Wednesday, September 6, 2017


The last of our two visits to the cottage this summer was without Rudi, who had a one week session at Camp Oochageas near Huntsville.  We left Tavistock before lunch on Sunday, driving across country via Arthur and Creemore to arrive at the camp for the three pm drop off time, then drove to the cottage via Highway 60, the West and East gates of the park Park, and Whitney and Madawaska, arriving in time for dinner with John and Susan.

I had decided sometime during our week at the cottage to take Alexander on a day trip into Algonquin, and rather than the Barron Canyon, which is always spectacular, I felt that finding High Falls would be a great in and out trip for an enjoyable day.  Two summers earlier, Rudi and I along with uncle John and his friend Chris did an overnight into Achray and Barron, and on the second day we went upstream on the Barron river, eventually seeing a series of waterfalls draining into High Falls lake, but only on returning home and checking maps did I determine we did not find High Falls themselves, but an imposter on an adjacent arm of the river.

So later in the week, with the canoe already topped on the van the night before, Alexander and I left the cottage bright and early at 7:30, arrived at Sand Lake Access at 8:45, and after buying out permit, driving to the small lot at Brigham Lake, were on the water before 9:30 AM.

Canoeing up "The Cascades", a series of small lakes separated by short stretches of the Barron River with low cascades and rapids and small waterfalls... There are four portages from the Brigham Lake put in to High Falls Lake

Looking west along the north shore of High Falls Lake, it appears a small swath of the forest ahead of the bow is suffering from disease, likely a bark borer.

The river inlet into High Falls Lake.  This is the easiest to locate, as it is very open and plain to see, and near the take out for the portage to St. Andrews Lake.  About three hundred metres to the right of the canoe, however, is a second inlet, that drains Stratton Lake via High Falls.

After leaving the canoe near the put in, we located the unmarked and unofficial trail that leads along this second river (that drains Stratton Lake) and to High Falls, pictured above... Well it probably is one of three decent waterfalls that could be called High Falls.

Another view of what is likely High Falls, the lower of three waterfalls on the Barron River draining Stratton Lake into High Falls Lake.

A small water slide that drains a small amount of the flow of the one arm of the Barron River from St. Andrews Lake into the other arm from Stratton Lake. Alexander jumped in to provide some scale, the slide was about twenty feet in height.

These are not High Falls, but are one of the falls on the Barron River draining St. Andrews Lake into High Falls lake. My bowman Alex for scale, this step of the staircase is about fifteen feet tall.

Monday, October 27, 2014


So we arrived at the cottage on Canada Day with two canoes (of the four I purchased from Jeff), the absolutely stunning boundary 17-6, and the well built ugly duckling Bob Special 15, one of the 'cosmetic defects' that were the three other boats.

Jeff had re-applied gel coat, and mostly sanded the one side, leaving me the other side to sand, with work progressing as depicted in the pictures above. I had just about got it good enough to go on our scheduled four day paddle into Algonquin Park, everything arranged and looking good, when our little world changed...

After two visits to the hospital in Barry's Bay about a week apart, Rudi was diagnosed with a collapsed lung, but more serious was the swollen lymph system evidently causing it. An ORNGE helicopter flight to Ottawa, and two days of tests while in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CHEO, we learned the diagnosis... T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

A week in Ottawa starting in ICU, and then the Children's Oncology Unit, treatment having actually begun the morning after his arrival, a full day before his actual diagnosis, followed by a Medivac plane flight to London where he spent most of the summer. Katherine flew with and stayed with him, while I headed back to the cottage to complete the minor bathroom renovation, and store the Boundary in its cradly in the basement...

Until next year, when we should try once again for our first four or five day trip into the park...

Monday, June 9, 2014


Having essentially depleted my 'fleet' of any good quality canoes for the cottage and tripping, I decided over the last winter to try to assemble a small collection of boats for such purposes.
Sometime late this past winter, I emailed Jeff to see if he had any 'cosmetic defect' or 'manufacturer seconds' available, boats that were waiting for cash from prospective purchasers before Jeff could commit to finishing them.
He emailed me a list of a dozen or so canoes, all of which were 'firsts' yet on sale, representing great value. Of them all, the one that interested me most was a kevlar 17-6 Boundary, on sale for $2500, which was conveniently located at Jeff's shop.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CONROY MARSH - July 2013

The day after our Barron Canyon trip, Rudi, AJ, Alexander and I headed out to the Conroy Marsh for what was intended to be an overnight canoing and camping adventure. The plan was to put in at Burnt Bridge Road on the Little Mississipi river, traverse the length of the marsh, taking out across Negeek lake at the MNR dock and spending the night there. Katherine would drop us off, and then meet us that evening with our tent and supplies that evening, and then the next day we would leave the MNR dock on Negeek, and take a shorter paddle up to Combermere and the take out in town.

