Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2021
Marten River is located just north of North Bay and is considered the southern gateway to Temagami, Ontario’s wilderness region. It features towering old growth pines, rocky outcrops, sandy beaches and has a reconstructed winter logging camp. It also offers a number of recreational activities such as swimming, canoeing, hiking and camping.
We spent the previous three nights at Windy Lake Provincial Park and it was time for us to move on. From Windy Lake it’s about a 2 hour drive to Marten River. While it rained for about the first half of the drive, thankfully we were able to escape the rain … for now. We arrived at the park just before 11a.m.
It was overcast and the forecast was calling for rain throughout the day. We figured we might as well start hiking while it was still dry. There are three interconnecting trails in Marten River: the Short Loop (800m, yellow markers), Old Growth Trail (3.5km, red markers) and the Transition Trail (4.2km, blue markers). The trailhead to all three trails is located in the Assinika Campground and there’s a small parking lot that can accommodate 3 to 4 cars. The parking lot was full when we arrived, so we instead parked at the nearby parking lot for the bike trail and just walked a couple hundred metres to the trailhead.
We planned to hike along the Transition Trail which encompasses the other two trails. The trail winds through the forest of mature pine and leads to a lookout of Marten River.
All three trails have the same starting point and for the first stretch the path is marked by a series of yellow, red and blue markers. The trail is relatively flat, but there are some rough and tough sections with a few ups and downs and roots and rocks. There are also a few boardwalk sections to help even things out.
The turn offs for the Short Loop and Old Growth Trail are well marked. At the junction for the Old Growth Trail and Transition Trail, there’s an interpretive panel about how few of the world’s original old-growth pine forests remain. A very large white pine in Ontario in 1860 could reach 67 metres in height. Most mature white pines today reach about 30 metres.
We continued to follow the blue markers through the forest, which leads to the Marten River and a rocky outcrop. The trail then loops back through the forest and meets up with the Old Growth Trail and the Short Loop again. Once we saw the yellow markers, it’s a short stretch to get back to the trailhead and parking area.
Afterwards we drove down to the picnic area to have some lunch. We made a croissant sandwich and ate on a bench overlooking the water. One of the beach areas is located here, but it was a bit chilly outside and it looked like it was going to rain soon. We then headed out. But after driving for about 15 minutes, I realized we had totally forgotten about the logging camp. Naturally we had to turn around and check it out.
From the picnic area, we followed the timber signs to the historical logging camp. There’s a short trail (1.6km) which loops through the forest along an old logging road and passes a number of wooden buildings and logging equipment.
The area around Marten River was once used for logging in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The logging camp and museum were constructed in the park to replicate the type of seasonal logging camps that were common in Temagami and the north that lumberjacks would live in through the winter. Prior to the pandemic, Marten River hosted Lumberjack Days on the third weekend in July in celebration of those early days and included traditional food, demonstrations and a variety of logging contests and competitions.
The first half of the trail passes by a few logging buildings, including an office, bunkhouse, cookhouse, meathouse, horse stable, hay shed and blacksmith shop.
The second part of the trail passes by original artifacts and equipment from the logging era, including a wooden plow, water tanker, sleigh, jammer, crazy wheel, log boom, and roller.
As we were finishing up, it started to lightly drizzle. I’m glad we returned to explore the historical logging camp and learn more about the logging history in the area. From here we drove east towards Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here