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Algonquin Park

Bruton Farm and Fire Tower

Discovered by clay70
Created Oct 27 2017
Recent status Abandoned
Category Foundations
City Algonquin Park, Ontario
Location # 15029

An article from friend Sue Lebrecht in 2000 from the Toronto Star...

"A stone wall in the wilderness is a bizarre thing.

In the southernmost part of Algonquin Provincial Park, you paddle through five lakes, carry your canoe across three portages, camp overnight in the cradle of a wish-bone-shaped lake, then follow a hiking trail through forest for an hour, and there it is. A stone wall: a magnificent, chest-high, metre-and-a-half-thick, moss-covered structure. How bizarre.

It goes on and on through the forest, and beyond where it eventually does end, in the shade of pine trees, there's a litter of rusted barrel hoops, bolts and horseshoes, and further along in open fields of high grass are waves of tiger lilies, rhubarb and black-eyed susans. Wandering while wondering among these icons of domesticity, here in the middle of A scenic overlook.nowhere, you trip over the foundations of old buildings.

Welcome to the old Bruton Farmstead, a ghost of one of the most remote farms in Ontario. But moreover, welcome to Algonquin South, a newly developed recreational area of Algonquin Provincial Park.

The relic of Bruton Farm and the canoeing and hiking routes to it, together form just one opportunity in Algonquin South. The playground also features a hiking trail to a lookout and another to a waterfall. A 5 km mountain bike trail runs to where the York River flows through a sheer slot in bedrock, and there's a slew of new interior campsites.

Northwest of Bancroft and northeast of Haliburton, Algonquin South is not accessible via Highway 60, but from Highway 648, a horseshoe-shaped annex north of Highway 121. The southernmost part of the park the panhandle from the main mass has been developed in effort to bring tourism dollars to Haliburton County. "Right now, with people going to the park via Highway 60, Muskoka receives the brunt of tourism traffic," said Algonquin's outdoor recreational specialist Craig Macdonald. "What we're trying to do is honor a commitment made to Haliburton County in a park management plan back in 1975. By developing recreational facilities and access in the south end, people can enjoy this part of the park while surrounding townships can see economic spin off."

Macdonald, who has worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources since 1972, has spent the last three years exploring and developing user-friendly enhancements to the park's south end. Some canoeing and camping opportunities already existed, but it's the link to Bruton Farm plus the addition of various marked and mapped trails that now make Algonquin South a provocative destination.

"This is just the beginning," said Macdonald. "Thanks to support from Haliburton MPP Chris Hodgson, we're still out in the bush looking at other projects."

Meet Tammy and Terry from South Algonquin Trails. The friendly equestrian outfitters across the road from the hiking and biking trailhead have now expanded their operation to provide rental of canoes, mountain bikes and other outdoor gear, as well as canoe drop-off and pick-up service. Thanks to their service, you needn't paddle out the way you went in. While a succession of lakes takes you in, the placid flow of the York River can bring you out.

Thanks for the boat, see you later, we wave, and begin paddling. The route to Bruton Farm starts at the base of Kingscote Lake, where there's a boat launch, toilets, docks and half-a-dozen car accessible campsites. We're traveling north, passing cottages and campsites scattered selectively along the pine shore when a rain storm comes and goes leaving us soaked under clouds.

At the lake's top, a 1.3-km-long long portage puts us into Big Rock Lake named for a big rock overhang on its northeast shore. Once across, a 660-m-long portage brings us to Buyer's Lake where, still wet, we slide our canoes onto a campsite upon an idyllic crescent sand beach and call it a day.

In the morning, onwards, past beaver lodges with king fishers flitting back and forth. At Branch Lake, a freshly cut 900-m-long portage awaits. Not yet packed down from use, the earth is soft in spots and I trip over small tree stumps.

Now behold Scorch, the wishbone lake that's home to a great blue heron rookery with the biggest nest I've ever seen perched high in the dead branches of a giant white pine. A bird from the nest takes flight and we hush in awe of its wingspan. Ahead, a family of loons scurry across the surface.

We cruise quietly to the lake's prime campsite, the one facing west, cloaked in a pure stand of red pine. It was here that a float plane brought supplies for the building of the portage, four campsites, and the trails to Bruton Farm and to a lookout.

The trailhead to both destinations lies in the south arm of the lake. Freshly cut and pruned, the trail leads from the shore up through hardwood forest. Yellow birch, white birch, beech, maple, oak and balsam all create a lofty canopy.

In short, the trail splits. The left fork leads to Bruton Farm, but first we're going to the Scorch Lake Lookout following blue signs. The higher we go higher, the steeper, rockier and drier it gets. On top, stunted, twisted oak dominates a barren and rocky landscape. We're tramping through high grass and across turtleback rocks covered with patches of grey lichen. At the edge of a cliff, high above the lake, the holler of hello echoes in a surround-sound-like circular wave.

