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.
Are you planning for a camping trip this year? Already shopping at your favourite retailers and outdoor suppliers? Are you prepared?
Something that I’m sure has been bothering many, or at least gaining interest, is the rising concern for the Zika Virus. We have been hearing about it on TV, in newspapers, and even the various social networks. Various media outlets are bringing to light different advisory warnings for those traveling to countries with the outbreaks. While various regions all over the world are still in their winter seasons the virus will have a harder time spreading until spring peaks with the mosquito population.
Do not fret! This short article will detail import things you should know about the virus and ways you can stay healthy in the great outdoors!
The most common way to contract the virus is from mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website those who are infected may experience symptoms such as: fever, headaches, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, and/or conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pink eyes or red eyes as seen below).
While there are currently no cures or vaccines for the Zika Virus; we have to be as a scout and “be prepared”. Some of the best and most common ways to help prevent being a mosquito’s meal is to use bug spray with DEET as the active ingredient to repel those pesky insects.
For those with kids (three and younger) or wanting to add another layer of protection from not only mosquitoes, but also things such as fleas and ticks; is to wear clothing with Permethrin. Both the US and Canadian military have used Permethrin in their uniforms for over the last 30 years. While it may be more expensive than regular clothing there are alternatives to spray your clothing and camping gear at a fraction of the cost. While Bear’s Den Lodge does not promote any particular brand of Permethrin products, this short five-minute YouTube video from Sawyer goes into greater detail of how to use and safely apply Permethrin sprays.
There are also other great options for those seeking alternatives for their traveling individual needs.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
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.