High Falls at High Water
(Barron River)

The High Falls area of the Barron River, near Achray in Algonquin Park, provides striking scenery and a natural water slide. While the water slide provides relatively safe family swimming at summer temperatures and flow rates, it has an entirely different character during the spring runoff.

2006 April 27

Recently my cousin Alan dropped by for a visit and some outdoor recreation. As all good tourists to this area should do, we took the walking trail to the rim of the Barron Canyon. And then, having some more time to fill, we followed the Eastern Pines Hiking Trail into High Falls. (At this time of year, the short-cut into High Falls from near the Brigham Lake parking lot may have flooded sections; see An Early Spring Day in Algonquin Park. And since we were one day early for the opening of the gate into Achray, we had to add another couple of kilometres to the round trip.)

The Barron River drains Grand Lake through Stratton Lake. Stratton Lake drains into High Falls Lake via two separate routes; one directly and one through St. Andrews Lake. The direct drainage comprises a picturesque series of small falls (each a metre or two high) dropping into pools and then culminating in a larger falls -- High Falls -- with a drop of 10m perhaps. The drainage from St. Andrews Lake is also picturesque with an old log chute and culminating in a curtain falls.

The Stratton Lake drainage features a natural water slide and is more accessible. While the water slide is relatively safe in the summer -- and well greased by black fly larvae -- its character in the spring is less benign. (For some summer pictures, see The View from Point Alexander for 2005 July 18 through 2005 July 22 -- Water Slide in particular.)

Natural water slide High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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The top of the water slide in the Spring.

Natural water slide High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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The water slide as viewed from the top. High Falls is just around the corner; you can see a gap in the pine trees.

Natural water slide High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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This little back roller would no doubt spit you out, but not before roughing you up a bit.

Natural water slide High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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Not a tranquil pool today.

Natural water slide High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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At these water levels, there is little calm water between the water slide and the top of High Falls.

Just downstream of the water slide is High Falls. But because of the rugged nature of the country, and because the broken rock impedes easy walking, I suspect that many visitors to High Falls, see only the water slide, and miss the actual falls.

High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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My cousin Alan examining the flow at the brink of High Falls.

High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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Over she goes.

High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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A definite portage!

High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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Here you can see another falls in the background. This is a third channel of the Barron River that only flows in the Spring. It connects the foot of St Andrews Lake with the pool at the bottom of High Falls.

High falls Achray Algonquin Park

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Another view of the third channel of the Barron River. I'll have to return to further explore this channel (and photograph it without over exposing it).