Castle in the Forest

White Otter Castle


Outside our Motel in Atikokan –the White Otter Inn–where we spent the first night on our trip to Ottawa we saw a display of an extravagant castle in the forest. This is a photograph of it I found on the Internet. We learned that the motel was named after that castle–the White Otter Castle. The castle deep in the north woods of northwest Ontario that can only be reached by boat or plane is an amazing 3-storey log house built by James Alexander “Jimmy” McOuat on the shores of White Otter Lake. Like any self-respecting castle it has a turret extends 41 ft. above the 3 storeys. McQuat built the castle by himself starting in 1905 and finished it in 1915.  Clearly he was another man with passion. He felled the red pines all by himself in order to complete construction. If you are not familiar with red pines they are Manitoba’s and Ontario’s version of the California Redwoods. McQuat’s grave is beside the castle. The castle was falling into disrepair though recently restored.

According to a brochure in our Inn the castle is “a symbol of man’s triumph over nature.”  I am not so sure. Although it has been restored,  I think it is a symbol of nature’s triumph over man. As the saying goes, nature always bats last. We’ll have to see who is right.


3 thoughts on “Castle in the Forest

  1. A classic meanderance!

    I think it is human and nature in cooperation. The builder did not lay out a Joni Mitchell parkin’ lot–a clear cut if ever there was one! Since 1915, the trees he took to build the castle will have been replaced around the cabin, some several times over, plus other flora and fauna will have benefitted from the sunlight in his castle clearing and will have gorged on the shovelnose pike and pickerel fish guts buried in the yard or tossed in the reeds. McQuat will have McFeasted on not only fish but also wild rice, grouse, deer, blueberries and more – with no plastic bags or wobble-wheeled carts to contend with. All-in-all, a symbiosis of enduring quality and one that requires no hydro dams, coal or nuclear poweplants. It may force the burning of some avgas, boat oil & gas, and stove oil, but not copious amounts.

    Unfortunately, there’s no longer space or logistics enough to allow every human such a fortress of solitude. Nor would everyone want this.

    That 41 foot tower is remarkable. It sure is an impressive erection. (With apologies to McQuats everywhere.)

    1. I just disagreed that it is a symbol of man’s conquering nature. Nature is not something to be conquered. We should work with nature not against it. I don’t think a log house is conquering nature. After all we all need a place to live. What is more natural than using logs?

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