Out of the hundreds of hiking possibilities in Northern Ontario, the trail going to the White River suspension bridge is the one you won’t want to miss. If you like hiking, you love nature, and suspension bridges, then this is the trail you must have on your list.
Being on the road already for few days, on our West to Northwest Road Trip, we planned carefully a full day on this rather difficult trail.
Having an early start on the trail was no longer an option, since I overslept exactly this morning. I got quite panicked first thing, but then I remembered I’m still on vacation, and oh boy, I did have a good sleep. As for the plans we were having, we’ll figure out later, what the day will bring.
We left the motel from White River in a hurry, as we still had an hour drive to Pukaskwa Park, home of the famous White River suspension bridge, our destination of the day.
Pukaskwa National Park is opened seasonal during the summer months only, as it’s located in the middle of the wilderness, about halfway distance between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie. It is home to the White River Suspension bridge, and it is a real escape from a day-to-day life. Part of the wildest hike on the wildest shore of the Great Lakes, the White River Suspension bridge trail is only the first leg of the 60 km Coastal Trail. I’ve heard so much about the bridge in the past, and I wanted to see it so badly, that I didn’t really pay attention that our physical condition is not so great. Getting to a late start didn’t help, as I wanted to take some extra time in case we needed.
The trail starts right on the left side of the Visitor Centre, and the big sign we were on the right path was not visible right away. But indeed, since no other trail in vicinity, we couldn’t miss it. After passing by a prescribed burn site, showing the visitors about the rebirth of the boreal forest, and passing a wooden bridge, we were all of a sudden into the wilderness, ready to follow the trail.
I knew the rugged terrain might be a challenge, as the Canadian Shield offers surprises along its path, but there was no time to slow the pace.
Taking only a peak of Hattie’s Cove was enough to give us a huge momentum, especially due to the blue sky and the enticing forest ahead of us.
But shortly we found that there is a 1.5 km detour, due to some work in progress in the nearby wetland.
Multiplied by two, it’s quite adding up to our 18 km trail, making it to a ugh, 21 km or so. But here we are and since we never go back, we only quickened our pace to follow the path. Hopefully we can return one day and see the new pathway and the natural habitat from this large marsh. The little detour was quite muddy, we had to hop from a rock to another few times, so we’ll not be getting wet.
Pukaskwa National Park is known for its unspoiled, and variable coastline, protecting part of the longest untouched, and undeveloped shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes. The park is famous for its wilderness, and its boreal forest. As most of Ontario (as well as Canada) has boreal forest, we learned what is this boreal forest about:
Boreal forests are somehow defined as forests growing at high latitude, where cold temperatures are, hence the forests are dominated by coniferous, and wetlands.
We enjoyed our quiet time walking in the forest, admiring the mossy boulders, and the dense wild vegetation. We’ve had our share to climb up and down many rocks on the trail, while enjoying the nature, looking for mushrooms, or for the little birds whose songs echoed through the forest.
We continued up, and down, and around a lot of roots and rocks, as the trail was weaving through the thick forest. The trail is not very well marked, but with the dense bush surrounding us, there was no way we could get lost, unless we were leaving the path, maybe.
We met some couples, and small groups of friends coming from the opposite direction, a perfect density of humans I prefer, as opposed with the crowdedness from the city parks on such a sunny day.
The relaxing became quite unnerving when I noticed some fresh scat on the trail. I quickly checked the bear whistle. Yup, it was still in my pocket! We knew we are in the bear country, and we were prepared properly, having a bear spray and a bear whistle. But who is truly prepared to meet a big wild life in the middle of the wilderness? The fresh scat and the bleeding scars of a tree didn’t make it easy. Checking around continuously became my habit shortly, as I don’t really like the unknown noises the dense bush does sometime.
Our eager anticipation to see the bridge started once we heard the waters, before we could actually see them; 10+ kilometers were long enough, but few more pushes got us right at the edge of the bridge.
White River is considered one of the wildest white-water rivers from the region, starting from its source, Saniga Lake. Suspended 23 metres above Chigamiwinigum Falls, you can have a wonderful view of the vigorous and forceful waters from the bridge. You might feel lightheaded, especially after walking so long through the forest.
We continued walking a bit after crossing the bridge, and saw a little path on the left side, going towards the river, where we found a beautiful spot to have a snack, and to rest our dear toes😊. We hung around about an hour, the scenery was just so nice, that we didn’t really want to leave. The river and the landscape were very refreshing, energizing us for the return hike.
The return hike took us a little until we reached the detour area. Since morning, many hikers poked the already soft terrain, leaving big dents in the earth, where the water was coming out, and big muddy puddles or rather pools were all over. The dense forest didn’t help us to walk around, so we had no choice but getting dirty, unfortunately. It was around 5:30 pm when we happily arrived in the parking lot, ready to get to our next motel, in Marathon. An honorable name, after all: by the time we retired to bed, I just set a new record: 35,790 steps😊
Tip(s) of the day:
- Wear proper footwear, and watch your steps, as some tree roots and rocks are pointing out too much;
- Getting a map might be advisable, although the trail is a well beaten path;
- Have water and a snack with you, as the hike is long, and this is the most undeveloped shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes;
- Pack as lightly as possible, as the trails are quite long;
- Remember this is the bear country, everyone needs to be prepared.
~ visited in August 2021