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9-day Michipicoten Island Backpacking Expedition

May 26 to June 3, 2012
Michipicoten Island Provincial Park
(A non-operating park in the northeast corner of Lake Superior)
Thunder Bay District
Wawa, Ontario, Canada

Last revised on Sunday, August 21, 2016 4:38 PM

Notices & advisories regarding
Michael Neiger's
wilderness adventures

Forewarned is forearmed

A participant's failure to physically and mentally prepare for this adventure; acquire the necessary skills and equipment for this adventure; or recognize, take responsibility for, and avoid the unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils that will present themselves on this adventure will likely result in the participant's serious injury, paralysis, or slow, painful death.

Accidents and injuries

Wilderness adventures—especially remote, foul-weather travel; bushwhacking cross-country; cliff and steep slope travel; climbing; canyoneering; cave exploration; river fording; swimming; canoeing; portaging; skiing; snowshoeing; winter camping; ice travel; ice crossing; deep cold; high winds; etc.—involve unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils.

• Hypothermia • Burns
• Hyperthermia • Fractures
• Dehydration • Lacerations
• Frostbite • Joint injuries
• Eye injuries • Near drownings
• Flu • Falls through ice
• Colds • Car accidents
• Giardia • Et cetera

Accidents, injuries, and problematic incidents are not something that only happen on other people's wilderness adventures or to other wilderness trippers. They have happened in the past on Michael Neiger's adventures, and they may happen on this adventure as well. Click here to learn more about past accidents, injuries, and incidents.

Medical and dental exams

As with any strenuous activity, it is strongly recommended participants visit their physician to make sure he or she approves of their participation in this adventure. A dental exam is also highly recommended.

Safety glasses

It is highly recommended eye protection—safety glasses—be worn on this adventure, especially while bushwhacking, as several participants have suffered near-incapacitating eye injuries in the past.

Cotton clothing

Avoid wearing or carrying cotton clothing on this adventure as when—and not if—it gets wet, it will be extremely difficult and time-consuming to dry.

On past adventures, wet cotton clothing and its tendency to conduct heat away from the body much faster than other fabrics has led to numerous cases of hypothermia, which is the number one killer of wilderness trippers.

Clothing fashioned from nylon, supplex, polypro, fleece, microfibers, wool, etc., are much safer and easier to manage during prolonged bouts of foul weather.

Survival kit

An on-your-person (in-pocket), survival kit—folding knife, waterproof matches, firestarters, compass, mini-light, and whistle—secured with loss-prevention lanyards should be carried during this adventure.

Allergies to bee stings

If you are allergic to bee stings, consult your physician before participating in this adventure; inquire about carrying an injectable epinephrine unit—such as an EpiPen or Ana-Kit—in your first-aid kit.

First-aid kit

The only first-aid equipment available on this adventure is that which is carried by each participant. Consult your personal physician to determine what items, including medications, you should carry.

Emergency medical care

There will not be any doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, or other trained emergency medical personnel on this adventure.

No one will have first-aid or other emergency medical training. At best, other participants may only be able to render the most basic and rudimentary of aid.

Search & rescue

No one on this adventure will have training in rope handling, rappelling, climbing, caving, ice travel, high-angle slope travel, swift-water travel, etc. N

No one will have training in rescue from these situations either.


No insurance coverage of any sort is provided for participants on this adventure. It is highly recommended that participants consider purchasing their own insurance policies:

  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Prescription insurance
  • Evacuation insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance

Emergency communications

No emergency communications gear such as cell phones, satellite phones, or satellite beacons (ELTs, PLBs, & EPIRBs) will be carried during this adventure.

The only way to summon search and rescue personal or emergency medical personnel during this adventure will be for another uninjured participant to walk, snowshoe, paddle, peddle, etc. to a point where help can be summoned.

The wait for assistance may be very long—sometimes measured in days—and could possibly be very painful, maybe even fatal.

Since the evacuation process will be both very difficult and costly to arrange, participants should consider carrying their own communications gear as well as purchasing evacuation insurance, as noted above.

Point Maurepas Lighthouse on the extreme eastern tip of Michipicoten Island. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Provincial Park Staff)
Point Maurepas Lighthouse on the extreme eastern tip of Michipicoten Island. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Photo courtesy of sea-kayaking guide Stewart Joseph)
One of over 200 woodland caribou on Michipicoten Island. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Provincial Park Staff)
One of over 200 woodland caribou on Michipicoten Island. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Photo courtesy of sea-kayaking guide Stewart Joseph)

The expedition

During this free, public adventure, we'll spend 9 days exploring the north shore of Michipicoten Island, the third largest of Lake Superior's islands.

Note: This expedition is only open to expert backpackers who are very physically fit and who have completed prior trips with the undersigned, preferably a Canadian Expedition.

For the latest info about this trip, visit the trip discussion thread on Backpacker Magazine's Midwest Forum.

Current participant list:

• Dennis Waite, Berrien Springs, Michigan
• Jonathan Monico (Monico), Ontario, Canada
• Ewa Roszczenko, Livonia, Michigan
• Michael Neiger(LandNavMan), Marquette, Michigan


While the island was designated as Michipicoten Island Provincial Park in 1985, it is a closed, non-operating park, with no facilities, trails, or transportation service etc.

