|Lake Erie Connector
Wolf Lake, MI to Fort Erie, ON
1 Map Set (505.0 mi.)
| GPS | Overview
Lake Erie Connector Overview Image
|1. Wolf Lake, MI to Fort Erie, ON (505 mi.)||Detail
Lake Erie Connector Section 1 Detail Image
The Lake Erie Connector is intended primarily as a shortcut that saves 244 miles between the North Lakes Route near Wolf Lake, Michigan, and the Northern Tier Route at Fort Erie, Ontario. It also connects to the Northern Tier Route across the western end of Lake Erie at Sandusky, Ohio, and enables a variety of loop rides in the lower Great Lakes region.
The route begins near Wolf Lake, Michigan. It passes through the sparsely populated rural landscape of rolling fields and forests of west-central Michigan to Clare. From here, the route follows 30 miles of the paved Pere Marquette Rail-Trail to Midland. The rail-trail ends in a park at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers, spanned by the "Tridge," a unique three-legged bridge spanning the confluence. The route passes through pleasant residential neighborhoods in Midland to begin its traverse of the "thumb" of Michigan. From Bay City, the route stair-steps across and down the "thumb" to the city of St. Clair and then along the St. Clair River to Marine City. The "thumb" is a nearly treeless area of intensively cultivated farmland and is almost flat. At Marine City, the route uses a ferry to cross the St. Clair River to Sombra in Ontario, Canada. There is a short and pleasant ride along the St. Clair River, and then the route turns inland to the city of Wallaceburg. Here the route splits, with the main route continuing to Fort Erie, Ontario, and the Ferry Alternate going southward for ferry connections to Sandusky, Ohio and the Northern Tier Route. The area surrounding Leamington is the tomato-farming region of Canada, and Leamington is a major tomato-processing center. Those riding through the area at harvest will see mechanical tomato harvesters in fields and trucks with huge loads of tomatoes.
The ferry connecting Ontario and Ohio stops at Pelee Island, itself an interesting destination. The main route continues east from Eatonville, closely following the Lake Erie shore. High sand bluffs drop down to the lake, and south breezes cool the cyclist. The only hills encountered along the lakeshore are where the route dips down to the rivers and the small towns nestled there. As the route proceeds east from the tomato region, it enters Canada's tobacco belt. During harvest, cyclists will see tractors pulling long steel trailers that look like double coatracks hauling loads of tobacco leaves and small barns without windows used for drying the tobacco. The towns along the lake are small. Those with "port" in their names are the significant towns. Port Stanley is a trendy town with an arts community. Port Dunnville and Port Colborne are the largest. Port Colborne is significant as the Lake Erie entrance to the Welland Canal, the marine link between Lakes Erie and Ontario. Take some time in Port Colborne to explore the Welland Canal, and watch the freighters negotiate the Niagara Escarpment. East of Port Colborne, the area becomes increasingly residential as it approaches Fort Erie.
This route is basically flat with several gently rolling sections.
Services are plentiful and evenly spaced throughout Michigan. Bike shops are located in several of the larger towns. Note that there are few grocery stores on route along the Lake Erie shore in Canada. Cyclists need to carefully plan in anticipation of where they will spend the night. Campgrounds and B&Bs are plentiful along the lake; with few exceptions there are motels. The lakeshore is a popular vacation destination, and reservations are advised at the B&Bs and campgrounds.
Some campgrounds will charge a cyclist traveling by himself less if they have hiker/biker sites, but often they will charge the price of a regular tent or RV site, and that can easily be $10-$30/night. If you're friendly and ask around, you can often get yourself invited to camp in a yard. Our routes sometimes go through national forests (moreso in the west) and you are allowed to camp anywhere on national forest land as long as you "pack it in, pack it out." Many city parks are free to camp in.
You may also wish to sign up with Warmshowers, a reciprocal hospitality site for bicycle travelers, for other overnight options.
Note that most of the rural roads in Michigan and Ontario are dirt — very dusty when dry and very muddy when wet. What may look like a tempting shortcut down a paved road may become a miserable ride on a dirt road. This route has been carefully researched to avoid such roads, so cyclists are advised to stay on route. Even though the route in Canada at times is on main arterials, the speed limit is low (80 kph/50 mph), and motorists obey the speed limit. Canada is on the metric system and all road distances shown on signs are in kilometers. This route can be ridden from early spring to late fall. Summers can be hot and humid, so be prepared. During the summer months, winds are predominantly from the southwest. While prevailing winds are generally light, Lake Erie's shore frequently develops a localized wind pattern that may extend inland for only a few miles.