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Grand Lake is one of those often-overlooked gems that has much to offer. Located in the province of Newfoundland, Grand Lake is a natural lake dammed for hydroelectric power early in the last century. The expanded lake now covers about 132,000 acres along the Humber River. Set amid the craggy heights of the eastern fringe of the Appalachian Mountains, the area around Grand Lake has evolved into a wide swath of Provincial lands used in the past for logging and mining. When the local paper milling company dammed the outlet of the existing Grand Lake in 1925 to produce power for the mills, the water level was raised over 100 feet, drowning the abandoned coal mines and a portion of the Humber Valley over sixty miles long. The resulting lake is nearly 1000 feet deep in spots, the deepest lake in Newfoundland. The large lake also holds the largest island in Canada, Glover Island.
Grand Lake is nearly uninhabited, with only the small town of Howley located along its shoreline. A limited number of hunting and fishing lodges hold leases to provide lodgings for visitors. Just outside Howley, the Grand Lake Tourist Camp offers excellent camping facilities that are much in demand during the short summer months. In addition to shady, spacious campsites with full service, campers can enjoy fishing, hiking the many trails in the area, and picking wild blueberries in season. Along with the smaller 'feeder' lakes, Sandy and Birchy, the entire system is a popular boating and fishing waterway. All types of motor boats are allowed except for personal watercraft, but there are few launch facilities available. Consequently, most bigger boats are those belonging to guests at lodges on the feeder lakes. The waterway is especially popular with kayakers and canoeists. The rocky shoreline is rimmed with forest and towering cliffs, and the many inflowing streams are teaming with trout and landlocked salmon. Wildlife is abundant, including some of the most sought-after game species in eastern Canada. Paddle trips along Grand Lake's scenic shoreline are a favorite with photographers.
Although temperatures are reliably cold in winter, Grand Lake doesn't usually freeze completely. Therefore, ice fishing for trout (legal with appropriate permits) isn't a big draw here. Most of the outdoor activities are focused on areas around the lake rather than the lake itself. A number of informal trails cross the area, with the Newfoundland portion of the International Appalachian Trail crossing nearby. Winter brings heavy snowfall, with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling popular outdoor outings. Some of Newfoundland's best downhill ski locations are located nearby. The rugged terrain offers excellent hunting for moose, black bear and woodland caribou, with a number of nearby hunting lodges offering guided hunts and fishing trips. The moose are actually non-native, having been introduced around 1900 by the government from New Brunswick. They have proliferated, with a population estimated to around 40,000 animals.
The varied terrain around Grand Lake includes many forested areas interspersed by swamp and wetlands which offer excellent habitat for nearly all types of native animals. The area supports a healthy population of the increasingly-rare American martin mammal, so a reserve has been set aside near the south end of the lake to protect critical habitat. The Little Grand Lake Provisional Ecological Reserve encompasses connected Little Grand Lake and extends along the eastern shoreline of Grand Lake for several miles. Within the reserve, areas are set aside for hunting and trail-hiking. Small boats, canoes and kayaks can be launched here from shore. Large, 44,000-acre Glover Island is also a reserve. The island is uninhabited, but gold mining leases have been awarded by the province to allow some gold exploration. The 'island in the lake on the island' also holds several lakes, some of which are of good size and also contain small islands.
Other than the popular campground and the hunting and fishing lodge near Howley, there is little lodging available in the immediate area of Grand Lake. Howley, a small town of less than 300 people, offers groceries and camp necessities to local campers. More lodging facilities are located at Deer Lake, about 30 miles away by road. Deer Lake is a bit larger than Howley and contains an airstrip where many hunters and lodge visitors fly in to stay at local camps and resorts. It is here that the Humber Canal offers a shorter water route to Deer Lake and was the site of the paper mill that originally dammed Grand Lake. The paper mill has changed hands several times over the years, as has control of the dam and power generating units. The Deer Lake Power Company now distributes the hydro-power to several small communities in the area and to the main power grid. The old paper mill plant whistle sill sounds daily during the week and on Saturdays, more as an historic tradition than as a call to work. Deer Lake is one of the few remaining towns where parents still tell their children to 'be home when the whistle blows!' Strategically located on the Trans Canada Highway, Deer Lake provides both water activities on Deer Lake itself and several small motels, bed & breakfasts and campgrounds. Deer Lake also offers annual festivals geared to visitors such as the Strawberry Festival.
Thirty miles farther west along the Trans Canada Highway, Corner Brook is a larger city with a variety of attractions to interest visitors. The Corner Brook Museum leads visitors on an intimate tour of Newfoundland history, including the social, cultural, and natural history of Corner Brook and the Humber Valley/Bay of Islands area. Exhibits include Pulp and Paper, the History of Corner Brook, Aboriginal, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Military, and more. Hockey fans will enjoy the Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Fame, while rail buffs will delight in the historic photos, steam engine and diesel engines exhibited at the Railway Society of Newfoundland Historic Train Site. A variety of tour companies in Corner Brook offer cycling tours, zip line excursions above nearby falls, cruises on the Bay of Islands and hunting, fishing and photography tours. Lodgings here include hotels, motels, cabins, campgrounds, bed & breakfasts, and efficiency units for short-term rental. There are plenty of winter sports complexes nearby, and Grand Lake is still only an hour away.
Real estate may be available in the area around Deer Lake and Corner Brook. Opportunities to buy or lease property owned by the provincial or federal government are limited, however. One trip to the scenic shores of Grand Lake will have visitors wanting to return again and again.
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