The following articled is extracted from the June 1909 - May 1910 edition of Rod and Gun in Canada Magazine - Volume XI, Page 328
Preface by Bobby Swain at Basswood Lake Outfitters:
As noted in the history article posted in the previous BBLA Newsletter, the Canadian Camp Clubhouse on the northwest shore of Big Basswood Lake, was a very popular destination in the early 1900’s. This facility was both a direct tourist destination as is the case in this article, and it was the end terminus of the then famous Mississauga River journey, which started at the CPR mainline stations of Bisco or Winnebago. The canoe adventure was probably one of the most prestigious routes for adventurers in the days of railway travel which was before the popularization of motor car touring which flourished in the decade following this Big Basswood Lake tale.
The Canadian Camp was a “social” group formed in New York City in 1902 and from obtainable records, it appears that the organization’s offshoot adventurer’s Club took over management and upgrading of the existing Clubhouse building in or around 1905. You will glean from this article a good idea of the breadth of the popularity of this tourist destination for Canadians and more particularly American visitors from many influential walks of life.
Holiday at the Canadian Camp Club - 1909
(Lake Wacquekobing / Big Basswood Lake – Algoma District, Ontario)
It is a grand thing to have headquarters in the woods. Attractive in their ever changing beauties as these splendid resorts for all Canadians who can visit them are, they are dreary indeed during rain and at certain periods of the spring and fall. With a well fitted up headquarters however one can be independent of the weather and visit the woods as business and other claims will allow. To be sure the woods are bad during "fly time," headquarters or not, but though flies can produce misery enough to exceed human imagination they are often braved and their pestiferous attentions endured for a time.
Although it is not everything, a headquarters therefore means a good deal and the Canadian and United States sportsmen who established a headquarters on the shore of Lake Wacquekobing (now called Big Basswood Lake) at the end of the Mississaga canoe trip, knew very well the advantages to be gained there from. This canoe trip, which has attained wide celebrity and considerable popularity, is taken generally from Biscotasing, a station on the main line west of the Canadian Pacific Railway and ends at stations on the Soo branch of the same famous road.
Thus it is easy to reach the embarkation point and at the close, to go to any station in Canada or the States the tourist may wish to visit. At headquarters, known as the Canadian Camp Club, one may recuperate for a day or longer as circumstances dictate. Or if the canoe trip not be taken, the Club House may be visited in the first place and excursions made of any length or time, exploratory or merely of a recreative character, using the Club House as a base.
Lake Wacquekobing, which name is said by the Indians to mean "Grey water," is about eleven miles long by six wide, though it narrows down to much less than this at places. Like most Canadians lakes it is full of points and bays and contains three fine islands, at present covered with pine. A goodly portion of the shores have been devastated by forest fires and the rocky ridges, which looked fine with their wealth of pine and birch, are now disfigured and unpleasant.
Even with these drawbacks 'however a visit to headquarters is pretty sure to be productive of some pleasant experiences.
Knowing this the writer, when circumstances proved favorable for a visit in August of last year, speedily made such arrangements as would permit of office cares being left behind and the delights of the Northern Ontario woods explored for a fortnight.
A party of three left Western Ontario by the evening train, caught the Muskoka –Sudbury express by changing at West Toronto and early next morning were in Sudbury, the little mining town made famous by the mineral discoveries in the immediate neighborhood. There is not much to see in Sudbury and the five hours before the Soo train was due was a good deal more than sufficient to enable one to see it all.
The Soo branch gives evidence along its whole length of fishing and hunting possibilities. It was at Thessalon where the train was left and by previous arrangement a doubled seated rig was in waiting to transfer the passengers from the station to the shores of the lake.
Visions of a springless wagon had been floating through one's imagination and it was an unexpected pleasure to find the rig. The road, too, was likewise an agreeable surprise. Although rough at times, and roughly made as compared with the model "good roads" of Western Ontario, it proved one of the best of the Government roads in Northern Ontario, and having been favored with a dry spell it was really at its best. The whole twelve miles to Sowerby is along a high road and only for the last half mile, after leaving that little settlement for the shores of the lake, do any serious bumps occur.
