Marten River Provincial Park Bucket List Trip!
On my ever-growing bucket list of places to visit, a fabulous provincial park once held a spot: Marten River. It's a magical place with immense stands of old-growth white pines, majestic lakes and rivers located in Northeastern Ontario. I proudly crossed this park off my list during the summer of 2021. As an avid camper and RVer of more than four decades, I’ve camped at dozens of picturesque provincial parks in my time, but until that point had never visited Marten River, a region steeped in logging history, a region known as the southern gateway to the Temagami Forest. My wife and I were eager to get on the road!
After a moderate 5-hour tow from Ottawa, we finally directed our 26-foot Forest River Compass travel trailer through the gates at the beautiful Marten River Provincial Park. This park’s staggering 990 acres include, among other things, a day-use section near the park entrance, and a large beach and picnic area on Marten River with canoe access and a boat launch. With a background in forestry myself, this trip was all about the trees. Located onsite was a wonderful replica winter logging camp, a group of log structures and period equipment, plus a comprehensive museum and theatre. Historians like me appreciate Marten River for its place in Ontario’s rich logging history. On top of that, we discovered the campsite location to be second to none.
Park RV Camping
The campsites at Marten River are clean and spacious, accommodating everything from basic wilderness tents up to larger trailers/RVs, with many sites offering electrical hook-ups. The Park offers 193 campsites in total, with 105 offering electrical hook-ups spread out in two separate campgrounds – Chicot (sites 1-114) and Assinika (sites 115-216). The usual freshwater taps, comfort stations and laundry facilities are also nearby. Our campsite was a short distance from the lake on the Chicot side, close to the beach and boat launch. The location was an ideal launch pad for 3 days of sightseeing around Marten River.
Our first stop shortly after arriving at the park was a tour of the 19th-century winter logging camp which included a cookery, blacksmith shop and office. The exhibit portrayed the rugged way of life these loggers lived in the early 1900s. The various primitive tools and equipment used to harvest the giant pine trees are mind-blowing. Photos and early examples of handcrafted sleighs demonstrate how these logs were transported on the snow during winter, to the edge of the frozen lake. Once the spring flooding season arrived, the logs were floated in groups downstream to sawmills. We thoroughly enjoyed the stroll through logging history!
During our stay at the park, my wife and I strolled both the Transition Trail and Short Loop Trail. The Transition Trail takes about 2 hours and brings you through marshes and sloughs, ending up at beautiful Marten Lake. Since much of the nature trail area was untouched by loggers, many 100-plus-year-old pines remain standing in all their towering glory! The Transition Trail is a 4 km loop running along the Marten River, a popular trail for birders and pet owners like us (who were happy to discover that dogs are welcome here, provided they are on a leash). We brought along our Maltese who loves nature walks. The Short Loop Trail is a 3 km loop, considered the easier of the two trails and takes approximately 45 min to complete. This path is great for a leisurely stroll with no rough terrain.
During our stay at Marten River Provincial Park, we also took a jaunt outside the park to visit two of Ontario’s top lodges, one of which is owned by an old friend. Olive the Lake Lodge is owned and operated by Dave Smetana and his wife Cara, who gave it all up here in the Nation’s capital to purchase this fabulous lodge, and have never looked back! My wife and I also stopped by Marten River Lodge, another famous lodge I have featured many times in articles. These two fine lodges are located a short distance away in God’s country and are two more examples of the ‘pull’ Marten River has on outdoor enthusiasts.
Marten River Final Word
The river and surroundings were inviting and memorable and the facilities were clean and well laid out. Learning more about this region’s logging history is something we will never forget. Do yourself a favour and place Marten River Provincial Park on your own bucket list, you will not be disappointed! For more information on camping at Marten River Provincial Park, visit the Ontario Parks website.