“Far enough away to gain seclusion, yet within reach of those whose genuine interest prompts them to make the trip, Beaver Lodge extends a welcome to you if your heart is right.” – Grey Owl
I had long been fascinated by Archibald Belaney, the Englishman who escaped in the early 1900s to Canada where he sought a simpler life by taking on the First Nations identity of Grey Owl. He later became a world-famous author and speaker, urging us in his books and speeches to take care of our fragile environment.
Grey Owl chose this spot in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan in 1931 to be secluded, but accessible. Most who visit today will hike the 20-kilometre trail to get there and sleep overnight in a nearby campground. We weren’t quite so adventurous, opting instead to cover most of the distance by boat with a guide from the Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre, only having to hike a 3-kilometre trail there and back from the shore of Kingsmere Lake.
While it saves time to take a boat, you should consider the extra work needed for the 800-metre portage along Kingsmere River before you get to the lake. Fortunately, there is a railway track with a push cart that lets you move your boat that distance, but if you get to one end of the portage and the cart isn’t there, it means hiking to the other end and bringing it back. Needless to say, we had to fetch the cart each time which added another 3.2 kilometres of walking.
The cabin is known as Beaver Lodge for a reason. It sits right at the water’s edge and is actually built on top of a beaver lodge because Grey Owl shared his cabin with Rawhide and Jelly Roll, a pair of orphaned beavers he adopted when they were kits.
The interior of the cabin has few artifacts from Grey Owl’s life. There is an old bed, a table with a guest book and some tobacco offerings. Nearby is a stack of commemorative postcards that can only be found here, intended as one-of-a-kind souvenirs for visitors to bring home.
A short distance up the hill from Beaver Lodge is another cabin that was built one year later for Grey Owl’s wife Anahareo and their daughter Shirley Dawn. It was built because they tired of the nocturnal coming-and-going of the beavers in their house. It was also a place where visitors could stay. Because of his fame, Grey Owl would host hundreds of visitors every year.
A short walk away from the cabins is Grey Owl’s grave and the graves of his wife and daughter. I paused for a few moments to pay my respects and left a pebble on his headstone to mark my visit.
The spirit of Grey Owl lives on today in the men and women eager to share the beauty and wonder of Prince Albert National Park.
I, for one, know quite a few people in whom the spirit of Grey Owl lives on. Don’t you?