The site of a legendary battle is a modern "hub of the north"
Situated on the shores of Pelican Lake, Sioux Lookout Ontario is a small community located just north of the Trans-Canada highway that links Eastern Canada to Western Canada and sits at almost the halfway point between the cities of Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
With just over 5,000 inhabitants it is known as the “Hub of the North” due to the fact that its airport, (the 4th busiest in Ontario), provides travel and essential services to most of the smaller northern communities in Sunset Country including 29 First Nation communities whose 30,000 inhabitants live in remote, not easily accessible areas. The airport also serves as the base for a thriving fly-in fishing and hunting industry into the many camps, lodges and waterways of the vast, unspoiled, surrounding countryside.
Incorporated as a town in 1912 it is named for the nearby Sioux Lookout Mountain that sits just across the lake as it has legendary status among the indigenous Ojibway First Nations inhabitants as the site of their victory in a great battle.
The Legend of Sioux Lookout
The Ojibway First Nations peoples have long inhabited the Sioux Lookout Ontario region. For most of their history these aboriginal peoples were subject to frequent raids by the more warlike Sioux peoples who came from the plains of the present day United States.
The Sioux would travel in canoes along the historic waterways that link Lake Winnipeg to the English River system and subsequently Lake Superior as traders but after conducting their commerce they would pretend to leave and would subsequently double back and wait until their trading partners had let their guard down and would then attack, (usually at nightfall), and massacre every Ojibway they could find, taking all their possessions.
On one such occasion in the late 1700’s a small band of Ojibway on Lake Superior were forewarned of the approaching Sioux and fled before their arrival. On most previous occasions the Sioux would simply follow the fleeing tribes who were slowed by children and the elderly and when they caught up their warriors would overpower resistance and slaughter everyone.
On this occasion the Ojibway were attempting to reach the lands of their neighbors to the west the Assiniboines but after each passing day the Sioux got closer and closer. The fleeing Ojibway eventually reached the spot of present-day Sioux Lookout Ontario and decided to camp near Sioux Mountain. As this was the highest spot of land in the area they posted a lookout who from this vantage point could see up to 40 miles away on a clear day.
As the sun was rising the lookout spotted the glare of the sun reflecting off the paddles from the Sioux war canoes. Warning his fellow tribesmen they decided that they could not outrun the enemy any longer and instead planned to set up an ambush. They hid on the cliffs above their camp and lay in wait while their campsite still had the look of being occupied by its sleeping inhabitants.
When the Sioux eventually reached the site they leapt from their war canoes and rushed the camp in a frenzied “surprise” attack. The waiting Ojibway welcomed them with a flurry of arrows from the heights and then successfully counterattacked and killed every Sioux warrior save for one small boy that was eventually adopted into the tribe and subsequently became one of their greatest chieftains. His ancestors still reside in this area to this day.
The Sioux would never again return to raid the area and the legend of the battle has since been substantiated by archaeologists who discovered the remains of many Sioux men and women just downstream from Sioux Lookout in the shallow waters of Pelican Narrows.
Sioux Lookout Ontario Today
In 1998 the Ontario provincial government amalgamated the communities of Alcona, Hudson and Sioux Lookout to form today’s Sioux Lookout Ontario. This new municipality in the rugged Canadian Shield now encompasses an area of 536 sq kilometres (207 sq. miles) and 379 sq. kilometres (146 sq. miles) of land and includes many bodies of water along the famous English River system.
Some lakes within the general vicinity of Sioux Lookout Ontario include:
- Pelican Lake
- Abram Lake
- Lac Seul
- Minnitaki Lake
- Flatrock Lake
- Vermilion Lake
- Lost Lake
- Little Vermilion Lake
- Butterfly Lake
- Duck Lake
Location of Sioux Lookout
Getting to Sioux Lookout:
- Follow directions to navigate to the City of Thunder Bay than continue further west on the Trans Canada Highway #17 West.
- At the small town of Dinorwic take Highway #72 North into Sioux Lookout.
By public transport:
Limited bus services are provided by Greyhound Canada.
Sioux Lookout Ontario does fall along the main east-west passenger rail network and thus has regular service and can easily be reached by rail from most parts of Canada.
