Wednesday, July 31st: Blind River to Espanola (83 km, 99 km or 115 km)
Today’s Gravel Grind: 22km (approx.)
During today’s ride you will travel along Bootlegger’s Bay to lounge in prohibition history, visit the Carribbean of the North, travel three more heritage rivers (The Serpent River, Spanish River and Aux Sables River) and enter the LaCloche Foothills.
Tip: Today’s ride is the longest of the week. There are a number of smaller stretches of gravel and intermittent travel along the paved shoulders of Highway 17 (distances between 3 and 13kms long) today. For those wishing to ride a shorter distance for today, we recommend taking one or both of the optional shuttles.
7 am – Breakfast served at the Blind River Community Hall. 110 Indiana Ave, Blind River, ON P0R 1B0.
Departing from breakfast.
8:30 am – Optional Scoot-Ahead Shuttle to the Algoma Mills Causeway Pavillion Water Stop (16km) We recommend taking this shuttle if you wish to cut off some of today’s distance – You will also avoid riding the natural trail out of Blind River which is somewhat challenging if you are not used to riding gravelly bumpy trails!
14 km – Wilson’s Market Garden [Map 2] Lauzon Road, Algoma Mills ON
Fresh produce, ice cream, and some excellent local baked goods. Right along the trail.
Tip: Did you try a butter tart at Jo-Anna’s yesterday? Try one today! Which is better?
8 to 9:30 am–Algoma Mills Causeway Pavillion Water Stop hosted by Township of North Shore.
Adjacent to Lauzon Creek, the Causeway Pavillion is the location for Canada Day festivities and fireworks and major public access point to the North Channel of Lake Huron. Historically the Causeway was the site of a large dock use companies in the late 1800s to transport freight to southern Ontario.
Algoma Mills became the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR’s)major coal delivery port for the Algoma District with 200,000 tons of coal moving across the docks during a single season.
Interpretive panels at the Causeway Park relate the local history and a locomotive replica created by a local artist commemorates our past.
16.2 km – Bootlegger’s Bay [Map 2] Highway 538
Located along quiet Highway 538 is the lengthy beach of Bootlegger’s Bay, where, during the 1920s prohibition era, boaters would stash good liquor to avoid local revenue watchers. While you’re unlikely to uncover any buried treasures, you can still stop for a dip with lovely views of the islands of the North Channel.
8:30 to 10:30 am- Suggested Stop – Spragge [Map 3]
Those wishing to stop for a refuel or a quick snack should keep their eyes open for Annette’s Diner (located on the north side of the highway) and Serpent River Campground (located on the south side) which has a gift and variety store.
Founded around a prominent mill and originally named Cook’s Mills, the Spragge you see today is a child of the original community, and somewhat removed in location. The original town site was lost to two successive fires in the early 1930s, which consumed the town and then the mill that supported it. The community bloomed again with the later discovery of both copper and uranium in the area.
Tip: Next time you travel the North Shore, visit the Spragge Recreation Area on Old Hydro Road to give the Wagoosh Hiking Trail a try. The trail can be accessed from the east side of the parking area.
35 km – Suggested Stop [Map 3] – Deer Trail Tourism Information Centre Highway 108 and Highway 17 Intersection
This tourist information centre serves as the trailhead for the Deer Trail touring route. The property has washrooms, a picnic area, a nature trail and is dotted with sculptures of deer.
Tip: The info centre is on the north side of Highway 17. Those wishing to stop here will need to make a crossing. Make sure to wait for a sufficient gap, or make your stop at Serpent River park 5km down the road.
9:30 to 11 am
Recommended Stop,( the GWTA support vehicle will be parked with water, snacks and bug spray! ) – Serpent River Park [Map 3]
Located directly on Highway 17, just before the bridge across the Serpent River, this MTO operated rest stop has restrooms, a picnic area and views of both Serpent River Falls and Kennebec Falls. Those wishing to get out of the saddle for a stretch can stroll the short-but-lovely Kennebec Trail, which begins on the west side of the parking area.
9:30 – 11:30
Biish Nooktan (Water Stop) – Serpent River First Nation [Map 3] Serpent River First Nation Pow Wow Grounds: 195 Village Road, Cutler, ON
Aaniin! Serpent River First Nation will welcome the GWTA cyclists with a travelling song and offer teachings on smudging. Located on the Serpent River First Nation Pow Wow grounds, you’ll find a handful of eateries and a traditional craft store nearby. GWTA trucks will pick up purchases and transport them to camp.
Pow Wows are sacred celebrations of Indigenous tradition, dance and song that bring together many different tribes and communities. Thousands are held every year across North America. Check the Great Lakes Pow Wow for a listing of events and a wonderful tribute to the late Water Walker Josephine Mandamin.
Grandmother Josephine began the water walk movement to bring attention to the need to change our relationship with water. She passed on February 22, 2019, having walked an estimated 17,000 km around the Great Lakes in her lifetime. Her niece Autumn Pelltier carries on her water advocacy legacy.
Tip: A path connecting the Waterfront Trail to the Serpent River Trading Post (located on Highway 17) will be completed. The Trading Post is an excellent place to pick up supplies and enjoy a little retail therapy at the gifts and art and crafts store. There are public washrooms and a picnic area.
