Otter Lake, North Bay, ON

An 'Otter Lake Friends' website. These recreational lands are your public playgrounds. Come play!

Otter Lake in Winter from South Beach

Otter Lake (Township of Widdifield) from the South Beach area. The Municipal park property is the left shoreline. These lands were initially purchased by the City in the late 60's and early 70's with the intent of turning the entire perimeter of Otter Lake into a municipal park. In recent developments, North Bay City Council has decided to keep the Otter Lake Recreational Lands for free public use. The lands are not maintained by the City. An informal group called the Otter Lake Friends is keeping the trails open and in good hiking/snowshoeing condition. This group is comprised of the Trout Lake Conservation Association, the North Bay Hunters and Anglers and the Widdifield Ratepayers. There is no garbage pickup in this area. Please, if you pack it in, pack it out and leave only footprints

Otter Lake from McGruther's Rd spur - looking South

Otter Lake looking South from McGruther's Road spur. This part of the lake you cannot see from the South Beach. In the top part of the photograph you can see a canoe heading for the Nikik Waterway, a canoeing access from Widdifield Station Rd via the Little North and the North Rivers.

After Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake, Otter Lake is the largest lake in the municipality of North Bay. The Otter Lake area is a pristine, undeveloped, very large natural area with extremely exciting geological and natural history. It is also just 15 minutes from downtown North Bay. This area is possibly the best kept natural secret of the municipality. It is an excellent area in which to go hiking, canoeing, camping, orienteering, snowshoeing . . . to name only a few recreational activities.. No buildings exist on the entire perimeter. There is a lone cottage on the one and only island.

Where would you like to go today?
  1. I want to know more about recent events: Recent Events
  2. I want to go to Otter Lake: Getting to Otter Lake.
  3. I want to walk the Otter Lake walking trails: Otter Lake Walking Trails.
  4. I want to paddle the NEKIK WATERWAY along the North then Little North rivers to Otter Lake: NekikWaterway
  5. I want to know more about the Otter Lake Management Agreement: Agreement
  6. I want to know more about the 2004 to 2007 Otter Lake public access struggle: Public Access Struggle
  7. I want to know more about the geology and natural features of Otter Lake: Resources

How to get to Otter Lake and the South Access Road

 From the HWY 17/11 and HWY 63 junction drive 14 km up HWY 63 to Widdifield Station Rd (6.2 kilometers past Peninsula Rd). Turn left. 2.2 km further down Widd. Stn Rd you will cross a railroad track. 1.6 km after this crossing you will find the Southern Access Road on your left. (See the first map presented on this web site). You will find an Otter Lake sign at the entrance to the Southern Access Road.  Where is Otter Lake ?
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The Otter Lake Walking Trails

The South Access Road and the associated forest walking trails are presently the most popular. Maps are posted at all trail junction points, so you need not worry about getting lost. Your trail adventure typically starts at the South Access Road. This is a historical logging road that was also used to access the Norhaven Beach, a beach that was used by the Norhaven Nudist Colony from 1948 to about 1960.

Along the South Road you will also find the start of the North Bay Hunter's and Angler's (NBHA) walking trail, in recognition of the group who applied for and obtained the permit to cut the trail. This trail has historical significance as it granted public access to Otter Lake at a time when the City was trying to sell the Otter Lake Recreational Lands and deny public access to Otter Lake.

Making a loop out of the NBHA trail followed by the 'Round the Marsh' trail and then returning to Widdifield Station Rd via the South Road is quite popular. It is about an hour walk, with a total distance traveled of just a little more than 3 km. The Otter Heights Trail is probably the most beautiful trail in this area as it winds its way through a mature maple / yellow birch forest and overlooks Otter Lake for quite a long section. This loop is 1.4 km long.

Walking the 'Figure eight loop' is also popular. This consists of walking the South Road to NBHA trail. Exiting the NBHA trail, you then walk the Otter Heights trail which takes you back to the South Road on the other side of the marsh. Walking the 'Round the Marsh' trail takes you back to the South Road on the other side of the marsh. You can then follow the South Rd to get back to Widdifield Station Rd. Plan on a morning or afternoon and bring something to eat and drink.

Trails Map South Trails

North Walking Trail

A historical colonization road called McGruthers Rd served to bring settlers to the Widdifield Station area. The land was cleared and agriculture was attempted. However, after a number of crop cycles, the soil nutrients became so depleted that the settlement was all but abandoned. What is left of the colonization road is now referred to as McGruther's trail, which is routinely used by canoe-carrying ATV's to access the North end of Otter Lake. It also serves as a picturesque walking trail. In the early 1900's a saw mill was constructed on the shores of Otter Lake where McGruther's trail meets the lake. An explosives factory was also constructed along McGruther's Rd closer to Widdifield Station Rd. Thus a cement bridge was built across the North River to support the weight of the goods being transported. It is odd today to cross a steel-reinforced-concrete bridge while walking McGruther's trail. This is truly a walk back in time.

