism experiences that MCFN would like to develop. Linda Savory Gordon (CAPT board member) states:
“Chelsie Parayko, a MCFN member and an Algoma U student, in a summer job with the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), planned ‘The Journey on the Iron Horse Train Event’. The Missanabie Cree used to call the train “the iron horse”. Shirley Horn of MCFN, former Shingwauk residential school student, Algoma University BA (Fine Arts) graduate and current Chancellor of Algoma University, suggested that we call the Indigenous train event on the ACR “The Journey on the Iron Horse.” This Indigenous culture-based tourism event was conceived by Chelsie Parayko. The plan is for participants to take the passenger train from the Sault to Hawk-Junction, where they would be picked up by vans and shuttled by road to Island View Camp in Missanabie. At Island View, an MCFN caterer would prepare meals using local Cree recipes and foods. The program would include talks by an MCFN elder about the history and culture of MCFN and a display of work by MCFN artists. A group of young Cree drummers from a neighbouring First Nation would do a drumming. The participants would stay overnight at Island View. The next day they would be taken by van or coach back to Hawk Junction, through Wawa to Lake Superior. During the return trip on highway 17 along the Lake Superior coast the participants would visit Michipicoten, Old Woman Bay, the Agawa Pictographs and the Visitors Centre in Lake Superior Provincial Park. This is one of many Indigenous tourism products that MCFN could develop and offer from the Bear passenger train. “
This tourism product encompasses a lot of the elements that the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban initiative holds dear in our mission and values, including economic development and job opportunities for Missanabie Cree people, as well as traditional Indigenous teaching and cross-cultural learning, primarily about the traditional territory as well as the reality of residential schooling for the Missanabie Cree. Moreover, the incorporation of traditional Cree food and Cree drumming/music allows for an even greater cross-cultural and educational experience for participants. Not to mention, Island View Camp and Missanabie in general are beautiful locations to really get in touch with nature – gorgeous sunsets, lush, green trees, and bountiful lakes to swim and fish in!
For more information on Missanabie Cree First Nation, click here.
For more information on Island View Camp, click here.
(Photo credit from CAPT).
Many people talk about all the amazing summer activities that we have the option to do in Northern Ontario, especially on Lake Superior and surrounding area. But what about all the winter adventure opportunities that are privy to us? Laying right outside our frosted doorsteps? Here are some of the exciting winter experiences that the Bear Train would help you to access to really get a taste of a Northern winter… which, for many living in the North, is also part of the regional culture!
Aurora Borealis – AKA, The Northern Lights
First, I want to start with what I think is the most amazing thing about calling Northern Ontario home. I mean really, can you believe that we are blessed enough to live in a region where we have the ability to view the northern Lights when they are active? We are actually in a dark and remote enough area that you can see the lights right from within Sault Ste. Marie! But a much better viewing would be possible from somewhere further north, like Hawk-Junction or Wawa. So, bundle up and check it out! Remember – the more secluded the area, the more colourful hues of blue, green, and purple the display will be! While the phenomenon is never guaranteed to be spotted – no matter how much planning you do – this guide by the Huffington Post will help you to determine how to increase your odds of catching the Northern Lights this year.
Trout, Walleye, Pike, Perch, Steelheads… Oh My! – Ice Fishing
Some people take fishing VERY seriously. Others see it as a fun hobby. But no matter how you perceive ice fishing – if you are heading out on the frozen lake for a relaxing day spent with family and friends, or a competitive fishing derby (a full list of 2018 derbies, compiled by Tourism Northern Ontario, can be found here), or even to have some much needed ‘me time,’ Northern Ontario’s lakes are where it’s at! We have the thick ice to accommodate ice fishing activities safely, and the surreal natural landscapes to make the view, and whole experience, that much more worthwhile.
Into the Wild – Snowmobiling
People come from near and far to snowmobile the rugged Canadian shield, shredding up powdery snow in pristine forests across Northern Ontario. Whether you are a newbie looking to get some experience, or a seasoned winter snowmobiling adventurer, there are endless landscapes to discover – and rediscover – in the Algoma Region. No matter where your preferred starting point is, be it Hearst, Dubreuilville, Wawa, Searchmont, Sault Ste. Marie, Hawk-Junction, somewhere in between, or even deeper into the Northern region, there are remote but very well groomed trails for you to explore. The municipalities in the north truly pride themselves on sledding trails, and they are sure not to disappoint.
Shredding Powder – Skiing and Snowboarding
No matter if your interest lies with downhill snowboarding or skiing (you’ve got to love that adrenaline rush) or in coasting across sublime landscapes, Algoma region has all kinds of you are crazy for downhill ski/snowboarding or more into coasting across landscapes, Algoma region has no shortage of frosty options! Searchmont Ski Resort isn’t too far from Sault Ste. Marie or Wawa, and is in a stunning location to really take in all of the natural Northern beauty. Cross country skiing is accessible from a slew of different locations – depending on how far you are willing to venture out of your comfort zone – so get out there and check out what the North has to offer!
Icy Expeditions – Ice Climbing
Did you know that you can even do an extreme sport like ice climbing in the Algoma region? That’s right! Expert guides at Superior Exploration can help you plan it, if you want to indulge in this adrenaline fuelling adventure! It may sound intimidating, but Superior Explorations offers all kinds of training courses and guided tours for all skill sets. Try something new this year! The most exciting part about it is that it is so dependent on the weather that every year, the options for ice climbing and the nature of the various climbs change, making it all the more mysterious and exhilarating. This really is the ultimate way to experience a Northern Ontario winter.
Also, keep in mind that there are a number of lodges and tourist outfitters who are open all year-round, who offer a warm place to stay, guided tours, access to materials and equipment, restaurants, and stores, depending on where you choose to stay. You can check out this list compiled by Algoma Country to pick the perfect place for your winter getaway.
Above is a map, compiled by CAPT which highlights the key known trails for various activities. Snowflakes indicate prime snowmobiling points, ski poles are the ski hubs, and the blue arrows indicate ice climbing locations. The ice climbing locations in particular can vary from year to year.
While many of these activities are still doable with the train, passenger service from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst would make it much easier to reach the most remote wilderness locations, especially with its capabilities to carry sleds and other hiking/fishing equipment. While we encourage you to get out into the great white North and explore what our amazing region has to offer in terms of natural beauty and eco-tourism, don’t forget to support the Bear Train, which would help tourist outfitters and lodges along the line in terms of access and packages, while also driving international visitors to our region, and so that we can help you enhance your Northern winter adventure! For more information, please visit our Facebook page.
All references are hyperlinked throughout this document. Please click to explore these amazing options in more depth.