The Other Barron Canyon
Along the Barron River, about five kilometers below Squirrel Rapids, the river tumbles over First Chute and shortly thereafter passes through another canyon before joining with the Petawawa River at Black Bay. This Lower Barron Canyon is not as spectacular as the one in Algonquin Park, but is longer and also very scenic.
2005 July 22
Late Thursday evening, while I was sitting out on the front porch, enjoying a beer and watching for fireflies, the phone rang. My friend Richard was enquiring whether I wanted to spend Friday exploring the Lower Barron Canyon. As it was the best proposition that I had received all day, I readily accepted.
Barron Canyon in Algonquin Park is well known and rightfully admired for its spectacular scenery. Less well known is that, downstream from the Algonquin Park Boundary at Squirrel Rapids, the Barron River flows through a second canyon. This canyon is part of the same geological fault as the one in the park and, while not as deep, is longer.
Around 8,000 years ago, the canyon was overflowing with glacial meltwater, as it was the primary drainage of the Great Lakes Basin. The granite cliffs continue to support plants that are relics from that era.
Beyond the Algonquin Park Boundary, the Barron River is bordered on the north by Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, and to the south by crown land that contains several hunt camps. The river and a strip of land to the south has been designated as a potential Waterway Provincial Park as part of Ontario's Living Legacy. While this program was announced with much fanfare by the previous provincial government, I haven't noticed much activity lately.
It is interesting that both the Upper and Lower Barron Canyons are preceded upstream by waterfalls, Brigham Chute and First Chute, repectively.
While, in principle, the lower canyon is accessible from Algonquin Provincial Park, the easiest access is via Black Bay on the Petawawa River. The portage around First Chute looked long and rough.
One of Diana's and my first canoe trips was down the Barron River from Achray to Black Bay. In those days the logistics were easier as the Black Bay Hotel was still operating. You could leave a car in the hotel parking lot, and then, at the end of the trip, you could relax on the porch of the hotel with a beer and a hamburger while the drivers made the long dusty drive back to Achray to retrieve the shuttle cars.
While currently, overnight parking at Black Bay is problematic, one would hope that, if a park were to be established, a secure parking area would be provided.