In the Township of South Algonquin, District of Nipissing, the village of Madwaska lies near the north-westerly end of Bark Lake; and Whitney, close to the boundary of Algonquin Park on Highway 60. The area is known for hundreds of kilometers of rec trails, superb fishing, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting and more. Deriving its name from the Madawaska River, a 230 kilometer long river that has a reputation for its ferocity and connects Source Lake in Algonquin Park to Arnprior where it joins the Ottawa River.
The raging river claimed the lives of many log drivers before it was tamed by dams and reservoirs built in the 1940s.
The community grew on site that was chosen by engineers and surveyors for its sandy soil and flatness. It became a divisional point from which lumber magnate JR Booth became involved in railroad development. From here, Booth constructed a spur line north 32 kilometers that split into two, one going along McAuley Creek and the other toward Crotch Lake and Algonquin Park.
During the First World War, demand for square timber made the local, towering, white pines a major commodity.
The railroad was taken over by the Grand Truck and became one of the busiest and best paying in Canada. Passengers started, Canadian Railway New catered to travelers and built a hotel restaurant complex. At the peak, the railroad ran 4 passenger trains daily and as many freight trains as the line would handle. Grain and boat freight from Georgian Bay, pulpwood, ties and telephone phones. Four to five hundred men and 90 teams of horses sent loads of Booth Timber on to Ottawa.
Soon there were three churches, schools, the Booth headquarters, a general store and post office. He built a large home to house his agents. Murray Brothers Lumber Company opened in the area in 1902. The community at one time had its own orchestra, drama clubs, dances and two major banks.
After the war, the demand for square timber decreased, CNR took over from Grand Trunk and by 1921 it was normal to have only 1 or 2 days a week with any train traffic and population dwindled significantly. After the depression, Booth went back to using the river for log movement, just down to Barry’s Bay where he had set up a mill.
From 1933-1934 there was an airport just north of the community. The biggest changes came in 1942 when Ontario Hydro’s Bark Lake Dam flooded much of the area.
Algonquin Bound Outfitters
Hwy 60 at Madawaska (and also, at the West Gate & Barron Canyon)
Canoe & Equipment rentals, delivery & shuttle services into Algonquin Park, day trip or overnight packages.