Pancake Bay – Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

We stopped at Pancake Bay Provincial Park to hike the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail.  The hike to the lookout and back is about 6 km, but you can extend it by taking other trails that connect to it.  We chose to hike only up to the lookout since it seems to be the highlight of the trail.

The trail leads up to two viewing platforms and several interpretation plaques, but we found so many more interesting things along the trail!

The first part of the hike is a flat trail through the woods

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

with lots of different shapes and textures to keep us interested

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

and mushroom galore.

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

We came across strange rocks that at first looked like cement rubble.  We did a bit of research and found that these are natural rock conglomerates.  These conglomerates may contain rich deposits of native copper.  Native copper from the Lake Superior area was traded thousands of years ago along the ancient native trails in North America and there is a lot of evidence in the archaeological record.  You can see some great examples of Native Copper artifacts here.

We later spotted this tree just off the trail. It looks a lot like a Trail Marker Tree!  Trail markers are trees that through certain modifications, identify or point to an area of significance along ancient trails.  They may point to a water crossing, a resource (perhaps something similar to native copper), a village, or a sacred site.  There are many trail markers across North America.  Some are protected, but many more were cut down long ago. Here is an interesting article about tree markers if you want to find out more.  There is even a Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society.

Once you get to this cave (more conglomerates) the trail gets progressively steeper,

until finally you reach stairs that will take you to two lookout points.

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

The views are stunning, but unfortunately the lighting that day wasn’t great so the photos do not do it justice.

Still, the panoramic views are impressive in any light.

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

The interpretive sign points towards the location of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald in Whitefish Bay.

You can follow the line of the arrow to pinpoint the location of the sinking

Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

and read the information about shipwrecks and more specifically, the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The story behind the name “Pancake Bay” is that voyageurs canoed across Lake Superior in the 1700’s and 1800’s. They stopped in this bay to prepare pancakes from their remaining provisions as they traveled from this area to Sault Ste. Marie to restock on supplies.

Another version is that the bay is round and flat like a pancake.  kind of like the picture below.

We viewed the bay from both platforms,

and then started making our way back down.

We hiked the trail in August, but we are writing this in November.  As serendipity tends to follow us around 2 days ago was the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the Fitzgerald, so here is a bit more about it.  This news report does a great job of explaining what happened that day.

We made good use of our Provincial Park daily pass and stopped at Batchawana Bay day use park for a refreshing swim after a sweaty hike.

We spent some time walking the beach in search of some elusive uranium glass

but this is all we found.  One day we’ll find one, although we have no idea what we’ll do with it when we do…

We’ll leave you with Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Stay tuned for our next post and a visit to St. Joseph Island.


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12 thoughts on “Pancake Bay – Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout

  1. Rebecca says:

    What a hike! So much green all around you…it’s the cool, verdant scenery that really appeals to me, and it looks like you had a peaceful and fruitful hike in a beautiful corner of the world. 🙂

  2. petespringerauthor says:

    I looked at this yesterday right before I went out the door and forgot to get back to you. I’m glad that you told us the theories on how Pancake Bay got it’s name. I was sure that it was do to the shape of the land, but the other idea is interesting. We have a place near us called the Mad River. I assumed that the name came from rough waters, but the history books say it was because of a dispute that happened at that location.

    As soon as I saw your title, my mind immediately went to the Gordon Lightfoot song.

    • backroadsandotherstories says:

      I love looking up the origin of place names. In this instance I never would have guessed that this was because someone actually made pancakes there, although I’m sure that the pancakes that they made were very different!

  3. WanderingCanadians says:

    This brings back memories of when we hiked this trail back in June. The parks were just starting to open up across Ontario and the mosquitoes were desperate for visitors. In retrospect, we should have just turned around at the lookout as that is easily the highlight of the trail. Beyond that, the trail isn’t as well maintained. Either way, the hike sure was memorable!

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