As mentioned above this small town has one of the busiest airports in the Province of Ontario. Unfortunately it is not an international airport and thus visitors cannot fly in directly to Sioux Lookout Ontario from different countries. There is however regular passenger service from a number of Ontario airports including Thunder Bay and also Winnipeg, Manitoba and both of these airports do facilitate international flights.
The regional carrier Bearskin Airlines has daily flights from these airports into Sioux Lookout.
Sioux Lookout attractions and activities
The abundance of untarnished natural areas makes the Sioux Lookout Ontario area a primary destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities and there is definitely much to see and do.
Sioux Lookout sits on the shores of Pelican Lake which is part of the vast network of interconnected lakes, rivers and waterways called the English River system. The pristine waters of these sunset country jewels are an angler’s nirvana and are one of the primary lures of the region. Some of the prized game fish readily found in the area include:
- Northern Pike
- Lake Trout
In addition to the lakes mentioned above the municipality’s airport is also served by many small operators who provide fly in fishing services to many of the otherwise inaccessible lakes and rivers in the surrounding region. Some of these remote bodies of water include:
- Highstone Lake
- Hooker Lake
- Aerofil Lake
- Lynx Paw Lake
- Kabikwabik Lake
- Armit Lake
- DeLesseps Lake
- Otatakan Lake
- Miniss Lake
- Little Miniss Lake
- Raggedwood Lake
- Bamaji Lake
- Keikewabik Lake
- Kezik Lake
- Roadhouse Lake
- Blackstone Lake
- Springpole Lake
- Fawcett Lake
- Fry Lake
- Seagraves Lake
- Wapesi Lake
- Wapesi River
- Wesleyan River
The vast tracts of Canadian Shield wilderness provide for ample hunting opportunities and Sioux Lookout is a hub for many hunting outfitters in the Sunset Country region. While there is much wildlife in the forests the main animals hunted are:
- Black Bear
Please note that the hunting seasons are different for residents and non-residents.
Insider Tip: Black Bear and Moose hunting are extremely popular activities in the Sioux Lookout Ontario region as success rates are very high and the hunt thus draws participants from around the world. Outfitters are limited in the number of tags allotted and thus only so many animals can be bagged by their customers. If you are interested in participating in one of these hunts I would recommend that you book early.
Although the Sioux Lookout area suffers from short warm summers and long cold winters it is a well-known destination for swimming in the many bodies of water that surround it and there are a number of quite nice beaches in the general vicinity including:
- Big Vermillion Beach (aka Bernier’s Beach) in nearby Hudson
- Boat Bay Beach in nearby Hudson
- Second Sandy Beach located at Umfreville Park Historic Site
- Ojibway Provincial Park has a sandy beach
- Town Beach right in Sioux Lookout
- Sandy Beach just outside of town
The waters may be cool but are extremely clean and are tailor made for swimming.
Located on the English River system that links Lake Winnipeg to Lake Superior the waters around Sioux Lookout have been utilized by paddlers for millennium. This rich heritage is recognized at Umfreville Park Historic Site where a plaque is dedicated to the explorer Edward Umfreville, the man who in 1784 became the first European to travel the route by canoe.
Today avid paddlers from around the world come to the Sioux Lookout Ontario area to complete all or at least a portion of this heritage route. Rentals are readily available in many locations. Portages may be necessary depending upon the final destination as not all lakes are interconnected.
With literally thousands of small lakes dotting the countryside around the town boating is a hugely popular activity in the Sioux Lookout Ontario area. As many of the lakes are interconnected participants can at many times travel from lake to lake. Launches are available in town, at nearby Ojibway Provincial Park and at a few other locations in some of the larger lakes.
Ojibway Provincial Park
This fairly large provincial park is located 25 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Sioux Lookout and has a number of facilities that make it a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike. It is one of the premier destinations in this part of sunset country for camping and offers full facilities. Please visit my Ojibway Provincial Park page for more information.
