Donna Naprstek wrote this lovely story in response to hearing about the proposed logging of the Catchacoma Forest. If you have a story about the lake you’d like to share, please email it to us (with a couple of photos attached) and use the subject line “Catchacoma Story.”
In August of 1956, my dad rented an old log cabin in the Kawartha Lakes district for our family vacation. Kawartha is a name coined in 1895 by Martha Whetung of the Curve Lake First Nation. It means bright waters and happy lands. This area is just one of many lake destinations for Ontario cottagers. Pink granite of the Canadian Shield lines the shore. The granite gets its pink colour from feldspar. Quartz and mica in the granite have been worn down over the ages, creating golden beaches between sloping rocks. Blue water sparkles in sunlight and diamond patterns shine through the forests. Cottages are hidden amongst a mix of oaks, maples, birches, poplars, and red and white pines.
My dad chose Catchacoma Lake for our summer getaway because dad was a Peterborough boy and he used to ride his bike up to the lake when he was a young lad. Also, it was only a two-hour drive from our home in Toronto, and we loved to escape the city. Catchacoma is an Ojibwa name meaning big water.
Our cabin was built in a maple forest, close to the lake. We could see boats passing by from the screened-in back porch. In the evenings, whippoorwills could be heard and fireflies lit up in the grass on the hill beside the cabin. Loons called over the water as the moon rose. Stars came out, slowly at first, and then they seemed to explode. My dad had a telescope which he set up when the sky was clear. He taught us the names of some constellations and planets. Three stars in a row were Orion’s Belt. The Big Dipper was easy to spot. Vega was directly above us and Venus was the brightest in the sky. Being so far away from any city meant that there was no light pollution.
An ancient woodstove stood in the kitchen of the cabin and an icebox in a corner of the room kept our food cold. Large pieces of ice that had been chopped out of the lake in winter were stored in sawdust in a barn at the marina.
Catchacoma is a deep lake, approximately four miles long and two miles wide, set in rolling hills thickly covered in boreal forest. Bass, trout and sunfish swim in its waters. Paths through the woods at the north end led us to other lakes, untouched by people. Beavers make their lodges there and their dams create ponds for all kinds of aquatic life. Frogs are in abundance and many birds nest in the coniferous and deciduous trees. Blue herons can be seen standing at the shoreline.
Boats can navigate from Catchacoma through narrow waterways that connect Beaver, Cavendish, Gold and Mississagua Lakes. We found that we could paddle through a shallow channel into Cold Lake as well. Painted turtles sun themselves on logs and sundews grow on floating islands, catching insects on their sticky, waiting leaves. It thrilled us to be in true wilderness.
A sandbar right in the middle of Cold Lake made a fun place to play in the soft sand surrounded by water. Cox Lake is just a twenty-minute walk through the forest. The granite rock at the end of the trail offers a perfect place to slip in for a swim on a hot summer’s day. Cloudy Lake can also be accessed from Cold Lake. A different route can be taken back to Catchacoma by passing the north end of Mississagua Lake and carefully driving through Catchacoma Narrows.
Another day trip that we liked to do was up Bottle Creek to Bottle Lake. We started at the dam at Bottle Creek and paddled our canoes past flowering lily pads, wild irises, and birch trees. The copper colour of Bottle Lake adds to its beauty. Sometimes we walked up a path to Sucker Lake and paddled around in our dinghy. With no cottages, this lake is very wild and will hopefully remain so.
Each season has its benefits. July and August are perfect for swimming but September brings amazing fall colours. With so many birch, maple, poplar, and oak trees around the lake, the forest glows with yellow, orange, and red, as only eastern forests do.
Pencil Creek Bay, where we had our cottage, is home to loons, ducks and beavers. Raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, bears, moose, and bobcats live in the woods. Wolves and coyotes can sometimes be heard howling in the moonlight. We spent many happy years enjoying the treasures of Catchacoma Lake. My husband and I brought our children to the lake on weekends and holidays. The other cottagers at the north end became our family. Each long weekend of the summer and every Thanksgiving were spent with these friends. We watched our children discover all the delights that we had enjoyed.
Catchacoma is good for the soul and an escape for city dwellers. It is in an area that needs to be preserved for the generations to come. The old forests need to be protected to provide habitat for the creatures that live there, and water quality needs attention for aquatic life to prosper. Let’s hang on to what we have.