A series on the heritage travel style of Temagami

The three-walled heritage fireplace has been a Temagami tradition for over a hundred years and many blackened campsite fireplaces  have been in use for decades.  

Endangered: Many three-walled fireplaces have sat in the same position for decades and continue to be used. But these heritage fireplaces are being disassembled by campers to make round fireplaces or to rock down tents.

Fire irons and reflector ovens were in widespread use across the Canadian Shield in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All types of travelers used them, from prospectors to recreationists. By the mid-1900s, other fireplace styles were replacing them. By the 1970s, their intensive use was limited to Temagami. Today, the primary practitioners are camps Keewaydin, Wabun and Temagami Clearwater, and a number of old-timers. 

This distinctive fireplace has been adapted to the make the most efficient use of fire irons and reflector ovens, two heritage fireplace tools. Fire irons are highly suited to the variable terrain of the Canadian Shield, and are easily portaged on top of a wannigan or double-pack. They excel in rocky areas because they do not require sinking posts into the ground. They fit a three-foot wide, shallow fireplace, which provides plenty of oxygen for efficient burning, avoiding a common problem with narrower fireplaces built for fire grates. One drawback for the modern backcountry traveler is the weight a pair of irons weigh five to seven pounds.

This fireplace has a frying pan, a pot and two reflectors ovens going.



       TIPS:  Fireplace construction

      DIAGRAM:  Fireplace dynamics

Early irons were simply two solid iron rods. Today, they are usually three-quarter-inch gas-line pipe cut three to four feet in length. Camps prefer the longer length as they are feeding eight to twelve people. Traveling for up to four weeks in Temagami, the camps need to provide high-quality meals. Culinary delights like curried tuna and corn fritters need a wider fireplace to accommodate the extra pots and pans. And the large reflector ovens.

A wide fireplace and flat rear wall maximize heat reflection into the reflector oven (see diagram).  Daily baking, particularly for bannock, remains an essential part of heritage Temagami. Many of the camps have two bakes at dinner, one for dessert that night, and a second for lunch the next day. Who would go canoeing and not expect pineapple-upside-down cake and blueberry bannock?

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