Kakabeka Falls, known as ‘‘Niagara of the North” are located just a 30 km ( miles) west of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Its name “kakabeka” comes from the Ojibwe word gakaabikaa, which means “waterfall over a cliff.”
Kakabeka Falls are the second highest waterfall in Ontario, at over 131 feet (40 metres) tall. To put it into perspective, Kakabeka falls are about 57 feet (17 metres) shorter than the famous Niagara Falls.
Visiting Kakabeka Falls makes for a great day out, especially if you love waterfalls and appreciate nature. Its rarely busy here, based on the few times that I’ve been. The wooden platform going around the falls allows you to view them from multiple viewpoints, so be prepared to take lots of photos.
So let’s jump in- here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Kakabeka Falls.
Visiting Kakabeka Falls: Everything You Need to Know
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Kakabeka Falls.
How to Get to Kakabeka Falls
There is no public transit to Kakabeka Falls, so the best way to get here is to drive. They are located off of highway 11/17, and it takes about 30 minutes to drive there from Thunder Bay, and less than an hour from the U.S border crossing at Grand Portage and Pigeon Bay. The falls are only steps away from the parking lot, making it very accessible and easy to visit.
About Kakabeka Falls
The Kakabeka Falls are on the Kaministiquia River, just outside the small village of Kakabeka Falls (population of about 100.) The Kaministiquia River was important in Canadian history, because it was used as a popular route for the Voyageurs (French fur traders) in the 17th century.
Kakabeka Falls Opening Hours
The Kakabeka Falls park hours during the summer months are 8:00 am – 10:00pm. These hours can vary in spring, fall and winter. Camping guests of course, are allowed to be in the parking during after-hours.
The site is open year round, even in the winter. The falls will look very different (partially iced over) in winter, but the park is still open for visits. If you walk past the falls, you’ll find a visitor centre that will tell you about the falls and the local area. This is generally open as long as the park is open.
How much time to Spend at Kakabeka Falls
If all you want to do is take a look at the waterfall, you can do this quickly – in about half an hour, or less. The falls are located very close to the parking area, so you could easily do the platform walk around the falls .
However, there are a few other activities to take part in at the Kakabeka Falls National Park.
- A visitor centre and a giftshop just on the other side of the falls, with information about Kakabeka Falls and the area, and some unique souvenirs you can buy
- Hiking in the national park. The Mountain Portage Trail gives you a view of the falls
- Camping in the national park
- Swimming at the Kakabeka Falls Beach, located just upstream of the falls. Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards, and the swimming can sometimes be closed due to the water’s current. However, it is buoyed, there are change room facilities and even a children’s playground
Is Kakabeka Falls kid-friendly?
Kakabeka Falls is very family friendly. I’ve been here countless times with 1-2 year olds, and they walked on their own. The wooden platform with the railing makes it very safe.
The boardwalk from the parking area to the falls viewing platform is stroller friendly, but the wooden platform that encircles the falls has a few stairs (pictured below.) I’d only bring a stroller if you have a second adult to help you lift the stroller down the stairs. Otherwise, a baby carrier might be your best bet.
Is Kakabeka dog-friendly?
Dogs are welcome at Kakabeka Falls viewing platform, but there is a strict rule about them being on a leash so that no damage is done to the vegetation or the wildlife in the area. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach or swimming area.
Cost to visit Kakabeka Falls
The current 2023 fees to visit the falls are as follows:
- 2 hour permit: $5.25
- 4 hour permit: $7.50
- Full day permit: $15.50 ($7.75 for people with an Ontario disability card, and $12.50 for seniors 65+)
These prices include HST. These rates are per vehicle, and you can pay at the self serve machine at the main gate.
Camping in Kakabeka Falls
There are different campsites in the national park, just steps away from the falls. The options are tents and car camping, most of the sites have electrical hookups. The cost is between $43-$49 per night, depending on if you’re camping in an electric or non-electric area. As with parking, there are camping discounts for seniors and for people with an Ontario disability card.
- Riverside campground
- Fern’s Edge campground
- Whispering Hills (located a bit further from the waterfall area)
Reservations for the camping can be made on the park website here.
Other Things to Do in the Kakabeka Falls Area
If you have kids, there are lots of things to with them in Thunder Bay. Otherwise, the town of Kakabeka Falls village is very small, but there are a few things to do and places to eat close by:
- Go for a hike on the Mountain Portage trail, which starts in the village and leads you to the Kakabeka Falls. Its an easy, 1.2 km (0.7 miles) long hike
- Hike on Little Falls Trail downstream (3.1 km or 1.9 miles) which will lead you on a scenic route to a smaller waterfall (called Little Falls.) Its considered to be a moderately difficult hike, because of slippery rocks and some steep parts. Wear good shoes.
- Grab a bite at The Eddy, a local diner that serves burgers, and other ‘bar’ type food, mostly made from scratch
- Stop at the Shake Shoppe in town for a sweet treat
Kakabeka Falls FAQ
Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Kakabeka Falls, and visiting them
Why is the water brown in Kakabeka Falls?
The water in the falls is brown, because thats the colour of the water in the Kaministiquia River, where the water comes from. The Kaministiquia river water is brown because the water gets stained from the buildup of moss, dead plants and other organic material. The decaying plants turn the water brown.
Can you swim at Kakabeka Falls?
There is a swimming area above the falls, with a sandy beach, a small playground and change facilities and it is buoyed to prevent visitors from going too far.
Are there bears in Kakabeka falls?
Yes, there are black bears, and other wildlife such as deer and moose. However, all these animals are timid and you’re not likely to spot them.
What does the name Kakabeka mean in English?
Kakabeka comes from the word gakaabikaa which means “water over a cliff” in Ojibwe.
What is the highest waterfall in Canada?
The highest waterfall in Canada is Della Falls, which is located on Vancouver Island, off the coast of Vancouver. The Della Falls are 1,445 feet (440 metres) tall.
Do I have to pay to see Kakabecka falls?
If you only plan to spend a short time viewing the falls (2 hours or less), then you pay for a 2-hour parking permit of $5.25. For a 4 hour permit, its $7.50 per vehicle. If you want to spend a full day, then its $15.50 per vehicle. There are discounts for seniors and people with disabilities.
Visiting Kakabeka Falls: Final Thoughts
Visiting Kakabeka Falls is a must-do if you’re in the Thunder Bay area, especially if you’re a nature lover. It makes for a nice day out, and it is not usually busy, compared to other waterfalls of this size in Ontario. In fact, each time I’ve been there, there’s usually only been a few other visitors besides us.
One thing I love about Kakabeka Falls, in comparison with other famous Canadian waterfalls such as Niagara or Montmorency Falls in Quebec, is that its not as ‘built up’ in terms of tourism. Its quieter and it feels almost surreal to see waterfalls of this size off the side of the road without too much tourist activities built up around it.
Kakabeka Falls are one of a hand full of waterfalls in the Thunder Bay area. There are beautiful waterfalls all over Ontario, most of which are located in the Hamilton area, which is about an hour south south of Toronto. We’re lucky to have this gem so close to Thunder Bay, and I hope this guide has been helpful for you in planning your trip to see Kakabeka Falls!