It all started out well, albeit a little bit windy, and with those vaguely ominous little puffy clouds scudding southward overhead. Paddling was a little tough, be we made decent time down the Little Mississipi to our first break at the point that marks the entrance to the marsh.

On entering the marsh, the wind picked up a bit, and made paddling more challenging. Additionally, just over the Craigmont hill it appeared a squall had formed, and had us right in its path. I decided to try to cover more water, and lashed the boys canoe to mine to keep them in line, and really dug in. Still, progress was slow, and sure enough in less than twenty minutes the nasty weather hit, wind driving at least 50kmh, heavy rain, and the water on the marsh pushing back up into half foot tall standing waves.

Entering the Conroy Marsh on the Little Mississippi River, the marsh opens up to the right, the York River enters behind the trees directly ahead of our canoes.

AJ, Alexander and Rudi posing at our lunch stop, a small point of land that demarks the point the Little Mississippi enters the Conroy Marsh.

This was likely after we got drenched in the squall, the winds too high and the time to late to make it to the other end of the marsh, I decided to turn back.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

BARRON CANYON - JULY 2013 (Part 3)

About two kilometers past the end of the canyon, the river widened considerably into a marshy lake, and we pulled the boats up to a campsite to have a swim. Rudi 11 facing away tying up his shorts, AJ 12 looking over his shoulder at Alexander 5. This is after a seven hour day of paddling and hauling canoes over portages. Tough little kids!

A short while later, we put out again, and found the portage around Squirrel Rapids, a half kilometer trek over bouldery ground, and after three trips with backpacks, paddles, and canoes, we put in again for the last kilometer of river to the take out at the pit in an parking lot, very close to the road and bridge over the Barron River, and just down from the Sand Lake access gate.

Rudi, AJ, and Alex taking a dip in the deep cool water of the Barron river after a hard day of paddling through the canyon.

Alexander looking back upstream after our last portage, our final take out at Squirrel Rapids is downstream to the left.

Some low rock walls with the take out at Squirrel rapids just coming into view ahead of the canoes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

BARRON CANYON - JULY 2013 (Part 2)

We paddled further down the canyon, past the highest point, and the lookout trail above. The Canyon has a curve to it, and from either end the north face marches away like silent soldiers in a never ending file. Of course, paddling the canoe well and getting an ideal photograph are mutually exclusive endeavors, so one must just do a little imagining.

I decided to continue the entire length of the Canyon, and exit at the Squirrel Rapids parking lot, even though that meant having to find a way back to the van at Brigham Lake. Squirrel Rapids is just about a kilometre from the Sand Lake access gate, and I was pretty confident I could leave the boys with the boats for a bit, make the gate, and get a lift back to the van.

With that considered, we continued paddling east, passing a group of girls heading in the opposite direction in three large canoes, and finally exited the canyon, continuing on toward the final portage upstream of Squirrel Rapids.

Looking back to the west, Rudi and AJ in the jaws of the canyon.  The walls above are about two hundred feet high.

Looking east, with the camera lens zoomed out all the way to a mid - telephoto, 105mm focal length

This picture was taken within seconds of the photograph above, with the lens zoomed back in to a fairly wide angle, 28mm

Again, this photo is within ten seconds of the previous, after turning the boat around and looking to the west.

East again, the canyon walls simply disappear from view from the river, folding away into hills on either side.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BARRON CANYON - JULY 2013 (Part 1)

After a season generally away from canoeing for a number of reasons, including cataract surgery on my left eye last summer, Rudi, Alexander and I got back into it in grand style shortly after leaving for our first visit to the cottage over the summer holidays.

This year, we invited AJ, a friend of Rudi's from cubs, up for four days or so of paddling, and possibly an overnight trip in some fantastic country in Eastern Ontario. The canoes this year were a Swift Kipawa kevlar, and an older plastic on aluminum frame Coleman, borrowed from two of Katherine's friends. I am hoping to acquire one or two H20 Composites by the end of the summer, of course...

My bowman, Alexander this time, as we head downstrem on the Barron River from Brigham Lake

Rudi and AJ learning the finer points of steering a canoe down the channel.

