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Sprawled across one of western Quebec's most beautiful environments, Lake Kipawa offers nearly 75,000 acres of pristine water stretching into countless coves, arms and bays. This beautiful lake winds among islands, steep limestone cliffs, narrow channels and rocky shorelines covered in trees and inhabited by native wildlife. Reaching over 300 feet in depth in some places, the lake offers excellent fishing for at least 15 different fish species, including northern pike, yellow perch, ling, lake whitefish, lake herring, white sucker, walleye and lake trout. Nearly a dozen fishing resorts inhabit the isolated reaches of the lake, providing lodgings for vacationing anglers who return again and again.
Except for the summer cottages along parts of the shoreline, and a slightly higher water level, the lake looks much as it did hundreds of years ago when native First Nations bands fished these waters and hunted game in the surrounding woods. The name Kipawa (or Kippewa, as it was originally spelled) stems from a Nishnabi phrase meaning "narrow passage between rocks" or "closed off waters", an apt description of the lake's character. First Nations people never lost their love of the lake and still inhabit the area on several Reserve parcels.
A number of seasonal and year-round homes grace some areas of the Lake Kipawa shoreline that are accessible by road. Other areas are usually reached by float plane or boat and remain isolated among the virgin spruce, pine and birch forests. There is little danger that these remote cabins will lose their solitude in the future, because a moratorium on new development has been in place on the lake since 1980. Canoes and kayaks glide silently along the lake's irregular shoreline. Motor boats explore the large expanses of water with little other boat traffic. Summer residents enjoy swimming from small sandy beaches, cozying up by campfires along the shore at night, and observing the waterfowl and wildlife that come down to the shoreline to drink. Braver young people sometimes jump into deeper water from cliffs towering up to 40 feet in the air.
The village of Laniel at the north end of the lake maintains a municipal dock and fishing pier with facilities for boaters, including clean-out dump and basic services. The long expanses of water provide excellent shoreline where visitors search for driftwood or engage in rock hunting. A number of hiking and nature trails surround the more populated parts of the lake. The Trans-Quebec Number 63 Snowmobile Trail uses the old Canadian Pacific railway through the village of Laniel, with the same trail used for hiking from spring through autumn. In winter, the trail becomes ideal for cross-country skiing. The Kipawa River Trail begins about five miles north of Laniel along Highway 101 and offers a marked trail of about five miles to the Grande Chute, a 90-foot waterfall, on the Kipawa River. The trail offers picnic areas and look-out points. Located at the dam across the lake's only natural outlet - the Kipawa River - Laniel has long been considered headquarters for Lake Kipawa.
Visiting canoeists and kayakers often paddle the Kipawa River to Lake Kipawa. Clermont and Huard Islands are maintained for the use of canoeists and are equipped with docks, picnic tables and outhouses. Both islands have lovely sandy shorelines, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Clermont Island also has a popular pedestrian trail. Each year, the Kipawa River Rally attracts canoeists and kayakers from Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. for an annual river festival celebrating the excellent whitewater rapids gracing the river between Lake Kipawa and its outlet to the Ottawa River. Other visitors to the area enjoy a visit to the Heronry, a blue heron rookery on a group of islands southeast of Laniel. Visitors must observe the huge treetop nests from a distance, so binoculars are necessary. The rare sight of the rookery makes Lake Kipawa a treasured field day for bird watching groups and ornithologists.
The clear waters of the lake provide for excellent underwater diving adventures, where divers sometimes encounter one of the large sunken boats remaining from the days when Lake Kipawa was a logging and lumber transport center. Because Lake Kipawa is only about 10 miles from the City of Temiscaming, Lake Kipawa is a favored destination for both day trips and overnight excursions. Temiscaming provides more variety in the way of services, including restaurants, medical facilities and entertainment. The smaller Laniel and Kipawa Villages offer necessity groceries and services but little in the way of variety. About 65 mils away, the larger city of North Bay, Ontario serves for major shopping and less-common services.
The hamlet of Kipawa is at the far end of the lake from Laniel. Home to two Algonquin Native Communities, the village of Kipawa offers a convenience store and simple food menu for the hungry visiting fisherman. Kipawa is also the location of a dam, one of the two that regulate the water levels on the lake complex. The outlet is called Gordon Creek but was not the original water outlet for the lake until an artificial channel was dug to direct the cut logs downstream toward Lake Temiscamingue in 1888. A dam was built to regulate the water by the same group of investors who built the dam across the Kipawa River outlet near the same time.
Gordon Creek elevation drops about 300 feet along its nine-mile length and is under consideration for hydroelectric power generation downstream. A competing plan from a different company is also being considered for power generation on the Kipawa River. At present no decision has been made as to which plan will win. A loose consortium of paddle sport and nature groups is in heavy opposition to the proposed altering of the Kipawa River, whereas the First Nations tribes are more amenable to the subsidies the tribes would receive for allowing the development on their lands.
Visiting Lake Kipawa is as easy as making a reservation at one of the many fishing resorts. Most are equipped with activities for all family members to enjoy; they rent boats, sell bait and offer guide service. Many families return to the same resort year after year for generations. Often private cottages are available to rent by the week or even the season and provide a wide variety of amenities including boats, canoes, docks and fishing gear. There is nearly always a semi-formal arrangement with a local outfitter or guide service to transport vacationers to their temporary homes.
More formal lodgings are available at hotels and motels along the main highways and larger towns. And, when the repeat visitor decides to become a permanent part of the Lake Kipawa lakefront community, there is usually some existing real estate for sale. Only four miles from the border between Ontario and Quebec, Lake Kipawa is only about six hours from both Toronto and Ottawa - very accessible for a long week-end or a month-long stay. Come visit Lake Kipawa and find out just how attractive life away from the hustle and bustle of the city can be. In only one visit, you'll be hooked. And, just maybe, so will that trophy walleye!
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