Early Spring along the Basin Depot Road in Algonquin Park
Exploring the McGuey Farm, Bridge Dam, and High Falls on the Bonnechere River

On Wednesday, 2010 April 14, Bob and Diana took advantage of the beautiful weather of an unusually early spring to explore two hiking trails off the Basin Depot Road in Algonquin Park. In the morning we walked in to McGuey's Farm and continued on to Bridge Dam; in the afternoon, we walked in to High Falls.

2010 April 14

Turners Camp along the Basin Depot Road

(photographed: 2010-04-14 - explore

Turner's Camp along the Basin Depot Road ( 1 ). Previously, Algonquin Park permits were available here; now you need to visit the office at Bonnechere Provincial Park ( 2 ). For days like this, an Ontario Parks seasonal vehicle pass is very useful since it decouples your schedule from the open hours of the permit office. In this case, I don't think that the permit office was yet open for the season.

rough road Basin Depot Road in Algonquin Park in spring

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It was early in the season and consequently the road was a little rough in places.

rough road Basin Depot Road in Algonquin Park in spring

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In this case, a beaver pond extended across the road.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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The start of the trail to the McGuey Farm.

The McGuey Farm was established about 1875. According to the booklet Walks of the Little Bonnechere River:

Dennis McGuey and his wife Margaret ... raised a family of nine in a house of squared pine timbers and under a roof of scooped cedar logs. It included a kitchen, dining room and bedroom, and a large room where transient labourers stayed over. Men traveling this part of the Old Bonnechere Road would get a meal and a bed at McGuey's stopping place for twenty-five cents a night at a time when they might be earning a dollar a day. Mind you, the bedroom was shared with twenty-five other men and the simple bed was a mattress of balsam boughs topped with a heavy wool blanket.

Dennis McGuey trapped bears, hunted, and maintained the two log dams upstream. Margaret McGuey took care of the house, ran the stopping place and made butter to sell to the lumber camps. The sons helped at home until they were old enough to work in the lumber camps; the daughters assisted with the cooking and cleaning and cared for the younger children.

The McGueys were forced from their home around 1914 after Algonquin Park was expanded to include this area.

McGuey Farm along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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Little remains of the farm other than some clearings in the bush along the shore of the Bonnechere River. We though that we could detect the faint outlines of several foundations. In a few instances, the ground was disturbed and gave the impression of some unauthorized, illegal, amateur archaeology. But perhaps it was only a bear or a skunk looking for grubs.

McGuey Farm along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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The Bonnechere River at the McGuey Farm.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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The old tote road continues upstream from the McGuey Farm to Bridge Dam and crosses this little side creek. At lower water levels there would be no issue, but at spring levels, you're likely to get your feet wet -- although it hardly looks like it in this photo! It would have been a long jump for an old guy carrying a pack and an expensive camera.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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Upstream, you could get across dry if you didn't mind thrashing through the alders.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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Portage landing upstream of the McGuey Farm.

Bridge Dam along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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Looking upstream on the Bonnechere River from Bridge Dam.

Bridge Dam along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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The remains of Bridge Dam.

Bridge Dam along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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In the nineteenth century, the tote road crossed the river downstream of the McGuey farm. In later years, it crossed the river here. I was interested in whether it was still possible to cross the river here, since the road on the far side would provide access to the old Egan Farm ( 3 ). I think we will need to find a different route.

Bridge Dam along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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The dam structures for directing the logs downstream are still evident beneath the water.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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Upon returning to the farm, we discovered that crossing the side creek was much easier if you went farther upstream.

McGuey Farm Trail in Algonquin Park

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Enjoying a coffee after lunch at the trail head.

High Falls Trail along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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The start of the trail to High Falls. Overall this trail is in better shape than the McGuey Farm trail.

Roundloba hepatica along the High Falls Trail along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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Round-lobed hepatica, a very early wildflower, grow in profusion along this trail. They were just just starting to come out.

High Falls Trail along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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Along the trail.

High Falls Trail along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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A corduroy section of the trail. This section of the trail was through a swampy area dominated by white cedar, which is not a common Algonquin habitat.

Little Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park just upstream of High Falls

(photo by Bob: 2010-04-14 - map - explore

The Bonnechere River leading into High Falls.

High Falls on the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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The river starts to drop ...

High Falls on the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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... and drops some more ...

High Falls on the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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... and over she goes.

High Falls on the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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It was a reasonably steep climb up from the bottom of the falls.

High Falls Trail along the Bonnechere River in Algonquin Park

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This shows the old tote road continuing on from the turn off to High Falls. One hundred years ago, this would have led all the way up to McGuey's Farm and beyond; I have no idea how far it is traceable and followable today. Oh well, something else to explore on another day!

Spot 2 messenger

(photographed: 2010-04-14 - map - explore

One thing we were testing on this hike was the performance of our new Spot 2 in "tracking mode". We had already determined that it didn't really work very well if it was carried in a shirt pocket. On this trip it was tied onto the top of Bob's pack. It tracked us well on the McGuey Farm trail and poorly on the High Falls trail -- not sure what the difference was. It works well when it has a clear unobstructed view of the sky; less well otherwise. It works well in a canoe, but poorly while bushwhacking. We admit to being slightly disappointed, even though it works as advertised.

We had seen a single car coming out as we drove in in the morning. At the wet spots on the road coming out, the tracks showed that no one else had driven that far up the road that day. Basically, we had that part of Algonquin Park all to ourselves. When we were relaxing after coming out from High Falls, a couple of Conservation Officers in a pickup truck stopped to exchange pleasantries about the weather, etc. and (I assume) to determine what we were up to. I think they sized us up pretty quickly -- a couple of superannuated tree-huggers in a Subaru, rather than pre-season poachers.

Notes

  1. What we refer to as the Basin Depot Road is also known as Turner's Road, or Basin Road. It used to be known as the Old Bonnechere Road.
  2. Thanks to Jeffrey McMurtrie (Free Algonquin Provincial Park Map) for pointing out to us that Algonquin Park Permits are no longer available at Turner's Camp.

Sources

Roderick Mackay, Potatoes in the Pines: Depot Farms in Algonquin Park; with particular investigations at the Egan Farm; BKGI-1, Clancy Township.

Roderick Mackay (1996), Spirits of the Little Bonnechere, The Friends of Bonnechere Parks.

Mark Stabb and Roderick Mackay (2002), Walks of the Little Bonnechere River, The Friends of Bonnechere Parks.