Westmeath Beaches

2 bathersWith notes and photos from the Laurentian View and Westmeath Tweedsmuir Books

Decades of summer time picnickers and swimmers have gathered in groups large and small at the areas’ beaches.  Church picnics, family Sunday afternoons, young people out for a summer fun-time, sunburned kids and sand-filled bathing suits.

For decades everyone in Westmeath Township used and enjoyed its many  beaches – well known for the fine white sands and gentle sloping drop-offs to deeper waters.  Sand castles and small children at the water’s edge; waves gently lapping, laughter and adults snoozing in the sunshine, or chatting in the shade under the border of trees.  Every township local knew this beach scene. The township was blessed with a wonderful assortment of fine beaches and every family had its favourite.

Moore’s Beach, Lower Allumette Lake

Moore’s Beach is the best known, boasts the longest strip of fine sand and hosts some of the oldest cottages in this area. The Moore’s Beach area is on the southern shore of Lower Allumette Lake, Perretton, and draws cottagers year after year.  It is ten miles east of Pembroke. This is a broad flat shoreline where a bather has to walk way-out to get up to her knees.  The beach extends for miles down to Sand Point near Westmeath Village; the point juts out from Bellow’s Bay. Sand Point and area has been set aside by the Ontario Government as the “Westmeath Provincial Park”, used for hiking, bird watching, and snowshoeing, but not developed further to date.

The beach area long enjoyed by so many township families is now closed to cars and private cottages line the shore. School trips to the beach are things of the past. The 1925 Beachburg Continuation School Yearbook “The Gloom Chaser“, has a story about the excitement of the students that arrangements were made to take the class by cars for a day at Moore’s Beach. It was a favourite school outing destination for dozens of area children every year.

Moore's Beach Summer 1953. Photo from J.D. Wright.

Moore’s Beach Summer 1953. Photo from J.D. Wright.

“In July 1922, one of Beachburg’s merchants, William M. Pimlott purchased a small portion of land on Lot 19, NFA, from John B. Moore for the purpose if erecting a summer cottage there.  Thus began a summer resort.

“The building had formerly been a granary belonging to John Beauprie of Beachburg and it was dismantled and moved to Perretton. Horace Anderson, a stone mason and carpenter in Beachburg was in charge of converting this building into a dwelling and began his task on July 18.  It has a fireplace in its large living room, two bedrooms, a kitchenette and a screened verandah.  It is somewhat larger that many of the cottages built in later years.  car

“Several years later, Mr. Pimlott sold his store to J.A. Johnson and moved to Almonte.  His summer home on the Ottawa River was purchased by a Pembroke baker, Hubert Whyte, who later sold it to Alfred Caughey.  It remained in his possession for some time until G.E. Raflaub, proprietor of the Lennox cafe, purchased it.

“Access to the cottages situated close to the wonderful sandy beach, was difficult and they could only be reached by driving over private property, so as the beach increased in popularity, members of the Westmeath Township Council took steps to purchase a road allowance and make the beach more accessible to the public. This factor gave such an impetus to the cottage building campaign that camps began to appear on the river front of Lot 18 owned by David Wright and  Lot 17 owned by Harold Jeffrey.   The building boom continued and was responsible for the opening of the road allowance between Lots 13 and 14 to the Ottawa from the Westmeath Road by the Township. This road was built in the winter of 1958.  The beach extends for miles down to Sand Point near Westmeath, the point juts out from Bellow’s Bay, mecca of fishermen and hunters.

“The Hydro Electric Power Commission ran a power line to the first cottages and which was later extended down the beach to service nearly every home.

First Cottage at Moore's Beach owned by Louis Tomchick, Pembroke. Laurentian View Tweedsmuir.

First Cottage at Moore’s Beach owned by Louis Tomchick, Pembroke. Laurentian View Tweedsmuir.

“Owners of cottages on Lot 19  include the names of Lanthier, Fischer, Founier, Demers, Hunt, Tario, Hitchinson,  Carnegie, Davidson and Giroux.

“All the cottages on Lot 18 are the property of Ira Weedmark head of the Science Department of Cornwall Collegiate who sold this in 1959 to O.N Martin of Peterborough. For years he had owned and rented cottages on the next lot.  Other owners were Keyes, MacDonald, Jeffrey, Shields, Seigal, McGugan, Conroy, Burnett, and others until there were more than 50 cottages in the area.

