|that deep groove is what remains of one of the|
ancient portage routes.
I got a very special treat on Friday.
I had the chance to go up a river without a paddle. Without even a canoe... but with a phenomenal guide, Craig MacDonald, who is a wealth of knowledge about this area. In particular, we had gone hunting out the old First Nations' portage routes around parts of the Oxtongue River upstream from Marsh's Falls. Out where the pavement ends, where there are no trails to get you in...
We found evidence of thousands of years of feet travelling along these section of the river. It amazes me what remains. We found the old moss covered foundations of a
shack as well -- not a small one. Perhaps it was for the River Drivers on the log run? It's not the sort of spot you'd want to set up farming -- rock everywhere, the river fast and forbidding and the trees must at some point have seemed endless. But there it is, mute proof that someone spent time there.
|one rock wall, part of a shack foundation|
I was also educated on how the log drive changed that beautiful river as well. I've been up and down here forever, with my Dad as a kid, but it's quite surprising how stupid a kid can be... and how they just don't know enough to ask the right questions that might make them less stupid.
There is this rock. Let me tell you about this rock.
|here you can see the slab that once homed this rock,|
all angling up to the right, and the sheer wall on the far side
Not so fast. The log drivers moved that rock. Set it there. Teams of horses on the bank, pulleys on the opposite bank, ropes running every which way I expect. Pried that slab up off the rest of the rocks, that all (if you actually stopped to look at it) slope the other way... And shifted it into the river flow so that the logs coming roaring down the river would be deflected to the right side of the slab of stone,and would not get tangled up in the small backwater behind it
The river is narrow here. It is called the Hogs' Trough, because of the sheer rock sides sloping in to channel the water resemble a feed trough.
|it always astounds me that the trees can find places|
to hang on to the unyielding Canadian Shield Rock.
The water is not high. Not right now. You should see this place in spring, when the melt is coming down.
It must have been a sight to see back when the million logs came sluicing down out of Algonquin Park in the late 1800s. Water was held back by dams at Radiant and Tea Lakes, and when the
drivers had the log drive ready to go, they dropped the stop logs and let that water run.
|Elbow Falls -- on the far side you can see where the rocks|
pile up, and the current has to turn. Couldn't take a better
angled shot without being in mid-stream, so this is what you
The loggers called the work done "improving the river", and given the risk involved in moving those logs, anything that helped prevent jams or damage to the timber would have been a good thing in their minds.
Upstream from the Hogs' Trough is another falls, helping to tumble the water down from Algonquin Park to the Lake of Bays. It is called Elbow Falls -- for the simple reason that it resembles a bent elbow. You can't run it with a canoe. Just can't. It needed some help for the log drive as well -- a log angled across the rocks to create what was called a "glance" -- something that would simply steer the logs away from just smashing into the shore rock.
|another tree, growing out of the rotted remains of a fallen|
tree, and snaggling its roots in and around that Shield Rock.
This is the land that the early settlers were told would be
'easy to plough, just scratch the surface and seed it'
There are other places where the river was 'improved' with walls, glance beams, even a chute (that helped get the logs over the biggest of the falls, Ragged Falls. Arriving at the mill with a boom of kindling didn't earn any money.
This was an amazing day. I learned so much from Craig.
Including the fact that to the First Nations, the Anishinabe who summered here, this river was of course not called the Oxtongue, but Giiwedin-o-zibi (North River) (please excuse my Ojibwe spelling ...)
|Taffy and Craig discussing the finer points of one of the old portage trails|
and the chance of finding an amik-ga-buddle (spelling???) which is a place
where the beaver cross overland -- a beaver portage, if you will