Sunday, July 10, 2016

Agawa Rocks

Lake Superior is 31,700 Sq miles.  

 Gi chi Gamiing (Great Lake) to the Ojibwe is the world's largest freshwater lake.  Gi chi Gamiing was vital to the Ojibwe culture, providing food and the main travel route. However, even with modern navigation, travel on the lake can be hazardous with the changing weather. 

  In the spring and early summer the land warms more quickly than the lake and fog is common along the coast.  The Ojibwe saw fog as the clothing of thunderbirds.  As guardians of the Ojibwe, the thunderbirds visited the world to search out evil spirits with thunder, lightning and storms.
The Ojibwe had great respect for Gi chi Gamiing and its changing moods.  To appease Misshepezhieu, the spirit of the water, offerings of food, copper and tobacco were left at sites along the coast by those seeking a safe passage or to give thanks, a tradition still honored by many.

 Artifacts found in Lake Superior Provincial Park indicate habitation since at least 500 BC.  It is likely that this area has been used for much longer, as artifacts dating to 1800 BC have been found in other locations around the Lake.

Agawa Rock is a sacred place to the Ojibwe located midway between Wawa and Sault Set Marie.  The Agawa Rock pictographs are enduring Ojibwe messages from the past--records of ancient dreams, visions and events.  

When I read about these pictographs I knew I had to see them for myself.

The pictographs are on the face of a rock cliff that is on the edge of the lake.  The signs at the beginning of the trail read:

"The 400 meter trail to the Rock is rugged, descending 30 meters through deep chasms and rocky terrain.

Beside the lake, a rock ledge stretches along the base of the pictograph cliff. "

Caution: Sturdy footwear should be worn.

(So naturally, I put on my most comfortable open-toed sandals and set off to see these drawings.)

Hmm, this was going to be slow-going.

The trail became steeper and more tricky with each step.

An  Ojibwe family lost their baby in an area near Agawa Rock.  They saw the tracks of Misshepezhieu, the Great Lynx leading into the water.  The father called on the birds of thunder, their protectors, to avenge the loss of their child.  The Thunderbirds caused lightning to fall on the rock and destroy the cave where Misshepezhieu was hiding, destroying the evil spirit.  These rock chasms are a reminder of their protectors, the thunderbirds.

I was beginning to get the message.

When I looked up and saw the people climbing above me I realized it was foolish to go any further.


I turned around, took a few pictures of the Lake,  and decided it really wasn't a good day to go swimming.

I chose an alternate trail to return to the RV but it turned out to be as challenging as the first trail.

Some of the area actually had identifiable stairs....

...but they were not well-maintained.

It was on that 4th step that I lost my footing and kicked the stone--hard!

So I limped back to the RV and now I wonder how long before the toenail falls off...

...and just how long before it grows back.  The Ojibwe's sacred place with its pictographs is now safe from my prying eyes.

The weather has been ideal, with no storms to slow me down.  It has all been so placid that it is hard to imagine this country as 'daunting'.  

The lake completely froze over in1997.  It was 90% frozen in 2013 and in most years it is 80% frozen.

Maximum wave height recorded is 31 ft.  Average water temp is 40 degrees F.

There are 350 shipwrecks in the lake with 1000 lives lost.

Sign outside a restaurant on the North Shore.


  1. OOPs!! I never try places like this without hiking boots and a walking stick. It's surprisingly austere looking there, I guess because of the hard winters.

  2. Jaw droppingly, treacherously beautiful.

  3. Thanks for the airplane pics, Tony. Beautiful place.