Bear’s Den Lodge, French River Delta, Ontario, Canada
After 31 years of ownership for the Bear’s Den Lodge, Art, Brenda, & I thought it would be best to make some revisions and follow through with a New Year’s Resolution of revitalizing ourselves. We are still in the process of working on our project but some brief history of the old logo (left):
When Art Barefoot decided to move to Canada, chasing after his dream, Brenda Barefoot decided the Lodge needed to have a logo that represented the spirit of operation. The original logo started as a doodle by Art when he was inspired by his cocker spaniel playing in the yard. After many different renditions of the dog, this one was modeled into a the familiar Black Bear (with brown tones) that many have come to recognize in magazines and TV shows. Art left his mark with his first name hidden in the front left claw, closest to the grass.
While this logo will still be seen, the newer and modernized logo on the right better represents who we are today. The blue and green are carried over from the original logo, along with the trees and bear. It represents our primary passion for the outdoors and the big game trophy fishing and hunting, along with the natural beauty, scenery, and experiences that many of you expect and love of the French River!
Our passion continues for the protection of the environment, the cultural rich history and culinary experiences all wrapped into who Bear’s Den Lodge has evolved today.
Bear’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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
Looking at some old photographs, I remember the pride in purchasing the very first wooden boat for Bear’s Den Lodge some thirty years ago, it was the brightest pride and smoothest, fastest ride in the French River Delta. Wooden boats were a labor of love.
Pictured here are the memories of those who passed through the history before us. As the memory projects, the previous owners tired of the hours of labor and love to maintain these wooden boats. The old fleet currently rests not on the bank where we sadly found them beyond restoration, but in the cove to be a reminder of the days gone by, but not forgotten.
French River History: reveals early explorers were looking for a shorter route to the West. Hence, the French River was the main “Water Highway to the West in Canada, from 1600 to the mid 1800’s.” Historical data indicated Champlain traveled the French River in 1615. French River has been a producer of furs and trading over the years. Logging was a major industry along with fishing in the area. Steam boats navigated the Dallas Falls carrying supplies past the French River Village which developed in the late 1880’s from the logging industry. “Alligator” tugs were used and can be still seen abandoned along the shorelines at the Dallas Falls and the French River.
Timber cutting, logging and lumber mills sprang up in the area in 1873 and boomed till the 1930’s. A major boom of logging occurred after the Chicago, Illinois fire and the logs were floated down the French River and the Wahnipitae River to be taken to rebuild the city. Today, many of the sunken logs still dot the rivers and remind of us days gone by. We refer to these sunken logs as “dead heads”. Caution is advised when boating in these known areas of our preserved surfacing history. In the 40’s the French River area was closed to further commercial and private development, preserving this wilderness area much as it was during the days of Champlain and fur trading.
In the early 1960’s, the Ontario Government closed the area for further development making it part of the North Georgian Bay Recreation Reserve. Then in 1985, French River became part of the French River Heritage Park System – Ontario’s First Canadian Heritage River, a historical area.
Swimming, boating, canoeing, wildlife viewing, photography, landscape artists’ paradise, hunting, hiking, or just relaxing on the French, along with the lunkers for the fishermen to chase and release has been a world class paradise for the outdoor enthusiast and fun. Adventure tours in Canada and fishing trips await you.
Keep following, more history, stories, and pictures to follow about the French River – French River Delta!
An excerpt I originally authored in 2001 – “History French River, French River, Area Information”; I felt history was worth repeating and have noted others have felt it worthy too. The original text and more history can be found at http://bit.ly/1DDmKsj
Do you have that special outdoor lover and need a special gift for the holidays? Have you bought every lure possible for the tackle box? Christmas is closing in quickly and still don’t know what to do? Now is the time to plan that special event for that special person or difficult gift idea.
Bear’s Den Lodge is a unique place to share a special gift idea from. For the holidays, Bear’s Den Lodge is offering a totally, “Make your Own Fishing Package Idea”. You can create that one of a kind gift for that special person. The options are endless and the imagination is the lead.
You can create a Personalized Self-guided Fishing American Plan Meal Package to a “Fully-Pampered” Guided American Plan Meal Package or mix it up and do your own meals in a French River Housekeeping Cottage. The lodge outfitters offer 30 years of experience to create daily adventures and give advice on where and how to fish the beautiful French River Delta.
Do you love history or just taking landscape and wildlife photos? The French River has both to offer. This year marks the 400th Year Celebration for Champlain having explored the French River during the fur trade era. Bear’s Den Lodge will mark 90 years with the original main lodge to explore the fish and wildlife mounts, old photos and albums, films from TV shows hosted from Bear’s Den Lodge.
Homemade meals are prepared on site by the executive chef, Art Barefoot, who selects only the finest products or handpicks produce from the lodge gardens.