Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Rossport Campground, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

View from one of the spectacular waterfront sites
at Rossport Campground
Location: 2 hours E of Thunder Bay; 5 hours NW of Sault Ste. Marie
Website: Ontario Parks 
Map: Google
Camping Facilities: Frontcountry / Car Camping
Grade: C+
Stargazing: Good
Summary: Some nice car camping with lake-front campsites, even though it's right on the highway.
Thoughts: Well it served me right for not doing too much research. I had planned to do some backcountry camping in Sleeping Giant PP, so that I could spend the afternoon enjoying its fantastic hiking trails. It turns out that the backcountry camping required a substantial chunk of hiking just to get set up. In fact, from what I could see, it was a 5 km hike just to get into the sites (I've included the backcountry map below - I really wish that Ontario Parks would post these on their website!), which was too far for one night IMHO. So I had to bail on my camping plans and settle for the bumpy drive up to the lookout over Thunder Bay (which is unreal! you have to check it out!).

A nice spot to stargaze if the skies cooperate

So I did the 2 hour drive down to Rainbow Falls instead, and it was a good thing as it would have been pretty miserable drive to Lake Superior PP the next day if I hadn't. I arrived pretty late at Rainbow Falls, getting close to supper time. I had the choice between the Rossport Campground (which is right on Lake Superior) and the Whitesand Lake Campground. So essentially, your choice is a view over shrubbery or a view over Lake Superior - it's an easy one to make. I drove around Whitesand just in case there were some nice ones that actually overlook the lake, but couldn't find any (at least, none that were available), so I just headed back to Rossport.

First lookout on Rainbow Falls trail
The check-in at the gate was typical Ontario Parks - friendly, helpful, trying to make sure you get the camping experience you're after. At both gatehouses they insisted that I roam around and have a look for a site that I like best. (Aside: this is something that will only happen in less busy parks - in Bon Echo or Pinery, you pretty well take what they have, because your site will probably be gone by the time you get back to the gatehouse). Highway noise is again an issue, but that's the price of convenience. I mean, pulling over and camping next to Gitchigumi with no reservation in peak of summer for about $40 - you can make do.

Sure, it's loud but a primo seat for
watching thundering water
A few of the sites afford a fantastic view of Lake Superior as they are right on the shore; but I must say, there are only about 4 high quality sites, and the campsites that are not adjacent to the lake were not very good. Even still some of the sites next to the lake were not actually on the water - in fact, the lake wasn't even accessible for a few of these. However, many of those sites had good under story for privacy though astoundingly, these were sometimes positioned directly across from one another (hello long privacy).

Blueberries in various
stages of development
Rainbow Falls -
photos do not do it justice!
The following day I ventured up to the hike to Rainbow Falls (fantastic) in the Whitesand Lake campground, followed by the two lookouts (which were well worth it, mainly because of all the wild blueberries near the lookouts!). I recommend the hikes, the thundering water of Rainbow Falls takes no time to reach and will keep you entertained for a while (especially if try out your best Ansel Adams impersonation).

Sleeping Giant Backcountry Hiking Map
Backcountry map of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
(circa 2015)

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