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Lanark Highlands History- The River Wars Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/29/2013
1.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   small (small)

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Geocache Description:

Welcome to our geocache series on the history of the Lanark Highlands!

This is a series dedicated to our love of history and the wonderful hobby of geocaching; once we saw that other cachers were enjoying our history-oriented caches, this series was the logical next step! Each cache in this series will tell you about a piece of Lanark Highlands history, including stories of the people and events which shaped this region. Once you have read about the history of the location, you will be able to feel the past around you as you explore the site and search for the cahce itself.

The caches range in difficulty and terrain, but they should all be quick finds. They are all in quite rural/treed locations where GPS accuracy is often questionable, but none are difficult hides and we have provided helpful hints it you need them. They are all traditional caches, except where ideal locations are inappropriate for a cache, in which case simple redirects are used. For each cache page, though we have written the story, much of the information and many of the photos are courtesy of the Lanark and District Museum; please do not reproduce the story or photos without consent from the author (Matt Stafford) or the Museum. We hope you have fun learning something new and interesting about each location you visit in the Lanark Highlands; happy caching!

The River Wars


At the founding of Lanark County and for decades to come, the lumbering industry was the primary lifeblood of the region. In an industry built on brute strength and ruthlessness, Lanark County became the home of a special breed of men, the ‘timber barons’ whose names would be immortalized in local history. In establishing their dynasties, they founded the economic strength and stability of the region; characteristic and indicative of those men and women who, against great odds, with courage and determination, contributed greatly to the development of Canada itself.

This location has immense importance in the history of lumbering in this region. In every corner of the land now known as the Township of Lanark Highlands, small independent lumberman  and timber barons alike operated sawmills and shanties along the area’s numerous rivers, principally the Mississippi and Clyde. When the time came to transport their product, the timber was floated down these rivers at great risk to the lumbermen involved. As operations began to spread into the upper reaches of the Lanark area, timber runs along the Mississippi and into Dalhousie Lake became more and more common.

Two of the largest such operations in the 1870's were those owned by Boyd Caldwell and Peter McLaren, who at the time both operated along the Mississippi River system to transport their timber to Carleton Place and on to Ottawa. With the two largest producers in the area using the same waterways, rivalry was inevitable. Such rivalry did develop, and quickly escalated to open and unrestricted warfare on the Mississippi, resulting in battles between the warring Caldwell and McLaren factions that were both frequent and bloody. One such fight occurred along the river at High Falls, a mile above this location on Dalhousie Lake.

The fight occurred over a dam and timber chute built and owned by Peter McLaren, who refused to allow passage to Caldwell’s associates as the waterway would not be navigable had it not been for his own improvements. The contention over this section of the river developed into legal action concerning the rights of any party to claim ownership of the waterway. As explained on the plaque near the cache’s location, this feud eventually involved both the Liberal Provincial Government of Sir Oliver Mowat and the Conservative Federal Government of Sir John A. MacDonald. In the end, the disagreement led to the passing of the Rivers and Streams Act in 1884, making it legal to use privately owned improvements along Ontario waterways.

This era, in which whole regions of Lanark and surrounding counties were pitted against each other as residents declared their support for either Caldwell or McLaren, is largely forgotten in the local history of the area. Known as the ‘river wars,’ battles were once fought here; on floating rafts, in the streets, and in tavern yards or any other locale where the two sides might meet. In a very poetic end to these hostilities, this long-running feud is said to have ended when a McLaren man and a Caldwell woman fell in love and were married.

This quiet area in which you stand gives no hint to the events which occurred here. As you search for this cache, look out over Dalhousie Lake and picture it a mass of floating timber, transported along on the current and controlled by men jumping from log to log. Enjoy this peaceful location, once witness to the hardships, deprivation, and life-threatening situations of the lumberjacks and timber barons of Lanark.

The cache location is likely not winter friendly, but will generally not require stealth to access. While at the location, enjoy a beautiful view of Dalhousie Lake and take some time to read the plaques and information boards for more information on this fascinating period in local history. The cache is a medium camo-wrapped Tupperware container. It contains the usual log book (please bring your own pen!), a TB, some tradable items, and “Lanark County’s Legacy of Logging’ (a small book produced by the Lanark and District Museum telling the history of logging and lumbering in Lanark) for the first to find. Much credit for the above story is given to this book.


Congratulations to CDarby for the FTF!

Check out the other caches in this series!

Additional Hints (No hints available.)