Ogoki Lodge and The Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”

Last revised on September 2, 2022.

Table of Contents:


Where Is Whitewater Lake?

The Ogoki Lodge Site

The Beckwith Cabins On Best Island

What Should Be Done With  the Beckwith Cabins

2021 Images of The Cabins

More Context & Information:

Also – see the Comments section for some fascinating perspectives.



As if the fire we were fleeing was not enough of a reminder of the fragility and temporary nature of all things (see our Smoke Over Wabakimi: Canoeing In A Season Of Wildfires post about paddling past the Wabakimi fires of 2011), we spent our last day on Whitewater Lake at two sites that are in a state of abandonment and decay. It was sad to walk around and realize that it will be too late if action isn’t taken soon. It seems such a waste of something special.

[Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topo of the area – Grayson Lake 052 I 14 ]

The fatalistic take on it all, I suppose, is summed up in the line from the George Harrison song – “all things must pass away.” Or, as the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes put it more than two millennia ago- “There is a time for everything under heaven …a time to be born and a time to die.” There’s nothing we can do to escape the essential impermanence of all that is.


Where Is Whitewater Lake?

Whitewater Lake is where the Ogoki Lodge and the three Beckwith cabins are located. The lake, along with others like Wabakimi, Kenoji, and Whiteclay, belongs to the upper Ogoki River system. All are included in Wabakimi Provincial Park, created in 1983 and second only to Polar Bear Park on Hudson Bay as Ontario’s largest.

Ontario’s Largest Parks By Area – 1 Polar Bear; 2 Wabakimi; 3. Algonquin; 4. Quetico

It is in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek people, specifically the Ojibwe and the Cree, who lived off the land for perhaps two thousand years before the flood of newcomers arrived – the fur traders, missionaries, surveyors, railway builders, prospectors, lumbermen, miners, dam builders…and yes, the sport fishermen and hunters and American eccentrics looking to get away from it all!


The Ogoki Lodge Site

In the case of the Ogoki Lodge site, you wonder how the owner(s) could just let it go like that. As is usually the case, a lack of money is probably the explanation. Maybe the whole thing was a crazy idea from the very beginning.

Ogoki – the main building, dock and deck, and some of the cabins

main Ogoki Lodge building

the main lodge building – dramatic tipi shape


The Motivation For Building Ogoki Lodge:

Ogoki River Guides front coverAccording to a book by Edward Hedican, The Ogoki River Guides: Emergent Leadership Among the Northern Ojibwathe original motivation for the Ogoki Lodge project came from the three Patience brothers (identified in the 1986 book as the McTavish Bros. to preserve their privacy). They were the sons of a Scottish HBC post manager at Fort Hope and an Anishinaabe mother whose father was a chief and one of the signatories of  Treaty No. 9.

The Patience brothers hoped to use the construction of the Ogoki Lodge and its operation to provide the people of nearby Collins with employment opportunities and a chance to learn new work skills, both in the construction and tourism industries.


1:250,000 topo of the area from Whitewater Lake to CN Rail Line – enlarge with a click

The workers came mainly from the non-reserve-status community of Collins, as well as from Armstrong Station, Mud River, and Ferland. (See the above map for locations.)  Many brought their families along to Whitewater Lake, where they set up camp near the worksite. Local materials – logs, stone, sand – formed the bulk of the construction materials and the rest was either flown in or hauled over winter roads from Armstrong Station, a stop on the CN rail line indicated above.

The work on the site began in May of 1974 and was funded by the Ontario provincial government. However, the Anishinaabe of Collins – particularly the Patience brothers and their Ogoki River Guides Limited – seemed to call a lot of the shots. Funding added up to a bit over $1,000,000., a sizeable sum of money in the 1970s. [The 2022 equivalent is about $5,400,000.]

location of lodges and outposts on Whitewater Lake in Wabakimi Provincial Park

location of lodges and outposts on Whitewater Lake in Wabakimi Provincial Park

The Lodge, originally owned and run by members of the local indigenous community at Collins,  was meant to provide ongoing work for local Ojibwe and Cree by attracting guests – most often that meant Americans – who would be flown in for a week of superb fishing on Whitewater Lake. Not clear is how many of the lodges and outposts indicated on the map above were open in the 1970s; the more there were, the more competition for paying guests.

aerial view of the Ogoki Lodge property – internet-sourced image


The Main Building and Its Distinctive Design

The teepee-like main building is still in pretty good shape and seemed to be inhabited when we were there in 2012. Some locals I talked to attribute the teepee design of the structure to Wendell Beckwith, the hermit of nearby Best Island. Apparently, he originally envisioned varnished moose hides to cover it, but when that didn’t work out, he suggested the more conventional cedar shingles.

Whitewater Lake – Ogoki main-building

Correspondence I’ve received from the architect Sheldon Rosen tells me that the design was actually the work of his Toronto architectural firm, then known as  Group 33. In particular, Rosen noted the design contribution of Eneri Taul, the Toronto-based but Estonian-born architect in charge of the project. Also mentioned were the project engineer Roger Bayley and his younger brother Tim, who took his place on-site.

another perspective of the main Lodge


Update – Eneri Paul’s Comment August 2022.

This comment by Eneri Paul, the architect mentioned above, helps clarify the issue of who was responsible for the design of the main building and the guest cabins. She wrote –

As a still practicing architect in Ontario, after so many years of not following the fate of the Ogoki Lodge, I returned to my memorabilia of projects and was pleased to note from the numerous comments, herein, that the Main Lodge structure is somewhat still in good condition and appreciated as a concept of interesting design.

