A Spring Ramble Along the Spoor Lake Road

On 2012 April 30, Bob and Diana went for a walk along the eastern end of the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park. Bob had explored along here before, but Diana had not. There was no specific objective for the outing other than to enjoy the outdoors while it was still bug-free, to get some exercise, and to investigate various locations along the road if we were so inclined. The route was an out and back with a few side trips, the turnaround point being when we felt like it.

2012 April 30

This stretch of road was part of the old access road to the east side of Algonquin Park prior to the construction of the Barron Canyon Road (Achray Road) and Sand Lake Gate. At that time it was reached through the property of Camp Petawawa (now CFB Petawawa), crossing the Petawawa River via the bridge at the bottom of Montgomery Lake. While part of the old road is now used to get to McManus Lake, the rest of it is no longer open to public vehicle travel. The branch that used to lead to Achray is now broken just before it reaches the modern Achray Road; we aren't sure if the other branch, which used to lead to Lake Travers, is still intact or not.

Satellite Image

Our route (red line) and various landmarks leading up to and along the Spoor Lake Road. (Mouse over to read landmark descriptions). (Note that beyond the junction with the old road to Lake Travers, the old road to Achray is the faint line to the south west rather than the more prominent line that turns to the north west.)

Bob explored along here in 2004 (see An Early Spring Day in Algonquin Park -- although why, in that account, he referred to Lone Creek as an "unnamed creek" is unclear). This trip was similar, but with a side trip to Spoor Lake.

The day started out cold but sunny, and with little wind. We left our car at the gate (several hundred meters beyond where the access road to McManus Lake turns off) and began walking west around 10:00 am. As the day went on, it warmed up, but clouds started to move in during the afternoon. By the time we finished, around 2:30 pm, the sky was fully overcast and a few drops of rain had fallen.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  road closed to public

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Public access by vehicle is prohibited beyond this point, though one is free to travel on foot. The road is used by park staff and sometimes for logging, as well as by hunters -- as evidenced by the condition of this stop sign and a variety of spent shotgun shells along the road. The condition of the road, although still driveable, suggests that it hasn't been used as a haul road recently.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Looking along Spoor Lake Road. Many sections of the road are more overgrown, with alders leaning in from both sides. It is clear that this was once a good two lane gravel road. Indeed, circa 1960 it was the main access road to Achray and Lake Travers.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Sometime in the past -- although we have been unable to determine the history -- there was an attempt to establish a horse-packing business in this area. Clearly, it did not last. This clearing is a remnant of the headquarters/campground, situated on an almost overgrown side road south of Spoor Lake Road.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Decaying beams at horse headquarters. When Bob explored this area in 2004, the trail riding aspects had already fallen into disuse, but the traces of the operation were much more evident than they are now.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Thunderbox at horse headquarters; clearly it has not been used in a long time.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Bob checking the map, as we start to explore another side road, this one actually leading to Spoor Lake.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  experimental jack pine plantation

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

During the time that the Petawawa Forestry Institute was active (now there is only a small caretaker staff), forestry researchers planted many experimental plots of trees, mostly within the boundaries of the Petawawa Research Forest but some within Algonquin Park. In the 1980's, they established a number of plantations of jack pine along this side road to Spoor Lake. The soil here is sandy and well-drained, perfect for jack pines. While the Forestry Institute was shut down in 1995, the experimental plots still remain, documented but untended. Even as hewers of wood and drawers of water, Canada can't quite manage the research.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  jack pine plantation

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Diana with a jack pine plantation in the background. The sweet fern is not yet leafed out. In many places the ground cover is only a thin layer of moss on top of the underlying sand plain.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  abandoned trailer

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

We found this old trailer near Spoor Lake. Whoever made the trailer welded an old vehicle axle to a sturdy metal frame. It must have been able to handle quite a heavy load until one wheel eventually broke off.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  Spoor Lake

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Spoor Lake. The level of the water in the lake appeared to have been rising, and the shoreline was flooded. Spoor Lake is drained by Spoor Creek which flows into McManus Lake. We have, on previous occasions, poked our canoe into the mouth of Spoor Creek on McManus Lake and determined that the level of the creek is beaver dam controlled. (We have also concluded that you would need a very strong incentive to attempt to get a canoe into Spoor Lake from McManus Lake via Spoor Creek.)

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  remains of log building

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

As we worked our way along the shore of Spoor Lake, we came across the rotting remains of an old log building.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Near the log building, we found a stand pipe that we first thought was a well, until we came across the nearby remains of this old gravity flow gasoline pump. The stand pipe evidently led to a buried gas tank (and we hope it was emptied before it was abandoned). Why a gas station here, we have no idea.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  gravity flow gasoline pump

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

The top of the old gas pump at Spoor Lake. The graduated glass cylinder into which gas would have been pumped (by hand), has disappeared. This style of gas pump was probably not used in "civilized" locations much beyond the 1930s. However, it would have remained useful to a much later date in a more "primitive" location where electricity was not available (although the pump could accommodate electric light bulbs). The style of this pump is not likely a useful indicator of when this facility -- whatever it was -- was abandoned.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

We returned to the main road and continued west. There was not much to report on with respect to particular points of interest, just nice country along the shores of Lone Creek. We did however identify the intersection that provides vehicle access to Whitson Lake. On our first visit to Whitson Lake in the early 1970s, we noticed a pickup truck at one of the western campsites and on more recent visits, evidence of ATV traffic. They get there, legitimately or not, from here on the Spoor Lake Road, and it is a practice of long standing.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  Red Admiral butterfly

(photo by Bob: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

A Red Admiral butterfly, one of many we saw along the road. The mild winter and early spring have made it a bumper year for these insects. They had been reported as very plentiful in Ottawa a couple of weeks previously, but then there was a late season snow fall and the fear was these early arrivals would have been wiped out. Clearly that was not the case.

An interesting aspect of Red Admiral ecology is that it has not been unequivocally determined whether the early spring "arrivals" are due to migration or to over wintering or a bit of both.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  drained beaver pond

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

A drained beaver pond beside the road. The drainage seems to have been fairly recent, and was probably deliberate, as it was clear the pond had extended across the road.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  beaver meadow

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

An large beaver meadow above the broken dam. Bob also included a photo of this beaver meadow in his 2004 report

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Another remnant of the horse packing enterprise - a trail marker, hanging upside down under a fallen tree. This was the only such marker that we noticed, although they were quite prevalent along here in 2004.

 along the Spoor Lake Road in Algonquin Park  Lone Creek

(photographed: 2012-04-30 - map - explore

Lone Creek roughly parallels the eastern end of the Spoor Lake Road for a while. It is a beautiful little creek flowing through the pine woods. But it is a creek with a tragic past. It was along this creek that three teenage boys from Petawawa were killed by a black bear while they were trout fishing in the Spring of 1978 (see Beyond the last campfire and a contemporary report from the Montreal Gazette).

Notes

Google map layer, "Jeff's map", courtesy of Jeff's Map.