Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rainbow Fall(s)ing Down Provincial Park

In trying to find something nice to say about Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, I researched and found four things I never realized about our Provincial Park system.

1. Did you know the Provincial Park system was created to protect loggers rights from settlers owning prime forest land in Ontario.  In 1893 Algonquin was created to stop the settling of that area and now in 2013 a logging company wouldn't be able to get within 20 kilometres of the place.

2. There are 6 classifications for Ontario Provincial Parks; Recreational, Historical Class, Natural Environment, Nature Reserve, Waterway, and Wilderness.  Now, I can play a guessing game as to what kind of park I am in or going to.  I love games!

3. Ontario Provincial Parks cover an area of 78 000 square kilometres an area approximately the size of Nova Scotia.

And now for something completely different.  Thank You Nova Scotia.

4. Lastly, I didn't find anything really nice to say about Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park is a recreational park (totally guessed it) located on Highway 17 (Trans Canada Highway) about two hours east of Thunder Bay near the town of Rossport. It is split into two separate campgrounds; Rainbow Falls Campground, where we stayed, and Rossport Campground.

Now in Rainbow Fall's defence; 1. We only stayed for one night, 2. This is before Bev told me to do the Blog, so I wasn't looking as closely for the fun stuff,  3. The weather was too cool so no swimming, and 4. I promise to not use any more numbered lists in this blog.  So what did I dislike exactly you might ask?  I was really disappointed when we arrived at our campsite finding it was filthy and Bev and I spent at least a half hour cleaning it of debris before we set up. To make matters worse we had come ill prepared for fishing and unsuccessfully drove through Rossport looking for bait then onto Schreiber -- all told I think we were out for an hour and a half.  The capper was, after talking with a lovely elderly gentleman who had thrown back a couple of bass and a nice sized lake trout, we didn't catch a fish.

Ignore the buoys and this would be a good place to swim, otherwise it's the size of an Olympic pool and not very deep.  P.S. We fished straight across in those trees and caught nothing.

Rainbow Falls has three realistic hikes and one hike that is a little crazy.

Rainbow Falls Trail (3 km) is a wooden boardwalk trail that meanders along the edge of the river to the falls and then continues on as part of the Casque Isles Hiking Trail which I'll get to in a minute.  This is an easy trail because of the boardwalk and even though we didn't see a rainbow at the falls we'll take their word for it.

Back 40 Trail (5.6 km) is a medium to hard trail because it climbs up to a beautiful lookout of Whitesand Lake and the surrounding area. In hindsight I wish we had of done this hike and taken a look around.
A look out over Whitesand Lake.
Superior Trail (4.8 km) goes through a spruce forest to a lookout of Lake Superior -- there are so many great lookouts of Lake Superior and this one is like some of the others. Now for the crazy trail:

Casque Isles Hiking Trail (50 km) follows the coast from Terrace Bay to Rossport, occasional jutting in for a lookout.  Now I call this crazy, but when I was growing up my family would hike a bit of the Bruce trail every year and it's 890 km, so Casque Isles hiking trail is sanity personified in hindsight.  I guess if you could catch a lift back to the campsite it would be cool to do this entire trail in a couple of days.

Before you say, 'sounds really nice', we must look at Rainbow Falls Campground's ugly step-sister, the Rossport Campground.  Located right on Lake Superior so watch out if there is wind. It has no hiking, a rocky beach, and no privacy. It's like a mom and pop campground or trailer park more than what I've come to expect from an Ontario Provincial Park. For Example;

Looks like a nice spot,

Until you see how close the neighbours are.
What you can do at the Rossport Campground is fish and boat so it's not entirely bad, but in my opinion it is not good.

As with all campgrounds there are good sites and there are bad sites.  The good sites by my criteria are in the Maggie Campground 31e, 38e, and 49e, in the Whitesand Campground 57, and in the Lakeside Campground 66, 69, and 70 where we stayed.

A little filthy gorgeous.

As well, there are better and worse sites at the Rossport Campground. If you are going to spend a night the better sites are 18, 19, 23, and 24.

Even though I have nothing really nice to say about Rainbow Falls that doesn't make it a bad campground.  As I was saying to Beverley, if we had of brought worms, caught a fish, went for the Back 40 hike, and never saw the Rossport Campground I think we would have had a much different impression of this campground, but the provincial parks can't all be perfect or else what would be the point of this blog... please don't ask or answer that question.

Stick around after the Blog for a Bonus Review.

Site Cleanliness: Poor. At the popular site we stayed at, there was trash all over the place. Otherwise the park was relatively clean. At the Rossport Campground all the sites looked clean.

Privacy: Pretty good at the site we stayed at and the other ones on the list, but everything else is either straight across from one another or too wide open.  Addendum to this is both times we were at the park (one to stay, one for pictures) we were unable or unwilling to check out the Hewitson Campground.  At the Rossport Campground they are all wide open, but four of the sites are less wide open than the rest.

Hiking and Activities: Quite excellent even though we didn't go on all of the hikes. After being to parks in this area many times every hike is worthwhile.  The campground offers activities for children during the summer and the fact that you can rent canoes, waterbikes, kayaks, mountain bikes and fishing equipment to go out or around Whitesand lake is fantastic. Also we could walk right off the back of our site and fish, so all in all -- very good..  At the Rossport Campground there are no hiking trails, but if you wanted to rent a sea canoe you could go out onto Lake Superior for a great bit of exercise.

Fire Pit and Amenities: The fire pits were excellent, as usual, with one picnic table per site and the washrooms were acceptable . At the Rossport Campground the fire pits are all concrete squares in the ground, which I have nothing against, but without the privacy everyone at this campground may as well get together and have one big bonfire.  Otherwise the amenities were acceptable.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: O.K. The south beach is nice enough, but the swimming area is small.  At our site we were very close, but for many of the campers it would be quite a hike to the beach and I imagine many would drive.  Now, unbeknownst to me, there is supposedly another beach on the west side of Whitesand Lake and that one I don't know anything about.  At the Rossport Campground the beach quality is good, but it's the north shore of Lake Superior and it's very easy to get to the water, but it's the north shore of Lake Superior.

Recommended Length of Stay: Now even though I said I had nothing nice to say, I would stay for five days. Fishing for two days, hiking for two days, and one day at the beach(es).  Now at the Rossport Campground, unless you have a sea kayak, my answer is one night then cross the road to Rainbow Falls Campground and go for four more. 

Overall Impression: I have to say that it is hard looking back at this park and trying to be fair, because I know how I felt when I was there.  I didn't like it.  And I know that there have to be parks that you don't like, but I still feel I haven't given Rainbow Falls a fair shake, so maybe before this experiment is done I'll revisit this park and have a different or reaffirmed point of view. So as close friends of mine and I always say, "Until that day.  Until that day."

Rating out of 107: So here is the problem, the Rossport Campground in my opinion is #106, but the Rainbow Falls Campground deserves to be in the 80's with it's great hair and god awful music, so I have no other choice but to split the difference and put it in at #93 right beside Wallace and Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Wakami Lake
#29 Pancake Bay
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point

The Bonus: Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park (no camping) between Rainbow Falls and Thunder Bay in 140 characters not including these characters or the captions.
The canyon, one of the bridges, and the zip line.
Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park is a natural environment park located 60 km east of Thunder Bay.

Bev and I in the free part.
Eagle Canyon $20 entrance fee $60 zipline.

For 2 bridges, and
Some stone stairs,

Worth it? You decide. We did.

Top of the World, Ma.

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