The Temagami Fire Tower is a fantastic tourist attraction and scenic lookout point in Northern Ontario. Here's everything you need to know!
Let me tell you - if you’re seeking a natural high, the Temagami Fire Tower should definitely be on your must-see list!
Located at the summit of Caribou Mountain, this 100 foot high steel tower was one of a series of fire lookouts that would help rangers determine the exact location of a fire.
Long since decommissioned, it’s now open to the public!
This is probably the highest lookout point we’ll encounter on this trip, and what a RUSH it was!
It took a bit of steeling myself to make the climb up the stairs - I can’t imagine anyone actually taking the ladder that’s on the OUTSIDE of the structure.
PS: The Temagami Fire Tower is fairly close to Finlayson Point Provincial Park, so it makes a nice add-on to the itinerary, if you’re staying there!
PPS: All the way leading up to the morning of our visit, we had been pronouncing “Temagami” in a way not dissimilar to “Tamagotchi”.
When we called to ask about the parking situation, we were shocked to hear the actual pronunciation - Like “Tah-MOG-a-me”.
Ah, the joys of assuming the pronunciation of words, based on reading, alone!
Address: 112 Jack Guppy Way, Temagami, ON P0H 2H0
Website: Temagami Tower
Price: $3 per person, cash, honour system.
Reservations: Not Applicable.
Note: For safety reasons, the tower is closed during the winter.
The 2 viewing platforms below are open year-round, though, and the area is also open for hiking and snowshoeing.
About The Temagami Fire Tower
Here are some cool facts we learned about the tower during our visit:
The BASE of the tower is 1300 feet above sea level, and 400 feet above the town below.
... That means that the top of the tower is about 500 feet above town!
At that height, you’ve got an amazing view - a 360 degree view, at that.
On a clear day, you can see further than 40 km in every direction!
I knew it was the longest street in the world, but I had no idea that it extended this far into Northern Ontario - as Highway 11. Wild!
This is the third fire tower to be built on that mountain.
The original tower was 45 feet high, built in 1910, and existed slightly to the east of the present tower site.
It was made in a square timber design, and demolished in the late 1930s.
A new, 85 foot tall steel tower took its place, then was eventually taken down when it rusted out.
The current 100-foot tower was built by a handful of forest rangers - to replace the old 85 foot tower - back in 1951. It is located just a few metres away from the site of the original tower.
This high tower was restored in the mid 90s, and in 1998 this newly restored Temagami Fire Tower was dedicated to the Ministry of Natural Resources, and opened to the public.
It hasn’t been used to spot forest fires since just before that renovation.
We were a bit shocked at the lack of information out there, when planning our trip. So, here’s what you need to know:
Before making our way up, we called the town office to ask about the parking situation, as no amount of googling was turning up what we were looking for.
The woman that answered wasn’t sure, but figured an RV would probably be able to make it. When I asked how many cars she thought would fit in the parking lot, she said “30".
When we got up there, we found a relatively large parking lot, with NO parking spots marked out. We easily found a safe and unobtrusive place to park our beast.
So, in reality, it IS an RV friendly parking lot, with a bit of a caveat:
So, try to go on off times.
Summer and weekends during peak fall colours are the busiest times.
If you don't want to bring your trailer up, there are some parking lots near the base of the mountain - the train museum and skate park - that would probably work to unhitch & ditch.
I'd call ahead and make sure it's ok with them, though.
The Road Up
The drive up was wider than we assumed it would be, based with well packed gravel.
It did get fairly steep in a couple places right near the top, but we were able to do it with our class c motorhome, dragging a car behind us.
The steep parts did take pretty much everything the truck had, to get up, but there were only two - relatively short - sections like that.
Apparently there are some form of washrooms - we think probably outhouse style - near the parking lot, but we didn’t see them during our trip.
Cellular coverage was pretty decent, we called each other a couple of times - parking lot to tower - with no issues.
