Wawa Ontario Canada Wednesday Sept 10
It was a day of water, most of it dumped by Mother Nature on our heads, the car roof, or the roof of the motel. Which in a way is slightly scary. We picked this motel, the Northern Lights Motel and Breakfast, for several reasons. We stayed in Wawa 42 years ago on our way back from Canada. That motel, the Agate Isle or some name similar to that, did not appear to be in business.
This motel, owned by a husband and wife, had been cut in two in October 2012 after days of rain caused dramatic flooding that had ripped a hole in the Trans Canada highway that runs in front of the motel that took a week to fix. The couple lost over half of their units to the flooding. It seemed appropriate to support their efforts to persevere. After the flooding, it took them almost 10 months to be operation. So today’s rains generate thoughts of that prior tragedy. Web site is
The hotel is a typical road side, old style motel. There are no national chain motels in Wawa. This motel is the only one that offers free breakfast. We have passed a number of former motels on the drive here, and in Wawa, that are boarded up. Tourism does not appear to be fully recovered. Our room has a number of kitschy touches; little sayings and graphics, most of them humorous or tongue-in-cheek, a rubber ducky in the tub, a cribbage board, etc.
Our plans were to stay a full day here, see some waterfalls and go hiking in a near-by Provincial Park. We put aside the long term hiking but tackled the other activities.
Our first stop was at the Visitor Center where the Wawa Goose is located. Wawa means wild goose in Ojibwe. We found out the current statue is rusted and a fund-raising drive to replace it did not raise enough money so it will come down in 2016. The economy is not great, most of the mines in the area have closed down. A forestry products plant closed within the last ten years. The population of 3,000 souls is about one half of its peak.
Wawa has been the site of First Nations people for some time and was also the site of a Hudson’s Bay and of a North West Company fort beginning around 1725 and lasting until 1863. The beginning of the 20th century brought gold and iron ore mining and later lumbering. The railroads across Canada went north of here by 100 miles and the town did not get a road connecting it to Sault Ste Marie until 1960. Until then, all transportation was via Lake Superior.
The guide at the Visitor Center informed us that the Agate Isle motel had changed hands but was still in existence as the Mystic Isle Motel. She also informed us that one of the two main falls was supposedly waterless; not due to drought but to the hydro power company evidently diverting the water. She was trying to discover when “the water would be turned back on”.
Before hitting the falls, we drove into downtown Wawa and stopped at Young’s General Store, a touristy type place where we managed to help the local economy a bit. Then we drove to the falls that always works since its water was not used by any hydroelectric plant.
Silver Falls is down a dirt (Interpret that as muddy) road that leads also to Sandy Beach. We decided to visit the beach first. It was a short visit but the advertising was true. The beach was composed of soft sand and a beach grass restoration project was underway to preserve it. If it were warm, dry, and less breezy (it is raining, in the 40s and wind of 30 mph), it would make a great beach. I imagine though that the Lake Superior water is cooler than the water at Miami Beach although probably cleaner.
Silver Falls was pleasant, not huge and primarily seen from a distance. We had thought of walking the trail between Silver Falls and High Falls but the rain made what we could see of the trail as slick and muddy. We passed it by in favor of driving to the waterless falls (the Scenic High Falls of the Magpie River).
The High Falls are also reached via a gravel road, this time past a blueberry farm that frequently reminded us that this was their land, keep off of it, and stay away from the blueberries. It reminded me of the farmer in Lord of the Rings where Frodo and others would try to steal mushrooms.
The High Falls are quite nice-the water had been turned back on. They rush over rock outcroppings that produce fine spray, or was that the rain?, and provide great sound effects. We managed to record a short clip of the falls.
By now it was time for a late lunch in downtown Wawa. There were several options to choose from but our choice was okay. After lunch we stopped at an art gallery whose work we had observed at the visitor center. Tourist season is coming to an end, their shop closes down at the end of next week.
We tried driving around the area but the rain was more vigorous and the wind more energetic with the temperature in the low 40s so we returned to the motel and a nap and some cribbage which Chris won with the help of a 24 hand before heading out for dinner. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we still have lots of sightseeing days ahead of us and luckily we were not in Calgary which was getting more snow today.
Dinner was in downtown Wawa at a restaurant owned by a woman who just took it over this year after working with the previous owners for 11 years. Food was pretty good with a tasty double chocolate cake for dessert. The owner hopes business stays strong long enough to keep it open through October but traffic has been dropping sharply lately. Last year was the time for bridges in this area to be replaced but that construction business is not happening this year. Driving back to the hotel through the wind and rain did not do a lot to encourage a visitor to come back even later in the year either.
Ed and Chris 9/10 9:30 PM
NOTE We have added pictures and video to the two previous postings in case you viewed them as text only.