Hiking to the White River Suspension Bridge

Since last Sunday, I’ve been making my way around the shores of Lake Superior, camping and hiking where I can. I’ve spent nights at Wyalusing State Park (Wisconsin), Superior National Forest (Minnesota), and Pukaskwa National Park (Ontario). While at Pukaskwa, I did a day hike out to the White River Suspension Bridge – on the Coastal Hiking Trail.

My first Canadian national park!

The Park

Pukaskwa National Park is GORGEOUS. It’s rather isolated – 3.5 hours from Thunder Bay, ON and 5 hours from Sault Ste. Marie, ON on the Trans-Canada Highway. I arrived around 9pm and the Park Kiosk (the check-in/registration station) was closed, but you can self-register. Rates were $5.80CAD/adult for entry and $25.50CAD/night for a non-electrical site. I had a brief moment of panic when I realized I didn’t have $30CAD+ in cash on me, but then I realized that they allow you to write down your credit card information on the self-registration for. NPS and USFS should take a page out of their book here!

Map of Hattie Cove Campground – the front country camp administered by the park. I stayed in site #52.

I was blown away by the park’s “comfort stations” with multiple hot shower stalls, multiple real toilets (at least in the men’s room), climate control, and motion-sensitive lighting. There were bear-proof trash and recycling containers scattered conveniently around the park. Lastly, the Visitors’ Center had satellite wifi internet that you could sit on the back porch and use after hours.

THE HIKE

There are a number of day hike options within the park, ranging from easy to difficult. I had my eye on hiking out to the White River Suspension Bridge via the Coastal Hiking Trail. Total length (round trip): 18km or 11mi

Follow the red trail down to the bottom-right corner of the map, labelled “White River Suspension Bridge”

I set out at about 10:15am and started the day by walking through an area that had been the site of a prescribed burn in 2014. I thoughts Parks Canada did a tremendous job highlighting why that area looked different than all the rest and the role of fire in maintaining a healthy forest. There were multiple informational panels placed in that ~1km section describing how they lit the fire, what weather concerns they had, how they prevented the blaze from spreading, etc.

Credit: Parks Canada/CBC

The trail was very well maintained and crossed a variety of terrain over the 7.5km route out to the bridge. There was a good amount of ascent and descent, but never so long that I’d describe the trail as strenuous. The park had built raised walkways over mud and small stream crossings as well as brand-new looking bridges over larger rivers and creeks.

An example of the trail just starting out.
An example of one of the older foot bridges…
… and a brand-new foot bridge!
Meadow walking!
The trail does get pretty rocky at times towards the middle.
The trail sticks pretty closely to the water for most of the route, and you are treated to some amazing views. This is one of my favorite photos.

THE PAYOFF

I arrived at the east side of the bridge around 12:30pm and, for a guy still working on overcoming a fear of heights, was looking pretty intimidating.

Standing on the east side of the bridge.

Crossing 23m (or 75ft) above the White River at Chigamiwinigum Falls, it’s a good rush to walk across the bouncing bridge during a stiff gust of wind. I crossed over, ate lunch on the other side, and then took my time photographing the moment while I had the bridge to myself.

Looking down river from the bridge.
And looking up river from the bridge.
Standing over a 75ft drop!

After spending about 20 minutes at the bridge, I headed back, and arrived to the trailhead around 3pm. This was a GREAT hike and I was sad to be leaving the park that day!

Thanks for reading!

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