The Barron Canyon opens up.

A view of the scale of the size of the Canyon. AJ and Rudi are in the red canoe in the distance, looking from our boat back upstream.

Monday, July 22, 2013


I owed Jeff a favour, so talked to him a week or so before we headed to the cottage. It turns out he had two H20 Canoes that were special ordered, and needed to be delivered to Frontenac Outfitters, along with a kayak that had been sent to him for repair. Timing worked out quite well, the boats were loaded on the van the night before, just after we had the van packed for our two weeks or so at the cottage (along with a washing machine, and a wheelbarrow). Here is the van at about six the next morning, just before I headed out for Kingston. Katherine and the boys would head out later in the little car, and meet me later that day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The last canoe trip of the 2011 season was a short trip on the Madawaska, at Madawaska, of course. Rudi and I put in just off the highway, behind the community centre, which has a brand new gravel ramp and high quality dock. There were a few other boaters there, a couple putting in a small aluminum outboard boat, and a family returning with a larger sport boat.
A few hundred feet south of the put in is the old trestle from the Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound railway (pictured) which has been modified to accommodate the recreational trail now in its place. three trestles have been removed, and new approach ramps installed. I suppose the cost of maintaining the old bridge was probably quite steep.
Beyond that we looped under the highway bridge, where the Madawaska begins to open into Bark Lake, one of the largest in the area. After turning under the bridge, we returned, passed our put in, and then headed upriver for about forty five minutes before returning.

The old trestle of the Ottawa, Arnprior, an Parry Sound Railway at Madawaska, with new approaches for the multi-use rail trail.

The Highway bridge, about 100 metres south of the old railway bridge, just enough clearance to get a sport boat underneath.

Heading north on the Madawaska, about half a mile from our put in.

After turning around, and heading back south. Like many rivers in the area, the Madawaske is very deep and wide, with little vertical change in profile.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


After a long hiatus (my apologies, there are reasons) I have once again returned to the blogs... This is a photograph of Rudi at our take out at Conroy Marsh, after our big paddle looking for the Ghost of AJ Casson. About 100 feet to the left of the picture is the put in, right into a bay off of the main channel, which then runs directly away from my (the photographers) position, toward the hill in the left background, and then to the right to proceed down between the hills. If you click on the picture, you should be able to just make out the blue line of the main channel. This was late mid summer 2011, some time after which we hung up the paddles, stored the canoe, and headed back to Tavistock, and school for Rudi and work for me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Quite a few years back, driving as a courier, I was asked to do a late afternoon delivery from Kitchener to Newmarket. Knowing that it was already after two in the afternoon, the delivery would put me in Newmarket just in time for a gruelling two and a half hour drive home, and late for dinner. Making a hundred odd bucks didn't really appeal to me that much, but I was the only driver able to do it, and had been able to make it home in a timely fashion for at least the previous week.

Twenty minutes later, the box had been picked up, and I was on my way. I arrived in Newmarket around 4:30, and within ten minutes had dropped off the package, filed some paperwork, and reported the delivery as completed. I restarted the van, and began what would be a long, hard drive back to Tavistock. Turning on to Davis Drive, I suddenly realized that Dave and Judy, very close friends of Katherine's parents, were probably only a five minute drive away. And I was somewhat certain I had heard them say "drop by anytime..." not realizing of course I was the type of person to take another up on an open offer like that! Now was the time!

Driving by memory, as I didn't have either their phone number or address (good couriers do have some skills!) I soon found their house, parked the van, and walked up the steps to the front door. I had a brief second thought about simply walking up and inviting myself in, but there was that open invitation, AND the fact I had participated in their Christmas Dinner and charade game experience! How the heck could they not happily let me in! Confidence restored, I rang the doorbell...

...And Dave answered, completely surprised of course! I was warmly greeted, and upon explaining the reason for my unexpected visit, I was ushered in for dinner... Which was leftovers... On the grandest scale! There was soup (chilled cucumber I recall) and another appetizer for starters, mains of yesterdays roast chicken, along with fresh steamed veggies, and dessert of pie and ice cream, along with a couple of glasses of wine. But better than that was the conversation, specifics long forgotton, but burned in my memory the laughing and fun we had, especially with Judy's real time commentary on the operatic style performance of the neighbor behind, bellowing and singing (lovingly of course) at her errant kids, goading them to do their chores, help with laundry, tidy up, and get to dinner on time!

