Lake Athapapuskow: The Forgotten Northern Ontario Gem

In a time when bucket lists are packed with the world’s most famous sights, it becomes hard for lesser-known areas to draw visitors. But what if we told you about a lake so remote that few people have heard of it? Even fewer have seen it, and those who have are unlikely to forget its beauty anytime soon. To put it briefly, Lake Athapapuskow is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s that simple. Located in Northern Ontario and just off the shores of Hudson Bay, this natural phenomenon is best described as bizarrely surreal. An inland saltwater lake hidden amongst dense spruce forests, Lake Athapapuskow is a photographers dream come true – you won’t find another place like it anywhere on the planet.

Where is Lake Athapapuskow?

When people think of the Great Canadian Road Trip, it’s usually Banff and the Rockies that come to mind. Well, Athapapuskow is that, but in Northern Ontario. You can find this stunning spot by travelling along Highway 11, a route filled with waterfalls, forested mountains, and vast lakes. Finding Athapapuskow is relatively easy, but be prepared for a long drive. From North Bay, it’s about 800km, taking you through the towns of Wawa, Blind River and Espanola. Once you hit the Espanola area, look for highway 534 East to Smooth Rock Falls and then Highway 11 North to Ethel. About 10km into Ethel, look for Highway 6 East to Hudson Bay. This will lead you to Lake Athapapuskow.

Why Hasn’t Everyone Heard of Lake Athapapuskow?

There’s a very good reason why Lake Athapapuskow is one of the most isolated and least known places on Earth. It’s because it’s difficult to get to and even more difficult to get out of. That being said, there are a few reasons why more people don’t visit this Northern Ontario gem. Firstly, Athapapuskow is an inland saltwater lake, which means the only way to get there is by boat. There are no roads that lead to the lake, and the nearest airports are over 3 hours away. Secondly, Athapapuskow is located in a remote part of Northern Ontario. To put it simply: if you want to visit Lake Athapapuskow, it’s going to take some effort.

Things to Know Before Visiting Lake Athapapuskru

When visiting Lake Athapapuskow, there are a few things to keep in mind. With that said, it’s important to note that the lake is not open for swimming or diving due to health hazards. In terms of wildlife, Athapapuskow is notorious for its abundance of black bears. They are everywhere, so be sure to keep on the lookout. That being said, Athapapuskow is a birder’s dream come true. It’s home to around 400 species of birds and is even recognized as a Bird Sanctuary. Keep in mind that Athapapuskow is not a tourist destination. There are no hotels or restaurants, and the only nearby towns with services are Smooth Rock Falls and Ethel.

The drive to Lake Athapapuskow

As mentioned earlier, the drive to Lake Athapapuskow is a long one. But that’s just part of its appeal. That being said, the road to Athapapuskow is fairly straightforward. The only challenging part is getting out of Ethel, a small town in Northern Ontario. It’s a bumpy dirt road for the most part, but what do you expect from a Northern Ontario dirt road? You’ll drive alongside the Ethel River for a good chunk of the trip, and there are some great places to stop and admire the views.

Lake Athapapuskow in winter

Lake Athapapuskow is stunning in all seasons, but winter is its true beauty. When covered in snow, Athapapuskow is a dream come true. From the frozen water to the dense spruce forests, this place looks like something out of a fairy tale. That being said, winter isn’t an ideal time to visit Athapapuskow. It’s extremely cold, there are no nearby cities, and the lake is completely frozen. If you do decide to visit Athapapuskow in winter, you’ll want to go prepared. You’ll also want to make sure you have a reliable vehicle.


Lake Athapapuskow is a rare, one-of-a-kind place that should be visited by everyone at least once. It’s a place that defies logic, and it’s a place that people will remember for years to come. Athapapuskow is a beautiful and surreal experience that everyone should be fortunate enough to enjoy.

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