Located 95 km west of Sudbury, the town of Massey is known today for its little provincial park, named Chutes, after the chutes that used to bypass the rapids on the Aux Sables River.
Although we passed by Massey back in 2018, when we had a road trip around Lake Huron, we didn’t have a chance to stop here yet. Chutes Provincial Park is located on the River Aux Sables, and it’s only one kilometer north of its confluence with Spanish River, north of Lake Huron. Its 109 hectares of pristine nature offers some hiking trails, about 130 campgrounds, and some nice areas for day time visitors. The beach was closed, unfortunately, at the time we visited, due to the covid restrictions.
As a waterfall lover, I couldn’t miss this park again, and its Twin Bridges Hiking Trail. This 6 km trail incorporates three viewing platforms, two bridges, and countless spectacular views of Aux Sables River, and Sever Sisters rapids.
We were lucky to get the last parking spot right near the Falls, and fell quickly in awe with the strength and the energy of the main waterfalls. The amber colour of the water (caused by the pine tannins) reminded me of the Tahquamenon Falls, from Michigan state, not far away from here.
Though a tiny logging and farming settlement existed before the railway arrived, the town of Massey developed for those who constructed the railway bridge over Aux Sables River. By 1889, about 20 families lived in Massey, but the generous fields of virgin pine gradually lured more and more people.
Although so many rivers have long history as transportation routes, Aux Sable River is the best one to be remembered in this area. Each winter from late 1800’s to the 1930, trees were toppled, cut into sections and dragged from the forests onto the ice-covered river. Several companies operated in the area, so each log was identified by a company symbol stamped into one end of the log with a metal hammer. In spring, when melting ice and snow raised the river to its highest levels, thousands of pine logs were floated down the Aux Sables to the mouth of the Spanish River. The logs were sorted by their respective owners and then towed by tug boats via the Great Lakes to sawmills for processing.
Though the Canadian Pacific Railway provided regular boat service along Lake Huron prior 1880s, the actual railway really opened up the North Shore to logging and development. One of the challenges in building the railway was the crossing of the Aux Sables gorge. The original stone pillars used in 1883 were made with limestone cut on Manitoulin Island, brought by scow to the mouth of the river, and then hauled by horse and wagon the rest of the way. The first road bridge was built in 1886, entirely of wood, replaced in 1907 by a cement one, which was said to be the largest single-arch cement bridge in the world at the time.
We tried to imagine the Whitewater men in their pointer boats along this river, herding the logs safely downstream. Or just how the log-drivers would be “walking” on the mass of flowing timber. Just try to imagine these men springing from one log to another with their pike poles, watchful for the jams, and making sure the logs do not block the river, and they flow properly down the current. A tough work for sure, one of the most dangerous jobs in the logging industry back then.
Counted as a moderate trail, Twin Bridges Trail is actually easy. Although most of it is quite straight, it does certainly have broken bedrock along the way, and intertwined roots coming out from the earth, reason we had to watch our steps.
Following the Aux Sables, this trail leads to lookouts along the river. Interpretive panels at the Falls Lookout tell a bit of history of this area.
After crossing both bridges, the trail follows another stretch to another viewing platform, anyway, we stopped several times along the trail, near the river, when the vegetation allowed us to. We expected to see the main Falls from the other side of the river, but the trail didn’t arrive at the anticipated section. The trail continues along the river, and loops through the forest for a return path. We got confused at some point, as the trail has some shortcuts that are not marked on the map, but the scarce blue markers continued to show, eventually.
We arrived back in the parking lot one hour and 50 minutes later, just in time to leave the park, as the pass we requested was for two hours only.
Tip(s) of the day:
- You need to drive slowly once you are in Massey, as this is a small town, and you might miss the turn. Just follow Road 553 for about 650 metres;
- Watch your steps on the trail, as some areas are slippery in the proximity of the water;
- Wear proper footwear, since rocky are always to be expected;
- Clean washrooms are located on the left side, right after the second parking lot;
- Day permits are available for 2-hrs, 4-hrs, or all-day, for same price.
~ visited in August 2021