Two hours and two phone calls later updating Katherine, I thanked them and took my leave. It was closing in on seven in the evening, and the drive home was not even 90 minutes, calm, quiet, cross country, and very relaxing as well...

Judy Gordon passed away this summer after a short battle with cancer. She was sixty nine years old, and left her husband Dave, and children Heather and Bryan. She will be sorely missed by many, including those upon whose living room wall hangs a small but beautiful painting titled "Conroy Marsh" by AJ Casson; the wedding gift from her and Dave.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


After checking out the duck blind, and about ninety minutes on the water, we turned around and began to head back to our put in at Mayhew Landing. Unfortunately, nothing of the scene depicted in Casson's painting could be identified specifically, however the painting had a number of elements that we did see examples of on our paddle. We covered about one-third of the length of the Marsh, so it is quite possible the scene depicted was at the western end, somewhere near where the York River enters the marsh, as we have entered via the Little Mississippi, and I could not recognice the scene there either.

Noodling through the grasses and lilypads, looking north toward the hill at Craigmont, the location of an old corundum mine.

Very little of the land bordering the marsh is privately owned, virtually all is crown land, except for this obvious location,

A close up view of the blight on the landscape. A more thoughtful owner could have done a better job clearing

Rudi looking back as we head toward Negeek Lake and the take out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A further half hour of paddling and noodling around brought us to another large 'lakelet' just to the south of the main channel. A few hundred metres ahead I could make out a small structure, of wooden poles fastned together. We paddled over to it, the water generally about a foot deep here, and took a closer look. My first guess from its size was that it was a hunting blind, as it was large enough to park a small aluminum boat in.

Looking southwest, the Craigmont hill is just out of the frame to the right. The main channel carves an arc from behind us, out to our right a few hundred feet, and then cuts across to the left just past the grasses at the near horizon.

A close up of what I think is a duck hunting blind. I have no idea what age, it could be decades old. I am not sure how much human traffic enters the marsh, though it could be as little as a few each day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


After playing leapfrog with the Beaver for a few more minutes, we continued paddling westward, exploring the marsh areas to the north of the main channel. The water level of the Marsh is controlled by the Palmer Rapids control dam, which is one of a series of several dams on the Madawaska river that are situated and operated to control water levels for the 'large' hydroelectric dam at Arnprior on the Madawaska, near its outlet into the Ottawa River.

The Marsh level, based on some reading, is roughly four feet higher than prior to the installation of the control dam, and must have altered the habitat and ecosystems of the Marsh to a degree. Currently, the marsh has a river channel that varies between 100 and 300 feet wide or more, which is quite deep, upwards of 10 to 20 feet in most places. The rest of the marsh appears to be made up of two different ecosystems: Flooded shallow lake areas, with a water depth between one and four feet deep, thick with water lillies and other fully aquatic plants; and fully saturated areas with ground that rises slightly above the water level, completely covered in wet loving grasses and sedges.

Looking south west into the Conroy Marsh. About two miles ahead, past the near hill on the left, is the entry of the Little Mississippi River. The York River opens into the marsh about five miles directly ahead.

Looking to the west now, and Craigmont Hill. We are paddling in the shallow flooded areas, which are populated with lilies and other aquatic plants. Directly ahead are grasses that stand at water level or therabouts, I imagine it could be possible to walk through them, if you enjoy being knee deep in muck.

Looking west still, and now we are on the extreme south shore of the Marsh, in the main river channel. The small spot on the hill ahead is likely the opening of the shaft of the Craigmont Mine.

Monday, August 1, 2011


After stopping in Combermere at the internet hotspot / cafe / laundromat for a maple blend coffee and to find out if there is a fair place to put on the north side of the Conroy Marsh, we drove south on old highway 517 and then Lower Craigmont road to the hamlet of Mayhew Landing. Unlike the vast majority of Ontario cottage country, the road access here was on the lake side of the waterfront properties, and in Ontario would generally be considered a public allowance: I tried knocking on two of the cottages closest to the end of the road to ask if we could use their waterfront or even dock to put in, though there was no answer. We took our gear and canoe to the first dock, and loaded up.

Immediately looking out to the left, the marsh continued just a few hundred metres before opening into Negeek Lake on the Madawaska River. This is where the marsh channel, actually the York River, ends and empties into the Mighty Madawaska.