Click here or on graphic to view high-resolution imagery of Michipicoten Island's location in the northeast corner of Lake Superior (Graphic by Michael Neiger).
Michipicoten Island, the second-largest island in Lake Superior. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Image courtesy of Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)

Aerial imagary of Michipicoten Island, the second-largest island in Lake Superior. Click here or on image to view high-resolution imagery. (Image courtesy of NavTeq via Bing)


Approximately 26 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, the following parcels are not part of the park:

  • 8 private parcels in Quebec Harbor
  • 4 patented lands elsewhere on the island—one on the northern shore near Bonner Head, one on the old Philips Mine site (northwestern corner of the island) and two locations on the eastern shore of the island
  • 4 federal, Department of Transport properties—two lighthouses, two beacon locations.

The island is home to an abandoned commercial-fishing operation, several abandoned copper mining operations, an old mining railroad, an old log jail, several old lighthouses, shipwrecks (some visible), endangered plants, and over 200 woodland caribou, the southernmost herd in the province.

Michipicoten Island is Canadian Shield bush. Exposed rock formations include Jacobsville, Freda, Michipicoten, and Mamainse Point.

The island's landscape is defined by east-west cuestas (hills with both a vertically-faced side and a gently-sloping side) as well as glacially- and fluvially-eroded valleys.

While the island's interior is pock marked with lakes, it's coastline is made-up of numerous sand beaches, gravel coves, ancient raised cobble beaches, sea caves, flower pot formations, and jagged cliffs.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources on Michipicoten Island:

Michipicoten Island is the third largest island in Lake Superior. It is located in the lake's northeastern corner approximately 65 kilometres southwest of the town of Wawa....

At its closest point, the island is located 16 kilometres south of Lake Superior Highlands Conservation Reserve on the mainland.

Michipicoten Island, its surrounding islands, and much of the Lake Superior basin were formed by volcanic activity that occurred in few other places in the province.

This volcanic activity along with glacial activity and weathering has provided the remarkable geological features associated with the island.

The island harbours a variety of provincially and regionally significant plants and animals including arctic relics and one of the southernmost populations of Ontario's woodland caribou.

The island provides an ideal environment for studying plants and animals due to its isolated location and the absence of industrial and other land uses.

Aboriginal myths and past activities on the island such as small-scale copper mining, commercial fishing, trapping and lighthouse operation since the 1800's enhance the cultural significance of the park.

Park use is relatively low. Access to the island is limited to tour operators, commercial fishing vessels, float planes and recreational watercraft.


Park visitors are awarded with a variety of recreational opportunities including wildlife and landscape viewing and photography, canoeing and kayaking, boating, diving and hiking along the island's rocky and sandy shorelines.

According to those familiar with this archipelago, sea kayakers and boaters have visited the island from time to time, but few, if any, backpackers have ever explored its tangled, "jungle-like"interior (my long-time sources know of none, and they describe the island's bush as being 5 times more tangled than the mainland's).

Based on our first 9-day recon of the western third of the island in 2012, its some seriously-rugged-and-tangled bush, but not as bad as we've traversed elsewhere. Blog post and video from 2011 expedition.


Expedition advisory: This is an expedition, not a highly-scripted trek through well-traveled bush. The organizer has never visited or explored this bush, or talked with anyone who has. Like most of his expeditions, the route was laid out after pouring over detailed quads and reviewing satellite imagery. Come prepared for an adventure; expect the unexpected; be ready to improvise, adapt, and overcome...

Swift-water/deep-water crossing advisory: Since our area of operation is laced with lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, steep terrain, and perhaps flooded slot canyons, we will likely be making numerous water crossings of lake narrows, rapids, river pools, and perhaps ascending or descending straight through flooded slot canyons. While some may be fordable, others may require swimming. Participants should be proficient swimmers—get in a pool or lake and swim a couple 1,000 meters so you are one with the water again before the expedition.

To float your ruck: Line your critical stuff sacks with heavy-duty garbage-compactor-type plastic bags; line your entire ruck with a heavy-duty contractor-grade plastic bag (the barrel-sized ones contractors dispose of building debris in); and wrap your ruck in a tarp or a full-coverage, watertight rain cover.

Improvised PFD: In the bush, fashion an improvised PFD by rolling up your closed-cell sleeping pad lengthwise, lashing it into a noodle and attaching a long shoulder loop of cordage so you can tow it behind you, always at the ready.

Warm clothing advisory: Bring plenty of warm clothing, as well as an extra set of essential clothing in case you get wet, as this area is known for its cold, windy, wet weather, due in part to its proximity to Lake Superior.

Campfire advisory: Do not plan on having warmng or cooking fires as we will be working hard just to find body-sized bivouac spots in many areas. And much of this region is pristine, scar-free wilderness where it would be inappropriate. Also, the fire hazard may be high, perhaps so high that the Ministry of Natural Resources may have a full fire ban in place.

Bivouac advisory: We will be working thick, tangled, untrammeled bush, so all of our bivouacs will be challenging at best.

