Thereu2019s a reason theu00a0Slate Islandsu00a0are a perennial favourite amongst Naturally Superior Adventures guests. Paddling this archipelago located 10 kilometres off the north shore of Lake Superior offers the perfect mix of sheltered paddling and exposed coast, amazing flora, fauna and geology, and rich human history. If youu2019re looking for a novice-friendly trip that captures the best of Lake Superior, the Slate Islands is it!
Paddling conditions: Evidenced by their donut-like shape, the Slate Islands were formed when the Earthu2019s crust rebounded from a meteorite impact 500 million years ago. This unique landform produces perfect paddling conditions: The islandsu2019 parentheses-like shape creates bombproof shelter for calm-water paddling in all conditions within the inner islands, while the outer coast features rugged headlands and broad gravel beachesu2014testaments to Lake Superioru2019s powerful autumn storms. Regardless of the weather, thereu2019s always paddling to be had.
u00a0Natural heritage: The Slates are best-known for woodland caribou, a species at risk in Ontario. Because of the islandsu2019 isolation, a remnant population of caribou still inhabits the Slates. Numbers vary from 100 to 600 animals, related to the boom and bust cycles of vegetation. This u201cclosed systemu201d has given wildlife biologists a natural laboratory to study population dynamics. Certain arctic/alpine plant species, including mountain avens, encrusted saxifrage and birds-eye primrose, also thrive in the Slates isolation. Thatu2019s because Lake Superioru2019s perpetually cool waters create a microclimate for these cold-adapted species, whose lineage dates back to the last ice age. Meanwhile, rockhounds canu2019t get enough of the Slatesu2019 unique geologyu2014including flaky, slate-coloured rocks known as u201cshatterconesu201d (formed by meteorite impact) and abandoned gold and copper mines.
Cultural history: Adolph King, the son of Slate Island lighthouse keepers, told colourful stories of growing up on Patterson Island at the turn of the 20th century. King and his brothers regularly made the 10-kilometre crossing to the mainland town of Jackfish, then a bustling railway town, by rowboat. Often, the boys returned to their island home in darkness, steering by their wits and the woefully inadequate light of a kerosene lantern. The Kingu2019s lighthouse still stands sentinel on the Slate Islandsu2019 south shore, offering modern-day visitors a glimpse of a long-lost lifestyle.
Read adventure bloggers Dave and Debu2019s (aka The Planet D) report on their adventures at the Slate Islands.