The Madawaska River

The mighty Madawaska was the lifeblood of communities from Algonquin Park to Ottawa beginning in the late 1800’s. Logging became the major industry in the area. Huge stands of the very desirable White Pine were discovered in the Park. These were harvested in the winter and then floated down the Madawaska in the spring. Connecting to the Ottawa River, the log booms went down to the St. Lawrence and then loaded on ships at Montreal for Trans Atlantic transport to Europe.

The British Navy was a primary destination for white pine ships and masts.

Lumber companies owned Chippawa from the 1860’s as it was an ideal place to manage the log booms in Kamaniskeg before they continued their journey down the Madawaska. There was even a small lumber mill on the site.

By the 1940’s, logging gave way to Hydro Electric power on the river. In 1942, the newly constructed Bark Lake dam raised the level of Bark Lake 25 feet. At 10,000 surface acres, the volume of water contained was enormous.

Seven Hydro dams were then built along the Madawaska by the 1960’s with the spring run-off from the Park (Freshette) controlled in Bark Lake to ensure all of the dams had a consistent water supply during the year.

The Madawaska runs right by Chippawa Shores with the outlet from the second large lake on the system (Kamaniskeg) just off the Chippawa beach. Before roads and vehicles, the river was also a primary mode of transportation. In fact, the famous Mayflower (google Dead Man Saves 3!) regularly moored at Chippawa on her way to Combermere and the Craigmont Mine in the Conroy Marsh.

Around 1916, artist Tom Thomson followed the log drive down the river, painting the subject in The Drive (1916-17). Many of the Group of Seven, who were famous Canadian artists, painted throughout the Madawaska Valley. In 1940s A. J. Casson and his family summered at Chippawa Lodge and enjoyed the beach and waters of Lake Kamaniskeg.

Chippawa Lodge

With the large, flat Great Lawn, shallow waters, and long natural sandy beach, Chippawa was an ideal gathering place. Rudimentary buildings and camp sites provided “accommodation” to river travelers, primarily loggers.

In the mid 1930’s, the scenic new Highway 62 was completed between Combermere and Barry’s Bay. This opened up the area for Commercial Tourism. Thomson Lodge offered 14 modern housekeeping cottages with running water and flushing toilets. The Great Lodge was completed in 1938 with full dining facilities and large comfortable lounge. American Plan offering 2 meals, a picnic lunch, and a boat was $4 per day or $25 per week.

In the 1940’s, the Fisher family purchased the resort, renamed it Chippawa, and operated successfully for 25 years.

In 1971, The Dunn family bought Chippawa from the Fishers through their family owned company, Combermere Lodge Limited. Over the next 25 years the Chippawa Cottage Easy Living Resort was expanded to 25 housekeeping cottages, 60 fully serviced pull-through trailer sites, and 30 campground sites.

2017 was the last commercial operating season for the Resort. New owners completed the purchase of Combermere Lodge Limited from the Dunns in 2018.