Great Dog Portage

KAMINISTIQUIA—My favorite trail, the Great Dog Portage, leads to a mystery; the Dog Effigy. The portage bypasses a series of rapids and falls between Dog Lake and Little Dog Lake in Kaministiquia, about 30 km west of Thunder Bay. The trail has been traversed for hundreds of years by the first peoples of the land; French explorers, American invaders, voyageurs, professors, and curious hikers. The historic portage is about 3 km long, but a 1 km (approximately) portion is regularly traveled and leads to the effigy. The Dog Effigy is a crude representation of a dog-like creature that was dug out of the ground and the edges were mounded up with the debris. Who made the effigy or when it was made are unknown. There have been no artifacts found at the site, except for one small projectile point. However, the first written account is in an exploration report by W.H. Keating in the 1820s and oral stories date back even further.

From 1962 to 1965, K.C. A. Dawson, assistant professor of anthropology at Lakehead University researched, identified, and excavated the site and published his findings in The Kaministikwia Intaglio Dog Effigy Mound. The original portage trail was cleared, and the effigy site was fenced off by The Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (now known as the Ministry of Natural Resources). Today, over 50 years after Dawson’s excavation, the approximately 30-foot impression of the dog is visible; and some of the wooden fence-posts still stand to mark the spot.

To find the portage trail, travel north on Silver Falls Road (the road name then changes to Shields Road). Travel 3 km along Shields Road and turn north at the fork. Travel northwest for 1.8 km, until you see an old drive on the north side that has been blocked from driving in. That trail is part of the Great Dog Portage and leads to Dog Lake. The trail that leads to the effigy is on the south side, where you will find the trail through the trees. Walk south for about 1 km to the effigy, on the west side off the trail.

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By Kathy Toivonen