The Cozy Main Lodge

bearsdenreversed1948Bear’s Den Lodge, a “historical” museum, was built in 1925 for a New York Banker, H. Martin. Mr. Martin hired Bud West, local tourist lodge operator, to build a lodge on the property were an old logging camp used to stand. Bud hired Sandy Mower, Sylvester Ritchie and some of the Thompson family to help with the project.  Photos indicated that 1924 construction started on site. Two years after the lodge was finished, Mr. Martin was unable to continue to visit the lodge due to his involvement in some financial and legal problems.  According to Bill Maxwell, a previous owner of Bear’s Den Lodge, shared that Mr. Martin used the C.N.R. Railroads’ supplies, equipment, and employees that lead to being jailed.

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His wife, Elizabeth, and her sister turned the property into a commercial resort catering mostly to New York clients who arrived by train wearing “fancy dresses, top-hats and many were accompanied by servants.” Mrs. Elizabeth Martin loved the “Bear’s Den” and lower French; so much so, requested in her will that she’d be cremated and her ashes scattered over the rock formation surrounding Bear’s Den Bay.

Since 1986, we have been restoring and maintaining the lodge to its finer days. The maple floor is maintained with the original birch bark railing to allow for the character and charm of days gone by. Above the massive white quartz fireplace in the main lodge, built by Sylvester Ritchie from the quartz blaze in the front yard, is the 59 lb. 11 oz. muskie on display along with other fish replicas, skin, and fur mounts. Fish photos, scenic photos, and bear hunting photos are displayed throughout the camp along with historical documents and photo albums.

We celebrated the 90th year of the lodge last year along with our 30th year operating the Bear’s Den Lodge. We encourage you to step back 90 years in time, breathe the fresh air, listen to the birds singing, watch the bears play, or stop to smell the lilies and flowers in the flower and rock gardens throughout the grounds. Join us in the nature and great outdoors in Ontario! Breathe-taking outdoor experiences await you during your next Canadian fishing adventures. Share your old photos, stories and history of Bear’s Den and the French River.

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Fishing – The Job that Hooked My Heart

“Ever since I was a young boy I always had fond memories heading north and fishing with my brother in Ontario,” says Art Barefoot (Co-Owner of Bear’s Den Lodge). “From the people, the sights, and even the thrill hearing the reel squeal from another fight with a fish. It was paradise and I wanted to be part of it.”  BDLcollection 263.JPG

“Life wasn’t always easy growing up in a humble Pennsylvanian farmstead, but I knew after my first voyage north that I wanted to be an outfitter.”

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Owner & Executive Chef Art Barefoot providing laugher and warm meals.
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Line Class World Record Muskie Holder Art Barefoot explains the Muskie fishery and structure of how to fish the French River to Bill Hamblin (center) and long time guests Chris and Harry.

“Through high school I worked several odd jobs from pumping gas, being a lifeguard to even working at the local meat market as an apprenticing butcher. During my free time I went hunting, fishing, and even competed in archery, rifle, shotgun, pistol, and handgun shooting competitions.

After I graduated, I then attended the University of Georgia where I wanted to become a marine biologist.  Like a fish taking to water, I only thought it was natural to begin furthering my understanding and curiosity of aquatic life. In order to help pay for my education, I learned scuba diving. Once I was licensed, I not only instructed others at the University of Georgia, but also worked for Florida’s Department of Fish and Game.

As I was working for the Florida Department, I had to learn how to do underwater mapping with a small dive team as we explored the various underwater caves and springs, while measuring the water’s flow. At the time we had no idea why the Department wanted such detailed maps until sometime after we finished our last expedition and saw construction clearing the lands and bogs for Disney’s new theme park.”

 

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Aerial photo of the Bear’s Den Lodge

Art Barefoot, brings his culinary skills from, the Fire Team and Scuba Search & Rescue Team that he later worked for and would prepare the meals for the teams awaiting the next call. Later when he returned to Pennsylvania, he owned and operated a retail/wholesale meat market and catering business after being co-owner of a gun shop. There he found his love, Brenda Barefoot, after surviving a terrible auto accident.

He brushed himself off and later found another opportunity working in a bank as a teller and later became a loan officer, assisting businesses and people in advancing their dreams. With each promotion he got further away from home and each office had no windows until one morning he was seen carrying his gun over his three piece suit to be prepared to jump out of the truck, go into the woods, and go deer hunting when the opportunity presented. That was when his now wife, Brenda, realized it was time to follow his childhood dream.