In 1973-4, I was 2 years away from my own registration and was employed as the senior designer in the firm of Sheldon Rosen Architects. I remember the day that a friend working in the department of Indian Affairs ( called that at the time) walked into our office and asked if we would be interested in this project and would I, Eneri Taul , be designated as the designer. The reason given, that I was also of an ethnic descent, being from Estonia, and would have a sympathetic understanding and respect for the cultural significance for other cultures,

When Don Patience came to be introduced, the main question was ” can we build a teepee?”. I was approved to see how do we build a teepee. I take great pride in the fact that the concept was all mine. A trip to Whitewater in winter with temperatures at minus 50C, by skiplane out of Armstrong, included a visit to who I remember as a “hermit” with genius ideas of how he could live off-the-grid in the north. I am sure this must have been Beckwith in his little cozy cabin. At the time, it was a simple visit. I never worked with him in any way as part of my concept for the design of the Lodge and the sleeping cabins. But Roger Bailey of our firm, SDR Architects, who managed the construction, may have consulted with him during construction.

The previous, 2016-10-18, comments from ” Anonymous”, SDR, are correct in every other detail except that I have not been given due credit for the concept of the design for the Main Lodge and sleeping cabins. I still have the original sketches for this concept.

Thank you for updating this history.


Other Buildings On The Site:


Near the central structure are the five-sided guest cabins, two of which are visible in the satellite image above. To the rear are smaller cabins, probably intended for lodge staff use.

The newest part of the site, probably dating to the late 1980s or early 1990s,  is a two-storey motel-like structure with 10 guest rooms on each floor. It is a rectangular building with a green roof located on the point. The doors of many of the units are open, and windows are broken; it is well on the way to becoming unsalvageable. [Update: on a 2021 visit, we found the doors and windows of the building boarded up. See here for the post.]


The Lodge’s Failure To Break Even

The Hedican book mentioned above states that once in operation after a shaky beginning, the Lodge managed to come close to breaking even, although occupancy rates hovered around 40%.

The Patience Bros. decided early on to hire a non-Anishinaabe to operate the Lodge for them. This was the situation in 1986 when Hedican’s book was published. Here is a passage from his book on the state of the Lodge at that time –

“…for the last three years the lodge has been leased to individuals who operate two other lodges in the area. However, the lodge still hires Collins people as guides and  maintenance workers, thus fulfilling one of the main reasons for the construction of the lodge in the first place.” (Hedican,159)

Given Joe Warpeha’s comments below, this must be around the time when his father stepped in and bought the property and then hired Bill Ferring as the operator. Joe writes that his father sold the property about fifteen years ago (i.e. the late 1990s). Still unclear is who bought the property in the late 1990s.

Also unclear is who decided to expand the lodge complex by adding the two-storey building with 10 guest rooms on each floor. A comment from a visitor to the Lodge in 1989 noted that the building was not yet there at that time.

The view from the deck towards the two-storey structure with twenty rooms – it had the feel of a motel set-up and seems like a later addition to the lodge  complex


The Fate of the Ogoki Lodge

Perhaps one day, someone will write the definitive Wikipedia entry on Ogoki Lodge. If so, it will join the entry on  Minaki Lodge still the ultimate grandiose northwestern Ontario lodge project. It was located some 400 kilometers west of Whitewater Lake but had the advantage of being right by the CN rail line.

The Ogoki Lodge, on the other hand, is sixty kilometers from the rail line and requires a bush plane ride – or three days of paddling and portaging – to get to! The Minaki Lodge finally met its end in a fire that destroyed the main building in 2003. It would seem the fate of the Ogoki Lodge site is to fade away less dramatically.


A 13-Minute Video Tour of the Complex (2017)

In June of 2017, YouTuber VE3FAL1_Fred uploaded a video of the visit his paddling crew paid to the Ogoki Lodge. The part from 2:30 to 16:30  takes the viewer on a ramble around the property.


Update: Ogoki Lodge Under New Ownership!

In January of 2021,  a Thunder Bay Museum/Jim Hyder movie – well worth watching! –  titled In Search of Wendel Beckwith was uploaded to Vimeo. You can see it on the Vimeo site.

A couple of minutes of the documentary (1:22-1:24) has some archival footage of the Lodge being built. There is also an interview with Alan Cheeseman of Wilderness North (an NW Ontario fishing lodge and outpost company). Cheeseman discusses plans to revive the Lodge, now a third Wilderness North property on the lake.

Included in the documentary was a video clip with one of the Patience brothers attributing the original design to Wendell Beckwith and then an architect taking over from there. If so, perhaps Beckwith initiated the teepee idea, which the Patience Bros. then took to Toronto and Eneri Paul created the actual architectural plans in the early 1970s. This may explain how both Beckwith and Eneri Taul from that Toronto-based architectural firm I mentioned above could be credited with the distinctive main Lodge.


The Beckwith Cabins On Best Island

Where the Cabins Are Located:

A 10-kilometer paddle from the Ogoki Lodge takes you to another Whitewater Lake landmark. The route is a tranquil alternative to the more round-about way motorboats will have to take. It does involve a short (but easy) portage into “Secret” Lake and then an exit via a channel which has been quite shallow the two times we came through. The reward – a chance to see the cabins on Best Island built by Wendell Beckwith in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, the Beckwith Cabins are in even worse shape than the Ogoki Lodge complex. One building had a significant roof hole, allowing the rain and snow to do their work even faster. Here is a property that could play a key part in the Wabakimi Provincial Park “story” a hook other than fishing to sell a visit to the park. We felt like pilgrims at a shrine as we walked around the site, but, in the end, we realized that we were two of maybe 50 people who would visit Beckwith’s Center of the Universe that summer.

