There is massive gouge in the earth’s surface just north of Lake Superior, a long hidden scar that scrapes 100 meters deep into the Canadian Shield. This scar is called the Ouimet Canyon and is protected by a small part with the same name. It’s been referred to as “Grand Canyon of the North” and “Canada’s Grand Canyon,” none of these a apt descriptions for this place and the comparisons don’t do justice to either of these wonders. In the grand comparison Ouimet Canyon falls short, being just 100 meters, deep, 150 meters wide and 2,000 meters long. But what Ouimet lacks in size it makes up for in it’s beauty and startling contrast to the woodlands that surround it.
The scale of the canyon is well hidden in the Northern Ontario landscape. The drive to the park is unassuming, traversing woodlands and abandoned farmland giving little hint to what is to come. The park itself is miniature less than 8 square kilometers in size, but it packs a punch. We arrived on a rainy overcast day, but that did little to dampen the immense nature of things to come. It should be noted the park only has one short trail that crosses a bridge and leads to two viewing platforms that hang over the canyon edge. That being said, the options for activities at the park are limited but the view makes it worth it. The canyon floors is a protected space and cannot be accessed, rare arctic plants grow at the bottom, 100’s of kilometers from their natural range. More photo’s can be found here.
In the canyon there is a rock column that protrudes from the sheer rock wall that bears a strange likeness to a human face. This outcrop is referred to as the “Indian Head” and as story goes it is the remains of a giant named Omett. As the legend would have it, the giant Omett was a helper to the mythical Nanabozho, he made lakes and mountains. In one version of the story the giant fell in love with Nanabozho’s daughter; Naiomi, but she died when a rock fell on her as Omett was moving mountains. Omett in fear hid her body from Nanabozho, failing to give her a proper burial. When the great trickster went looking for his daughter, he felt her spirit under his feet. He sent a thunderbolt to the ground splitting the earth and creating the canyon, and that is where Naiomi is said to still be buried. As a punishment for Omett, Nanabozho turned him into stone and left him on the canyon wall to guard Naiomi’s grade til the end of time. There is also a different version of the story I’ve been told that involves the dead woman being Nanabozho’s love and the “Indian head” the man who hid her from him, but I’m a little sketchy on that version. Well that is about as much as I can share with you about this fantastic place. If you have the chance, it’s worth the drive off Highway 17.