A water route called the Nekik Waterway is also available to access Otter Lake, but more about this later.

Trails Map North Section

The trail system is very popular in all seasons . . .

Check out the beaten animal paths off the walking trail . . . and the winter beauty of the trail itself . . .

       Animal paths     Trail view in the maple forest

Along the trail you will see huge yellow birch . . . . . . .. and huge black cherry trees

       Huge Yellow Birch     Huge Black Cherry

 McGruthers Trail - the cement bridge crossing the North River  McGruthers Trail - typical summer view
Cement bridge across North River  

There is also a 'central access road', which is gated and remains for the exclusive motor vehicular use of the owner of the island, the City of North Bay, and any other public agency as may be required from time-to-time. This right is registered on title. However, there is no problem walking that road if you so desire.

Now that the City has generously agreed to allow citizens to continue to use the Otter Lake Recreational Lands, it is imperative that we all contribute to keeping this area clean. Garbage attracts garbage. So if you see any, please consider gathering it and packing it out.

Remember the saying: If you pack it in, pack it out. Keeping this area clean is easy, but we do have to cooperate collectively, and we thank you for your help in this regard.

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The Nekik Waterway - Canoe route to Otter Lake

Nekik in Ojibway means Otter. Roy Summers came up with the idea of exploring a direct water access route via the North and Little North rivers (see poster above for the location of the route). The Otter Lake Friends decided to name this route the NEKIK WATERWAY, in honour of our Ojibway friends who first explored and settled this area thousands of years ago. Back then the North River was a major river draining Lake Algonquin into the St-Lawrence via the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers.

To get to the start of the canoe route along the Nekik Waterway, travel up Widdifield Station Rd from HWY 63. Just before you cross the railroad tracks for the second time you will come to a straight-away (first photo on the left). Continuing to the end of the straight-away will give way to the towering Muloch batholith (volcano that did not quite make it out of the ground - photo on the right). From here you you will see the Nekik Waterway sign (next photo) just before you cross the railroad tracks for the second time. This is where you put in. Stay left on the North River in order to fork onto the Little North River then straight to Otter Lake. The route on the rivers should be marked with flagging tape, but it really is a no brainer. Travel time is a little shy of half an hour. There are a few beaver dam liftovers.

The following photos show you views, typical of the Nekik Waterway. We suggest that you bring sandals or water shoes to help you with the beaver dam liftovers. The final lift into Otter Lake is boulder-strewn if the water is low, and you will have to walk your canoe a little heading for deeper water.

Just past the boulder field is the remnants of an old water dam built by Booth Lumber Company, back at the turn of the last century, in order to raise the water levels, to allow running logs from Otter Lake down to Trout Lake. There the final destination was Trout Mills, where the MNR buildings are today.

Nekik starting point is left at
		 bottom of photo Muloch batholith in background
The start of the Nekik Waterway is on the left, where the road disappears at the bottom of this photo. The Muloch batholith, a towering volcanic intrusion that did not quite
make it to the surface (background), hangs majestically over
the Nekik Waterway.
 Start of canoe route along 
	the Nekik Waterway  Putting in at the start of the
	 Nekik Waterway
Looking at the Nekik Waterway map prior to putting in. Putting in at the start of the Nekik Waterway
Typical Nekik waterway scenery. The route is marked with flagging tape. Guess who got surprised upon reaching Otter Lake via the Nekik?
Otter Lake at mouth of Nekik Arriving at Otter Lake from Nekik
Roy Summers just coming out of the Nekik waterway in
his canoe
Coming out of the Nekik waterway, preparing to make a
left turn (South) on Otter Lake
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The situation as it stands today

The City of North Bay, in cooperation with the Otter Lake Friends and the public at large are working cooperatively to offer you a semi-wilderness experience within North Bay City limits, via the Otter Lake Recreational Lands. These are your lands. Love these lands. Play in these lands . . . and please, respect these lands. Keep them clean as no garbage facilities are provided, and respect both the vegetation and the wildlife. Remember, these are the recreational lands of future generations also. Enjoy!


    Background Information for the Otter Lake Master Plan - 1979
    The post-glacial history of Otter Lake
    Otter Lake Access Roads are public roads - Roy Summers
    The geology of the area

If you would like additional information about Otter Lake you may contact:

 North Bay Hunters' And Anglers'
 2551 Sandra Ave
 North Bay, ON P1B 7W7
 Trout Lake Conservation Assoc.
 Box 1462
 North Bay, ON P1B 8K6
 Nipissing Naturalists
 Conservation Committee
 496 Musky Island Road RR#1
 Lavigne, ON POH 1RO
 Widdifield Ratepayers Association
 Roy Summers
 Phone: 705-474-4795
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Last updated: December 13th, 2011