The satellite image below shows the approximate location of the cabins. They are about 40 meters from a landing beach. Near the beach is a shaded clearing that has hosted camping groups.



Thunder Bay Museum Bio of Wendell Beckwith

To provide a bit of background on the man who constructed the three cabins on Best Island,  here is the biographical sketch found on the Thunder Bay Museum website:

Wendell Beckwith – Biographical Sketch

Wendell King Beckwith (born 9 Sept. 1915 at Whitewater Wisc., died August 1980 at Whitewater Lake, Ont.) was the son of Raymond Beckwith and Laura Imogene King. His father was a design engineer and inventor. Wendell had a high-school education and attended the University of Alabama (Botany) for one year only. His knowledge of engineering and science was to a large extent self-taught. He worked for a time as a draughtsman and, in the late 1930s to the 1950s, as a research engineer for the Milwaukee Electric Tool Co. as chief development engineer and/or vice president where he designed and patented for the company several pieces of equipment. In ca.1945 he left to set up his own development lab in Whitewater, Wisc., and also worked until 1955 as a freelance consultant with Parker Pen, one of his major clients. He did not invent the ball-point pen as is sometimes suggested, but received four patents covering writing apparatus and machinery.

In ca.1955-56 Beckwith left his job, wife (Betty Mobert) and family (five children: Wendell Jr., David J., Laura, Imogene and Kathleen, who later married Harry Worth) probably due to his desire to do “pure research” into gravitation and radiation. In 1957-1958 he was known to be working for the Gravity Institute in New Boston analyzing submissions for funding. By the late 1950s, however, he was searching for a place of solitude in which to conduct his research. After spending three years at various locations in Northern Wisconsin he moved, in 1961, to Best Island on Whitewater Lake in Ontario. There, with funding from Mr. Harry Wirth, an unrelated American businessman, a cottage was built and Beckwith began his research. Until 1969 he wintered in Wisconsin and spent the rest of each year at the cottage. From 1969 onwards he stayed at Whitewater Lake year round and received frequent visits from friends, members of the group “Outward Bound”, and the local Native people. From Feb. 1971 to 1980 his friend Rose Chaltry of Minneapolis lived with him during the summer months.

In the mid 1970s, Beckwith’s funding agreement with Wirth broke down after which he relied on friends, family and Rose Chaltry for supplies. Beckwith’s status in Canada was that of an illegal alien until 1974. He refused to apply for landed immigrant status, declaring himself a “citizen of the world”. Because of his “great assistance to the Indian population of the area” he was granted ministerial permission to stay. His refusal to apply for a land use permit, until 1977, led to protracted negotiations with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

His research was done mainly in the winter. He would sit down before a blank sheet of paper each day and work on whatever topic interested him. The sheets he’d put into binders or folders. He took constant astronomical and meteorological observations. He formalized an agreement with the Ontario government in September 1979 whereby he bequeathed his research notes, papers and experimental apparatus to the people of Ontario on his death.

His research interests were broad, ranging from the magnetic and astronomical forces of the galaxy and historic human migrations to the pyramids and Stonehenge. He showed a great interest in “pi”, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and he was intrigued by such numbers and how often they recurred in nature. He was also concerned with the connections between astronomical events and the migration of large groups of people. His work suffers from several drawbacks: notably his preference for “popular” as opposed to academic works of science and history for his information and his 1930s high school math.   (See here  for the source of the biographical sketch)


The Beckwith Documentary (2021)

The Thunder Bay Museum, in partnership with Ontario filmmaker Jim Hyder, has released the documentary In Search of Wendell Beckwith online (VIMEO – January 2021). Hyder first met Beckwith in 1972 when he was working for the National Film Board and had the thought of making a film about him even then! In 2018 he finally got to it.

Narrated by Tyler Beckwith Evans, a grandson of Beckwith, the film blends archival film and photos with interviews with some who knew him well. Harry Wirth, Rose Chaltry-Minar, Ruby Slipperjack, and Bruce Hyer are just four of the many providing anecdotes and insight.

In Search of Wendell Beckwith from Thunder Bay Museum on Vimeo.


What Should Be Done With the Beckwith Cabins?

The Park Response:

 Someone will ask -” Is it worth spending a million dollars in renovations and restoration so that fifty paddlers and fishermen a year can see some eccentric American inventor’s wilderness retreat on an island in the middle of nowhere?” Park officials are undoubtedly aware of the state of the cabins, and in their inaction, they have given their response.


The Main Cabin – the one with the dramatic fireplace – and after 2007 with the blue tarp

the original roof of the main cabin -during construction in the mid-1970s

August 2021 – Looking into Beckwith’s Main cabin from the front – See here for more pix


What would Beckwith Have Wanted? Opposing Views 

I did find online a Globe and Mail article from 2005  written by Julius Strauss – “Odd man’s odd home now facing extinction” – which does provide a  probable answer that Beckwith himself might have given to the question posed above –

Ernie Nichols is a float pilot who lives in Armstrong and is one of the few locals to remember Mr. Beckwith. “He was a very intelligent man, but he was, at heart, a recluse,” he said. “He would have wanted it all just to go back to nature.”