“Due to the fine sandy beach, it is a fine bathing spot for children while those who swim must go further out to enjoy this sport or boating.  During the summer when the water is extremely low, cars may travel down the beach for miles.

“In 1955 a J. Hoodyman conducted a portable refreshment booth on Sundays.  Some seasons Ira Weedmark had opened a booth but in the summer of 1959, a modern Snack Bar was opened by Mrs. W. Moore of London, Ont., which was a boon to campers and those on picnics.

“This pleasant spot is enjoyed by many with the gigantic Legion picnic being the largest event of the summer but many private groups have their gatherings there.  The Westmeath Council went on record to keep part of Lot 18 free from being built upon and keep the picnic spot free for this purpose.  Trailer parking was debarred in 1959.  This shaded area is the choice of many. Apparently mosquitoes and odd traces of poison ivy are no deterrent to camping here as many move in just as soon as the vacation season opens.  There are seldom any vacancies in the cottages.”

Over the years some of the expanses of sand flats have filled in with natural grasses and weeds.  The cottage owners have established a more private  experience of the Lower Allumette Lake’s vistas and huge western skies,  presenting glorious, panoramic sunsets.

The Pines below Westmeath, Lower Allumette Lake

Mary Adams and Irene Carlson at The Pines.

Mary Adams and Irene Carlson at The Pines.

Further downstream the next beach gathering spot was the Fraser’s “The Pines”, also on Lower Allumette Lake but at its northern end, on River Road just north of the Village of Westmeath.

The Fraser family was welcoming to church groups on Sunday afternoons and young people all summer used this site. There was a sharper drop-off to deeper water and not such finely grained sand, but by most standards could provide a fun summer afternoon.  By the 50’s and 60’s, weiner roasts and corn roasts were a common social gathering attended by all ages. This beach frontage was later subdivided and sold as cottage building lots.

Sunday Afternoon Bible Study at The Pines

Sunday Afternoon Bible Study at The Pines

The river then churns and races through various rapids – the Paquette the biggest set, going around the bend past Laurentian View Resort at Spotswoods, to slow down and widen to form Coulonge Lake.

Hennessy Sand Spit & Beach, Lake Coulonge

At the top of the lake, a large sand cliff is eroded each high water season, and carried a few hundred meters down river to shape and annually re-form the Sand Point or Spit at the mouth of Hennessy Bay.  This large sand bar is well used by boaters who know it as a favourite stopping spot to let everyone walk in the wide flats of fine sand or swim off the drop-off edge. The Ottawa River view from the sand spit down the two miles of the lake, and the Laurentian hills, stirs the most landlocked heart.

NangorbeachshotTurning into Hennessy Bay, one of the finest private beaches sits on the south shore.  First developed by Senator Gordon and Mrs. Nancy Hooper, (named using the first three letters of their names), followed by their son Jack, the Nangor Resort has had a series of owners.  Rental units are big enough for family holidays; with some families renting a cottage at Nangor and returning each summer for two or three generations. Other cottage building lots have been sold encircling the spring-fed scenic bay.

White’s Beach, Lake Coulonge

Mid-way down Lake Coulonge sits “White’s Beach”, also  a favourite Sunday afternoon group swimming site. Families would load up cars with kids and sand buckets, water toys, Freshie and sandwiches. The White family generously allowed locals to use the beautiful sandy point of land and enjoy the view of the Quebec hills. Many Sunday school picnics and family gatherings filled the summer weekends. Now the adjacent lots have been built into a cottage community and public access to the beachfront is discouraged.

Malloy Bay Beaches, Lake Coulonge

High sand cliffs edge the lakeshore coming downstream to Malloy Bay, eroding in high water and dropping sands onto the beaches of the Malloy Bay area.  The oldest beach, a site for corn roasts and picnics, commonly referred to as the Poupore Beach, after an early owner, is in private hands; as are the wide sand flats and water lily and arrowhead plant beds on Malloy’s western shore.

All of these beaches are each unique; one from the other, but to locals of a certain age; they engage memories of sun-filled gatherings in simpler times.

Upriver: Although Westmeath Township had more than its fair share of sand beaches, its residents travelled to other area resorts and beaches such as Hotel Pontiac at Fort William on the Quebec side, opposite present day Garrison Petawawa. Notice the Westmeath names amongst the guests in this clipping.

Fort-William-Tattler,-August-1899

The Ottawa Journal, Friday, August 11, 1899