Berm Lake and Johnston Creek
Two Tom Thomson Sketching Locations

Abstract: We suspect that several of Thomson's paintings are of Berm Lake and of the mouth of Johnson Creek on Grand Lake. However, these identifications are perhaps the most speculative of our determinations because modern vegetation has completely altered this landscape.

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Cranberry Marsh

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Cranberry Marsh and Hill

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The Marsh, Early Spring

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The Lake, Bright Day

Berm Lake is located about 1 km east of the Out-Side-In. Contiguous with its south east corner is a marshy area that extends to within a few hundred meters of the Out-Side-In. On the far side of Berm Lake is a prominent hill. This is the location of the look-out on the modern Berm Lake Hiking Trail. We suspect, but cannot prove that Berm Lake and its associated marsh is Cranberry Marsh, depicted in at least two Thomson sketches. The difficulty is that in the last 100 years, the forest has grown up. In Thomson's day, this area had been extensively logged; the big trees were gone. The current forest growth makes identification of the sketching location difficult, because many of the sight lines are gone; the shapes of the hills are obscured; and the marsh shoreline is difficult to access. In addition, as we discuss elsewhere, the local beaver population may have been low in Thomson's day. The water level of Berm Lake is currently controlled by beavers.

Cranberry Marsh

Cranberry Marsh
Looking into Berm Lake from behind the staff house at Achray in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2014-07-11 - map - explore

This view across the marsh and Berm Lake is just behind the current staff house at Achray. It is, perhaps 200m distant from the Out-Side-In. It is suggestive, but not conclusive, that Berm Lake is indeed 'Cranberry Marsh'. (And yes, we have verified that there are cranberries in the marsh!)

Cranberry Marsh and Hill

Cranberry Marsh and Hill
Along the shore of Berm Lake at Achray in Algonquin Park

(photo by Diana: 2014-07-11 - map - explore

This view across Berm Lake is from where Johnston Creek exits the marsh. The tree cover obscures the distant skyline but there is at least the suggestion of an appropriately placed dip. But the match is poor.

The Marsh, Early Spring

The Marsh Early Spring

The landscape of this sketch has a similar feel to the two Cranberry Marsh paintings and is perhaps the same location. However, the line of spruce along the far shoreline is problematic. We suspect that it is from elsewhere.

Berm Lake drains into Grand Lake via Johnston Creek. We believe that Johnston Creek was another nearby sketching location. However, the ingrowth of vegetation also makes this identification speculative.

The Lake, Bright Day

The Lake Bright Day

We suspect that this was painted from on or near the the railway embankment looking towards the mouth of Johnston Creek and beyond to Carcajou Bay.

The mouth of Johnston Creek on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park in 1978 April

(photo by R/D McElroy - explore

Here is that view from 1978. The sketch is a 'tighter crop' than the photo. This location, the mouth of Johnston Creek and the mouth of Carcajou Bay all line up — on the map, in the photo and in the sketch.

The mouth of Johnston Creek as seen from the rail bed near Achray in Algonquin Park

(photo by Diana: 2016-05-09 - map - explore

Here is that same view (or very close) from 2016 May — quite ingrown. And even more ingrown in the summer.

Looking into Berm Lake at Achray in Algonquin park from the railway embankment

(photo by Bob: 2014-07-11 - map - explore

This view is from about the same location of the previous photo, but looking back into Berm Lake. The prominent hill is behind the trees on the right. It is thus possible that this location is actually also the site of one or more of the Cranberry Marsh (Berm Lake) paintings. With the modern vegetation it is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate among the possibilities. This location is a very easy walk from the Out-Side-In along the railway tracks.

The following sketches may also have been painted in the vicinity of the mouth of Johnston Creek on Grand Lake — they have the appropriate feel. However, the vegetation has grown in and changed to the extent that even if this is the correct location they can no longer be matched photographically. They are reproduced in the appendix for completeness.

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Tamaracks

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Tamarack Swamp

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Lake in Autumn

Notes

The back of the sketch Cranberry Marsh has an inscription stating 1916 Cranberry Marsh & Hillside on Ragged Lake going over into Crown Lake / Callighen says Island lake. See the Tom Thomson Catalogue Raisonné entry for Cranberry Marsh.