Not everyone would agree with this statement about what Beckwith would have wanted. Bob Henderson spent some time talking to people who knew him, and this is how he summed it up in his book More Trails, More Tales: Exploring Canada’s Travel Heritage

Bob Henderson on the Beckwith Cabins

Beckwith cabin – blue tarp


Click on the book title above, and you can access the entire chapter (pp.41-47) at the Google Books site.

Or you can buy the book at the Dundurn Press website here – it is available as a digital download and print.

The time we spent at the Beckwith cabins there was one of the highlights of our Wabakimi canoe trip that summer.




Some Images of the Site from 2011

The main cabin – the first to be built in the early 1960s -as it was in 2011.

The Guesthouse – the second Beckwith cabin to be built in the late 1960s.

a view of the roof of the main cabin – damaged by a falling tree

a hole in the roof of the Main Beckwith cabin – stone fireplace visible in the background

the main cabin’s stone fireplace in 2011

storage shed behind the main cabin and the Guesthouse

Beckwith storage shed on Best Island


Beckwith outhouse on Best Island

Guesthouse and  Main Cabin

plaque in front of one of the cabins

plaque in front of one of the cabins


2021 Images of The Cabins

Our post A Two-Day Paddle Across the Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake has twenty or so images showing the state of the three Beckwith Cabins in late August 2021. They show that the Main Cabin is gone. Next to go will be the Snail, thanks to a hole in the roof; the Guesthouse will survive a bit longer.

The sign put up by the Park manager sums up the official approach to the site.

The Snail cabin and Park notice 2021.

A Two-Day Paddle Across the Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake


More Context & Information:

Canadian Canoe Routes Forum Thread

There is an interesting thread at the canoeing forum Canadian Canoe Routes about the Beckwith Cabins from 2008 that you might want to check out for more information. It was started by Kevin Callan to bring attention to his 1990s Youtube videos on Wabakimi and drew insightful responses from a number of other posters, including a friend of Beckwith’s. It can be found here.


Dan Rachor’s video from 2011

In 2011 Dan Rachor uploaded to Youtube a series of four videos on his just-completed Wabakimi canoe trip;  Episode Four shows you inside of the three cabins. You can see the video here.


Kevin Callan’s Account 

Callan Dazed but not confused

In 2013 Callan’s Dazed But Not Confused: Tales Of A Wilderness Wanderer was published. Billed as “a collection of stories,” it consists of forty-one short chapters, and it is clear that Callan has quite the collection of tales to draw from.

A couple of pages of chapter 36, titled “Hermits of the North,” has him turning to the Wendell Beckwith story one more time with an endearing portrait of the eccentric resident of Best Island. Click here for the Google eBook version of the book or on the title above for the Amazon link.


Hedican’s The Ogiki River Guides

Ogoki River Guides front coverThe Google Book archive has a few pages of The Ogoki River Guides: Emergent Leadership Among the Northern Ojibwa written by Edward Hedican and published in 1986. Hedican is currently (2013) a professor in the Sociology and  Anthropology Department at the University of Guelph.

Most of chapter 5 – “ORG and the Whitewater Project” – is accessible and makes for interesting reading. (Scroll down to page 109.) It discusses the construction of the Ogoki Lodge, focussing primarily on the tensions in the relationship between the engineers and the Anishinaabe men working on the project. You can read it here. The entire book is available as a Google download for $18.62; given that there is a copy available for in-library use, I made my way to Toronto’s Central Reference Library and read it there. The book is also still available from the Wilfred Laurier Press.


Related Post: A Two-Day Paddle Across the Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake 

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38 Responses to Ogoki Lodge and The Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”

  1. michael camp says:





    • albinger says:

      Michael, as I mentioned above, we felt like pilgrims as we walked around Wendell’s corner of Best Island and took in the details of the structures he built. Funny how his life journey took him from Whitewater, Wisconsin to Whitewater Lake, Onatrio.Thanks for sharing your memories of a fascinating man.

  2. Fran Koning says:

    Ogoki Lodge was a ‘make work’ project for the First Nations residents of the Whitewater/Armstrong area. Millions of dollars went into the building of the lodge and its additional cabins. When the First Nations folks ran into trouble running the camp, it ended up in private operator’s hands for several years.

    I agree with you with respect to the abandonment of the Lodge. It is a unique and interesting structure that incorporates many of Beckwith’s designs. I was there only once many, many years ago when the Ferrings operated the Lodge. I was also lucky enough to see the Beckwith cabins at the same time.

    As a tourist operator myself, I deplore the deterioration of such beautiful buildings. However, at the present time, I doubt that the Lodge can earn its way, as so many of us are struggling to stay in business. It is a shame, though, that this place is dying, and that so many of taxpayer dollars have been wasted.

    As you say, it was probably a tremendous folly in the first place. Lord knows it was not the best of locations for float planes to arrive and depart. Perhaps the media will someday find this story and inform the good citizens of Canada that this lodge is sitting and rotting.

    • albinger says:

      Fran, thanks for the extra information on the Ogoki Lodge. From your comments I can see there is a real story to be told- perhaps not politically correct- and unfortunately not even surprising- but still needing to be heard.

      In retrospect, I wish we had come away with a better visual record of the state of the Ogoki Lodge site. Our visit to Ogoki Lodge was the second in twelve months and it was deserted both times.

      I must admit that standing on that wooden terrace looking north up the channel that runs on the west side of Grage Island, I thought- “What a grand view!” Of course, that isn’t enough of an answer to the fundamental question- “What were they thinking when they put a lodge here?”

