Foymount

Foymount is highest populated community in Ontario, located on the edge of the Ottawa Bonnechere Graben west of Lake Clear in Renfrew County. It was formerly the site of a Pinetree Line radar base, which closed in 1974. Currently it is the home of Black Water Designs, manufacturer and distributor of high quality outdoors equipment and clothing (Sierra Designs).

2008 April 16

Lake Clear as seen from Foymount

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Lake Clear as seen from Foymount on the edge of the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben, looking out over the Ottawa Valley.

Back in the mid to late 1980s, we purchased a Sierra Designs "Domicile" tent. It has served us well, but last fall we had a problem with one of the poles. Since the tent is still in good condition, we contacted Black Water Designs to investigate replacing/repairing the poles. Stephanie, in charge of warranty returns, suggested sending the poles to them and they would see what they could do. This was all the excuse we needed -- hey! the lakes were still frozen, the bush and our lawn were still buried in snow, and we were suffering from spring-induced cabin fever. So on April 16, we headed off to Foymount.

Foymount is an interesting location. It is currently the home of Black Water Designs; it was formerly a radar base on the Pinetree Line; and it is situated on the edge of the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben. (An entertaining article describing the history of Foymount was published by Country Connection Magazine in 2004.)

At the height of the cold war and before the days of spy-in-the-sky satellites, Canada, assisted by the U.S.A., operated three lines of radar stations to detect bomber attacks approaching over the Arctic from the U.S.S.R. The DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line was the farthest north, the Pine Tree Line was the most southerly, and the Mid-Canada Line was in between. (Wikipedia provides a good general account of the Pinetree Line.) One of the Pinetree Line stations was Foymount, an RCAF base with about 400 personnel, which operated from 1952 until 1974. A 1968 map of the site and a 1969 aerial photograph show the locations of the various buildings and facilities. These images are from a site dedicated to the Pinetree Line, which includes extensive information about the Foymount base and a large collection of photographs from the years it was in operation.

Foymount, the highest populated site in Ontario, is located on the edge of the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben. The Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben is a rift valley, originally perhaps a kilometer deep, that formed during the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Rodina. It has subsequently been subjected to more than 500 million years of erosion. Now the elevation difference between the floor of the graben (the surface of Lake Clear, let's say) and the highest point at Foymount is a little less than 1000 ft., but it remains an impressive geological feature. The graben, tens of kilometers wide, is bordered by an escarpment east of the Ottawa River and on the west by the "Opeongo Mountains". (The graben is a current interest of ours: see The Ottawa Bonnechere Graben in our Notes Section.)

Black Water Designs Factory Store

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Black Water Designs is Canadian distributer/manufacturer of Sierra Designs products in Canada. The Factory Store is located in what was once the lower (men's) barracks. The store is well known for its holiday-weekend sales, but at other times, it is much more tranquil.

When we arrived at the store we were met by Stephanie, and within about 10 or 15 minutes the damaged pole was repaired under warranty. We also purchased (at a very reasonable price) a replacement set of poles -- not "Domicile" poles but modern poles of equal length and compatible characteristics.

We were very favourably impressed by the courtesy, promptness and fairness (more than fair, actually) with which we were treated -- highly recommended.

Womens barracks at Foymount

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The upper (women's) barracks looms over the Black Water store.

Womens barracks at Foymount

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Another view of the women's barracks, as seen from the former parade square. A few of these buildings are still in use, but most sit empty with boarded up windows. An almost eerie stillness pervades.

building 106 at Foymount

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The sinister looking building 106. When we were taking this photo there was a breeze blowing -- we rather suspect that there is always a breeze blowing at Foymount -- and the ventilator on the roof kept rotating back and forth, following us as though watching us.

recration area at Foymount

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Looking out over the recreation area with the floor of the graben beyond. "Army brats" (such as Bob) will recognize the government style housing peeking over the brow of the hill. The large open area was originally occupied by the base recreation complex, which was destroyed by fire in about 1980.

The now empty Algonquin Apartments at Foymount

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The now empty Algonquin Apartments have seen better days.

Lake Clear as seen from Foymount

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Lake Clear as seen from the radar site. The concrete pillars formerly supported a covered walkway that connected Tower #1 (a radar dome) with the Operations Building.

The base of Tower 1 at Foymount

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The base of Tower #1.

The base of Tower 2 at Foymount

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The base of Tower #2, another radar dome. A third radar dome, Tower #3, was part of the Operations Building. Most evidence of the Operations Building has disappeared, being replaced by modern communication towers. An aerial photograph from 1972 shows the layout of the operations area.

modern communication tower at Foymount

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Although the radar domes are gone, the hilltop is still an excellent site for communication towers. Shown is one of three currently located there. It felt very strange wandering around this deserted area among the remnants of the old radar site, accompanied by the constant moan of the wind through the support cables for the modern towers.

(The piece of junk in the left foreground is not some sophisticated radar chassis, but rather the remains of a microwave oven.)

Golden Lake as seen from Foymount

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From the radar site looking north out over Golden Lake. The one-storey building just down the road is the former Base Headquarters; the building beyond it was the Combined Mess.

In years past, when travelling along Highway 60 north of Golden Lake at night (especially in the winter), the blackness out over the lake was broken by the faraway lights high on the hill at Foymount.

Sierra Designs Domicile tent

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Back home with our 20 year old Sierra Designs Domicile (without its fly) set up with its new DAC poles. These poles work very well and have the great advantage of being field repairable.

The gathered up material above the door is an "after market modification". It is a noseeum curtain to protect the interior from bugs while going in and out while setting up camp, compensating for the unzipped door falling open. (While modern free-standing tents have many advantages, old-fashioned wall tents have some positives as well; their unzipped doors fall closed and a broken pole can be more easily substituted in the field.)

A good day -- a beautiful spring drive, magnificent country, courteous and fair treatment by Black Water Designs, and our tent is ready to go again. All we need now is open water.