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July 11, 2003

Brent: A Walk in the Park

While writing our book on the early days of Brent in Algonquin Park, my son and I got to know and enjoy the Brent area. The book led to plans for a larger book at some point in the future and the beginning of research on the area. In cooperation with Jake Pigeon, the manager of the Algonquin Outfitters store there, we have run Brent Heritage Days in 2001 and 2002. Many former residents and those with leases there now as well as many visitors attended. The old restored Park Rangers' Cabin was the base for these events. A photographic display, lots of long-timers and refreshments made for an informative and pleasant day.

The Brent Heritage Day this year is on Saturday, August 23 from 11-4pm at the Ranger's Cabin. If you are looking for a nice trip, mark this date down.

The ranger cabin at Brent overlooking Cedar Lake

The Brent turnoff is 37km east of Mattawa on the Trans Canada (Highway 17) just before Deux Rivieres. Look for the sign. Proceed 41km south into Algonquin Park to beautiful Cedar Lake and when you come to the campgrounds proceed east to the store for directions.

If you turn right at the campgrounds you can see the lumbermen's cemetery. It is a memorial to 9 lumbermen who drowned while going to a lumber camp. They went through the sluiceway in a log dam by mistake, expecting it to be closed. There is a host at the campsite who can answer questions. There is a boat launch and the fishing is great. 

Canoes and other equipment are available at the store if you are so inclined or are stopping longer than 1 day. For further information on the store check their Brent website Algonquin Outfitters Brent Store, where there are details on the history of the store and on Jake Pigeau the manager. Copies of our book "My Childhood in the Bush" are available at the store. The Rangers' Cabin holds 12 and was $75 per day in 2000 ($500 a week). Call 1-888-668-7275 for reservations. It is not available on the Heritage Day Weekend.

Algonquin Park has a fee for day use and the office is 16km in on the road into Brent where there is a turn-off to another recreational area called Wendigo Lake. Our book, general information and various publications are available at the office (Algonquin Park Access Point #27).A real educational and recreational bonus is available about 38km in on the Brent Road where you will find the Brent Crater Trail - a 2km loop that provides an interesting look at some of the results of a high speed meteorite that hit the earth 450 million years ago. It was discovered in 1951 by the study of aerial photos. The impact equal to about 250 megatons of TNT left a hole 2.9km wide and 1400 feet deep. Gilmour and Tecumseh Lakes fill a large portion of the hole. The Brent road touches the edge of the crater and an observation tower provides a look at the crater to the north and northwest. A free 14-page booklet at the tower provides detailed information on the crater and provides a map of the 30-45 minute walk on the trail.

For further information type in Brent Crater on the internet and click on some of the items available including a Heritage Perspectives article I wrote on Brent in August 2001. The Mattawa Museum has an excellent website on the crater (www.museum.mattawa.on.ca/brentcrater.htm). The Museum on Explorers Point in Mattawa has a new display providing photos and history on the Crater.

Cow moose with 2 calves near Brent.

My son and I were in Brent last week doing some research on mica mines there as part of a project we are a part of. Patricia Sangster, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines geologist for the area provided us with information on the location of 3 quarries. We tramped the bush and found 2 of them, one of which still has some old rails and a hopper car. The mica was mined in the early 1950's and taken out to the railway for shipping.

The 3 sites were all operated by Huntley McDonald, the same man involved with Jason Purdy in the large Purdy operation in Mattawan Township as described here recently. The company name was the North Bay Mica Mine Co. Ltd. The sites are an interesting piece of history, and the quarries are fascinating to see.

Plans for a walking trail past one of the sites is in the early stages of discussion. The proposed trail would also pass the site of the Brent Fire Tower, which we also found on our travels in the bush. More about this in the future if and when it develops. The best moment on our trip besides finding the fire tower and quarries was seeing a huge cow moose having a swim with 2 cinnamon coloured calves watching anxiously from the shore. 

I had my new digital camera along and the photos included in this article are part of the record of the trip.

The Brent Access Point into Algonquin Park ant those at Kiosk and South River are great opportunities for some summer fun in our area.

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