  3. Nick Rose says:

    It was fascinating for me to see those pictures. I was there – I am guessing late October 1979 or 1980 – filming a documentary called In Search Of Paradise. We were doing an episode about The Bush Garden, from Northrop Frye’s essays of the same name. We stayed at the Ogoki Lodge and had a team of local first nation guides with us for a few weeks. I remember a trip to the Beckwith cabin. I believe he had just died when we were there because the place was immaculate. It was quite fascinating. I cannot remember whether or not we filmed at the cabins.

    The show was made for TVO and the BBC. There must be a copy in the archives at TVO. It would be interesting to see what it looked like back then.

    It is a terrible shame that both the lodge and the cabins are falling to bits. It is all so beautiful and hauntingly remote.

  4. Joe Warpeha says:

    My father was the majority owner of Ogoki Lodge in the early years. It must have been about 15 years ago that he sold it.

    As was mentioned above, Bill Ferring was the operator. He was a second-generation outfitter in the Armstrong area and was probably best known for Camp Caribou (on Caribou Lake just outside of Armstrong) and the dozens of outpost camps that he or his father owned going back to the 1950s and 60s. I think the elder Ferring was one of the first outfitters in that part of Ontario; he passed away years ago and it is my understanding that the younger Ferring has retired from the outfitting business. Bill Ferring is also a very experienced bush pilot (I always felt calm when he was flying the plane).

    I have many memories of Ogoki Lodge, Whitewater Lake, and Best Island as our family spent several weeks every summer for many years up there. I visited Wendell Beckwith’s place dozens of times and it never got old. As was mentioned above, the story goes (as I heard it told) that Beckwith believed Best Island was the center of the universe. Maybe that is the true story and maybe it’s not but one thing seems apparent: he was a recluse and he built an amazing and beautiful complex on Best Island. I fear that it will eventually deteriorate into something unrecognizable from what it once was.

    Ogoki Lodge was never a moneymaker, despite being on a large and productive fishing lake that is part of one of the most storied river systems in that part of Ontario. At one time, there were 4 lodges/outpost camps on the lake: one where the Ogoki River comes into Whitewater Lake (west end), one where the river leaves (east end), one south of Best Island, and the Ogoki Lodge. Of the four, the only one I know (for certain) that is still operating is the one south of Best Island. It is run by Don and Annette Elliot who own Mattice Lake Outfitters – you will not find two nicer people or a better run outfitting business.

    Despite having 4 lodges/outpost camps, the lake seemed big enough to handle the fishing pressure. I know who my father sold Ogoki Lodge to but I do not think the new owner put too many people in there. I am not sure who owns it now and, by the looks of your pictures, it has not been used in a long time. It was really a sight to see when it first opened up for business. When I was a boy, I remember touring the lodge and the grounds when my father was looking into purchasing it from the group that built it – that must have been in the mid- to late 1980s. I have heard stories about the current state of disrepair (there was also a fire sometime after my father sold it) but your pictures really tell a sad story.

    I would not say that Ogoki Lodge was out of place when and where it was built though it certainly stood out. Its downfall was probably the amount of money it took to run it. I was fortunate enough to see and experience it in all of its glory. I sure could tell you some stories…

    • true_north says:

      Joe, thanks for adding new information to my post by adding a little of what you know about these two places on Whitewater Lake. It sounds like you have more than a few childhood memories that go back to Ogoki Lodge and the summers you spent up there. Maybe you should start a blog which would expand on your “I sure could tell you some stories”! If not, feel free to add another comment or two here – I am sure that they would be read with interest.

  5. Jeff says:

    Hello, thanks for sharing your pictures and memories of Ogoki Lodge. My Dad and I ran it for one summer back in the early 80’s.

    I was about 9 years old and have some of the best memories of our time together there. My father’s name was Bernie Junior. Bernie was diabetic, however, and had forgotten to bring his insulin along. He was very stubborn and didn’t ask anyone to bring some and failed to mention it all together. Needless to say, he went into shock and had to be flown back (somewhere) to the nearest hospital where he was admitted.

    I stayed at a stranger’s house (I believe he was the float plane pilot and may have been affiliated with the lodge in some way but don’t recall). There was also a French cook named Muget (forgive my spelling of her name). I used to clean the fish for the guests and hang out with some of the native indian guides. When we were there it was fairly busy – it’s a shame to see it in the state it is now in.

    I have a few pictures I will try to dig up and post. Thanks for sharing!

    • true_north says:

      Jeff, nice to hear from you. I can see why Ogoki Lodge would stick in your memory, thanks to its connection to the time you spent there with your dad and the natural beauty of the place. Photos of the Lodge from back in the day would be great to see! Send me the link when you post them – or send them to me and I will include them in my post with a note on where they came from.

  6. Pete T says:

    I was visiting my daughter this weekend (she lives near Manchester, UK), and whilst there spotted a picture of us at Ogoki Lodge, taken in the summer of about 1989. So I just happened to google it and was led to your excellent blog.
    At that time the lodge was pristine and absolutely idyllic. We attended a board meeting of the Armstrong School Board, hosted by Peter Cheeseman of Armstrong, at the lodge. As I recall, Peter was an airplane engineer (I think perhaps he maintained the float planes). He also was a superb ambassador for the North, and was a good friend at the time. Peter was primarily estates manager for the board.
    When I get home I’ll look up some of the pictures taken on that trip. In particular I have one of our daughter aged about 7, with a 3lb walleye. Very fond memories of a beautiful location and very sad to hear of its decline.
    Pete T.