Journals from Michael Neiger's prior spring Canadian expeditions

2011 :: 2010 :: 2008 :: 2007 :: 2005 :: 2004a :: 2004b :: 2003 :: 2002 :: 2001

Photo albums from Michael Neiger's prior spring Canadian expeditions

2011a :: 2011b :: 2011c :: 2011d :: 2011e :: 2011f :: 2011g :: 2011h :: 2011i :: 2011j :: 2011k :: 2011l :: 2011m :: 2011n :: 2010a :: 2010b :: 2010c :: 2009 :: 2009 :: 2008a :: 2008b :: 2008c :: 2008d :: 2008e :: 2007 :: 2006 :: 2004a :: 2004b :: 2004c :: 2003 :: 2002


May 25 lodging option: Those looking for lodging should consider the White Fang Motel (1-877-399-2672 or 1-705-856-0344), which is located along the east side of Kings Highway 17, just north of the big bridge over the Michipicoten River, and south of Wawa, Ontario.

May 26 assembly location: Our 6:30 a.m. pre-trip assembly location will be the the parking lot of the White Fang Motel. Everyone should have eaten and be squared away for 9 days of high adventure.

Note: Insertion and extraction arrangements by helo, fixed wing, or watercraft are pending and will be e-mailed to participants when they're finalized.

May 26-June 3 itinerary: Our 9-day route on the island will be dictated in large part by where the weather Gods allow us to be inserted on or around the island.

The tentative plan is to explore the north shore of the island, including a bivouac at the Point Maurepas Lighthouse on the extreme eastern tip of Michipicoten Island. If time permits, we'll also attempt to locate and document the remains of the 1875 Philipps Mine, east of Bridal Veil Falls, and the 1853 Bonner Mine inland from the Clay Banks.

Getting up and around behind the cliffs of the north shore--especially Bonner Head--will be an extreme, potentially-dangerous physical undertaking involving climbing and technical navigation.

Note: A provisional itinerary/route map will be e-mailed to participants when it is completed.

June 3 extraction: If all goes well, the plan is to get extracted from the island early on Sunday, June 3.

Notice: The dates allotted for this expedition do not include travel days to and from the north shore area, nor do they include a couple extra days in case our extraction from the island is delayed by rough seas, heavy surf, fog, stormy weather, mechanical problems, human error, etc.


Participant requirements

Participants muist be adults (18 or over) who are experienced, fully-equipped, foul-weather campers who enjoy wilderness adventures with hordes of biting insects and without campfires, tobacco or alcohol products.

Note: due to the nature of this expedition, participants must have completed at least one prior backpacking trip with the organizer.

Participants must be swimmers and in very good physical condition as this adventure is not suitable for the unfit or overweight.

Bivouacs will most likely be in pristine, non-campground settings.

Camping permits: since the park is non-operating, each participant will need to purchase 8 night's worth of $10-a-day Crown Land Camping Permits prior to the trip.

These are sold whereever fishing and hunting licenses are sold. One of the best places to purchase them is at the Chippewa Trading Post, which is located along the east side of King's Highway 17, just as you are leaving Sault Ste. Marie, and heading north.

Chippewa Trading Post
1332 Great Northern Road
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 5K7
Fax: 1-705-759-0887

Costs: While this is a free trip, group expenses will be split evenly among all participants and will include

  • the cost for the rental of an Iridium satellite phone
  • the cost for getting inserted and extracted from the island.


Specialized equipment

  • Water-hauling capacity: Everyone should have the containers—water bottles and bladders—to haul 4 quarts of water if needed. While we won't normally carry this much water, it may be necessary to pick up water in the afternoon for use at both dinner and breakfast if we end up bivouacking far from water.

    One simple, lightweight solution to this issue is to carry two, one-quart Nalgene water bottles and one, two-liter, Platypus-brand, 1.3 ounce, Platy Bottle (pictured at right) from Cascade Designs.
  • Water-fording footwear: In addition to hiking boots, everyone should consider whether they want to also carry footwear for fording waterways and flooded areas.
  • Safety glasses: Participants must have one pair of glasses for protecting their eyes while bushwhacking.
  • Survival kit: Participants must carry a survival kit on their person.

Equipment recommendations


Rations required

  • Breakfasts: 8 days
  • Snacks: 9 days
  • Lunches: 9 days
  • Dinners: 8 days
  • Backup: 1 day


Land navigation info

Canadian 1:50,000 quadrangles: 41N/13 Bonner Head and 41N/12 Michipicoten Island (ordering info)

Click here to learn more about land navigation gear.





Preregistration required

If you would like to participate in this free backcountry adventure, or have any questions regarding it, please provide your full name, trail name, city, state, e-mail address, and phone number to the organizer:

Michael Neiger
Marquette, Michigan

Registration: participants will receive a registration form by e-mail prior to the trip.

Liability waiver: participants are required to sign a liability waiver prior to the trip.



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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir, 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

If you've been able to read this Web page...
thank a Teacher;
If you've been able to read this Web page in English...
thank a Veteran.
—Author unknown

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Content Copyright 1984 to 2016-08-21
By Michael A. Neiger

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