Chapleau Game Preserve – A complete visitors guide


The world's largest wildlife reserve See bear, moose, beaver and more

When people think of large wildlife reserves the Chapleau Game Preserve does not usually come to mind, most have images of huge herds of wild beasts running across the African savannahs or vast tracts of forest covered mountains in the hinterlands of Asia. Yet this wildlife reserve in Algoma Country just north of Sault Ste Marie is actually the largest game reserve in the world.

Established in 1925 to protect the largely depleted wildlife in this area of Ontario, it has expanded to the point where it encompasses over 2 million acres (700,000 hectares) or 7,000 sq. kilometres (2700 sq. miles). 

Situated at the pinnacle of the Canadian Shield between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay, Ojibway and Cree aboriginals originally inhabited the area and many pictographs from this era are located in the region. The park is bounded on three sides by railway lines and the Chapleau River on the fourth.

Included within the borders of the Chapleau Crown Game Reserve are Pichogen River Provincial Park and parts of Missinaibi Provincial Park. Hunting, trapping and all firearms have long been forbidden but fishing is allowed in the numerous lakes and rivers and you can catch trophy walleye and pike and the provincial parks offer regulated camping and canoeing.

The highlight and main draw to the Chapleau Game Reserve is the abundance of wildlife that now permeates the park, especially Black Bear where the reserve has the highest density of bear in Ontario.

Some of the larger animals present in the area include:

  • Black Bear (approx. 2500)
  • Moose (approx. 2000)
  • Timberwolves
  • Red Fox
  • Deer
  • Canada Lynx
  • Marten
  • Beaver
  • Otter
  • Snoeshoe hare
  • Mink
  • Bald Eagle
  • Blue Heron
  • Grouse
  • Loon

Location of Chapleau and the Reserve


Getting to the Chapleau Preserve:

The Chapleau Game Preserve is in a remote area and the majority of visitors gain access to the southeastern portion through the Township of Chapleau.

By Car:

Depending upon where your starting point is the following routes are available:

From Toronto and Southern Ontario:

  • Highway 400 North to Highway #69 North
  • At Sudbury take the Trans Canada Highway # 17 West
  • At the small community of Huron Shores take Route #546 North
  • After approximately 11 kilometres (6.5 miles) take Route #554 West until Route #129 North
  • Continue on this route for quite a distance until reaching Chapleau. The entire journey should take just under 10 hours

From Ottawa:

  • Take Trans Canada Highway # 17 West
  • At the small community of Huron Shores take Route #546 North
  • After approximately 11 kilometres (6.5 miles) take Route #554 West until Route #129 North
  • Continue on this route for quite a distance until reaching Chapleau

From Northern Ontario:

Take Trans Canada Highway # 17 East to Highway #101 East at Wawa. Continue on this route for quite a distance until Route #129 North into Chapleau.

From Sault Ste. Marie:

Take Trans Canada Highway #17 North to Route # 556 East. This eventually merges into Route #129 North into the Town of Chapleau.

By public transport:

By Rail

The Algoma Central Railway which passes the reserves outskirts also provides access to some western portions including access to two very popular popular traditional canoe routes:

  • Wabatongushi Lake down the Michipicoten River to lake Superior
  • Oba Lake down the Oba River to the Albany River into Hudson Bay

The existing CN and CP railroads continue to provide access to the area and make several in some of the small communities along the lines near the Chapleau Game Reserve.

Contact the following for more information as to rail travel into the area:

By Bus:

Public bus in not an option.

By Air:

Sault Ste. Marie Airport would be the closest airport to service the Chapleau area. Very limited direct international flights land at the airport as it mainly serves as a commuter destination for larger international airports such as Toronto’s Pearson international Airport.

If you do fly into Sault Ste. Marie your best option is to rent a car to complete the remainder of your journey to the game preserve utilizing the driving route listed above. There is however many local outfitters that do provide fly-in service to numerous lake in the region. The pages of this website will provide further information. 


The Chapleau Game Preserve is for those visitors that wish to enjoy a true Canadian wilderness experience. Wildlife is plentiful and the chances of encounters and sightings are very high, especially with black bears. This is however a very remote region and all necessary preparations must be made before undertaking the journey, this is no simple day trip, an overnight stay will be required.

Most people will choose to camp in the reserve but there is limited overnight facilities in the Town of Chapleau itself. Local outfitters are plentiful and they can make all the arrangements for you whether it be for a simple 2 day trip or a more complete guided canoe and camping trip.

There are quite a few beautiful lakes and rivers in the area and finding a suitable camping location in a peaceful setting should not be an issue. In fact in most cases you will be virtually alone with no human contact whatsoever. Be prepared for any emergency. 

Insider Tip: The dense forests of the reserve are inundated with insects. Bring plenty of repellant but even at that, be prepared top leave with plenty of bites.

DO NOT approach any wildlife especially Black Bears. These animals are quite large and can easily seriously harm a human being. Please note that bears are more likely to run away or at most nonchalantly carry on with their business in the presence of humans and attacks on people are extremely rare but care should always be undertaken. Bear mace should always be on hand when journeying to the reserve. 

The Chapleau Game Reserve is open year round and wilderness adventures can be enjoyed in both the summer and winter. Snowmobile and/or snowshoe adventures can easily be arranged and the fishing and canoeing are some of the best in the province. Additionally, depending upon the time of year, on a good night you can experience excellent viewing of the northern lights. 

While not on most people’s itineraries when planning a trip to Ontario Canada and a little out of the way, the Chapleau Game Reserve offers nature and wildlife enthusiasts a once in a lifetime experience. The natural beauty of the region is outstanding and there is an almost 100 % guarantee of encountering otherwise rarely seen large Canadian wildlife, it truly is one of Ontario’s hidden tourist treasures.

Information on the preserve is hard to come by, the best thing is to contact the Township of Chapeau itself at: 

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