The Eau Claire Gorge conservation area, interpretive stations. Enjoy this 1.9km trail while learning about your surroundings. The following 12 points correspond with signposts that can be found on the Eau Claire Gorge trail.
Stop 1. Transition Zone You are in a transition zone, having the Boreal Forest to the North and the Deciduous forest to the South. For this reason, the forest in this region is mixed, having both evergreen and broad-leaved trees. The moderate slopes with the well drained soils along this section of the trail support a community of Poplar and White Birch with Sugar Maple, as well as Balsam Fir.
Stop 2. Logging History The abundance of Red and White Pine attracted many loggers to this region in the 1850's when the lumber and square timber industry began in full force.
William Mackey was the first lumberman to transport logs on the Amable du Fond River. The logs were guided downstream to his nearby saw mill at Crooked Chute Lake. Along this course he constructed a log slide to bypass the gorge. Stop 3. Soils Approximately 11,000 years ago as glaciers retreated from this area the soil was removed leaving a hard bedrock surface. A thin layer of soil now exists due to the action of lichens and mosses, over thousand of years, breaking down the bedrock.
Stop 4. Red Pine Stand Red an White Pine had been in demand for half a century in Britain and therefore, at the turn of the century, large quantities of square timber were being harvested. The Red Pine had been more valuable during the early days of the square timber trade since the British preferred it's appearance to White Pine.
Dominant stand of Red Pine, as you see here, are found on very shallow, sandy soils. The origin of this natural stand date back to the late 1800's.
Stop 5. The Amable du Fond River The picturesque Amable du Fond River flows for 84 kilometers in a northerly direction, dropping 263 meters, to empty into the Mattawa River within Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. It originates at Pipe Lake within the boundaries of Algonquin Provincial Park.
The Amable du Fond River was allegedly named after an Indian Chief from the Montaignais tribe which settled upstream from the gorge prior to 1848. The tribe came from the Montreal area, thus explaining the chief's French name.
Stop 6. Evidence of a Forgotten Past In the early to mid 1800's several fires swept through this area destroying prime timber. The burn excluded this site from large scale commercial lumbering. Some of the timber, however, was used for the construction of the log slide and the dam, the shanty used by loggers, and the squatter's cabin.
This charred stump and others you may see along the trail are evidence of these past fires. They have remained in this condition, unchanged through time because charcoal is a natural element that does not decay.
Stop 7. The Long Slide Roderick MacKenzie constructed a log slide for William Mackey, in the 1870's, to bypass the waters of the gorge.
A channel was dug alongside the gorge in which the slide, made of pine boards, rested on a foundation of pine logs. As you cans see, the trench is still very apparent today. It measured 370 meters in length, making it the longest slide on the Amable du Fond, hence, its nickname "The Long Slide". At its opening it measured 3.9 meters (13 feet), wide enough to allow four to five logs to pass through at one time.
The slide was used until the early 1920's and was dismantled for timber in the 1930's.
Stop 8. The Gorge A fault ridge extending across the site dominates the Conservation Area. This fault ridge resulted millions of years ago when the bedrock split and dropped on one side. Where the river flows over this fault, glaciation and erosion have worn away the bedrock carving out the gorge.
The water at the gorge descends 12 meters over a distance of 30 meters, and the rugged valley walls rise 18 meters in an expression of nature's supremacy. Stop 9. The End of the Log Slide Observe the shoreline upstream from here. Notice how the bank bulges out to form two small spits of land. At first glance these two unexplained spits may go unnoticed, however, they provide a link to historic events.
This is the point where the log slide reentered the river. As the logs fell from the slide to the river, sediment carried with them was deposited extending the shoreline, forming what you see today.
Stop 10. Lowland Area You may have noticed a considerable difference in your surrounding as you walked down the fault ridge. This low-lying areas is home to a variety of water tolerant species such as Black Ash and Eastern White Cedar. As well the understory is much more dense with ferns, plants and shrubs.
Stop 11. The Squatter's Cabin Abandoned by lumbermen in the late 1930's this site became home for a squatter named Godin. The story is told that he left Gaspe to escape prosecution for the accidental shooting of his brother. He led a reclusive life, leaving as mysteriously as he arrived. After Godin left the area in the 1940's the cabin fell into disrepair.
The cabin you see today is reconstructed, in part, from a 1910 area building and with logs cut from the site.
Stop 12. Forest Management The North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority has adopted a forest management plan to preserve the natural forests of the Eau Claire Gorge Conservation Area and to ensure that a strong, healthy forest will be produced.
A forest management plan encompasses various methods to achieve success. This area is representative of selective thinning. The thinning out of less desirable tress has opened up the forest and helps in the growth of young White Pine.
This information has been taken from the trail booklet "The Eau Claire Gorge Story" published by the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority, and remains the intellectual property of the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority.