On Monday, September 26 . . .

On Monday, September 26 . . .

Coming back from Manitouwadge on Monday morning, on the Caramat Road, I decided I had to see the old logging dam again.

On the Caramat Road . . .

On the Caramat Road . . .

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.

Looking north from the Hillsport Road . . .

Looking north from the Hillsport Road . . .

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

Old sign, and the reservoir wall facing the road . . .

Old sign, and the reservoir wall facing the road . . .

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.

Behind the wall, on the trail to the boat launch . . .

Behind the wall, on the trail to the boat launch .

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.

Looking south, behind the reservoir wall . . .

Looking south, behind the reservoir wall . . .

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.

Looking south from the bridge . . .

Looking south from the bridge . . .

If you feel adventurous, continue past

Looking east towards the bridge in the valley . . .

Looking east towards the bridge in the valley .

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.

Looking west on the Hillsport Road,to the junction on the Caramat Road . . .

Looking west on the Hillsport Road,to the junction on the Caramat Road . . .

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.


About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
This entry was posted in LOCAL HISTORY, NATURE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to OLD LOGGING DAM

  1. Michael Barker-Fyfe says:

    I live in Vancouver so it’s unlikely I’ll visit but I do enjoy reading your descriptive blog about a place that my father would remember. My grandfather was Roy Barker. Willroy mine was named after him and William Dawidovich. And they split their fortune with the pilot who agreed to fly them into the area, Jack Forster. I know that it became part of GECO and that it is near Manitouwadge. I never met my grandfather but my dad’s health is failing and I’m enroute to Winnipeg to visit him, maybe for the last time, so people like you who keep the many details history alive in the digital age should be appreciated. Many thanks.

    • EJ Lavoie says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I am an historian based in Greenstone, a writer, and a former teacher. My website is http://www.WhiskyjackPublishing.ca. I administer a Facebook site called Greenstone History – it’s free to join, to view and to contribute. Maybe you have some family stories/pictures to share. I remember Roy Barker in the ’50s when I was going to high school. My brother worked for Geco, still lives in Manitouwadge, where he looks after the historical society & museum. Roy is well remembered there too. I wish you a grand visit with your dad.

  2. Doug Carlson says:

    awesome like the old scenic pics which tell a story

  3. Tom Igarik says:

    In 1967, when my Father completed our home in Hillsport he moved my Mother, Sister and myself to Hillsport from Thunder Bay (Port Arthur), Ontario. At that time the camp, (#25) which was directly attached to the town was in full operation. As a child it was a great place to grow up. Fishing, swimming in White Otter Lake in summer, Hockey on the outdoor rink, sliding, etc… I went to the two room School, then to High School in Manitouwadge on the School bus a 1-1/2 hour trip one way, every day. The town’s population dropped in the mid 1970’s when the camp closed and declined further when the school closed and High School bus stopped running forcing young families to move. It was nice to see your pictures of the Ramsey lake Dam even though it has been taken out. And the bridge I traveled over so many times. Thank you for posting them. I have many good memories of those times in Hillsport and the area!
    Tom Igarik

  4. BRETT GRAVES says:

    I just came back from a fishing trip to Manitouwadge. I would love to buy a home there and retire. I worked for American Can then James River right up to 1993 then left for employment in southern ontario. My heart has always been in the north. The hunting and fishing and scenic beauty is second to none.

    • EJ Lavoie says:

      Yes, it’s a lovely region, and full of history. But, one can say that of much of the rest of Northern Ontario! One has to simply stop, look, and of course, read. The Wadge has plenty of homes for sale.

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