It was seven o'clock in the evening when, after this long, cold ride, the party were dumped down with their baggage on the shores of a little bay, and cheered with the information that as the lake was rough Superintendent Hope, who was to have met them, might be delayed indefinitely. (this bay would likely have been Coles Bay due to its proximity to Sowerby – it could also have been Indiana Bay where Basswood Lake Resort now occupies the site, however this would have made for both a longer row from the Clubhouse and a longer wagon ride from Sowerby)
It was not a pleasant prospect and it is certain the two ladies regretted leaving their comfortable home in a settled district. There was the further unsettling reflection that the boy driver,(who started off as soon as he was paid, being late for his supper, might have made a mistake and Mr. Hope be waiting in another bay the information having been volunteered during the drive that for such purposes a second bay was often used.
As a means of warming themselves the ladies decided to walk over to this bay to reconnoitre, it being agreed that they should return upon hearing a halloo. They had not however proceeded far when a second party drove up, a professional gentleman from Thessalon, who with his wife and family were camping across the lake, and a young lady living at a farm on the opposite shore (presumably one of the Dunn family daughters). The latter, a particularly bright specimen of her sex, saw at once what was the mattter. In a second she induced the gentleman to produce a match and had us all hunting for dry wood. In a few minutes a glorious camp fire was blazing and with warmth, good humor returned. Mr. Batson, the gentleman in question, told us that no signal was possible and that patience was the only policy.
Scarcely had he made this explanation when a boat was seen approaching and the question was which party were to finish the last stage of their journey first. The boat proved to be one from the Club House and Mr. Hope himself was the rower. Greetings over, the long row to the Club House against a heavy sea followed. A lantern had been placed on a stump outside the Club and long before arrival this steady light was seen. It was nine o'clock before the Clubhouse was reached but a hearty welcome and a warm dinner speedily enabled the new comers to view the last incidents of the journey in a philosophic light and to smile over the little mishap which appeared so great at the time it occurred.
At the Clubhouse there was quite a pleasant gathering that evening. Mr. S. T. Ballard of Louisville, Ky. who is interested in a large flour business in that city, had arrived the previous day (Mr. Ballard was later to become the Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky and a noted philanthropist – see https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/ items/show/6235 ). This gentleman headed a party consisting of himself, wife, his young son Rogers, son-in- law (Dr. Moreton) and two lady cousins. In addition there were three young New York gentlemen fresh from the Mississaga trip, which, with the energy of youth and the strenuousness which mark our friends to the South, they had accomplished in eleven days and meant to take the train for their home the following morning. The talk was all of backwoods experiences and the surroundings made it particularly appropriate.
A quiet Sunday followed, the young men going out without fuss after an early breakfast. They left in backwoods' costumes with their dunnage bags, intending to resume conventional garb at the first hotel at which they stopped.
Fishing was the order of every day during the ensuing fortnight. In pursuit of the small mouth black bass not only was Lake Wacquekobing tried but pilgrimages made to Clear Lake, a half mile easy portage only being between the two lakes, Little Basswood Lake and other lakes.
Clear Lake belies its name for the water in that lake is by no means so clear as in Lake Wacquekobing. In Clear Lake also we ran across a school of pickerel and persistently caught pickerel when we wanted bass. So far as the fish were concerned, the best place we struck was a point a few yards from the Club House. Here we took as many as seventeen in one half hour.
For fishing as a pastime however give me Clear Lake. It will be a long, long time before I forget that first Tuesday up in' the Northern wilds. For one whole, long, delightful day I sat in the bottom of a canoe holding a little steel rod. I would go an hour without a bite but just drink in the beauty of the lake and its surroundings and feel supremely content with the bliss of the quiet calm. It seemed almost like a desecration when the guide paddled across to the opposite shore for lunch, and I almost resented the appearance of another fisherman (the guide called him an old mossback) who soon made it plain that he came fishing only for fish. Indeed the day was a disappointment for several members of the party and at the Clubhouse that evening discontent found voice.
As for myself, however, that day marks a time of absolute contentment. The world and its cares were forgotten for a period and quiet meditation took the place of stern problems of existence. It was then that the full delights of fishing were experienced. That day I fished for the fishing and not for the fish. The total for the whole party was small and my contribution to that total an inconsiderable one. I would however that life contained many more of such days, the recollections of which form no mean asset in one's existence.