    • true_north says:

      Pete, thanks for taking the time to comment and to provide another thread in the Ogoki story. It is a place that seems to have touched more than a few people. In spite of what time and neglect have done, I’m glad we got to paddle by and spend some time at the site. Have fun finding the right container with those pix in it!

    • true_north says:

      Pete, it is eight years later and I just reread your comment! This is how COVID has us spending our time, eh! In any case, given your positve memories of Peter Cheeseman, I thought you might like to know that the Ogoki Lodge complex has been taken over by his son, Alan!

      He is the owner of Wilderness North, a fishing outpost company that already owns a couple of properties on Whitewater Lake. We hope to see a revitalized property when we drop in as we paddle down the lake this summer.

      It could be a great spot for you to spend a week this summer – fly in, paddle and fish a bit, and fly out! Check out the website here – https://wildernessnorth.com

  7. Dave Graham says:

    I visited Ogoki Lodge and the Beckwith cabins twice in the early 1990’s. Only the main lodge and several cabins were there. The two story structure was not there.

    There were several cabins on Best island.Wendell had built one cabin above ground, one partially above ground and one in ground. He was experimenting with insulating factors I was told.

    He used a dumb waiter system to lower food items into cold storage.

    The site is supposedly exactly opposite 0 degree longitude and this was the reason Beckwith choose the site or at least that is the story I was given.

    Bob Izumi filmed an episode of his fishing show at the lodge.

    If I find my pictures I will see if I can figure out how to post them.

    • true_north says:

      Dave, I’ve been out travelling for the past month – Sri Lanka! – so I missed seeing your comment. Thanks for the additional info on the lodge and the cabins. Re: your pics. They would be great to see! You might do what I did – open up a free wordpress.com account and create a post to which you can upload the pix. I’d be happy to post the link in my write-up. Or if you’d like, you could email me the jpg files and i could add them to my post. It is a story that should be better known – and seen!

    • Fred says:

      The dumb waiter is still in working order. I was astounded by the ingenuity he put into things like door levers, all the storage and the work that went into the Chimney in the Museum as well as the draft fix he did for better circulation in the winter to stay warm and burn less wood.

      • true_north says:

        Fred, just looked at Days 1 and 2 of your Lasso Route! Great stuff – had me wishing I was out there again! i guess Day 3 will be on to the Berg and then down into Whitewater Lake and the Lodge and Cabins. I will check back in a few days after you’ve uploaded. Thanks for the link.

        Re: the dumb waiter. Looking around the place there is all sorts of evidence of his intelligence and cleverness.

  8. pam wright says:

    We saw Wendell’s cabins in 2011 at the end of August. It is a fascinating place and seems frozen in time. While I understand it would cost a lot to repair and maintain them, I wish they could stay intact. So much thought, ingenuity and artistry went into them.

    • true_north says:

      Along with the fires (!) seeing the cabins was one of the highlights of that summer’s trip. I wish that they could indeed be frozen in time – but the big hole in the roof of one of the cabins will ensure that things fall apart even faster. Having missed seeing them the previous summer, we were glad to have found them the second time – and a combo of awed/saddened as we walked around the site.

      • John Brasseur says:

        I stayed there with friends on an annual fishing trip with Wilderness North Outfitters back in the early 90’s. The lodge was impressive and beautiful. The fishing was good but not great. The Beckwith Cabins were amazing. Too bad they are all in disrepair, but I guess everything changes with time. It is a unique place and will always stand out in my mind as one of the most interesting places I have ever been.

      • true_north says:

        John, your take on the Lodge and the Cabins was the same as ours! Wilderness North still has outposts and fishing lodges on Whitewater Lake but I don’t think the Ogoki Lodge is one of their properties – or if it ever was. One of the comments does make mention of a Wilderness Connection Outfitters. Different company or same company with different name?

        It may be that WNO had a special arrangement with the owners to have its clients stay there. From Joe Warphela’s comment up above, it sounds like his father would have been the majority owner back in the 1990’s.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good morning,
    I recently was speaking with a Chief from Sioux Lookout and discussed the Ogoki Fishing Lodge
    at Whitewater Lake built in 1974. In looking it up on the internet, I was astonished to see that virtually every word of the published articles was incorrect from names to attributions.

    Here are the correct facts.

    The project was originated by the Patience brothers, Don and Peter Patience. They were Ogoki River Indians and extremely well-informed individuals.

    The design was done by a Toronto-based architectural firm, Sheldon D. Rosen Architects who with their in -house engineering staff led by Roger Bayley actually managed the construction of the project on site. As many materials as possible were selected from the immediate surroundings so that all major structural and landscaping items were specified and supplied locally.

    Only the manufactured items such as windows, appliances and plumbing were either flown in, in Summer or sledded in when the Lakes froze over.

    Beckwith, as I recall, was introduced to us as a recluse who had fled the urban rat race and who lived at the opposite end of the lake in a very crude cabin hewn out of the woods and without any conveniences. He had nothing to do with the design or construction of the Ogoki Lodge.

    The original management we heard from time to time was in regular battles with the authorities as to the proper operation of the finished lodge. This was an instrumental fact leading to the eventual degradation of the wonderful original little complex.

    We would ask that you correct the written history of this wonderful little deep woods development whenever its story is further published or disseminated.

    Many thanks.

    • true_north says:

      Dear, Anon. I appreciate your input.

