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Large, scenic and inviting, Lake Timiskaming forms part of the border between Ontario and Quebec. A full 68 miles long, Lake Timiskaming is about 5 miles wide at its widest point. However, that width is deceptive; the lake formed in a rift valley and is more than 700 feet deep in spots. The lake lies in the northern extension of the Ottawa-Bonnechere Graben, which is part of the Saint Lawrence rift system. Imposing limestone bluffs along the eastern and southeastern shore are evidence of the massive upheaval caused by the rift. The lake is considered a remnant of ancient Lake Ojibway-Barlow, created by receding glaciers 10,000 years ago. The lake is somewhat remote with only First Nations people and fur traders until the late 1800s. At that time, the lake area saw an influx of workers for logging and mining industries. More recently the lake has become popular as a residential and vacation lake. The lake holds several islands, the largest of which are Mann and du College Islands.
Lake Timiskaming's name causes some confusion: in Ontario, it is spelled Temiskaming, while Quebec spells it Timiskaming. (We use both spellings in this article.) In French, it is Lac Temiscamingue. The word means 'deep water' in the local Algonquin language. The most populous areas are on the western, Ontario shoreline and include several towns within the Temiskaming Shores municipal district. Both the actual town of Temiskaming Shores and its nearby neighbor Haileybury provide swimming beaches and marinas with a total of over 300 slips. Lodges, resorts and camps are scattered along the western shoreline, mostly on the northern part of the lake. All water sports can be enjoyed when the lake is calm. As with many narrow lakes, Lake Temiskaming can churn up huge waves in a short time, given winds funneling through the bluffs from the south. Visiting sportsmen ordinarily start their expeditions from one of the camps or lodges with experienced boaters who know how to read Lake Temiskaming's changing moods. Those who fish here can be richly rewarded; the lake holds 30 species of fish, with northern pike, sturgeon, lake trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, carp, ling, perch and whitefish the species most often caught. Ice fishing is also popular once the lake freezes over.
As part of the Ottawa River channel, Lake Timiskaming is sometimes used as a canoe route for veteran paddlers. This is no lake for novices in windy weather, and that reminder is usually accompanied by someone relating the sad story of 12 school boys and one of their instructors who died of hypothermia when their canoes overturned during a school outing in 1978 due to high waves. Larger boats and experienced sailors usually have no problems, and the lake is busy with pleasure boats on warm summer days. The area holds a wealth of opportunities for outdoor enjoyment, including an increasing number of hiking trails, campgrounds and outdoor activities. One of the favorite trails climbs is to Devils Rock, a tall limestone tower estimated to be over two billion years old. The Lake Temiskaming area is great for horseback riding, and there are several riding facilities in the area. Nearby, Casey and Hilliardton Marshes allow bird watchers to view many different species of birds and wildlife in their natural habitat. There are excellent downhill skiing facilities in the area, and a series of good groomed cross-country ski trails are available. Snowmobiling is a favorite winter activity, with 80 miles of top trails and 115 miles of local trails groomed by snowmobile groups from surrounding communities.
A number of guest cottages and small motels are open all year and serve winter sports enthusiasts. The towns in the area provide all necessary services, with plenty of restaurants, bait shops, antique shops, art galleries and unique shopping. Lake Temiskaming takes its history seriously; several small local museums preserve and celebrate the rich memory of miners, loggers, early pioneers and the early steamboat trade that once served as means of transportation here before the railroad arrived. Rock Walk Park next to the School of Mining in Haileybury offers a chance to learn about the different types of minerals and rocks in the area.
Fort Temiscamingue, the restored fort and trading post built by early fur traders, is available for tours halfway down the lake's eastern shore near Ville-Marie, Quebec. A National Historic Site, the Fort and Museum complex offer interpretive exhibits and artifacts of the fur trade. North of Lake Timiskaming near Notre-Dame-du-Nord, the Thematic Fossil Center holds educational exhibits featuring the fossils excavated from the long-ago sea bed. Guided tours to a nearby fossil bed allow children to search for other fossils. A number of festivals and annual events draw visitors to the area. One of the more popular is Le Rodeo du Camion or Truck Rodeo each summer in Notre-Dame-du-Nord. Another is Snowfest, celebrated by the snowmobile crowd.
Fur trapping, mining and logging are long-gone from Lake Temiskaming. During those early days of settlement, twin dams were built downstream on the Ottawa River to stabilize water levels on the lake and the river below them. The Timiskaming Dam Complex, built between 1909 and 1913, consists of two independent dams with an island between them. Located near the Quebec town of Timiskaming, the dams are about to undergo replacement, since they have proved so valuable in regulating water levels. Because the dams carry a vital local highway, plans are underway to maintain the current roadway until the new dams are built.
Although it appears remote, Lake Temiskaming is only 100 miles from North Bay and 200 miles from Sudbury. Toronto is about five hours to the south. Real estate here has risen in price as the area has become more desirable as the home of the well-to-do. What is considered Canada's most expensive home is here, as yet unfinished with a price tag of $25 million; the wealthy owner met with severe business reversals before it was completed. Luckily, most real estate is nowhere near as expensive, and both lakefront lots and large acreages can be found at reasonable price. A few waterfront property owners rent their homes by the week, often with docks, boat and all necessities for lakefront leisure. Lodgings are plentiful, but holiday weekends and special events will require advance reservations in most areas. There's plenty here to please every member of the family. So pack the hiking boots, the fishing tackle and the swim suits. Lake Timiskaming awaits!
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