The huge tracts of dense virgin like forests that surround the town are loaded with wildlife and if you do stay in the region for a number of days you are sure to see some. While some are rarely spotted and/or nocturnal some of the animals to be found in the area include:
- Black Bear
- Timber Wolf
Sunsets and Northern Lights
Sioux Lookout Ontario is located in the heart of sunset country which is aptly named as on many occasions the setting sun gives off a glorious glow with some magnificent colours that shimmer off glistening waters.
The natural phenomena called the Aurora Borealis (better known as the Northern Lights), while unpredictable can at many times be witnessed in the night skies surrounding Sioux Lookout Ontario. Best viewed in the fall this spectacular display if seen will be a sight that will live in your memory forever and the Sioux Lookout area is one of the best places in the province to see it.
For over 30 years Sioux Lookout has held its annual Blueberry Festival celebrating the town and its stunning natural environment. Blueberries were chosen as the theme due to the preponderance of these sweet berries in the surrounding countryside and a mascot named Blueberry Bert has become the recognized face of the festival.
The 10-day festivities are held in early August and feature music and activities as diverse as:
- Golf tournaments
- Bocce tournaments
- Baseball tournaments
- Blueberry Triathlon
- Pancake Breakfast
- Car Rally
- Blueberry Pie contest
In all there are over 100 events held annually during the celebrations and the festival draws spectators and participants from around the country and the northern United States.
Sioux Lookout Museum
This small museum was opened in 1981 and contains artifacts related to the history of the town and surrounding area.
Some of the interesting items to be found include:
- First Nations artifacts dated to almost 7000 years old
- A genuine birch bark canoe
- Items from nearby Red Lake’s gold rush days
- Items from King George VI’s visit in 1939
- Artifacts from the completion of the CNR railway
Located in the heart of the municipality the museum is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
Sioux Mountain Winter Festival
A nice change of pace from the regions long cold winters it is held annually on the last weekend of January. With events and activities as diverse as:
- Cross Country Ski Poker
- Snow Ball Luncheon
- Snow Sculpting contest
- Torchlite Parade
- Mini Pow Wow
- Indian Leg Wrestling
- Family Ice-fishing Derby
Held over 3 days it is a family event that is one of the highlights of the winter season.
Hiking in the Sioux Lookout Ontario area is a hugely popular activity and for the most part is centered on the historic Sioux Mountain for which the town is named. There are many trails that lead to the peak and the view from the top is still as stunning as it was on that historic day over 300 years ago.
In all there are over 11 kilometres (7 miles) of trails that wind through the forests and past the shores of some beautiful lakes including:
- Umfreville Trail
Following the original route taken by Edward Umfreville it connects The Sioux Lookout Travel Information Centre with the Umfreville Park Historic Site. At 2 metres (6.6 feet) wide this paved trail is multi use and utilized by hikers, joggers, roller-bladers and bicyclists. In winter both cross-country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiasts utilize it. Skirting Pelican Lake if offers beautiful views and passes Second Sandy Beach before ending at Frog Rapids, the connecting junction between Pelican and Abram Lakes.
- Umfreville Trail
- Birch Trails
Winter Activities in Sioux Lookout Ontario
As with many northern Ontario communities the snowmobile is more than just a recreational vehicle and is more of a necessity in the winter. As such there are numerous groomed trails in the region that in addition to being utilized for recreational purposes also provide vital transportation links to surrounding communities.
The local Ojibway Power Toboggan Association maintains 150 kilometres (90 miles) of the Trans Ontario Provincial Trails network and also 150 kilometres (90 miles) of local trails.
Many of the locals get around in winter manually, meaning by cross-country skiing or by snowshoeing. A local ski club named the Nordic Nomads Cross Country Ski Club annually maintains over 25 kilometres (15 miles) of some of the best-groomed trails in the province.
The trails circle Duck Lake and provide beautiful vistas over Pelican Lake and there is also a racing loop for hardcore skiers on the grounds of the Ojibway Golf and Country Club.
While a sport in many provincial regions ice fishing has long been a means of sustenance for local aboriginals. As such ice fishing is a huge winter activity on many of the lakes in the region and many of the local lodges and resorts cater to this activity and stay open all year round.
Some of the more popular and sought after species include:
- Northern Pike
- Lake Trout
A traditional aboriginal activity the town maintains a well-lit toboggan hill appropriately called Blueberry Hill.