Kaministiquia River, ON - David Lomath | Great Lakes Guide
Destination Icon

Kaministiquia River, ON

David Lomath

Kakabeka Falls, The Niagara of the North, about twenty or so miles along the Trans Canada Highway to the west of The city of Thunder Bay on the Kaministiquia River, a huge , mighty body of ever flowing water fed from Dog Lake to the north, destined to creep quietly into Lake Superior just west of Thunder Bay.

The water itself is treated to the biggest roller coaster ride imaginable as it is squeezed between huge boulders, flattened across plains, thrown over waterfalls and rapids, and diverted through hydro schemes, but nothing can stop this liquid continuous broth from levelling itself as it reaches its goal in the Great Lake.

What strikes you most on first site of the Falls is the colour of the water, stained by the spruce bogs from which it drains, the colour is a deep chocolate brown, but this breaks up very quickly to a foamy white as the solid mass of water is broken rapidly into a spray when its base support is torn away at the point of its falling into the deep chasm at the base of the falls.

When I was there in June 2016 , Kakabeka had enjoyed four days of uninterrupted high summer rainfall, and the Hydro Dam above the Falls had been fully opened to allow the extra run off of water to cascade over the falls, and it really was being shown to its best advantage. I was really lucky that the weather fates had played in my favour as the extreme power of the falling water produced fine droplets which hung in the air, and if you were unlucky were blown into your face by the breeze, the sunlight picked out each one and turned it into a whole plethora of jewels, the colours blending together to produce the most amazing rainbow just hanging there in the space between the chasm walls.

On its trip south from Dog Lake, the river is wide and rocky with numerous mini waterfalls caused as the watercourse is shaped through tight gaps giving rise to short local torrents of considerable depth leading to quiet tranquil lagoons over sandy river floors, but all the time the river is hurrying busily past on its never ending ribbon to Superior. Above the Falls the geography of the riverbank changes as it approaches the precipice, the coloured water mass is funnelled and quickens till suddenly it dives angry and frustrated into the depths of the gorge below, sight and sound incomparable, Power unmatched, beauty only beaten by the huge bowl into which Niagara itself plunges with its compelling vistas, you cannot help but be impressed, yes this is truly the Niagara of the north.

I recall one morning when travelling up the eastern side of Lake Superior at a camp site at Neys, we were tented on the lakeshore for an overnight stay, I could not sleep so decided to have a stroll along the beach at 4:30 in the morning, perhaps I could find a small piece of smooth driftwood to take home with me as a memory. Whilst walking in the bright moonlight something curious became evident, there were no human footprints in the sand, only Bear footprints, and me alone at 4.30 in the morning, I felt as if I were being stalked, i could hear only the incessant pounding of shallow waves along the shoreline, whole driftwood trees filled my tired eyes, smooth, barkless, bleached white from months, years even in the water, one could not help but wonder where they were originally rooted, but were brought to Neys by a combination of wind , current, wave and drift. My eyes were already out on stalks through lack of sleep and anxiety, and were peering into the halflight searching in vain for the source of the strange footprints, and by the size of them this was a Big Bear. It was then that the smell of Peameal Bacon cooking hit me straight in the nostrils, and I realised with some relief that i was not alone, in human terms that is. I made my way back to the tent to find my brother in his pyjamas and Moccasins cooking breakfast and his wife making coffee, I told them of my adventure along the beach searching for my piece of driftwood which i never found, and as I sat down to eat breakfast I was shushed quiet by my brother as the biggest Black Bear I have ever seen just ambled past our camp not twenty feet away taking absolutely no notice of us whatsoever. I fully expected to have to share my breakfast with big Black Bear that day but he was more interested in getting to his bed in the dense woodland to the edge of the campsite. I often wonder how we never came face to face on the beach, and what I would have said to him if we had! But to return to the Falls, after all this is a Watermark story not a Mark Twain Novel.

Below the falls the water spreads relieved and rippling over a rocky river bottom gathering the outflow from the hydro scheme as it progresses toward a slow bendy part of its course at the Fort William Historical Park, a staging post for the first settlers on their way from the St Lawrence to the Great Lakes where they traded furs and meat for canoes and trinkets, tools , coffee and medicines. The river here is slow and meandering, and belies the power it produces further up, here the colour of the water changes to a hazy red as it passes over a flat silted base of fine mud where the edges of the river glow red in the soft evening light.

I left The Kaministiquia river and Kakabeka falls with a sense that I would someday return, and I will, in 2019.

Current Weather

-6° degrees celsius.
Overcast throughout the day.


Kaministiquia River, ON


Lake Superior

Collected by

Jessica Gordon

Contributed by

David Lomath