The next ripple to the quiet life of the backwoods was caused by the appearance of Doctor Thompson, of Chicago, and Doctor Lawrence, of Boston. Both these gentlemen, who are accustomed to take a backwoods trip together every year, had come down the Mississauga in canoes and taken their time over the trip, making several side trips of an interesting character
Those at the Clubhouse who were making their first visit to the woods were mightily amused with the manner in which these parties arrived. The woods come right up to the Club House and the portage from the Mississaga is a long and difficult half mile. Usually at breakfast time or immediately afterwards one would notice, either from the window or on the verandah, a man walking out of the woods with a canoe on his head. He was the forerunner of a party and welcomed accordingly. In a short time questions were asked and answered and the new comers given such information as placed them again within touch of civilization, although the "latest news" was at least forty eight hours old.
One gentleman had an amusing query. He had been careful to mark, down in his diary the day of the month but was at sea with regard to the day of the week. In my case, with my limited fortnight, I kept track of the day of the week but had forgotten the day of the month. Between the two of us we were able to get things in their right places.
The doctors had not been successful with their guides, whom they "fired" on their way down, giving them a canoe and provisions and continuing their journey alone. Both gentlemen were emphatic upon the delights of a backwoods life and repudiated the idea of anything of the nature of " hardship." Their outings are matters of consideration all the year round, every detail being planned with care, and one of them much amused the ladies by declaring that his coat, a comfortable but not particularly taking garment, in which, however, he saw many virtues, had occupied him a whole day in making its selection.
The doctors described the trip as uninteresting for the first few days from Biscotasing. The timber has been cut and the land burned over. Waters on the lakes had been raised for logging purposes, with the results that the trees around the shores had been killed. After passing Cat Bay things got a little better and improved until the Height of Land was reached. At Upper Green Lake they got into timber and found Norway and white pines, though the birds were few.
They met Mr. William Kinney, the head ranger, who has a force of twenty men under him at the Rangers' Cabin on Bank Lake. Mr. Kinney was courtesy itself and showed willingness to assist tourists in every way. His system and discipline seemed perfect, and he controlled every movement of his men, who all spoke in high terms of their chief. These men cut trails, clear out portages and by diligence in preventing and fighting forest fires perform fine national services.
The rangers recommended a trip to Sauble Lake as prettier than any lake on the main river. Upon this recommendation the tourists made the trip and were well repaid for their trouble. The next day they returned to Bark Lake and in the afternoon and evening had the rangers as their guests. On resuming their journey they caught some fine trout in the head waters tributary to the Aubinadong.
The latter they found a rocky stream, but when they reached Minnesinaqua they found ample compensation in its beauties for all their exertions. They journeyed to Round Lake and Seven Mile Lake, where they met some more rangers, and thus on to Winnebagon. Through lake and portage — one called the Devil's Portage, two miles long — they proceeded to Aubinadong River. After several side trips they decided to finish on the Mississaga and paddle on to Aubrey Falls, which they described as one of the most picturesque sights they had seen in fairly extensive travels. By means of lines and poles they scrambled down and took a number of photographs. They strongly advised all tourists to arrange to stop off at least one day at this point and enjoy the magnificent scenery, which requires time to fully realize its entrancing beauties. From a good position one can get a view of the surrounding country for twenty miles. Lower down they had six miles of rapid waters.
In the course of the trip they caught all the fish they required. They saw a great deal of big game, including moose and deer, and many ducks, including canvassbacks, teal and black duck. These sights were highly gratifying to them and enabled them to enjoy every minute of their trip; and in particular the reminiscences over the camp-fires in the evening.
So crowded were we in the Clubhouse that Mr. and Mrs. Davidson, of New York, who fished enthusiastically, had to put up at Dunn's farm, a really pretty place on the opposite side of the lake from Sowerby. This farm looks like an oasis in the rockbound coast of the lake, and every visitor gives it a call. The writer made two visits, and on each occasion enjoyed a pleasant time. On the second the lake was too rough to take the ladies across, and they remained until the mail and some necessary provisions were procured from Sowerby, while Mrs. Dunn made us all cordially welcome at tea. The only drawback was the thought of the return trip, for the lake did not go down and the boat was heavily laden. However, the journey was successfully negotiated, and another pleasant memory added to the many gathered throughout the holiday.
It was on Sunday morning that Dr. and Mr. Penrose, with three Indian guides, came in. Dr. Penrose is an ex- professor of Pennsylvania University and Mr. Penrose a resident of Colorado Springs, Col. ( see https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bingham_Penrose). Both have been great travelers, and conversations with them proved rich feasts. They camped in a little bay and took meals at the ClubHouse.
