Slate Falls, Madawaska Ontario

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Slate Falls, Renfrew County
Rating: 2.5/5
Eastern Region, Renfrew County,  Madawaska River
GPS: N 45 14.159 W 77 16.422
Access: Moderate

Directions: Follow Hwy 41 from Eganville in the north or from Napanee in the south, to the town of Griffith. At Griffith turn north onto the Hyland Creek Road. At approximately the 14 km point, on Hyland Creek Road, turn left on an unmarked bush road. Travel approx 1 km to the river to launch canoe. This portion of the river is within the boundaries of The Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park. No fees are required. Visitors must then paddle up river approx 1 km to the bottom of Slate Falls and cross to the south (left) bank. The inscribed rocks are located back in on the banks at the base of the falls around a rough trail which used to be the portage around the falls and is easy to traverse. A map is included among the photos below.

Beautiful and remote area to explore! Rather then canoe we were able to hike around some water and over a log to reach the falls! Although the height is not impressive the landscape and width give you the feeling of remotness, you can climb into the middle onto rocks and have the most impressive view downstream. Perfect for swimming, camping, lounging or enjoying a great day!

Logging in the wilderness forests of Ontario was at its peak in the late 19th & early 20th century. The logs would be cut in the winter and hauled onto the ice. In the spring, when the rivers were swollen from the spring thaw, they would be floated downriver to markets in Ottawa, Quebec and even overseas to Europe. The Madawaska River, which originates in the Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park and terminates at Arnprior Ont, where it flows into the Ottawa River, was used extensively for this purpose. Logging was an extremely dangerous business especially for the log drivers who floated the logs down river. The Madawaska River was very treacherous in places. Slate Falls was one of these places and it claimed the lives of many men who came from all over to earn a meager living on the annual
river drive. When the logs would “jam up” it would be the job of these log drivers to clear the jam quickly before it became too large and to get the logs moving again. They had to walk out on the tangled logs in the fast moving water and attempt to clear the jam with long pike poles. If this didn’t work they would use dynamite. They took extreme risks & many were drowned or died from other accidents. They used no safety equipment and no life jackets. If the body was recovered, sometimes much later, it would be buried wherever it was found, wherever a grave could be dug. It was not practical in those times to return the body to his family because no access roads existed to these wilderness areas to permit a timely return. Therefore, many men were buried along the Madawaska River in unmarked graves where they were found. The inscriptions, chiseled by hand into the granite rocks at Slate Falls by their friends and fellow workers, are a permanent record of only some of the unfortunate men who died and are buried near Slate Falls, earning their livelihood driving logs down the Madawaska River

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