Coming back from Manitouwadge on Monday morning, on the Caramat Road, I decided I had to see the old logging dam again.
At the turn-off to Hillsport, I drove east for a kilometre and a half, and there it was, as I remembered it, only more captivating. The leaves were starting to turn, but give it another week, and this particular site would be splashed with colour.
Marathon Corporation began operating in this district in the mid-1940s. The company accessed its timber concession through the whistlestop of Hillsport on the CNR. The company’s road network began at Hillsport, and at Stevens, another whistlestop to the northwest. There was no road connection to either Highway 11 or Highway 17. Manitouwadge did not even exist.
It appears that this dam ̶ of concrete, rather than the usual logs and earth fill ̶ backed up the little creek to create a reservoir. Behind the sluice gate, on the creek bed, are some logs, perhaps part of the sluiceway that once directed logs through the gate. The creek south runs into the White Otter River, which in turn empties into the Pic.
It is likely that the reservoir’s
primary purpose was to build up a head of water that could be released at a critical time in the spring to drive thousands of logs downstream in the White Otter. No doubt there were other dams in feeder streams to the White Otter.
The logs were destined for Lake Superior and the new pulp mill at Peninsula, which changed its name to match the company which gave it economic life.
I don’t know the details of this industrial site ̶ yet ̶ but when I first saw this site a few years ago, I was amazed. It was like finding a Mayan ruin in the Central American jungle. The overpowering presence of history, the magnificent natural setting, and the grotto-like ambiance, all combine to make this one of our region’s sacred sites.
It should be a destination site. Here’s my suggestion: this weekend, pack a lunch and some beverages, and take a companion or two on an outing. The site is 30 or 40 minutes south of Caramat. I met a grader on the road, so the road is in as good a shape as you can expect. The fall colours should be hitting a peak on the Hillsport Road. On Monday the colours increased the further north I drove.
The lunch will serve two purposes: refreshment, and survival rations. The Caramat Road (also called the Industrial Road) can be lonely. I met only three vehicles between Manitouwadge and Caramat. If you run into trouble, someone will rescue you, but it may take a few hours.
If you feel adventurous, continue past
the dam to Hillsport, just over 20 klicks futher. You can then say you are one of the few people in the world who have been there. And yes, people do live there. Dip your bare foot into White Otter Lake, source of the river.
If you are inclined to more adventure, you might want to visit High Falls on the Pic. However, do not take the LeMay Road (originally called the LeMay Highway) past old Camp 15, towards old Camp 5. I heard that it is washed out.
Get in touch with my brother John. He knows a tote road that will take you within walking distance of the falls.
Just one more thing.
Take a camera.
And, oh yeah . . . a sense of wonder.