Living Lightly on the Land: Ontario’s Cree Village Ecolodge


We enter through a cedar-lined entrance over stone-tiled floors, some bearing what look like footprints of northern animals. The great room is a modern version of a Cree gathering place, where in the old days they came to share stories and celebrate the hunt. “They used to join two teepees and cover them with deerskin or moss,” explains lodge supervisor Greg Williams.

The cathedral-like interior, with its vaulted ceiling, huge windows, cedar walls and 48-foot-tall (14.6 m) poles of lodgepole pine, is the lodge’s focal point. Guests mingle in the dining area or on cozy couches around the fire to swap stories.

Opened in 2000, the 20-room lodge combines the Cree values of hospitality and living lightly on the land. Hospitality means the lodge personnel give guests an insight into the Cree way of life, and provide tours and excursions into the wilderness.

“Living lightly means that every detail, from the exterior building materials to keep out the cold, to the interior furnishings, maximizes the use of natural products.” Williams explains, as we tour the lodge. He points out the wool carpets, wood furniture, cotton sheets, organic mattresses, wool blankets and hemp tablecloths. “We minimize the use of synthetics. Even the paint is non-toxic,” he adds.

My room, decorated in shades of warm cream, beiges and brown with its own picture window and solid-wood hickory furniture, provides me with my own private view of the activity on the frozen river. Snowmobiles and cars fly up and down the ice road as if they were driving on a city street.

Guests come from all over the world. In the summer, they kayak or canoe across the Moose River to bird watch at the bird sanctuary on nearby Shipstead Island, and they dig for fossils in the shale on the river’s shore. During summer, one can hike around Moose Factory Island and learn about fur traders in the island’s Centennial Park Museum.

“One of the favorite activities is just chatting with some of the elders,” says lodge supervisor Williams. “Even for me, their stories about living off the land, deep in the bush, are riveting.”

In winter there is plenty of snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. More-adventurous guests take off for a couple of days of winter camping with an experienced guide. The tents are heated and food is provided.

As for me, I am content with a luxurious 21st century tepee. As the sun sets and the northern sky catches fire, I am curled up in bed under cozy wool covers and natural cotton sheets in a room that is so well insulated that I do not even have to turn on the heat.

If You Go

Cree Village Ecolodge

Rooms start at US$ 126 per night, including continental breakfast at the 66-seat restaurant. Lunch and dinner are extra.

Moose Cree Outdoor Discoveries & Adventures

Ontario Travel