Marie had internet the whole time she waited in the parking lot - Rogers.
There was a sign about free wifi, but she didn’t have to use it. No word on how good it is.
The main trail from parking to the tower is probably ¼ km, ½ km at most. This is the trail from the middle of the parking lot - to the left of the museum and signs.
It’s a fairly easy walk, there's a bit of a hill, probably not super wheelchair accessible - you might need an all terrain chair.
That said, there was an accessible ramp from the first platform to the tower.
THAT said, the second platform isn’t wheelchair accessible itself. There’s a pole in the middle of the entry to the walkway, and a short set of steps to get up to the platform from that section of walk way.
As we didn’t see the washrooms, we’re not sure whether they’re accessible or not - sorry about that!
We didn’t see any signs about dogs - welcoming or restricting them - but if they ARE allowed up there:
The trails at the top of the mountain would be accessible for dogs, but the trails going up / down the mountain would be difficult.
You might be able to get a dog partially up the tower - maybe a flight - but especially once it gets to the spiral staircase, that’s not happening.
Probably best to leave your dogs at home, or with someone staying in the parking lot.
Climbing The Tower
The walk up the tower starts off with a nice wide staircase, and I was jogging up with confidence.
At some point, as the tower gets more narrow, the staircase changes to a spiral staircase.
This is where shit gets real.
Further up, you pass by some - what I assume to be - cellphone antennas - and the realization hits you that you're going ABOVE what they need for cellphone antennas.
At the very end - the last ten feet, maybe - you come to a ladder, which takes you up to the top platform.
You could feel the tower swaying in the wind, but not in an alarming way - but it wasn't windy that day, so your mileage may vary.
It was a bit of an adrenaline rush getting up there, similar to how you'd feel on an amusement park ride.
When I got back to the ground, I felt that kind of post adrenaline vibe, like after getting off a roller coaster.
The views are spectacular, in no way do the photos do it justice.
There's a LOT of graffiti up there, which is a shame. I guess it must be a popular teen hangout?
Other Entertainment and Activity
Too nervous to make the walk up the tower? No worries, there are other things to see and do, here are a few options for you:
The Viewing Platforms
The two viewing platforms have nice views over the area.
Even if you don't go up the towers, I think the views from those platforms make it worth the trip.
The first one (on the left) is probably a bit nicer, but the second one is still nice.
I think going to the first platform and the tower before the second platform made things a little anticlimactic by the time I was at that second lookout.
There were also some really nice rock steps going up to the base of the tower, if you didn't take the platform / ramp, kind of off to the side.
In the parking lot, there’s a detailed map of White Bear Forest, the old growth forest up the sides of the mountain.
The White Bear Trails are 17 km of hiking trails, some of which are known as good for snowshoeing in the winter months.
There’s a small Forest Fire Museum just off the parking lot, showcasing the use of fire towers as an inexpensive early warning system.
It houses a collection of fire fighting artifacts from the past 100 years or so.
On the end of the parking lot opposite from the interpretive center, there’s a wooden walkway that leads to a small gazebo.
Not much of a view there - certainly not when compared to the other viewing platforms - but it would be a nice place to grab a quick bag lunch when visiting the summit.
There are a few stops and gyms, both at the base of the mountain, at up at the top.
If I recall correctly, at least one of the stops was reachable from the parking lot, but 2 or 3 others required going up on the trail to reach.
We had enough cell coverage to check in and spin stops, no problem.
DAMN, that was cool!
Yes, it was intimidating as I was going up the stairs - especially if you have a bit of a fear of heights, like I do - but it’s totally worth it!
Just take it easy, and maybe don’t look down as you’re climbing up.
Once you get up, it’s much more comfortable than the stairway, so you can let that adrenaline chill a bit, as you enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view.
While it may not be for the REALLY faint of heart, the amazing view of the fall colours from THAT high above the mountain peak was absolutely worth the hit my anxiety took that afternoon!
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