Conor Mihell and Craig Zimmerman become the Third Group to Kayak to Caribou Island on Lake Superior

Monday, 11 July 2011

Conor Mihell and Craig Zimmerman finally approaching Caribou Island. Photo Credit: Conor Mihell.

I just received an email from my friend Conor Mihell to let us know that along with his paddling partner Craig Zimmerman; they finally completed a substantial 8-day paddle on Lake Superior out from Wawa to Michipicoten Island then due south to Caribou Island and home again.

Though the total distance of roughly 300 kilometres isn’t that huge; what’s impressive is that approximately 110 km of it was over open water. You see, to get out to Caribou Island you need to make two major crossings (16km and 35km) then do it all over again when going home. Over the course of 8 days you need four at the right time with good enough weather to make the crossings and that’s rare on Lake Superior.

If you haven’t heard of Caribou Island that’s perfectly ok. There isn’t a whole lot out there and it can get confusing due to the fact that there are six Caribou Islands in Ontario alone and two of them just happen to be on Lake Superior.


View the Caribou Island Expedition Route in a larger map.

The one I’m talking about on the eastern end of the lake is about 35km (22 miles) due south of Michipicoten Island and about 65km (40 miles) west of the nearest shore. The island is uninhabited and often described as swampy and buggy by those researchers who have been lucky to get dropped off out there.

With that amazing(ish) sales pitch, it’s amazing that only two other groups have kayaked out to the island in the past. From what Conor and Craig can tell; a gentlemen made the crossing solo in the mid 80’s and another team of Americans did it as part of a three-night trip across Lake Superior in the 90’s. I know there isn’t a great public record of these types of things so others might have done it before and didn’t tell anybody.

Conditions of the major crossing south were near perfect (flat, cool and little wind) but it wasn’t long before thunderclouds started building to add some stress to an already stressful day. Luckily the storm passed over head uneventfully.

After briefly exploring Caribou Island they paddled over to Lighthouse Island to spend the night which is about 1km away. Lighthouse Island is home to one of the tallest lighthouses on Lake Superior towering at 125 feet high.

I have wanted to make this same trip for a long time. About 3-4 years ago, a friend and I planned and came very close making a stab at it but sadly discovered I didn’t have enough vacation time when taking into account potential wind-bound days. I think we are going to need to pull the charts and start planning again.

Photo Credit: Conor Mihell

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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