A trip back in time

With the warmer days of summer upon us, the next time you are floating along the gentle swells of Lac Tremblant, squint your eyes and let your mind drift to imagine what it would be like if you went back a century or so, and what you could likely run across on the water….You could maybe see the “Alligator”, or the St-Georges as it was named, pulling a huge log boom  with its cable winch and grapple hook,  its steam engine at full tilt.  This contraption also had tracks to push itself through the forest and bogs.  Or maybe you’d see the Ave Maria in the fog, a long stylish sloop with its steam engine puffing and a log boom behind it. But stay clear of the logs or you’ll tip!

This was a time when the lake was but a small cog in a huge machine: the logging industry in the late 19th and early 20th century in the “Laurentian Highlands”. Our  region was part of the south-east sector of the lower Ottawa River Watershed, supplying red pine at first (1890’s), then white pine, later yellow and silver birch and lesser wood such as spruce and hemlock.   These logs were taken out by water, floated down the lake into the Petite Cachée River, then the Devils River, then into the Rouge and on to the Hamilton Brothers Mill in Hawkesbury. The large pines were milled into square timber and sent by barge to Quebec City for further transport to British boat yards.

Logging took place in many sectors of what is now parkland, and lake regions.  There was even a log flume, a wooden feeder trough which ran from Lac Gervais  (Vert) into the Baie des Ours with water running down it.  Daredevils were known to slide down when the water was plentiful; the water level then was at least 5 feet higher than the lake is today.  At the South Bay, nimble footed loggers and some courageous women would try and “run” across the bay from the present location of the Municipal Wharf to Charron Island, at times it was so full of logs there.

This was the chief industry in the region before the arrival in the 1890’s of the trains when a new vocation began for recreation-minded visitors.  The trains helped get these work boats and supplies in.  As the story goes, the Ave Maria was unloaded at the station of Lac Mercier, and was pulled by winch, from tree to tree, from the Village through the bush into Lac Tremblant.  That same old tug now sits at the bottom of the lake in about 60 ft of water, off the point north of the falls.

The industry slowly died out as the territory changed vocation, with the last booms taken out in the 1940’s to be sent to the Standard Chemical plant in the Old Village at the end of Du Couvent, to become wood alcohol and wood charcoal.

You can still see some majestic red pines along the north east shore of the lake, a reminder of a not so distant past…and at the bottom of the lake lies plenty of hardwood that sank in storms.  Happy drifting...!

Thanks to Jacques Graton and Alan Rankin for information and to the Reekie family for pictures of the Alligator and log booms, found in the former Municipal cabin of Lac Tremblant Nord and to the Famille Gervais collection for the picture of the Ave Maria.


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