Bathtub Island has become a hotspot in Northern Ontario lately so much so that there are lines of cars parked along the street near Katherine Cove to check out this incredible place. Bathtub Island is a bucket list worthy adventure while visiting Lake Superior Provincial Park but there is no map on how to get here. This secret gem of Lake Superior Provincial Park is not marked on any of the Ontario Parks maps but any of the park staff will be happy to tell you how to get there. After driving past the long line of cars mutiple time during the late morning throughout the entire day and never able to get a parking spot we decided we would go for just after sunrise in hops of having no one else exploring Bathtub Island.
Getting to Bathtub Island
If you are travelling north on Highway 17 you will enter Lake Superior Provincial Park. Make sure to stop in at the visitors centre at Agawa Bay to pick up your day pass if you are passing through or your camping pass so you have a valid park permit – otherwise you will get a ticket! While visiting the visitors centre makes sure to grab a map of Lake Superior Provincial Park so you can see where all the other great hikes are! Head north again towards Katherine Cove where you will want to park in the parking lot if there is room. If there is no room in Katherine Cove is full you can also park in the Sand River parking lot. You will often see cars parking along the shoulder of Highway 17 between Katherine Cove and the entrance to Bathtub Island but OPP often patrol this area and will give a ticket so we suggest not doing this!
Once you have found a parking spot if you are coming from Katherine Cove you will want to walk back out the parking lot entrance where you will find yourself at Highway 17. Make a right turn and walk along the shoulder of the highway until you can make it down the hill into the sandy area. You will pass another open area that has a beautiful beach where you can swim, keep walking past this area and follow the cowpath that leads towards the thick forest. There are a few areas that look like you could enter into the forest and head back towards the water but the actual entrance is a few minute walk past the second cove you just passed and once you get on the trail there is an official parks sign as seen in the photo below.
Head along the path until you reach the beautiful sandy beach where you will see Bathtub Island off to your left.
Now that you have arrived at the beach we headed down the sandy shoreline until we were almost directly in front of the beach. We headed out into the water and never went more than just above knee deep as we cross over to Bathtub Island. Keno was able to walk almost most of the way with a short swim to the island!
Once we were on the island we were so fortunate to spend almost an hour here before anyone else join us on the beach. Bathtub Island was not as warm as your typical bath but it certainly far warmer than Lake Superior! All three of us really enjoyed our time sitting on this beautiful island looking around at all the beauty Lake Superior has to offer.
A few things to note when visiting Bathtub Island is the dunes you cross are incredibly fragile – tread lightly and only on the path worn to the beach. There is also no garbage bins or toilets on the bath to the beach or at the beach. Make sure to pack out all the garbage you bring with you
To see all our photos from our time on Bathtub Island make sure to check out our post here!
Ancient drawings painted on the stone cliffs along the shores of Lake Superior tell the stories of generations Ojibwe. These magical hand drawn paintings date back between 150 and 400 years ago. Dramatically rising straight out of Lake Superior is Agawa Rock where red ochre figures painted on the stone to record the stories of generations of Ojibwe. Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park is an absolute must see whether you are passing through Lake Superior or stopping in for a few nights.
Getting to the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
Located about a ten minute drive north of the Agawa Bay Campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park there are signs that are well marked on the highway make a left turn into the parking lot. From the parking lot the Pictograph trail is not a long one but the ground is not even so ensure you are wearing proper hiking footwear. As you wind down the path you pass through different geological formations which are all worth stopping to take a look at. After crossing though eroded diabase dyes and large broken boulders you arrive at the stone shelf that slopes into the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior underneath the towering cliff that is home to the pictographs.
The History of the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
Agawa Rock is a sacred and spiritual site for the Objibwe that tells stories of celebration, great events and triumps as well as religious and ceremonial purposes. It is thought that some of the drawnings could have been drawn to represent the different Ojibwe Clans or possibly following a vision quest that was often done to obtain help from the spirits when things became dire. The drawings were believed to be done during the Spring and Summer months. Although the exact age of the drawings are unknown the images we see today tell the stories of generations of Ojibwe. Historians believe this is true and reinforced by the varations of styles of painting and subject matter drawn. The red ochre paint has proven it can stand the test of time and the harsh weather conditions of Lake Superior but the paintings are nevertheless fading and perishing as time wears on. The sun, wind, waves, ice and human touch are causing them to disappear.
Things to Note When Visiting the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
If Lake Superior is wavy or there is a strong wind coming off the lake it could cause for very unsafe conditions to visit the paintings. The sloping rock that drops straight off into the very cold Lake Superior is already a small steep crossing on the day with best conditions, when the waves begin to lap up onto stone conditions become very slippery and dangerous. The Visitor Centre is the best place to check in to see the conditions of the Lake before you head out.
Please do not touch the pictographs! As a lover of history and want to see things preserved for many generations to come it breaks my heart when I see people rubbing their hands on these red ochre paintings. They already have to battle Lake Superiors ever changing weather conditions but to touch them makes it even worse. Ontario Parks suggest that touching the paintings damages their surfaces and will ultimately make them disappear faster.
If Lake Superior is calm and the waves are not lapping up onto the rock the best way to cross the rocks is actually in your barefeet. The rocks are becoming slippery from the amount of shoes that are crossing it every year and barefoot really seemed to give us a better grip. Nicole started the crossing in her hiking boots and found it much easier to cross in barefeet.
Dogs are not allowed on this hike.
The short trip to Agawa Bay Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park was well worth the rocky hike up and down boulders to this beautiful sacred site filled with history and mystery.
To see more of our photos from our visit too the Agawa Bay Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park make sure to check out our photo guide here!