Natural Heritage: Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Pancake Bay

A few weeks ago my family and I visited Pancake Bay Provincial Park for the first time.  Pancake is located on the shore of Lake Superior, has more than 3 km of sand beach, hiking and nature trails, and a location on the paddling route of the Voyageurs.  The shoreline is beautiful, the park is well maintained, and there is educational signage throughout. The only downside of the location of the park is that is right next to the Trans-Canada highway, so on a still night you can hear transport trucks on the road.  During the first night of our stay Lake Superior was so rough all you could hear was the sound of the lake – it was a great example of the power of the big lake.

While at the park we explored the campground area and the Pancake Bay Nature Trail.  Many of the central points in the campground have educational signage about wildlife, Lake Superior, and the surrounding natural environment.  It was nice to see this natural heritage education material being included in central areas so that even those who don’t participate in formal programming could read about the area.

Pancake Bay Nature Trail

The nature trail was an easy 3.5 km walk that included views of the shoreline, forested areas, and a boardwalk through a wetland.  The interpretive signage through this natural heritage was well done and had a lot of educational information about the ancient beach ridges, rock formations, flora and fauna, and water.  There was one sign that had fallen down and there was a section of the trail that was extremely muddy.  The muddy section looked like it could use some signage or physical maintenance.

Pancake Bay Park staff also run a natural heritage education program during the summer months.  The timing of the guided walks and educational programs didn’t work for us, but it was great to see the signage relating to these events and I hope they are well participated in.  One of the programs while I was visiting included a guided walk on the beach and a discussion about the history of the Voyageurs in the area.

So far I’ve only visited a handful of Provincial Parks in Ontario but Pancake Bay was by far the most popular park I’ve visited. There are drawbacks and upsides to this popularity.  On the plus side there was a lot more educational signage and interpretive programming available in the park.  On the downside the natural heritage is heavily influenced by people and you’re bound to run into others when exploring the landscape.  Regardless, it was an enjoyable visit.