By Rick Whitteker – Nature writer & outdoor guide
Buttermilk Falls is a destination to step back in history without stepping indoors. The dramatic scenery of Buttermilk Falls has historically been popular picnic spot, attracting visitors because of its beauty and it is still a great place to stretch your legs, take a bio break and visit another one of Haliburton County’s unique outdoor landmarks & easily accessible waterfalls.
Easy to find…
The parking area is located at 16909 highway 35 just north of Carnarvon and includes bathroom facilities. It quickly becomes clear why this location has, in the past, seen thousands of logs roar down it’s chute on their way to a sawmill in Minden. A visit to Buttermilk Falls is a sensory experience and a dramatic example of the harnessing of the power of water to support the early logging economy of the area.
From the parking area, a short hike across the dam allows you to follow the frothing water as it tumbles from Halls Lake to Boshkung Lake. A marked trail takes you down to the bottom of the log chute and right up to the edge of the cascading water.
The power of water!…
A high volume of water is funnelled between a natural wall of rock on one side and a cement wall on the other which replaced the original wooden log chute in 1927. Past the chute, the water fans out over a large flat rock section of the river. Flowing so fast it is hard for the mind to process, the power of the moving water is mesmerizing!
This shelf of flat rock beside the river is a natural spot to sit and have a picnic surrounded by forest and moving water. Setting up a couple of light chairs, the sights and sounds of this narrow river valley will provide dramatic ambiance to any picnic but take care with little ones who will find the rapids very enticing. A picnic table is also available in the parking area for those looking for a little more comfort in their picnic sitting arrangements.
Looking to pick up a picnic treat? Try Country Bakery. With all manner of bake goods for sale including brownies, bread rolls and pies this wonderful bakery is in the old Zion church in Carnarvon. With gluten-free options and coffee, Country Bakery will put a fine touch to your picnic pickings or follow up your visit with a delicious indulgence on their new outdoor patio.
The story behind the name…
At one point the falls was called the White Horse Rapids and it is easy to see why. As the water rushes downhill, it meets up with boulders and rock shelves, kicking the water up into crests like a galloping white-water horse. The origin of the change in name to Butternut Falls has two potential sources; one, the name was derived from the spraying whitewater froth below the dam or, two, the name sprung from an incident where a logger accidently dropped his jug of buttermilk into the river! Either way, the new name stuck.
Visiting Buttermilk Falls today, it is hard to imagine that this area was a hub of human activity. Once home to a bowling alley, roller skating rink, dance hall, post office and general store, the post office closed in 1938 and the other buildings burned down in 1951.
Just below the rapids and nestled into a sandy bay on Boshkung Lake is Buttermilk Falls Resort. If you are looking to prolong your stay and take in other attractions in the area, this is just one of many options in Haliburton County.
Buttermilk Falls has something for everyone. As a quick stopover to break up your journey to other destinations or a place to go to enjoy some of the natural history of Haliburton County, Buttermilk Falls is an attraction which allows you to take a breather and imagine the past.
Be sure to check out the many other hiking destinations located in the Haliburton Highlands.