Sunday, October 02, 2016

Abandoned Bridge & Sawmill in Algonquin Park

While camping in Algonquin Park last weekend, we took our canoe on Canoe Lake and paddled to Potters Creek. We had wanted to do this in the summer, but ran out of time and good weather. My son had told us of an old bridge across the creek, and we wanted to see that.

Below are the last remaining timbers from that bridge which connected the main railway line to a sawmill across Potters Creek. The timbers are breaking down a little bit more each year, and are silvery grey with age. I took these photos from our canoe. This bridge was originally built sometime between 1933 and 1940 by the Barry's Bay Lumber Company (owned by Messrs. Omanique). 

The same bridge

My son told us back in the summer that there was some kind of stone "wheel" and a foundation alongside Potters Creek. It's actually the foundation for the sawdust burner that was built here on the edge of the water to burn the heaps of sawdust created by the sawmill.

You can see the square concrete platform below, and the circular foundation for the burner on top of that. Where we pulled up our canoe just to the right of this, we saw all kinds of crumbling red bricks along the shore, which were used for part of this structure.

When you look in the water around this area, there are all kinds of old pieces of lumber lying on the bottom of the creek.

The top of the circular section of the burner, now filled in with pine trees

Behind the burner foundation are lots of trees crowding up to the shore of the creek. We followed a short path that led into the trees ...

... and were so surprised to find this!

This is the old Barry's Bay Lumber Company sawmill! Previous to that it was the Canoe Lake Lumber Company, and was built around 1923. The trees have completely taken over this site, and all that is left are a few outer walls of this abandoned mill. With the shadows of the trees on the walls, it was quite camouflaged in the forest. When it was built, the trees in this area had all been chopped down, and the shores along the creek were bare.

A hole in a wall that was heart-shaped ;)

We walked around the remains of this old mill and you can't help but think of the men that worked and lived here all those years ago. It seems most of these old mills ran into financial difficulties along the way and were eventually shut down and abandoned. I'm glad the park has left this structure standing, although their policy is to tear down any old building in the park. I think it's interesting to get a glimpse into the past through these old relics.

you can see the cables embedded in the concrete walls

an old bedframe

Looking into the building ... more forest!

Trees have lived and died within the confines of these walls.

Heavy mill equipment was bolted to this raised concrete slab (below).

The next three photos are the sawmill in operation, and then at stages of decay.

You can see the same walls that are still standing today, and the
sawdust burner foundations to the right in the water

And just as I took this last photo, someone ... or something drifted into the doorway ...

hmmmm ... a former employee of the sawmill?
It was time to go!

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. Great photos, interesting post, doesn't take long for things to break down and return to nature.

  2. Always fascinating to find tangible old bits of history like that. I had no idea such a remnant building still stood in Algonquin. In all my visits I've never heard of that one.

  3. Hello Wendy, wonderful images from your canoe trip. The old bridge photo is great. The old mill scenes are cool, what a neat sight. Happy Sunday, enjoy your new week!

  4. Industrial history is so interesting, it's great to be able to piece together the remains of the site with pictures of it in its heyday. I think the trees are winning!

  5. Thanks for sharing these cool images and their interesting history, Wendy. You're the Indiana Jones of Algonquin Park!

  6. Ah yes, if those walls could talk. Imagine what the area will be like in another 50 years or so although I'm sure the concrete will stay standing for some time yet. Fun poking around old sites like this!

  7. How interesting Wendy, thank you for sharing the story, it looks like the ghosts of the past remain, watching all who visit. Have a great week. :) xx

  8. The ruins are gradually returning into nature. You have caught the moment so beautifully.

  9. I love your post, Algonquin is such a beautiful place. What an exciting find. I just love old buildings and structures. The ending of this post would have been perfect for Halloween lol!

  10. I love your post, Algonquin is such a beautiful place. What an exciting find. I just love old buildings and structures. The ending of this post would have been perfect for Halloween lol!

  11. Love this post and the peek into history here. If only those walls could talk.....It must have been a little the ending! x Karen

  12. My parents used to have a canoe and I loved taking it out as a girl. I wonder what happened to it.

  13. What beautiful pictures of both the bridge and the mill. Old timber structures have such beautiful sculptural qualities, and you capture them so well. Love the old mill in the forest, its mellow colours and a glimpse into the past. It is sad to think of the changes technology has made to so many architectural gems from back in the day.

  14. It doesn't take long for nature to reclaim. I've never taken a canoe out on Canoe Lake, though I've been at the store and restaurant there.

    The ruin reminds me of some of the signs of old habitation along the Booth Rock trail, the old cottage foundations and dock out there. I imagine the section of former railroad track there links up to the section up around Canoe Lake.

  15. You know you bring History, maybe a little mystery too, alive!
    Just imagine the lives that these ruins have seen and the tales to be told.
    I love your region of the country it is so beautiful and interesting.

  16. Hi there Wendy,
    This is Andrea from myeverythingcorner, (mug exchange). I loved this post with all the beautiful photos from your walk. I sure did get the chills with that last one though. He certainly looks friendly enough, and he was probably one of those fellas that enjoyed being the center of attention.

  17. I enjoy seeing old nostalgic places, I get a little sad though thinking of the people of the past, dreams they may have had, times of joy and times of loss or despair. It wasn't any different going to the sawmill through your pictures. It has always been sorta on the erie side for me, but I was not surprised at the last photograph.

  18. Loved this. Thanks. My grandfather was once a part owner of the Barry's Bay Lumber Company. I wish he could see it today.

    1. I'm glad you liked the post Brian. I'm sorry I couldn't reply back to you through email (you're "no-reply"), so I'm leaving a reply here. We really loved seeing this old mill in the park, especially since the park's policy has been to dismantle any old buildings. It was quite a shock to see this structure hidden behind the trees. It's really great to have someone comment that has a connection to the past. I got my information from a book I bought in the park "Algonquin Park's Mowat, Little Town of Big Dreams" by Mary I. Garland. She gave a wealth of information about the town and mills that were on Canoe Lake. Thanks so much for leaving this comment! Made my day ;)

  19. Loved this. Thanks. My grandfather was once a part owner of the Barry's Bay Lumber Company. I wish he could see it today.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment, it's nice to know when you've stopped by! :)

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