White Otter Castle: The Incredible Story of the Mansion in the Middle of Nowhere

Imagine single-handedly building this massive structure in the middle of the wilderness?

The legend of Jimmy McOuat lives on in Sunset Country through the magnificent three-story castle he built on the shores of remote White Otter Lake. At the turn of the century, he single-handedly constructed the log castle from red pine logs that he cut, hauled, and interlocked. The castle has now been restored through the efforts of the Friends of White Otter Castle.

The castle is 64 km north of Atikokan and is accessible by snow machine, plane, boat, and of course by canoe. White Otter Castle is an elaborate three-story log dwelling that was built on the shore of White Otter Lake, near Ignace, Ontario by eccentric hermit James Alexander "Jimmy" McOuat. 

White Otter Castle

McOuat's castle isn't a traditional European-style stone castle. It's a massive, three-story log house with a turret on top. The astonishing floorplan is 24 by 28 feet, with an attached kitchen of about 14 by 20 feet. Hermit McOuat built his castle alone—with construction starting in 1903 and taking a full year to complete. According to sources, "He felled and cut all of the red pine logs himself, and hoisted the finished, dovetailed beams (some of them weighing as much as 1600 lbs) into place by means of simple block and tackle."

Historical Plaque at White Otter Castle Sign Candy

This is truly a historically significant place that is recognized as such by the Ontario Government. Ontario has erected a historical plaque telling the story. Jimmy represented the true "frontier" man, making a living off the land and building his dream house in the woods – only to die a few short years after it was finished. Tragically, in 1918 Jimmy McOuat drowned while out on the lake fishing. His grave is located near the castle, in the heart of the wilderness he loved.

Snowmobile to the White Otter Castle in the winter

How to See White Otter Castle

The White Otter Castle is located right on White Otter Lake. You can reach White Otter Lake by canoe via Clearwater West Lake. Clearwater West Lake is located off Highway 622, which runs north of Atikokan. You can also canoe from Agimak Lake in Ignace and take 15 portages to get to the castle. Get directions and a good map in Atikokan or Ignace prior to heading out to the Castle. You can also access the castle during the winter by snowmobile as the Atikokan Sno-Ho Snowmobile Club maintains a trail to the lake.

Tours of White Otter Castle

Browns' Clearwater West Lodge offers tours of the White Otter Castle. They can be reached at brownsclearwaterlodge.com or 807-597-2884/Reservation Desk: 800-900-4240.

Branch's Seine River Lodge offers canoe outfitting in the White Otter area. They can help set you up with a canoe route to the White Otter Castle or you can do a Fly-in/Paddle out trip in the White Otter Wilderness Park. Call Quent or Lori Branch at 807-597-2391 for more information.

If you are staying at the fly-in-only Tip Top Lodge, you can take a guided tour of White Otter Lake including a tour of the White Otter Castle, pictographs viewing along the shores, and lunch on a beautiful sandy beach. For more information, call 807-597-6418 or visit www.tiptoplodge.com

From Ignace, you can go on a flightseeing trip to the White Otter Castle with Ignace Outposts. Visit www.ignaceoutposts.com or call them at 807-934-2273 to set up a tour. 

More information can be found at visitatikokan.com or the Township of Ignace.

Here's an interesting documentary about the White Otter Castle by Pet G. Elliott.

About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

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