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Backpacker Magazine – January 2009

Reindeer Games: Tracking Caribou in the Slate Islands

Happy coincidence for wildlife-loving paddlers: Canoes and woodland caribou converge like nowhere else on Earth in Ontario's Slate Islands. PLUS: See video of caribou on the move.

by: Gustave Axelson, Photos by Layne Kennedy

A caribou approaching the author's campsite.
A caribou approaching the author's campsite.
A bull grazing in Fisherman's Cove.
A bull grazing in Fisherman's Cove.
The author paddling through the fog.
The author paddling through the fog.
A rock formation in Lake Superior.
A rock formation in Lake Superior.
A woodland caribou scarfs ashes.
A woodland caribou scarfs ashes.

MORE CARIBOU
Follow writer Gustave Axelson and photographer Layne Kennedy as they shadow caribou on the Slate Islands.
video icon    VIDEO: Reindeer Games
Watch video of these majestic animals.

photo icon    PHOTOS: Wild Caribou
  See more of Kennedy's images from the trip.
Plan It
Ontario's Slate Islands

The Way
Access the Slates from the public dock at the mouth of the Aguasabon River in the town of Terrace Bay along King's Highway 17, 500 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul or 650 miles from Detroit. Paddle (or take a ferry) the final eight miles of open water on Lake Superior.

When to go
July and August are optimal–after the bugs thin out but before the ferocious fall stormy season. But even in summer, Lake Superior has a reputation for nasty, mercurial weather, so build an extra day into your itinerary and bring extra food.

Gear
Pack bomber raingear (a downpour is all but guaranteed during a weeklong stay), plus a winter hat, gloves, and baselayers (it has snowed here in July).

Maps and Permit
Request a map when you call the park office (807-825-3403) to purchase your required Crown Land Camping Permit ($10/night Canadian). Ferry Slate Islands Charters, (807) 825-9333. Captain Tom Falzetta can tell you where the caribou have been most active.

Caribou Conservation
Read how the Slate Island Caribou fit into the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' massive mainland recovery plan at mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/249504.html.




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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Fire pits
Aug 29, 2013

Thanks for sharing good post.

Star Star Star Star Star
vicki boudreau
Aug 23, 2013

Just got back from an amazing 2 day adventure on Slate Island. Unfortunately we didn't see any caribou, we beleive one entered our camp late at night behind our tent which woke us, but other than finding droppings, tracks and a few skeletal bones found from other campers that was it. We camped at Fishermans cove and paddled up to Jacks Bay where the old barge is and roamed the hillside and woods...what an amazing view, I'm sure had we been there by dawn or stayed til dusk this would have been a great place to encounter them. Just gives me more incentive to return and to stay longer! Can"t wait to go back! Pictures just don"t do this place justice! You really have to go there to appreciate all that it has!

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