Where are "The Cascades"?

Some comments on the place names "The Cascades" and "High Falls" in eastern Algonquin Park

2003 September 30

I was going to hike into "High Falls" today, but I wimped out on the basis of the weather forecast. I didn't feel like investing a couple of hours driving just to walk in the rain. I guess I'm getting old — a bad day in the bush ... etc., etc.

High Falls area at the foot of Stratton Lake in Algonquin Park

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High Falls area at the foot of Stratton Lake in Algonquin Park.

A trip to "High Falls" is a highlight of many people's visit to the Grand Lake area of Algonquin park. Here Stratton Lake drains into High Falls Lake via series of small waterfalls crossing two 50 foot contour lines over half a kilometer or so — a picturesque series of "cascades". One in particular provides a natural waterslide between two pools.

The waterslide at High Falls in Algonquin Park

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The waterslide at High Falls in Algonquin Park.

However, the feature marked as "The Cascades" on all of the recent maps is about 3 km downstream. (A little upstream of where the portage from the Achray Road leads to the Barron River). But why is this called "The Cascades"? There's a small rapids there — pretty enough — but I can't see it warranting a name like "The Cascades" (or even warranting a name). It's my theory that the name, "The Cascades" was meant to apply to the waterslide area, but somewhere along the line it got located incorrectly and the error has been perpetuated.

The name seems to be of relatively recent origin. I haven't found any reference to it prior to the early 1970s. It is not on the 1958 Algonquin Provincial Park Map nor on the "Tom Thomson" Canoe Routes map (undated, but certainly still current in 1972). It is not on the 2nd (1957) or 3rd (1970) edition of sheet 31 F/13 of the 1/50,000 series National Topographic Maps, but it is on the 5th edition (1996). (I don't have a copy of the 4th edition). It is on all years that I have been able to check of the "current version" of the Canoe Routes map which has been issued annually since 1974, I believe.

On all these sheets, the name High Falls consistently appears. That name could apply to the falls downstream of the waterslide or perhaps to the falls at the end of the drainage of St. Andrews Lake into High Falls Lake. There is also — according to the current edition of 31 F/13 — a "High Falls" at the upper end of Carcajou Bay (about 8 km distance)!

High Falls in Algonquin Park

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Perhaps this is the real High Falls. These falls are located about half a kilometer downstream of the waterslide. They are perhaps most easily approached starting from the start of the portage from High Falls Lake to St. Andrews Lake

High Falls on Carcajou Bay in Algonquin Park

The "High Falls" at the head of Carcajou Bay on Grand Lake

I assume that the name "The Cascades" arose during the naming splurge of 1973 (see Names of Algonquin, Algonquin Park Technical Bulletin No. 10). So my question remains, was the name "The Cascades" meant to apply to "High Falls", or was it really meant to apply to an undistinguished set of rips (amidst other undistinguished unnamed rips) farther down stream? The Cascades seems like a better description than High Falls to the feature at the end of Stratton Lake.


G.D. Garland (1997), Names of Algonquin, Stories Behind the Lake and Place Names of Algonquin Provincial Park, Algonquin Park Technical Bulletin No. 10, The Friends of Algonquin Park.