      The narrative I read in your comment certainly conflicts with the Edward Hedican account. You write – “…virtually every word of the published articles were incorrect from names to attributions” You’d have to wonder how not just Hedican but everyone else until the Sioux Lookout source told you his story could have gotten the story so wrong. Hedican, for example, was there in the local community at the time of the construction and his account was published a decade later as an anthropological study in 1986 – thirty years ago.

      I’ll reread the Hedican book – at least the parts that are available at Google Books. I’ll also try to get in touch with Professor Hedican as well as the architectural firm you mention to see what they say. It would also be great to be able to communicate with the Sioux Lookout elder to see how he is connected to the construction and where his info comes from.

      Stay tuned.

      • Sheldon D. Rosen says:

        Good morning,
        Before you go to any trouble with your research, let me try to clarify my comments. It was not the Chief who brought up the subject but me. The chief was only vaguely aware of the site.

        I was the architect commissioned by the Federal Government to design the project. Roger Bayley was in my employ at the time and both he and his brother were instrumental in the construction of the project at the site.

        During the construction there were a few setbacks including the mysterious explosion that demolished the supply dock. If you learn more about the very beginnings of this project I will be more than happy to assist in clarifying the “truths”.

        Many thanks.

      • Fred says:

        It amazes me at the lack of information about this place, considering the Gov’t soaked a wad of cash into this just to see it left as it is.

      • true_north says:

        Fred, it feels weird to thank you for the bad news! Not that I am surprised. I almost hate to look at your video!

        It doesn’t have to be that way but – that’s the way it is. Does that sound fatalistic enough?

        I will put a link to – or embed – your video in my post when it’s ready and uploaded!

  10. true_north says:

    Sheldon, I am assuming you are the Anonymous of the previous comment. I’d like to talk to you about the Ogoki Lodge story and the facts as you know them. I have not read my post in a couple of years so I am certainly not up on all the details. I’ll have to reread it and the Hedican book, my main source of information as I wrote the post. Thanks for contacting me. I’ll get in touch.

    • Fred says:

      I too would like to get some firm dates and information for my video before I post it but not sure that will happen. I will post some of the fragments that I have right now as a quick walk around the property and later post a more in-depth video of Ogoki as well as Beckwith’s place as it now sits in disarray.

  11. Fred says:

    We just finished 10 days in the area last week and visited the lodge as well as spent two days at Best Island. The Lodge is a mess with mouse feces all over the place now and beams slowly collapsing. The septic filed tanks are all wide open and pose a danger. It is a shame to see this place left in the condition that it is in today with so much money still sitting there. Best Island and Beckwith’s cabins have now collapsed even more since your visit and pictures. I will have video up on my YouTube Channel showing both.

  12. PAT MINTURN says:

    My wife and I visited the Ogoki Lodge in 1989. A lady named Hannah was running the place. We arrived by canoe, without a reservation. They put us up for a couple nights and then we moved along to the Whitewater Lodge.

    The Ogoki Lodge was spectacular, for its location. The building structure was a tee-pee design with massive timbers. Water from the roof drained onto the timbers leading to rot so the bottom ten feet or so had already been replaced.

    The 22-room hotel wasn’t there yet. Just maybe ten little cabins with fireplaces.

    I will always remember it.

    • true_north says:

      Pat, thanks for adding some details to the story of the Ogoki Lodge. It is indeed the kind of place you don’t forget.

      If you took any photos of the property you’d be willing to let me include in the post, let me know!

  13. Bayley says:

    Tim Bayley here from NZ … I was the site engineer for the project under my brother Roger Bayley …. started in spring of 1974 …. and took 3 summers to complete … it was a great project but there were many issues with the build and the personnel and a couple of deaths during construction … neither caused by construction accidents, one by drowning and one by lightning….
    If you want more information Roger and I have lots and a box full of slides of construction progress … I still get the Deer Fly welts!!

    Interesting read

    • true_north says:

      Tim – thanks for the comment! You must have some incredible Ogoki Lodge stories that you’ve told once or twice over a glass of wine from your cellars! For a write-up on an obscure corner of the world, the Ogoki Lodge post has gotten a lot of visits (about 6000) since I uploaded it! If you could digitalize those slides, they would certainly draw the interest of people whose lives were touched by the time they spent on Whitewater Lake and at the Lodge.

      You could set up your own website (I use WordPress to create this site) and use the slides to tell the story of how the property came to be. I would insert a link to your site in my post so that readers could check out the slides and text you will have uploaded. Or – you could send me digitalized copies of the slides and I could create a post specifically on the construction – perhaps incorporating some comments from you on individual slides!

      It would be a shame for those slides to remain in that box with the Kodak carousel inside when they would be could be seen by yet more people interested in the story.

      Let me know what you’d like to do and I can work with you on providing those images with a place where they can be seen.

      BTW this August my brother and I are off on another Wabakimi canoe trip – this time down the entire Ogoki river system from its headwaters near Savant Lake to the Waboose Dam at the east end of the Ogoki Reservoir. We will drop in at the Ogoki Lodge on our way down. The Lodge is now under new ownership and we are hoping to see a revitalized property.

      • Patricia Goldie-Seal says:

        Patricia Goldie
        Dear Albinger/True North
        A huge THANK YOU to you, and to all who added fascinating comments and invaluable recollections to this `In Search of Wendell Beckwith’ article you posted on YouTube. Thank you also for the links you embedded therein.

