Respite on the Lake of the Woods
- Article by: KELLY JO McDONNELL , Special to the Star Tribune
- Updated: September 1, 2012 – 12:52 PM
With 135,000 miles of shoreline and 15,000 islands, Lac des Bois, otherwise known as Lake of the Woods, deserves its legendary reputation for scenery, fishing and relaxation-inducing powers. But if you can only taste a bit of it, the Sioux Narrows in Ontario is satisfyingly sweet.
The Narrows got its name from the rocky, narrow channel that separates the south shore of Long Point Island from the Canadian mainland. A new bridge on Hwy. 71 has replaced a wooden bridge, which locals say was the longest single-span wooden bridge in the world. A fun little village is anchored on either side — voilà! The Sioux Narrows.
WHAT TO DO
One word says it all: fishing. Lake of the Woods is best known for its walleye population, but northern pike, perch, crappie, panfish, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, lake trout and lake sturgeon also swim the waters. When the temperatures turn crisp, then it’s time to home in on the muskellunge, which are starting to bulk up for winter.
One doesn’t have to be a hard-core fisherman to experience these waters; there are lodges that offer boats and fishing guides who can take you to the honey hole of the day. Our guide was not only savvy at fishing, he knew the region’s history and pointed out abundant wildlife — which is another perk of Lake of the Woods.
Spotting local critters is downright easy here, and it’s a good idea to keep your eyes on the shoreline. The area is home to deer, bear, moose, eagles, wolf, lynx and fox, not to mention loons and many species of songbirds and waterfowl.
Kayakers love the shores of Berry Lake, Dryberry Lake, Black Lake, Blindfold Lake and Andy Lake. There are also many smaller rivers to explore. If you require a little more excitement, a tour company such as Green Adventures can help you out. Located right outside of Kenora, it can set you up to go rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding (www.greenadventures.ca).
The Eco History tour offered by Totem Lodge is new this year. It includes a tour of ancient rock paintings and a World War II prisoner of war camp, where Canadians held German POWs. The guides also point out the lake’s diverse ecology, as well as the best wild rice patches and berry-picking spots. Participants, who don’t have to be guests of the lodge, can even add geocaching to the package. (Call 1-800-668-6836 for details.)
WHERE TO STAY
The Sioux Narrows area has a healthy selection of accommodations.
We nestled in at Totem Resorts; owners Eric and Sandra Brown also own neighboring lodges Yellowbird and Wiley Point. The cabins at Totem don’t disappoint — they offer the knotty pine, rustic feel but also have such amenities as air conditioning, color TVs and screened-in porches. Our little cabin was charmingly named “Little Joe.” Yellowbird Lodge & Chalet has a more luxurious feel, with a wedding party prepping for their big day on its shores during our visit. Fisherman parties tend to choose Wiley Point, the most secluded of the three (1-800-668-6836; www.totemresorts.com).
If you’d rather float, there are houseboats for rent. One company, Floating Lodges of Sioux Narrows, offers sprawling 60-foot houseboats as well as a cute 40-footer complete with picnic table on the top deck (1-800-743-5171; www. floatinglodges.com)
WHERE TO EAT
Locals recommend Big John’s Mineshaft. Not only is the food comforting, the view of the lake is fantastic as the Mineshaft sits right on the water at the Narrows bridge (20 Paradise Point; 1-807-226-5224). You can also find locals at the Dockhouse Sports Bar, the hot spot for wings and pizza (Hwy. 71; 1-807-226-3625).
But the Lake of the Woods experience isn’t complete without an old-fashioned fish fry on shore. Ours was included in the trip we arranged through Totem Lodge. The guide prepared lightly battered fresh fish, seasoned potatoes and canned baked beans, all cooked over an open flame, serving us a meal from a true Up North restaurant.
IF YOU GO
Kelly Jo McDonnell is a freelance writer based in Lino Lakes.