- A place designed for individuals with physical disabilities and their families. Big fish are waiting to greet you!
- Located on beautiful Lake Shebandowan about 50 miles west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the newly modernized Wilderness Discovery Centre provides outdoor adventure for disabled persons. It’s all about sharing access to the wilderness with them.
- Visitors can enjoy a 3-season lakefront resort with modern accessibility. Donations are welcome.
- Bed lifts, ramp systems, aquatic lift render, grab bars, and additional assistance technology devices are used here.
- The facility also caters to seniors, military veterans, first responders, non-profit groups, corporate retreats, non-profit groups, families for reunions, and social gatherings.
By Forrest Fisher
With songful loons sounding off at sunrise, the call of a warm breakfast in the Canadian wilds beckons to all. Especially to folks that may require assistance to enjoy a lakeside resort. Visitors to one special place called the Wilderness Discovery Center can now enjoy pontoon boat rides, accessible swimming facilities, dock fishing, lake fishing, and a warm bonfire at the sunset hour right before bedtime.
There are laughs for the fun of it, all from the heart and soul of dedicated camp administrators. The Wilderness Discovery Centre provides active participation to include everyone, regardless of disability and assures an ultimate, safe, outdoor, vacation-style experience. The discovery of “no barriers” is special all by itself.
At the Wilderness Discovery Centre, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the unique outdoor adventure found here, by staff who maintain the principles of personal independence, dignity, integration, and equal opportunity for everyone. The staff strives to create a no-pressure camping and outdoor experience that affords all guests a “Life without Barriers.” That’s the goal of Mr. Bob Hookham, the President of the Board of Directors of Wilderness Discovery Centre (WDC), and the rest of the Board, since the facility began re-opening in 2019.
Bob says, “The staff is fun and works to provide a fully accessible family resort that promotes a secure and barrier-free camping experience. Everyone will have fun and enjoy their time together. They work hard to engage the community in a way that fosters these values.”
Bob adds, “As able-bodied people, we take many things for granted: Fishing, swimming, having a bonfire, or even just a BBQ. This facility will allow anyone with any kind of disability to do all those things every day of their stay. We have a special pontoon boat designed with wheelchair access so that anyone can go for a lake cruise or go fishing. There will be a lift to lower individuals into the lake for a swim or a boat ride in a fishing boat. Every camper can navigate the camp using the ramp system from their cottage or the main lodge to the beach and bonfire area. They can enjoy these simple pleasures. Life here will afford our guests a ‘Life without Limits.” For the Board of Directors, dedicated volunteers, and committed carpenters, it has been a long and winding road to revamp the facility. Discover an information capsule on the history of this facility at the end of this article.
By July of 2019, Wilderness Discovery added the final touches to cabins. In a report from TBN News Watch (www.tbnewswatch.com), Bob Hookham estimated the cost for repairs was around $1 million. Today, reservations are open for 2022. Additional revamping and expansion will likely continue with help from local support groups such as the Rotary House in Thunder Bay and many others across Canada and the USA. If you would like to help, please visit https://www.wildernessdiscovery.net/donate/.
The modernized cabins feature an open concept living room, brand new sliding door entryways, sliding glass doors leading to the sun deck with access to a meadow of colorful dandelions. The cabins feature a fully accessible L-design kitchen and 3-piece bathroom with shower stall, dining room, and entertainment area. The cabins are completely furnished, including a fully-equipped kitchen (dishes and cutlery, countertop stove, microwave, pots, pans, toaster oven, coffee maker, dish towels and cleaning supplies), essential bedding and towels (pillow, sheets, blanket, bath/wash towel), fireplace and window air conditioning, a large wrap-around deck with tables/chairs, TV’s and DVD player, with Wi-Fi access in the Main Lodge. Hard to beat all that! To book a reservation, please visit https://www.wildernessdiscovery.net/rooms-cabins/ or call 807-346-9722, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there good fishing in Lake Shebandowan? YES! It’s home to big walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Anglers Edge fishermen stars James Lindner and Dave Csanda did a colorful and informative fishing show from the lake. This heartwarming angler duo shares a video presentation where viewers can learn finite details to locate fish in Lake Shebandowan. Lindner uses a Humminbird sonar with a MinnKota Ulterra electric motor, using spot-lock and speed control to demonstrate finding the strike zone while incorporating speed dynamics and position location control to refine angler presentations. The show illustrates how they bring Lake Shebandowan whopper fish to the boat. Lures that imitate whitefish and tullibee are the main forage base.
I plan a donation to the Wilderness Discovery Centre, and I want to visit and fish there soon! Please join me with a donation.
HISTORY: The history of this Centre has always been about helping others. In 1951, the land was deeded by the Carson and Cross families to the YM-YWCA as a summer camp for youth. By the early 1980s, Handicapped Action Group, Inc. (HAGI), had a dream of expanding this camp into a facility that would allow persons with disabilities and their families to enjoy life at the lake. In August 1983, HAGI entered into a 20-year lease to develop the HAGI camp. In 1993-1994, the lease was amended and expired in 2013, followed by yearly extensions until the fall of 2015. In July of 2015, Bob Hookham of the Fort William Rotary and Jeff Jones of the Hill City Kinsmen met with Minister Bill Mauro to discuss the possibility of assisting HAGI to maintain the operation of this facility at Lake Shebandowan. In April 2015, HAGI announced that they would be forced to stop operating the facility unless there was a significant change in the financial picture concerning the facility. In February 2017, negotiations culminated in an official announcement from Minister Bill Mauro regarding a new management group. On April 7, 2017, Wilderness Discovery received its Letters Patent as a Non-Profit Corporation with representatives on its Board of Directors from the Thunder Bay Rotary Clubs, Hill City Kinsmen, HAGI, and the Shebandowan Lake Campers’ Association. In July of 2017, the Corporation and the Ministries signed an Agreement of Purchase and Sale for the Lake Shebandowan Property. Since August 11, 2017, the Wilderness Discovery Centre officially took possession of the Lake Shebandowan facility that HAGI previously operated. Immediate upgrades have been in progress since that time.
Editor note: All photographs are courtesy of the Wilderness Adventure Centre.