        Currently, I am writing Book III of a trilogy [working title: `Blood Red’], and in Book III, my main character, Justine, and her 9 month old twins, Bart and Bella, `hide out’ in one of the cabins at Ogoki Wilderness Lodge between March 19 and April 4, 2019. The only info I have been unable to establish from the above comments is when Whitewater Lake freezes over, when Whitewater Lake thaws, and if snow, ice and frost would still be heavy on the ground during that period.

        Regards and best wishes
        Tricia M

      • true_north says:

        Patricia, I just reread your comment and notice that there was a question in there about ice conditions. I would guess that the lake freezes over by December and is probably still frozen now in mid-April. How safe to walk on I could not say for sure.
        Here in Toronto the Don River which flows through my neighbourhood runs right through most winters!

        If you really want the details to be correct, may I suggest that you write Don Eliot of Mattice Lake Outfitters an email. He has lived in the Armstrong Stn. area for decades and knows the area better than anyone! A couple of weeks ago he sent me a photo of his wife ice fishing1 His email address is Mattice@Walleye.ca.

        All the best with Book III of your trilogy!

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank You! I will do as you suggest and email Don Eliot as I need to plot from a basis of truth.

  14. Patricia Goldie-Seal says:

    Dear Ramblin Boy, many thanks for your suggestion that I email Don Elliot of Mattice Lake Outfitters. Don, with great generosity of spirit, created a canoe/portaging journey [together with maps] for my characters to follow.

    Thank you so much Ramblin Boy. You and Don have saved me several weeks research.
    Even then I would never even come close to creating the scenario below.
    Best wishes …Tricia Goldie

    Characters depart Ogoki Wilderness Lodge Monday 4th May 2019.
    Paddle west past Best Island to the northwest corner of Whitewater Lake. Then paddle downstream on the Ogoki River to White Clay Lake. There are 2 portages in the river around rapids.
    A fairly easy day with just 1 short portage to reach the Raymond River just south of Pickett Lake, then paddle to North Annette Lake with 1 additional portage.
    North Annette to South Annette, South Annette to Butland and Butland to Cliff Lake. There is 1 portage between each of these, however, the portage from Butland to Cliff is longer (1270 meters) rather grueling.
    Cliff Lake to Pikitigushi Lake. From Cliff lake to Ratte Lake there are 3 portages (Bad Medicine Portage) 265 meters, 600 meters and 85 meters. From Ratte Lake to Pikitigushi there are a number of short portages around rapids in the river and between the small lakes along the river then a 1300 meter portage around a long set of rapids into Pikitigushi Lake.
    After a long and grueling day due to encountering log-jams along the Pikitigushi River, Major Bradley calls a halt and the characters rest overnight on banks of the river.
    Follow the Pikitigushi River to where it empties into Lake Nipigon.
    Allowing for wind and weather conditions, Migizi, the Ojibwe Indian guide, calculates it will take characters at least three days to reach Nipigon a small at the other end of Lake Nipigon.
    [Calculation: Two canoes. Two fit, strong paddlers + 1 passenger per canoe = 8 hours to paddle 20 miles]
    The characters spend the eighth night at Nipigon Marina Campground which is closed until June due to Covid19. However, locals permit tourists to camp there overnight. Facilities, including showers, are closed but Ray pick the padlock.
    Paddle from Nipigon to Red Rock, a town on the shores of Lake Superior about 16 kilometers west of the Nipigon River where it drains into Nipigon Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior.
    By Pre-arrangement the characters must reach the town of Red Rock, Lake Superior, by Tuesday 14th May 2019 to rendezvous with the captain of a DeFever 41 Trawler.

  15. Eneri Taul says:

    As a still practicing architect in Ontario, after so many years of not following the fate of the Ogoki Lodge, I returned to my memorabilia of projects and was pleased to note from the numerous comments, herein, that the Main Lodge structure is somewhat still in good condition and appreciated as a concept of interesting design.

    In 1973-4, I was 2 years away from my own registration and was employed as the senior designer in the firm of Sheldon Rosen Architects. I remember the day that a friend working in the department of Indian Affairs ( called that at the time) walked into our office and asked if we would be interested in this project and would I, Eneri Taul , be designated as the designer. The reason given, that I was also of an ethnic decent, being from Estonia, and would have a sympathetic understanding and respect for the cultural significance for other cultures,

    When Don Patience came to be introduced, the main question was ” can we build a teepee?”. I was approved to see how do we build a teepee. I take great pride in the fact that the concept was all mine. A trip to Whitewater in winter with temperatures at minus 50C, by skiplane out of Armstrong, included a visit to who I remember as a “hermit” with genius ideas of how he could live off-the-grid in the north. I am sure this must have been Beckwith in his little cozy cabin. At the time, it was a simple visit. I never worked with him in any way as part of my concept for the design of the Lodge and the sleeping cabins. But Roger Bailey of our firm, SDR Architects, who managed the construction, may have consulted with him during construction.

    The previous, 2016-10-18, comments from ” Anonymous”, SDR, are correct in every other detail except that I have not been given due credit for the concept of the design for the Main Lodge and sleeping cabins. I still have the original sketches for this concept.
    Thank you for updating this history.

    Eneri Taul, Architect, OAA

    • true_north says:

      Eneri, thanks for detailing your design work on the Ogoki Lodge buildings. It sets the record straight and clarifies who was responsible for that striking Main Lodge tipi and the guest cabins. I’ll take your comment and insert it into the actual post so that more readers will see it. All the best as you revisit your lifetime’s work of innovative architectural design!

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