Wednesday July 31st: Blind River to Espanola (110 km)

During today’s Great Waterfront Trail Adventure you’ll 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 covers the longest distance of the tour. 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 not comfortable riding along the highway,  or wishing to pare down some of the ride distance for today, we recommend taking the optional shuttle to Massey. There is plenty to enjoy in and around Massey, and the 30km ride through the Lee Valley between Massey and Espanola is beautiful.

0 km – Optional Scoot-Ahead Shuttle to Massey

Departing from breakfast, this optional shuttle will ferry riders to Massey.

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?

16 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.

32 km – 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 out 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 sculpture 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.

40 km – Recommended Stop – 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.

45 km – Recommened Stop – Serpent River First Nation [Map 3]

In Serpent River First Nation you’ll find a warm, growing community of the Ojibway. Here you’ll find a handful of eateries, a traditional craft store, pow-wow grounds and an amazing trading post (located on Highway 17).

 54 km – Recommended Stop – Spanish Municipal Marina and Shoreline Discovery Trail [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. Ascending the stairs just south of the marina building will lead you to the summit of the bluffs around the marina 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.

54 km – St. Joseph Residential School Site [Maps 4 & 5]

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, St. Peter Claver’s Residential School for Indian Boys (later the Garnier School for Indian Boys) and the St. Joseph School for Indian Girls, these facilities operated from 1911 to 1958. The Garnier school was later demolished. The St. Joseph School site was destroyed by fire in 1981.

The facilities are reputed to have been constructed to house 200 students each and together serve as the largest residential school in Ontario owned by the Catholic Church.

55 km – 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 it’s 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.

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.

83 km – Recommended Stop and Late Lunch – Massey [Maps 5 & 6]

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 three restaurants: Dragonfly Ristorante, Poirier’s, or the Back Home Bistro. Each is locally renowned for great food, and each caters to a slightly different palate.
  • Visit the Massey Area Museum: A museum and local tourist info centre exhibiting artifacts and elements of both local history and the history of the timber, railway and mining industries.
  • Visit Chutes Provincial Park: 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. Follow the GLWT signage to exit the route at Imperial Street.
  • Follow the Spanish: If you’ve taken the shuttle to Massey and want to add some distance to your ride, head west out of town to follow River Road along the Spanish River for an out-and-back. The road is almost 18km long (meaning 36km to get back to Massey) and includes long stretches right along the Spanish. We ask that if you choose to do this, you do it early to be considerate of our SAG and sweeps, and be aware that support vehicles will not be in the area until the afternoon, so prepare accordingly.

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.

84 km – Recommended Stop – Chutes Provincial Park [Maps 5 & 6] 660 Imperial Street North, Massey, ON

The stop so nice we’ve mentioned it twice. If you have the time, you owe it to yourself to visit the falls. See the entry above for more on Chutes Provincial Park.

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.

110 km – Overnight Location – Espanola Regional Recreation Complex [Maps 7 & 8] 175 Avery Dr, Espanola, ON.

110 km – Town of  Espanola

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!
  • 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.

Past Highlights