It was a fine sight to see their Indians make camp. "Big Joe," the Chief of the Mississaga Indians, was in charge. The men first erected their master's tent, each man doing his own share without speaking a word, and each making his task fit in with the others in such a way that the work went forward with expedition and neatness. Tents up, a fire- place was arranged and many little conveniences contrived, which soon made the camp a home in the wilderness. Further acquaintance deepened the respect for these Indian guides.
The last visitor to arrive while we were there was Mr. Upton White, of Philadelphia, who for several weeks had been wandering out through rivers and lakes to the northwest of the Club House under the guidance of Geo. Linklater. Like all who become acquainted with that fine guide — who is an ex-Hudson Bay factor, was born, reared and spent his whole life in the woods — Mr. White was much impressed with his companion's capacity and readiness for service when so largely dependent upon him for most things.
While reticent as a rule, George became communicative 'round the camp fire and told several stories of his adventures. He also imparted to his companion many ideas of woodcraft and did all he could to insure a pleasant time for his employer. Mr. White manages to keep up memories of youth by means of these annual trips to the woods, and retains his health and vigor in a manner which gives eloquent testimony to his gain from outdoor life. He joined the Penrose party and added to the pleasantness of the intercourse which proved a most enjoyable feature of our camp life.
Dr. Penrose told of his cooking, and added that even at home he does useful service in that respect. He is a member of a club in Pennsylvania — membership being strictly limited to the male persuasion — whose members all study the art of cookery, and it is the duty of each member to cook a weekly dinner for the members as his turn comes round. The member who is unable to send up a well-cooked joint is mercilessly criticized on his performance. Such practical studies at home of course makes the performer independent of a camp cook, and as appetites increase alarmingly in camp this is a great advantage. All the cooking during the canoe trip was the work of the doctor.
One day we visited the lower falls of the Mississauga and sat on the rocks for an hour, watching the waters pour down into a rocky basin amidst a white whirl of foam and pass out between rocky walls (likely Slate Falls at the start of the Portage up to Big Basswood Lake). The portage contains a saddening memorial carved on a tree of a drowning accident. This, and a visit to the little settlement of Goldenburg, past which the Mississaga flows in grand peacefulness, was a pleasant experience and enabled one to see the summer life of New Ontario at its best. The walk through the woods, the falls, the settlement with its little schoolhouse and smiling fields, won from the surrounding woods, together with the beautiful river, presented a variety and series of beautiful pictures which will long live in the memories of those privileged to spend a pleasant half day amongst them.
In the course of such a holiday the gathering of blueberries goes almost without saying anything about them. They are to be found in abundance on rocks near the Club House, and one morning we gathered a grand supply. Any time we wished for dessert the supply was near at hand and practically unlimited.
Our fishing was successful enough to keep the Club House fully supplied all the time of our visit, and in addition to give messes to settlers, who, though so near a plentiful supply, find themselves so busied in other ways as often to go without a healthy diet because of the time and trouble necessary to procure fine article of food. This does not apply to the youngsters, who often prove ardent and successful fishermen, despite the handicap of poor equipment. The resourcefulness of these youngsters is a matter of surprise, and should mean much to them in their future careers.
All too soon the halcyon days of the holiday drew to a close and it was necessary to return. The lake got up an angry mood for the last day, and the night before it rolled on the shores in such a fashion as to make it doubtful whether the journey across could be accomplished.
To avoid being stormbound, an early start was made, and on landing at the other bay than the one visited on the inward journey, Mr. Cameron, who was waiting with his rig, stated that just before the boat arrived a doe and fawn had passed. Though he invited them to remain, informing them that visitors unused to such sights were near, they went on and to our regret were out of sight when we landed. We left the Clubhouse and crossed the lake in rain, which cleared up as we reached the opposite shore. Thus the dust was laid and the drive made pleasant. At Thessalon we learned that a bridge was down and in consequence the train service was irregular.
Even delays and a crowded train could not spoil the pleasure experienced in the delightful journey on the new line through Muskoka to Toronto. That busy city was reached just in time to allow a good dinner to be partaken of before another train was taken, and in consequence the last stage of the journey was entered upon in good spirits.
A large store of pleasant memories will long remain with those who were privileged to spend a holiday in 1908 at the Canadian Camp Club House, where Superintendent and Mrs. Hope did their best to make all visitors welcome and to ensure that their stay should be pleasant and enjoyable.
Leave a Comment