11:30 to 1 pm
Water Stop – Four Seasons Waterfront Complex and Spanish Municipal Marina [Maps 4 & 5] 40 Garnier Rd, Spanish, ON
Before heading into Spanish proper, make sure to stop by the Spanish Municipal Marina, a tremendous facility with washrooms, showers, wifi, laundry and a sauna that welcomes cyclists as well as boaters. Don’t leave before using the stairs just south of the marina building to climb to the summit of the bluffs where there you’ll find lookout on the Whalesback Channel as well as the beginning of the Shoreline Discovery Trail. Follow the trail for a short but engaging hike with more great views of the Channel. You’ll see first hand why they refer to the area as the Caribbean of the North.
Just north and east of the Marina are the fire-hollowed remains of St. Joseph Residential School for Girls. Once the site of two residential schools. Directly opposite the remains of the school is a monument dedicated to residential school survivors.
11:30 to 1 pm
Suggested Lunch Stop – Spanish [Maps 4 & 5]
Located at the mouth of the Spanish River, Spanish is a community deeply connected to the river that shares its name and is known as the Gateway to the North Channel. How the town got its name is subject to rumour and legend, however, the town rose up as a service centre for the expanding railway at the turn of the 20th century and is now home to approximately 700 residents.
In Spanish, you’ll find a number of restaurants along Highway 17 including Dixie Lee, Spanish River Inn, Pizza 17 and Lucky’s Snack Bar with its award-winning Chip gravy. Even if you are not stopping for lunch we recommend grabbing a snack in Spanish – you still have a lot of riding ahead of you.
Tip: If you’re in the mood for fish, go for the Walleye at Spanish River. If you’re a fan of both soft serve and slushies you might want to give a Snow Drift at Lucky’s a try…it combines both. Dixie Lee serves excellent soups and sandwiches.
1:30 to 3:30 pm
Heritage Park Water Stop, Recommended Lunch and Optional Shuttle to Camp. Hwy 17 and Imperial Rd. Village of Massey in Sables-Spanish Rivers [Maps 5 & 6]. Note turn north onto Imperial Road South from Government Road.
The Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers welcomes you to the community of Massey in Heritage Park where they are hosting a water and information stop. There are washroom facilities, maps of the Township, benches and picnic tables for residents and visitors to enjoy. Stop by for a picnic and tour the town!
We’re sure you’re going to love Massey. There’s a lot packed into this small community that’s sure to make your day. Here are some things to do while visiting Massey:
- Grab a meal or a snack at any one of the areas four restaurants: Dragonfly Ristorante (205 Imperial St. S.), Poirier’s Confectionery (355 Imperial St. S), or the Back Home Bistro (340 Sable St.) or Chutes Confectionery and Chip Stand (595 Imperial St. N). Each is locally renowned for great food, and each caters to a slightly different palate.
- Visit the Massey Area Museum: Your registration grants you free entry into the museum and local tourist information centre, filled with exhibits, artifacts and stories from the earliest native settlement of the Sagamok Anishnawbek, early exploration and the first white settlement leading to the founding of Sables-Spanish River. Exhibits also show the history of the timber, railway and mining industries.
- Grab your lunch and picnic at Mouth Park: This Public Park, at the end of Carl Albert Street in Massey, is known as “The Mouth” as it is where the Sables River empties into the Spanish River. The Park features a beautiful natural sand beach, natural clay embankment slide, shoreline fishing, and great picnic areas.
- Visit Chutes Provincial Park (660 Imperial St North, Massey, ON): You will fall in love with Aux Sables River when you see the spectacular falls and Seven Sisters Cataracts. A viewing platform gets you up close to the falls, while a swimming area exists not far from their base. Hike the Twin Bridges Trail (6km/2hr return) to follow the shores of the Aux Sables. The entrance to the park is about 650m north of Highway 17 on Route 553. The trip to Chutes is the worth the 5km it adds to the trip. Follow the GLWT signage to exit the route at Imperial Street.
Tips: Poirier’s is known for its generous scoop of ice cream, and if you are considering pizza just one day out of the tour, this is the place.
We recommend leaving Massey by bike by 3:30pm to make it into camp by 5:00pm when the support is off the road and yoga at camp begins.
Shuttle Point: Heritage Park, SE Corner of Intersection of Imperial Dr and Highway 17, Massey, ON
- Shuttle to camp departs at 4:00pm.
84 km – Lee Valley and LaCloche Foothills [Maps 5,6 & 7]
Crossing the bridge over the Spanish River you’ll be treated to an incredible view as you enter the Lee Valley and travel the final stretch to our overnight in Espanola. Don’t worry about “foothills” the last stretch is not very hilly and affords views of stark bluffs.
Overnight Location – Espanola Regional Recreation Complex [Maps 7 & 8] 175 Avery Dr, Espanola, ON.
- Join us for yoga at camp, beginning at 5pm.
- Free swim/sauna at the Espanola Recreation Complex for all GWTA riders.
- Cash bar open in the Espanola Recreation Complex
- Showers available in the Espanola Recreation Complex
- Overnight bike storage at the rink – Espanola Recreation Complex.
Town of Espanola–Dinner is on your own tonight.
Espanola, a town with a city feel, was founded in the early 1900s as a company town for the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company. Today, the Domtar’s Espanola Mill and dam provide an impressive view from the bridge spanning the Spanish River just north of town.
Things to do in Espanola:
- Visit any one of the 13 restaurants, pubs and eateries for something to eat. Plan ahead if you’re going to Cortina (vegan pasta available)! Or order in take-out to enjoy a meal in camp.
- Visit the Espanola Heritage Park for a window into local history (Located at Barber and Main)
- Travel the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail / Al Secord Fitness Trail to Clear Beach for a swim. Just don’t go too far or you’ll be well on your way to Manitoulin Island.