If you’re on vacation or looking for a weekend day trip, provincial parks fill the bill in so many ways and the seasonal day pass is your ticket to nature and nearby community attractions.
This week we are highlighting three parks along the Highway 11 North corridor, beyond North Bay-its motto used to be Gateway to the North now it’s North Bay: You’ll Get Used To It (2018).
The park started as a small car campground (as a response to the lack no accommodations at the time) when the Ferguson Highway was built in 1925 see this Back Roads Bill story known then as Marten(sic) River Camp Site, a permit was required to travel the highway in those days. Marten River finally became a provincial park in 1960. Learn more about the history of the park here.
Dave Ward is Park Superintendent for both Marten River and Finlayson Provincial Parks.
One of the must-do items on the list is to hug one of the largest white pine trees in the province on the old-growth trail. Find the Old Growth Trail it is 3.5 km and takes about 1hr 15 minutes to complete. You will be surrounded by giant trees. Look around on the ground though you will not see any young white pine they are shade intolerant and only some form of disturbance will create the forest of tomorrow.
“The transition trails are three trails that showcase a variety of forest types and are a great way to explore the park on short to medium hikes. The big, sandy beach in the day-use area is very popular and great for swimming. There is space to enjoy a picnic or take advantage of rentals for canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. A couple of horseshoe pits are also available.”
The other complementary day activity is the Winter Camp Exhibit. It is unique.
“It’s the only complete replica of an early 1900s winter camp in Ontario. The first buildings were built starting in 1980 and all were completed by 1986," says Ward. "I believe the logging trail in Algonquin Provincial Park was opened in 1992 so I think Marten River’s is older. Not sure if there are other older exhibits in other parts of Ontario.”
The park’s replica 19th-century logging camp has an array of logging artifacts and period cookery, along with a blacksmith’s shop, stable, bunkhouse, hay barn, camp office and outdoor displays.
“All the artifacts tell stories about the people who worked hard as lumberjacks in the early part of the 1900s," Ward says. "The collection is quite impressive, with everything from early two-man chainsaws to an equine dental file.”
My favourite is the unique one-of-a-kind collection of log stamps and the corresponding butt ends of the stamped logs.
During the log drive heyday, logs were floated downriver to be processed.
In 1870, the Timber Marking Act was passed. Logging companies were required to develop and register a unique identifier or “trade-mark.” All cut trees had to be stamped with the identifying mark.
You will see J.R. Booth and E.B Eddy stamps along with many others.
Make it a point to be in the area during Logging Days. It is now a one-day event held on Saturday, August 6, this year. The park will be offering lunch, including hotdogs, games, competitions for children and adults; log throwing, crosscut sawing, and nail driving. The blacksmith’s forge will be in operation. Lumberjack Days have a long history in the park, as detailed here.
A not-so-well-known fact is that Arthur Lismer, one of the members of the Group of Seven landscape painters using the impressionist style, found inspiration in this area. A founding member of the Group of Seven, he is credited with naming the group.
For his artistic excellence and contribution to Canadian art, Lismer was made a Companion to the Order of Canada, the highest honour for a civilian.
The bold colours, his messy paint brush details, and the almost surreal nature of Temagami, Portage are a beautiful example of the post-impressionist style that the Group of Seven is known for.
The site of Temagami, Portage is now located in Finlayson Point Provincial Park as many locations chosen by the Group of Seven have become provincial and national parks there is a new plaque explaining Lismer’s presence.
As you walk or bike around take a look at the Lake Temagami Cabin, located at one of the points within the park. It was used as a small museum and souvenir shop, with historical displays and panels. Now the cabin is being used for overnight stays and is available for reservations.
“A big draw for Finlayson Point is that it provides boating access from its floating dock marina and allows the exploration of Lake Temagami," Park Superintendent Dave Ward said. "At 45km by 35km it is a huge lake that offers beautiful views as it is surrounded by the Lake Temagami Skyline Reserve – a unique, protected belt of forest, containing towering Red and Eastern White Pine trees; seek out the Temagami Island trails.”
So, this is an excellent jumping-off point to leave your car for the day or overnight.
The town is close by. After stopping at the art gallery within the ornate train station, you can see in the distance and will want to then climb, the refurbished, tourism fire tower with an expansive view to the west.
On a good day, you can see Maple Mountain the second-highest rounded peak in the province. Starting at the fire tower there is a number of trail loops within the White Bear Forest Conservation Reserve.
Check out Theordore’s Chip Stand located adjacent to the train station.
Within the Town of Englehart, you have easy access to Kap-Kig-Iwan.
Recently, Kap-Kig-Iwan returned to the park’s operating system.
Since 2001, Kap-Kig-Iwan was operated under an agreement with the Town of Englehart. This spring the town informed Ontario Parks that they were no longer interested in operating the park.
Ontario Parks has taken over park operations for the 2022 season in order to honour the current reservations and continue to provide recreational, and tourism opportunities and support the economy of the Englehart area.
Ontario Parks will be reviewing the operations over the coming months and developing options for future park operations. Only one of the two campgrounds is now open.
It was my good fortune to meet gate attendant Janet Pratt, a wealth of information and cheerleader for the park’s ultimate experience, a visit to High Falls (the park’s Ojibway namesake).
She explained there are several small fall rapids along the Englehart River – Hells Gate, High Falls and main falls are the largest – all are quite scenic. The Englehart River cuts its way down through the geology of the Little Claybelt, creating a deep, scenic valley with many falls and rapids.
“High Falls is quite spectacular and the most photographed,” Pratt said.
You know you are in for some scenery as the asphalt road reaches a point where you see the steep grade downwards, below the red triangle warning sign it says ‘Narrow Road-No Shoulder, 10 M.P.H. Steep Grade.’
There are not many times when you get multiple views of a waterfall at different levels of perspective.
“And it is there are at least three views of the cascading falls,” said Pratt.
She was right. There were 58 chisel-like granitic rock steps as you make your way to the water level and at one point there is a fine mist showering you from the force of water.
“Hiking along and sitting beside the water is very soothing. A trip to Kap-Kig-Iwan will leave you feeling better,” Pratt said.
Check out the website for the many must-do hikes. You will find a 2.5-km loop perfect for hiking novices and young families and moving up to a more rugged 5.7-km trail for backcountry adventure seekers.
Looking for other nearby attractions, to the south of Englehart you can visit one of the province’s premier bird banding facilities and trails the Hilliardton Marsh found in this related story or visit a ghost in downtown Cobalt. There is also a Tim Horton’s in Englehart.
There is another seasonal reason to return. This park has cross-country ski trails and the seasonal park pass allows for more added value. Over the last several years, the Englehart Nordic Ski Club has maintained more than 20 km of cross-country ski trails in the park during the winter.
Dave Hunt is a Market Development Specialist – Media/Influencer with Ontario Parks. He encourages people to purchase the annual pass. Annual day-use permits ($99) allow you to explore parks for an entire year (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31).
“To reserve camping spots you still need to book in advance even if you’ve got a seasonal permit (a seasonal permit on its own doesn’t guarantee your spot) But your seasonal permit makes your advanced booking free, when making your reservation, you can input your permit’s serial number, which will adjust your fee due to $0.” And it is good to know, “seasonal permits are now available to borrow at participating libraries around the province. This means you can hit the library, then head to your favourite provincial park for the day.”
Here are the three Highway 11 parks on the map.
There’s a lot to do in parks and their nearby communities. Make it a number of summer days and enjoy what’s on the back roads of these parks.