Exploring the Pembroke Lumber Company Site
On Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

An account with photographs of a hike into the old mill site of the Pembroke Lumber Company on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park.

2010 October 06

We recently took advantage of the beautiful fall weather to explore the old Pembroke Lumber Company mill site on Lake Travers (better known locally and traditionally as Lake Traverse) in Algonquin Park.

The Pembroke Lumber Company operated a mill site on Lake Travers from the 1930s until 1977. The site has subsequently been cleared of buildings and other traces of the mill, with some areas replanted and other areas being allowed to grow in naturally. Little remains. The site is located on the point, just east of where Travers Creek enters the lake. The access road starts on the Lake Travers Road adjacent to where it crosses Travers Creek.

Trail into Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

We started our hike from along the Lake Travers Road, just east of Travers Creek. The start of the road is not particularly obvious and the end of it is blocked by low fabric barriers, which we assume are designed to prevent turtles from venturing out onto the Lake Travers Road to lay their eggs. The barrier is easy to step over -- or preferably, to step around. (A little farther in, the road has been trenched to prevent vehicular traffic.)

Trail into Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

The old road was easy walking through a typical jackpine forest - jackpine, poplar, sweet fern and lichen. A few downed trees necessitated detours. It is clear, however, that the road is being allowed to grow in and will deteriorate in time as a walking path.

Trail into Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Near the mill site, some areas have been replanted with red pine.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

About a kilometre in, the road opened up at a 'Y' junction. This is the start of a loop that encircles the mill site. As we understand it, the mill was located near the point extending into Lake Travers and these more remote areas were probably where the sawn lumber was stacked. The unsawn logs were contained in a boom offshore and east of the point. We continued to the left, thus proceeding around the loop in a clockwise direction.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Soon, through the trees, we could see the marshy bay where Travers Creek enters Lake Travers. We bushwhacked over.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Across the way, we could see one of the stone chimneys of Turtle Lodge and, although not evident in this photo, beach chairs at the site of the Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO) guest house.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

As we approached the lake, poplars were becoming more abundant, growing up in the open areas.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Sadly, the only structure still standing is this water tank.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

A pleasant campsite is now situated at the point.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

From the campsite

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

What's an old logging site without a rusted chain?

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Looking towards Poplar Rapids on the Petawawa River and the Lake Travers Bridge.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Looking directly across the lake (west).

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Looking down the lake to where the Petawawa River exits (north).

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Gorges of the Petawawa

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

The clear waters of Lake Travers (Traverse).

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Remnants of an old wharf at the point.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

The mill site is not yet overgrown.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Continuing in a clockwise direction around the site.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

We initially though these were runners from an old sleigh, but they seem too narrow.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Heading towards the beach east of the mill site.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

The beach east of the mill site. The unsawn logs were boomed offshore near this beach.

(And that black speck at the top left of the photo is actually a blackfly. It was a beautiful fall day and the blackflies were out in force. Just swarming - not biting - but enough to be a nuisance.)

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Looking back towards the mill site and the modern campsite. This view should be compared with the photo (1) in Mrs. Woermke's book that presents a similar view. The mill and jackladder would have occupied the middle distance.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Another of the few artefacts that we found.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Continuing on the old road, but looking back towards Lake Travers.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

As is true for all of this area, it is very poor soil, virtually pure sand, here with a ground cover of lichen and blueberry bushes.

Pembroke Lumber Company site on Lake Travers in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2010-10-06 - map - explore

Essentially all that remains of the old mill are neat piles of rotting wood, discreetly hidden back in the bush. A very thorough and complete cleanup of the site. Probably a good thing from a safety and environmental perspective but less so from a heritage and historical perspective.

In 2011 September we spent two days exploring Lake Travers and we returned to the Pembroke Lumber Company site: see Exploring Lake Travers. We didn't really learn anything new, but were impressed by how much the site seems to have grown in during the past year and how the water level was noticeably lower in 2011. Of course when the mill was operating, the dam at Big Thompson would still have been intact and (we assume) controlling the water levels on Lake Travers.

Notes

  1. See the photo on the bottom of page 72 of Lake Traverse Station, A Railroad Wife's Algonquin Park Memoir.

Sources

Michael W.P. Runtz (1993), The Explorer's Guide to Algonquin Park, Stoddard Publishing Co. Ltd.

Gwendolyn M. Woermke (2009), Lake Traverse Station, A Railroad Wife's Algonquin Park Memoir, Mark Woermke (email: laketraverse.station@yahoo.ca)