Red signs lead to Bruton Farm, an agricultural depot started in 1875 to provide food for logging operations in the area. Crops were harvested on 300 acres of land. Barns housed cows, pigs and horses. More than 100 men were employed daily. There was a blacksmith's shop and a big house with 26 rooms.

Ownership of the property changed hands numerous times before the Crown took possession in 1928. And when that happened, the forest started taking possession of the fields. In the mid-1930s, a ranger's cabin was built along with a 100-ft-high fire lookout tower.

Hiking, we're following the old cadge road that was used by horse-drawn wagon to transport supplies between the farm and the log drive down at the York River. Used as a cross-country ski trail today, the route is wide, evident and easy rolling.

We pass the stump of 300-year-old white pine cut in the 1800s; it would take three people to wrap arms around it. The claw marks of bears streak the smooth gray bark of beech trees. One bear, who may or may not have acquired prized beech nuts, evidently slid a long way without stopping.

At the top of a hill the red trail signs veer abruptly off the road onto a footpath; don't miss the turn. Craig Macdonald, who leads the way, stops. He says, "Notice there are no rocks and the land is level." Yes, something unnatural is going on here.

In moments, we're walking beside the wall, built with thousands of stones, hand-cleared from the land so it could be plowed. A logging road, recently built, plows through the fortification, as jarring as the wall is striking. We cross the road, and carry on.

We stop at an old root cellar, then at a well, and stand on the ramp to what was a barn with an elm now growing through its floor. We're in fields of flowers that have spread like weeds, and we're smiling at the thought of a farmer's wife long ago, who cared to make a pretty garden. Finding a house foundation, a knee-high cement and stone structure trace its crumbling outline, one foot in front of the other, arms spread, on a tight rope.

Pieces of occupation are everywhere: old bed springs, stoves, boots, tins, bottles and rusted sleigh runners. At the highest point of land, huge cement Hiker crossing a short log bridge.blocks and a twisted steel girder remain from the former fire tower.

"We've already surfaced picked the area and got what we thought was valuable," said Macdonald. "We've taken out cast iron bean pots, and all sorts of tools and farming equipment, including a 10-horse sweep - a huge device for horses to walk in a circle to grind grain."

Tanya Struna, the historian for this project, found people that once worked on the farm, and even brought many of them back to the site and recorded all that they had to say about the place. "Why do you want all this information anyway? What's the big deal?" said a 91-year-old grandfather who once lived there. "It was just a farm."


A Note of Caution: No paths lead the way among the relics of Bruton Farm. Foundations are spread out. Once you leave the stone wall, the possibility of getting lost in the woods is real and easy. The park intends to have the site well mapped and signed this summer, but until that's done, you're on your own. Bring a compass and know how to use it.

Tips: Biting insects are brutal until mid-July; wear repellent, long sleeves and pants. Also, know that you're in bear country; make yourself known while hiking and hang your food high in a tree at night. For B&Bs; and other accommodation in the area, phone Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce at 1-800 461-7677.

Etiquette: Please don't think you're doing someone a favour by leaving partially-filled propane canisters; pack everything out.

Permits: Interior camping permits are required and available at Pine Grove Campground, across from Kingscote Lake Rd.; phone (705) 448-2387. Cost per night is $7 adults. For reservations phone Ontario Parks at 1-800 668-7275.

Getting There: To get to the canoe access point at Kingscote Lake take Highway 121 to Highway 648 to Elephant Lake Rd. (County Rd. 10) and go north 12 km. Turn left onto Kingscote Lake Road and go 7km. The trailhead for the Buyer's Lake Bike Trail and the High Falls Trail is on Elephant Lake Rd., 2km past the turn-off for Kingscote Lake.

Rentals: South Algonquin Trails, across the road from the trailhead, offers canoe and bike rentals and drop-off service, phone (705) 448-1751 or 1-800 758-4801 or visit web site:


For More Information: Algonquin Provincial Park, phone: (705) 633-5572 or visit web site:


Does anyone else have photos or can anyone get some of all many foundations, etc there? If so please add a gallery below..Elf will be getting some as well

Latlng: (45.237663, -78.155121)


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mobileworks Fantastic amount of information, Clay. I like the canoe service idea, now. I would need several SD cards as well. Ya, bugs and bears. Bears sense other meat eaters and usually stay away. This will be good to refer back to.

Oct 31 2017

clay70 The fire tower was torn down and left to rust bent on the forest floor..the road in is very driveable but there may be a gate near the bottom of the park which a dirt bike could get around

Oct 29 2017

timo explorer Great piece of wilderness history. Is there still a fire tower here? And what of the logging road/trail that seems to run close by, is this navigable? Seems to be easier than taking a canoe and several portages.

Oct 28 2017