A Walk to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park
Exploring the Rana Lake Red Oak Nature Reserve

Some photos from a hike through the Rana Lake Red Oak Nature Reserve in Algonquin Park, starting from the Brent Road at Rana Lake, walking to Pan Lake and then following the portage to Ghost Lake. This portage traverses the nature reserve and visits the site of the former Brent Fire Tower. The fall colours were just beginning to develop.

According to the Natural Heritage Information Centre database (1), the Rana Lake Red Oak (N26) Reserve " ... is dominated by a dry to dry-mesic intolerant and tolerant forest complex, with Sugar Maple and American Beech dominating more moist, deeper soil sites and mature, open Red Oak forest in thin soil, drier sites. The Red Oak, estimated to compose about 30% of the total cover of the site, is said to constitute the most extensive, mature growth of this species in Algonquin Park. The site is on Ground Moraine and Rock Outcrop landform."

2011 September 26

Rana Lake on the Brent Road in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Rana Lake just off the Brent Road in Algonquin Park

Start of the trail to Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Start of the trail to Pan Lake in Algonquin Park. We began our hike here. This trail starts from the Brent Road just east of the portage to Rana Lake and it intersects the Pan Lake to Ghost Lake portage very close (tens of meters) to Pan Lake.

Along the trail to Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Along the trail to Pan Lake.

Red oak leaves along the trail to Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Red oak leaves along the trail to Pan Lake. In fact, it was only here, close to Rana Lake that the oaks were prominent. Perhaps later in the fall, when the oaks still retain their deep brown leaves and the maple and the beech leaves are down, they might stand out more elsewhere. Or perhaps our route did not visit the drier parts of the reserve.

Sugar maple along the trail to Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Sugar maple along the trail to Pan Lake. Sugar maples were prominent all along our route.

Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Pan Lake.

foundation of old ranger cabin on Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Foundation of the old ranger cabin at Pan Lake. It is our understanding that this is where the keeper of the Brent Fire Tower stayed.

Outhouse at Pan Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Outhouse associated with the ranger cabin at Pan Lake -- a two seater.

Thin soils in places in the Rana Lake Red Oak Natural Zone in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

In places the soil seemed quite deep, while in other places, the trees were growing on rocks.

Large Cedar tree along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

We were impressed by the number of large cedar trees in the area. (See also previous photo.)

Remains of the old Brent fire tower along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Diana: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

The remains of the old Brent Fire Tower lie on the forest floor adjacent to the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake. The current trail runs right through what used to be the bottom of the tower - two of the concrete footings are on one side and two on the other. This view is from the top of the tower looking back towards the portage trail.

Remains of the old Brent fire tower along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Parts of the cabin structure from the top of the old Brent Fire Tower.

Remains of the old Brent fire tower along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

One of the footings of the old Brent Fire Tower. It seems clear that the tower was deliberately brought down.

Remains of the old Brent fire tower along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

The size of this white birch suggests how long the tower has been down - tens of years.

Remains of the old Brent fire tower along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Some debris - a can of B/A outboard motor oil and an old "Auto-lite" battery. The colour scheme of the B/A oil can indicates that it is pre-1967. The acid from the battery has long ago leaked out.

bear claw marks on beech tree along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Bear claw marks on a beech tree along the portage. Many of the beech trees had such marks.

ferns along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Ferns.

yellow birch along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

A large yellow birch. We were impressed by the size of some of the yellow birch trees that we encountered along this trail. When they get this big, their bark doesn't look very "birchy" any more.

indian cucumberroot along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Indian cucumber-root.

hobblebush along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Hobblebush.

bracket fungus with lungwort along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Bracket fungus with lungwort. A pretty dried out scrawny pieced of lungwort, but lungwort all the same.

beech drops along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Beech drops.

rattlesnake plantain along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Rattlesnake plantain. Diana was quite excited to find these diminutive wild orchids amongst the beechnut husks. Unfortunately we were a couple of months late for their blooming.

mushrooms along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Mushrooms. We don't think it would be a good idea to substitute these for tomatoes in your next salad.

mushrooms along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

More mushrooms.

 along the portage from Pan Lake to Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

The forest.

Ghost Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2011-09-26 - map - explore

Ghost Lake is a small elongated lake in a deep valley. Its elevation is almost 100m less than that of the fire tower site. We suspect that not many people pass this way. In crossing the portage, the only footprints that we saw were from moose.

We had been hoping to connect up with the Ghost Lake Tower Trail (2), which connects Cedar Lake with Ghost Lake and (presumably) the fire tower. We saw no sign of it either at Ghost Lake or at the fire tower site.

From here we returned to the Brent Road by the same route as we had come. The trail has some steep ups and downs, and we felt we got a good workout even though the distance was only a few kilometers each way. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, warm enough to feel almost like summer, and we enjoyed hiking through the hardwood forest.

Notes

  1. The Natural Heritage Information Centre used to provide good summaries of various special natural areas throughout Ontario. However, over the last several years, software improvements have destroyed the site's functionality and usefulness. We suspect that the quoted description of the Rana Lake Red Oak Nature Reserve still resides somewhere in the NHIC public database, but is now -- at least for us -- unfindable.

  2. The Ghost Lake Tower Trail is shown on Jeffrey McMurtrie’s excellent Algonquin Park Exploration Map.