After searching for a place to purchase, Art wrote across his desk “Gone Fishing” and left for the great Canadian wilderness and has never looked back.

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Owner Art Barefoot guiding

Walleye Fishing French River

Walleye fishing in the French River Delta and Georgian Bay has one of the highest rod hours in Ontario Canada. Ever increasing numbers, these fish naturally spawn in the Delta of the French River under the protection of slot limits since 1994.

Walleyes or Pickerel, as locals call them,  grow large and fight hard in this great Canadian wilderness river system, French River Provincial Park. They have large cloudy light sensitive eyes and prefer the stained waters of the French River and Georgian Bay. Walleyes tend to feed at sunrise, sunset or at night in the clearer water areas. Migrating walleyes head for the Georgian Bay late summer and begin to return late August to prepare for spawning in the spring. Many lunker size walleye remain in the French River all summer providing fisherman the opportunity to trophy fish walleye all season.

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Walleye Fishing French River

We recommend using live bait rigs and jigs for worms and minnows, bottom bouncers, or run crank baits such as, Mepps and our handmade Bear’s Den Lodge spinners.  Aggressive walleye are known to hit bucktails and bass lures too.

The average size of these fish, range from 1 – 4 lbs. but, with the ever growing population of walleye; are growing over 10 lbs. Despite controversy,  Blue walleye remain in this Canadian fishing river system for the anglers to catch.

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Blue Walleye on the French River Delta, Ontario, Canada

Fishing Tip: When fishing, be prepared to set the hook when you, feel that first bump or tapping, otherwise they will clean your hook off!

More fishing information about walleye and other fish in the French River area are available from Bear’s Den Lodge expert outfitters or stop by the Bear’s Den Lodge Tackle Shop and chat. 

Authored by Joe Barefoot, M.B.

Pike Fall for this Hook, Line and Sinker…

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Know Your Cast, Fall Pattern Fishing

Northern Pike are an aggressive freshwater fish with an attitude of its own. These predators chase, attack lures and are very territorial. As fall approaches, weeds tend to die causing these fish to establish new habitats and hunting grounds during the cooler waters of autumn.

During this period, they hang over hard bottom with green weeds until vegetation wanes and depletes oxygen necessary for aquatic life. This puts strain on pike in the noxious environment, causing northerns to seek new cover habitats over saddles, points, rocky reefs or shelves that descend into deeper water.

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Catching Pike on the Cast

Weed edges over muddy bottoms normally die faster than solid bottoms. Cast for pike on weed edges of green vegetation. Often times in the fall, trolling spoons or crankbaits are necessary to locate the movement of fish. Once you pop several predators, take note of your surroundings; especially of the structure that produced the pike to locate additional pike producing areas in the French River.

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Ferocious Appetite

Spinnerbaits are a favourite dinner of these audacious fish along with bass. Their fall preferred (colour) palette is autumn colours of chartreuse, orange, yellow and a splash of white. To further entice the ferocious northern pike’s appetite, your presentation is also a factor.

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Being in the (Strike) Zone

When casting in fall, water temperatures are dropping and presenting properly in the strike zone is important. Your retrieve is as important as your cast placement. Prior to the retrieval of your bait, you should always change the direction of the moving lure (side-to-side) with an occasional jerk to further entice the fish. This will allow you to see if the pike is following and since they are cousins of the muskie, using the popular “figure eight” will also work on this species for those wary in the hunt.

*Another method suggested by Art Barefoot, 14# Line Class World Record Muskie Holder, Retired Guide and Owner of Bear’s Den Lodge, highly recommends keeping your rod tip down and making a large circular pattern beside the boat before the final retrieval.*

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Taking the Hook, Line and Sinker

Positive aspects of autumn fishing are the larger game fish, less competition on the water, and a ravenous hunger to take the fall hook, line and sinker fishing the French River Delta.

Authored by Joe Barefoot

The French River Salmon Run Wild

Salmon on the French River Delta, Ontario Canada

A Pink Salmon Ends the Fall Season

Fishing on the French River Delta is home to some the most diverse freshwater species of game fish, known most predominantly for its muskie, walleye, pike, large and smallmouth bass fishing.  However, these waters and fishery are also a home to the pinks, chinook, and coho as they migrate from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay and into the French River Delta to lay their eggs.  The salmon make their journey into the system as early as July, but are very rarely seen before September through November.

