Badger Lake

I had a few people scratching their heads about a picture of a big dam on a big lake. A big wooden dam, that eliminates Red Indian, that dam is even bigger, and concrete. I had some confusion myself, because the water level on the lake was much higher back then because of the dam. Some people got very close, very close on more obscure bodies of water on this same system. The key aspect is the road, it is a pretty good road, not your average woods road. The road is the Hall’s Bay Line.

The main dam on Badger Lake, Circa 1954. Most of the log driving on these lakes ended a few years later when operations on the Twin Lakes ended.

The Badger Lakes consist of three lakes, Crooked, Joe’s and Paul’s Lake. I have heard a couple of origin stories on the names of Joe’s and Paul’s. One involving logging foreman J.P Coleman, but the most likely origin is from the Mi’kmaq surnames of Joe and Paul. Both the Joe and Paul families frequented the area in the 19th Century.

I must have been around thirty or more when I realized I could pretty well walk across Badger Lake; and by Badger Lake I mean Crooked Lake. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, swimming, catching sparney tickles, trying to catch trout. Dad was the only one of his siblings that never owned a cabin at Crooked Lake, so I spent my time there at my grandparent’s cabin. Nan and Pop’s was a prime piece of real estate with a sandy beach and a mostly sandy bottom. If it was a hot day it would be nothing for Mom and Nan to take us up to “the lake.” Nan Marsh always had this Old Port Cigarillos bag, like a modern reusable bag packed and ready to go. I don’t know the story about the bag, probably something associated with the gas station at the original Marsh Motors out on Second Avenue.

By the time I came around Nan and Pop were on their second cabin at the same location. The first one had originally belonged to Freddie Grimes, I have no idea how the multitude of Grimeses would have fit in that little camp, but I do suspect Freddie must have built it after most all of them had left home. There must not have been too many cabins there when he first went there, there wasn’t many when Nan and Pop went there. The story of how Badger Lake came to be as a cabin area is yet to be told. I do know that Lar McCarthy had a place up there pretty early on, I also suspect that the number of cabins up there before the road was paved in 1965 could probably be counted on your hands.

Not long before the road was paved Badger Lake was on the Hall’s Bay Road, which although built by the government as a means for the people of Green Bay to get to the railway at Badger. For all intents and purposes the Hall’s Bay Line was a logging road. For one it was built partly by Goodyear’s with some involvement by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. It was the latter that benefitted from the road the most. Loggers used it to get to Badger to get hired on, then they used to it to get as far as Twin Lakes from where they went into the camps. The forest fire patrol used the road in summer, and scalers and other woods staff used it to visit the logging areas on Twin Lakes and Hall’s Bay. Most importantly ever since the 1920s the supplies for the camps on the Twins came from Badger via this route. This was no leisure road, and the lakes that paralleled it were no cottage country. The Badger Lakes were working lakes.

If I had a dollar for every cord of wood that went down the Badger Lakes-Crooked, Paul’s and Joe’s, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. From the 1890s until about 1957 the Badger Lakes were used for log driving. First pine on the way to Botwood for the Exploits Lumber Company and it’s successors. One of those successors being The Newfoundland Pine and Pulp Company which cut, you guessed it pine and pulpwood for their mill at Botwood, as well as the Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls Mills. It made for a convoluted log drive and by 1915 they were bought out by AND Co.

There is very little in the way of recorded evidence of logging activities on the Badger Lakes themselves. Camp 6, that was a camp, but it was the last camp on the lake before Rocky Brook was opened up in the late 1960s. I suspect that most of the area had been either logged over or burned over by the middle of the 1920s. I was once told my Great Grandfather Marsh worked on Badger Lake in the days of the two man saw, with his brother who related to my great uncle of how they broke the handle on a Simon saw there. Great grandfather’s brother was born in 1908, but he first went in the woods at 11, so this would put this the early 1920s. Even by that point because of the nature of logging during that time, in that it stuck the areas closest to the water, there were camps on both North and Twin Lakes. And those lakes are big.

The AND Co logged those lakes from the 1910s to the 1950s. There were foremen who spent their entire careers up on the Twin Lakes. By the time operations were shut down in the area between 1955-58 there were operations way up in Seabright’s Valley, at which point they were less than a dozen kilometers from the ocean at Seal Bay and Badger Bay. At this point the AND Company had to stop, they were actually at the boundaries of their timber limits.

Although most of the cutting on Badger Lake had ceased, the lakes were still the scene of great activity during the spring and summer. Since the lakes are mostly still water the wood had to be towed. Back in the 1920s and 30s this towing was done by a paddle steamer called the S.S Alligator (not to be confused with the S.S Annie up at Millertown, which was also an alligator boat). I think I am safe to assume this was a scow hulled shallow draft steamer. She was in use until at least 1935, since it was that year that a Mr. Payne of Badger was killed while working on her on the lake. The boats that replaced her were diesels, the last one built around 1947.

Then of course there had to be dams. Some have told me that the Badger Lakes in their present from are artificial and that they were a result of the damming. I’m inclined to believe this. I’m also inclined to believe that there the Main Dam was built and rebuilt at least three times over the years between 1894 and 1952. Which leaves me with why I wrote this. The picture I posted is of the Main Dam at Badger Lake, back in the early 1950s, in fact during the waning days of logging operations on the lakes. A closer look reveals three buildings; and included is a picture of one of them.

Old logging camp at the main Badger Dam, circa 1954 (Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society)

The above picture dates from the early 1950s, but I suspect that the camp is much older. The roof is starting to sag, and poles have been used to support one of the walls. The walls look they are made from roughly hewn logs, and the whole thing looks like it had been there for a long time. Old barrels, likely once used for water law strewn about. A fire can sits on what looks like a hitching post, though in all likelihood it had been a long time since a horse had hauled wood from here. If I recall correctly, the dam was rebuilt sometime between 1947 and 51, but it is likely that the camp long predated that. An old camp would be maintained in a location such as this for the drive, and for the sack. Also during the drive period there would need to be a dam tender in place to open and close the gates of the dam; an old camp is better than no camp at all. Despite decades of logging operations, there are very few documented photos of camps or operations on the lakes, these are two of them.

The Badger Lakes and Badger Brook would have a ten year hiatus from pulpwood. Around 1967-68 wood started to be dumped in the brook again, coming from the Hall’s Bay area ( I don’t think much if any wood was dumped into the actual lakes then, it looks like it may have been just dumped into the brook, and latterly at the brook in Badger itself). Around the same time, Rocky Brook Camp opened, which would be the headquarters for operations in the area until the 1990s. By then, the lakes, only a short drive from Grand Falls-Windsor, had become the site for hundreds of cabins; and since that time even more cabins have been built on both sides of all of the lakes.

One comment

  1. Very interesting to read about the good old days. My father, Adam Oldford was a contractor when it was A.N.D of Newfoundland. I have memories of first time as a young boy going with my father to Millertown then far into the country where his camp was. Quite an experience then.


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