I love picture books and websites about Canada. I peruse them searching for places to visit, especially communities lost to time. Not long ago I had read about a couple of ghost towns near Ottawa, Ontario. The author, a very popular Ontario resident who not only writes about but photographs this beautiful province, had mentioned an area referred to as the “forgotten land”. Forgotten by whom? By the residents who briefly called these lands home? By the government itself? The thought of this “forgotten” land intrigued me. Maybe, just maybe it had been forgotten on purpose! Muuaaaahahahahah….
Taking note of two towns in particular, Q and I made our way to our first destination – Balaclava, Ontario. A bustling lumber community in its day, Balaclava is found in Renfrew County nestled on Constant Creek.
Upon entering the town, Q and I were excited at our first glimpse of the abandoned buildings and ransacked mill. Parked along the water’s edge, we exited the car anxious too begin photographing this memory from the past. My camera was up to my eye when I heard Q speaking. I couldn’t make out what he had said and was about to inquire when I heard a woman’s voice respond. I lifted the camera away from my face and noticed two women standing and conversing with Q. Awesome! More ghost town hunters to join the fun, I thought. Well, as I was about to find out, they weren’t exactly ghost town hunters. No in fact, it turned out these ladies were residents of Balaclava, along with a few other families situated down the road from where we stood.
HOLD UP! Isn’t Balaclava supposed to be a ghost town? Isn’t a “ghost” town supposed to be filled with nothing but ghosts? Lets be real here. If a rundown, abandoned building or two makes for a ghost town then Ontario is loaded with them starting with it’s largest city Toronto. Hell, there are thousands across this country by this definition. I have to admit I was disappointed and maybe a wee pissed off. Honestly, all the excitement, fun, uncertainty and definitely creepiness drained quickly from the experience once we found out people were still living among what was supposed to be remnants of life long ago. The only saving grace might have been if people had just started moving back to the area. But no, the ladies confirmed they’d been there forever.
So after some quick photos we hopped in our car and drove to the next town. Newfoundout, a very Maritime sounding name, had officially been declared abandoned in 1948. Grown from the government’s colonization plans to move immigrants into the area, the offer of free land was enticing to many seeking a better life in North America. But free land doesn’t feed your children when the soil cannot grow crops and the topography and weather of the area make it a hostile environment to live in. With schools and shopping far from this off beaten path the locals were left to fend for themselves.
After a long drive down a narrow, windy, rocky, bush road we finally arrived at Newfoundout. I was pleased that no one was living in this ghost town. Unfortunately, almost everything has been reclaimed by nature or time and only fragments of some barns are what remain on what is now private property. If you didn’t already know a town had once been here, the bits and pieces of buildings did not make it obvious. Newfoundout looked more like an abandoned farm rather than a town but it was still pretty cool.
I had read how this area of the Ottawa Valley was remote and readers were warned to proceed with caution. These warnings seemed a bit exaggerated to us, but hey who are we to judge? We’ve only done a road trip in the arctic where you can drive hours if not days and see no one. The funniest part was that once we were at the cusp of the middle of no where at Newfoundout’s doorstep, our cell phones had full bars!
For whatever the reason it has been forgotten, whether the crappy soil or inhospitable environment, this area along the Opeongo Road is a beautiful drive. If you are visiting Ottawa, take a road trip this fall to see the beautiful colours. Or, if you are into abandoned buildings and a possible “ghost” town, search out Balaclava and Newfoundout and tour the memories of long ago.
And once you’ve made it back to civilization, forget you were ever even there….
~True North Nomad
Where are some cool ghost towns you’ve visited? Know of any abandoned buildings with a creepy past? Talk to us in the comments below.
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