Often times anglers snag salmon while fishing for walleye or even muskie.  Fisherman are surprised and often do not recognize their catch and confuse it for a different species, such as trout.  Trout normally are not .

Average pink salmon weighs 3-5 lbs at maturity and can reach as high as 10 lbs.  The fins have large oval black spots on the caudal fin (tail fin) and reach maturity in 2 years.  A prominent hump helps to distinguish between a male from the female pink salmon.  The above pink salmon is pre-spawn that was photographed and then released.

Chinook is the largest of the three species of salmon in the French River and can tip the scale at 126 lbs, but rarely do the top the scale at 60 lbs with averages of 18 lbs.  They exhibit irregular black spots on their back dorsal fin and both lobes of the caudal fin.  Approximately in one year, a male chinook can reach maturity and they can begin to spawn.  Life and spawn expectancy is up to 8 years.  A male salmon, in the sandy-gravel spawning beds will become progressively blacker while the female becomes a brassy color.

Coho salmon, also known as hooknose or silver salmon, since 1967 have provided an immense fishery for the Great Lakes, of which the French River is a part of.  Silvery in color with black spots located only at the top of the caudal fin and the coho has a ‘white gum line’ at the needle like teeth bases.  Some cohos weigh up to 33 lbs, but most weigh an average of 6-12 lbs at maturity.  Spawning occurs from October until February and normally in gravel beds.  These fish can live up to 4 years and do not travel far from their birthplace.

The French River ended its fishing season at Bear’s Den Lodge with a guest catching his first pink salmon. What a great ending to a great season with this fisherman delighted!

Would You Like to Visit the French River?

Imagine waking to the sounds of song birds chirping happily in the first rays of your summer morning. Splashes rippling through the crisp mirror reflection, while the busy beavers and otters continue their work and play. Can you feel the soft pine tingling your senses as the gentle breeze brushes pass?

Bear’s Den Lodge shares a collection of beautiful photos from a long time guest as he was immersed and enraptured by the French River, during his vacation.

French River Photography at Bear’s Den Lodge, Ontario, Canada

Bear’s Den Lodge Inspired by Nature for 90 Years – A Diamond in the Wilderness

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French River Delta landscape of granite rock, pine trees and more to appreciate.

Does nature inspire you? If yes, Bear’s Den Lodge would like to share an inspiring “place” some call a “special place”, a “simple life” and to others, it is a “bit of heaven on earth” for the past 90 years. This diamond, or jewel in the North provides you the opportunity to become a part of a significant part of Canadian history some 400 years ago during Champlain’s journey through the French River.

Imagine journeying these corridors 400 years ago in a canoe with Champlain. New and adventurous waters lay ahead; not knowing what nature had in store. Between these magnificent granite rocks with white quartz blazes were sparkling diamonds in the blue water reflecting the magnificent sky and landscape it enjoyed. Today, being a protected and the first Canadian Heritage Provincial Park it remains much unchanged. Nature and wildlife have been an important treasure to protect in our French River Provincial Park and waterways.

Magnificent scenery and landscape on the French River inspired a New York banker, Mr. Martin and his wife in 1925 to build their summer home, Bear’s Den Lodge. Having most likely arrived by train, they traveled to what today is Bear’s Den Bay to build their elaborate home. It sits majestically overlooking this bountiful bay, a finger off Hartley Bay, French River. A panoramic view of nature exists from this high point with snowshoe rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, an occasional deer or bear wandering by. Inside a local resident created a masterpiece from nature using white quartz and nuggets of gold to create the massive fireplace.

Nature comes in all sizes and shapes. The dotted islands with scrubby trees add character and share the results of harsh and worn years of glaciers, extreme weathering and harsh winters with leaning pine swept tree to the artist’s palette. Water trickles after the rain from rocky cliffs and streams meander around boulders to areas of whitewater.

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Great Blue Heron soaring over the French River.

Wildlife abounds. Great blue herons, osprey, red tailed hawks, or the magnificent bald eagle calling to their mates or territory from overhead, loons dancing on the water or hidden in the birch and coniferous trees are the bulging of the elk.

Strolling the wildlife trails leads to rays of sun bursting through the trees lighting the ground cover of a variety of wild mushrooms, berries, moss, boulders, and hidden lakes to explore.

Do you appreciate nature, outdoor adventures, or capturing nature though a lens? If so, join us in celebrating the nature adventures that inspired Mr. and Mrs. Martin to create 90 year ago, Bear’s Den Lodge – truly a diamond in the wilderness.