We turned west, and paddled into the marsh, which stretched away at least five miles in front of us. Just fifteen minutes of easy paddling brought us to a large beaver lodge. As we approached within about fifty feet, there was a quick flash of brown, and a large slap of a beaver tail against water! Knowing that they were aware of us now, we turned to the left and away from the lodge. Immediately beneath and to the right of the canoe there was a large turbulence of the bottom silt, with large clouds of muck roiling away underneath and alongside the canoe, moving ahead as we paddled forward. A panicked thought of  mammoth canoe tipping beavers flashed into my mind, quickly dispelled of course! Within half a minute, a brown head popped up fifty yards ahead of the canoe! We paddled towards it, and after closing half the distance, he dove under, only to appear a few hundred feet further along. 

Looking east from Mayhew Landing, across the York River, and the outlet of the Conroy Marsh, to the hills across Negeek Lake (hidden from view behing the low bank of green).

Paddling westerly, about 500 metres from Mayhew Landing. A large beaver lodge is ahead of the canoe. The 'mountain' in the background is about two to three miles away, and is the location of the historic Craigmont corundum mine.

A close up of the beaver lodge, The Conroy Marsh enables lazy beavers, as they do not have to do any dam building whatsoever..

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My wife and I received a lovely framed print of "Conroy Marsh" by AJ Casson for our wedding. It was wonderfully thoughtful, as the Conroy Marsh is very close to our cottage near Barry's Bay, and is also a lovely examply of fine Canadian and Group of Seven art.

It took up residence in our formal living room at the Field house, above a wonderful little nearly antique bookcase. There it hung for many a year, and still does, occasionally reminding me of a still mostly wild part of Canada. Upon getting serious about canoeing about four years ago or so, my wife reminded me of it, and I then purposefully thought about finding the Conroy Marsh, to explore it via canoe.

After exploring various ways in to the Conroy Marsh over the last two years, my father in law recently reminded me of the painting, and suggested Rudi and I look for the site the next time we get into the marsh.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We finally got to the cottage for the first time this year, and on the way, picked up an older, relatively well used, repainted fibreglass canoe, for use while the 'Cottage Coleman' undergoes it's slow and tedious restoration. I needed to find a canoe for a hundred and change, and not out of the way of our drive up to Barry's Bay. A few visits to Kijiji later, and I found a gentleman selling a canoe located just outside of Bancroft. She ain't pretty, but she floats, holds a line well, and paddles easily. Here is a picture of Rudi with our gear after taking out of the Conroy Marsh at Mayhew Landing near Combermere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CARSON LAKE - Finding Sleeping Bear Rock

I headed out for a short canoe trip with just Alexander, down the lake along the shore and the old Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound railway line, just for a bit of fun. An interesting little trip it was, as we encountered a boat with four divers in scuba gear beginning a one hour search of the lake just below a large boulder railway embankment, at the bottom of which (as legend has it) lie the entombed remains of a short freight train! Having paddled the area numerous times, I have never seen rotting railcars peering from the murky depths, but one of the divers was insistent that he saw such a thing while paddling in the area a number of years back.

Further along, Alexander and I made our turn around at 'Sleeping Bear Rock', a near 100 tonne boulder that closely resembles a napping black bear cub!

Monday, August 30, 2010


Monday following our short trip on the York, Rudi and I abandoned Alexander with mommy and headed out to the Burnt Bridge Road put-in, this time heading north along the Little Mississippi and into the Conroy Marsh. Total trip time was roughly two hours paddling, with a fifteen minute break exploring a point with a couple of rock ringed firepits, Rudi excitedly proclaiming there to be an abundance of minerals, including quartz, mica, and fools gold present in some of the rocks. 

Noodling down the Little Mississippi. The main channel generally is about 75' to 150' wide, in a wider wetland from 300' to 500' or wider here

The channel widens out, and the opening of the Marsh appears. The long line of hills trends to the Northwest, leading the marsh to its outlet in Negeek Lake near Combermere

Another view of the opening into the Conroy Marsh. Around the small headland on the right, the marsh opens up to roughly two or threee kilometres wide

Once again we played leapfrog with a pair of Great Blue Herons, and this time I was able to shoot one... Finally!

Sedge Bending! The term courtesy Richard Powell, author of "100 Lakes On Vancouver Island", click to visit his absolutely stunning blog!

Almost back to the put-in, the Burnt Bridge Road bridge over the river is just visible, as well as the trusty Ford Freestar!

Yes, the little (big) kid does paddle a bit! A well graded boat launch we used for our put-in is directly ahead of the canoe


Related Posts with Thumbnails