updated on: September 22, 2016
White Otter Castle - The Story of Hope and Dreams
The Remarkable Story of Jimmy McOuat
Imagine single-handedly felling trees, winching them from the woods and hemming them square!
The legend of Jimmy McOuat lives on in Sunset Country through the magnificent three-storey castle he built on the shores of White Otter Lake. At the turn of the century, he single-handedly constructed the log castle from red pine logs that he cut, hauled and interlocked. The castle has now been restored through the efforts of the Friends of White Otter Castle. The castle is 64 km north of Atikokan, and is accessible by snow machine, plane, boat and of course by canoe. White Otter Castle is an elaborate three-story log dwelling which was built on the shore of White Otter Lake, near Ignace, Ontario by eccentric hermit James Alexander "Jimmy" McOuat.
Wikipedia states: "The 'Castle' is a sturdy log house which stands 3 stories tall (29'), with a turret extending up an additional floor (41'). The main part of the building measures 24 by 28 feet, while an attached kitchen area adds a further 14 by 20 feet to the floorplan. McOuat built his "castle" single-handedly, beginning in 1903, and finally completing it in 1914. He felled and cut all of the red pine logs himself, and hoisted the finished, dovetailed beams (some of them weighing as much as 1600 lbs) into place by means of simple block and tackle."
This is truly a historically significant place that is recognized as such by the Ontario Government. Ontario has erected a historical plaque telling the story. Jimmy represented the true "frontier" man, making a living off the land and building his dream house in the woods – only to die a few short years after it was finished. Tragically, in 1918 Jimmy McOuat drowned while out on the lake fishing. His grave is located near the castle, in the heart of the wilderness he loved.
How to See the Castle
The White Otter Castle is located right on White Otter Lake. You can reach White Otter Lake by canoe via from Clearwater Lake. Clearwater Lake is located off Highway 622, which runs north of Atikokan. You can also canoe from Agimak Lake in Ignace and take 15 portages to get to the castle. Get directions and a good map in Atikokan or Ignace prior to heading out to the Castle. You can also access the castle during the winter by snowmobile as the Atikokan Sno-Ho Snowmobile Club maintains a trail to the lake.
Tours of White Otter Castle
Browns' Clearwater West Lodge offer tours of the White Otter Castle. They can be reached at www.brownsclearwaterlodge.com or 807-597-2884/Reservation Desk: 800-900-4240.
Branch's Seine River Lodge offers canoe outfitting in the White Otter area. They can help set you up with a canoe route to the White Otter Castle or you can do a Fly-in/Paddle out trip in the White Otter Wilderness Park. Call Quent or Lori Branch at 807-597-2391 for more information.
If you are staying at the fly-in only Tip Top Lodge, you can take a guided tour of White Otter Lake including a tour of the White Otter Castle, pictographs viewing along the shores and lunch on a beautiful sand beach. For more information, call 807-597-6418 or visit www.tiptoplodge.com
From Ignace, you can go on a flight-seeing trip to the White Otter Castle with Ignace Outposts. Visit www.ignaceoutposts.com or call them at 807-934-2273 to set up a tour.
Here's an interesting documentary of the White Otter Castle by Pet G. Elliott.