The Nipigon and Red Rock, Ontario region has spectacular, dramatic rock cliffs, canyons and colours. Look for layers of vibrant red siltstones and sandstones that formed 1.3 to 1.5 billion years ago.

The flat-top mountains, known as tablelands, are made of tilted layers of sedimentary rock and diabase jutting above even older Canadian Shield rock.

Deep canyons and cliffs like Ouimet Canyon and Pijitawabik Palisades originated a billion years ago when molten rock cooled and shrank, causing vertical cracks.

Find your own amethyst (sparkling purple quartz) at nearby amethyst mines that are open to the public from May to October. And, be sure to see the Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay’s famous rock formation in Lake Superior that resembles a man lying on his back, easily visible from the TransCanada highway and various locations in Thunder Bay.

There are more Giants to the west of Red Rock too. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is the site of some the highest cliffs in Ontario, jutting 290 metres (950 feet) above Lake Superior. Kakabeka Falls (“the Niagara of the North”) is to the west of Thunder Bay. At 40 metres (131 feet) high it is the second-highest waterfall in Ontario, plunging into the gorge and the Kaministiqua River to reveal 1.6-million-year-old fossils.

History & Heritage

The Red Rock area has been the ancestral home of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people for thousands of years, and the Red Rock tableland mountain was and continues to be an essential part of their rich culture.

In the mid-17th century, French traders and Jesuit missionaries travelled to the area, and by 1680 the first trading post was established, setting the stage for the next two centuries of the lucrative fur trade.

The Red Rock of the early 1900s was a quiet rural community. Its settlers, mainly with Finnish backgrounds, raised hay and root crops, cut and sold firewood, and hunted and fished. In 1915, guided by Chief Andrew Lexie of the Nipigon Ojibway Band, angler Dr. J. W. Cook caught the world-record brook trout on the Nipigon River—at 14.5 lb and 31.5 inches long, it’s an exciting record that stands to this day.

The Lake Sulphite Pulp Company set up mill operations in 1937, using horses to clear the mill and town site of trees. That year, the Quebec Lodge—now The Lodge at Red Rock—was built for $50,000 (the equivalent of about $1 million today). The mill and town construction were soon halted when the company went into receivership, but for 18 months in 1940-41 Red Rock became a German POW camp known as Camp “R” that housed more than a thousand prisoners.

In 1942 the mill was revived when Brompton Pulp and Paper Company took over the site. In the 1940s through to the 1980s, Red Rock grew into a thriving small town. The Marina opened in 1994 to complement the harbourfront park, and the Live from the Rock Folk Festival had its first festival in 2003, an immensely popular event that continues to draw musicians and visitors to the area annually.

Red Rock suffered a significant blow in 2006 when after years of changing market conditions, uncertainty and layoffs, the paper mill, now owned by Domtar, closed its doors. Still, the community rallied with plans for other industries, and today there is a new sense of optimism about industries related to the port and lithium refining. And, Red Rock continues to welcome outdoor recreation visitors to explore its incredible landscape.

Rivers & Lakes

Lake Superior is very big, very deep and very cold. One of the five Great Lakes, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, covering an area of 82,000 square kilometres (31,700 square miles). It holds an astonishing 10 per cent of the world’s freshwater and its average depth is 147 metres (483 feet), with the deepest point 406 metres (1,332 feet). No wonder it’s called an inland sea! The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area helps to protect this diverse, unique and beautiful lake.

The famous Nipigon River connects Lake Nipigon to Lake Superior. About 48 kilometres (30 miles) long, this fast-moving river is a popular recreation spot for outdoors enthusiasts, particularly anglers. The Nipigon River Bridge is a soaring cable-stayed twin bridge that allows Hwy 11 and Hwy 17 (the TransCanada Highway) to cross the river. Lake Helen is part of the Nipigon River and is home to Lake Helen Red Rock Indian Band.

Lake Nipigon is the largest lake entirely within Ontario and is often called the sixth Great Lake. Dotted with many islands and a huge array of bays, this pristine, cold lake covers an area of 4,848 square kilometres (1,872 square miles) and is 165 metres (540 feet deep) at its deepest point.

Some smaller lakes in the Red Rock area include Elizabeth Lake, Frazer Lake, Jessie Lake, Cox Lake, Oskawe Lake, Black Sturgeon Lake and Lofquist Lake.


Passenger and freight trains have long stitched together the remote and scattered communities of Lake Superior’s North Shore, and in fact Red Rock was once only accessible by rail. While the passenger trains no longer run, freight trains continue to wind their way right along the lakeshore and red cliffs several times a day and are visible from The Lodge at Red Rock.