Monday, July 30, 2012

Marten River Provincial Park - July 2012

We spent last week at Marten River Provincial Park, about 50km north of North Bay.  Marten River is a small park, just off Highway 11.  The park is on the Marten River, as you probably guessed from the name.  There are several campsites right on the river, which the kids loved.  They were swimming about ten minutes after we parked the trailer, off the rocks on the campsite.  We had a handy canoe/kayak launch right on the campsite as well.  The park has three sandy beaches with roped off swimming areas, but we hardly hit the beaches with the swimming being so nice right at the site.  The park was a little noisy with highway traffic, especially on Friday night, but after a while we didn't notice it.

The river widens into a fairly large lake as it passes through the park. There were quite a few motor boats on the lake, and lots of fishing going on. The lake has a few small bays that were a lot better for canoeing, especially when the wind was up. There's a small winding creek on the north side of the river, where we paddled a few times in the evening. The creek had lots of ducks, and it must be plentiful with beavers, since there were a few attempted dams we had to paddle over.

The north side of the river also provided some excellent sunset views.

We took a day trip outside the park to Wicksteed Lake (or Wickstead Lake, depending on whose map you read).  The park has a three day canoe route map, which we used as the source for this trip.  The actual three day loop would be crazy - the map says something to the effect of "this 2.5km portage is not marked or maintained, and likely has lots of fallen trees across it."  We settled for a day trip, and parked in the large lot at the dam off Marten Lake Road.  Driving the path from the road to the dam is like riding a roller coaster - very rough little stretch of road, but it opens to a large parking lot and boat launch.  The parking lot was reasonably full when we got there, but in six hours on the lake we only saw three boats.

We explored most of the south end of Wicksteed Lake, following a short river into Bottom Lake, and many bays and creeks.  We saw lots of loons and a few beavers, and stopped for lunch at an empty campsite. This campsite featured the most elaborate toilet, complete with a beautiful lake view.

The highlight of our trip was a daytime paddle on Holdridge Creek, about ten minutes from the park down Highway 64.  We pulled off the road on the west side, and plopped the canoe into the creek.  Not too far up the creek (with a paddle) we saw something large and brown jump out of a tree and fly up around a bend.  I thought "hawk" at first, then "eagle".  We followed the creek around the bend, and saw two owls in a pine tree.  One took off, but the second was kind enough to stick around for a minute or so to pose for some photos.

Farther along the creek, after lifting the canoe over a couple of beaver dams where we spotted many moose prints in the mud, we startled a big moose.  It jumped up and over the grass, and ran into the woods before we could get the camera up.

Two nights later, we came back to the same creek to look for moose again, this time in the evening.  We didn't spot any, but on the way out in the same place we had seen the owls earlier, we heard a screeching in the trees.  There was an owl, perched on a dead pine tree.  It turned to look at us, and flew off screeching.

The web images don't scale too well, but the original zooms in really well on the owl.

We also tried to get into the creek from Holdridge Lake, but the water levels were way too low.  The "road" down to Holdridge Lake is extremely rough, and was covered with downed trees.  Someone had run a chainsaw through the trees to make a path, but had left the trees where they fell.  Almost needed to throw on the four wheel drive, but made it through ok without.  Holdridge Lake is beautiful, long and narrow.  Unfortunately we couldn't get any further.

Bottom line on Marten River - awesome place to bring a canoe.  We'll be back.

Lots of photos here:


  1. Hello. I am interested in camping at this same park this summer. Do you recall what campsite number you stayed at?

  2. Yup - we were in site #6.

  3. Hi Marc, thanks for the great review - looks like you had a good time. I may add this to our summer 2014 list of places to see!