Note: Bill Steer's weekly column can be heard weekly on CBC radio in Sudbury.
The oldest known dolmen stones — three or more upright stones supporting a larger stone — are in Western Europe, where they were set in place around 7,000 years ago.
But according to northern Ontario adventurer Bill Steer, you can find some of them in northern Ontario.
It remains unclear when, why, and by whom the earliest dolmens were made, Steer said. Archaeologists still do not know who erected these dolmens, which makes it difficult to know why they did it.
It's believed they may have been regarded as tombs or burial chambers. Human remains, sometimes accompanied by artifacts, have been found in or close to them, Steer said.
Dolmen sites in the north
Steer points to three dolmen stones to visit in the north. He details where they are located:
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area adjacent to Quetico Provincial Park: Start at the Sawbill access point campground, which is 37 km north of Tofte, Minnesota (County Rd. 2); 109 km from the Canadian border (57 km SW of Thunder Bay on Highway 61). This can be a day trip or overnight loop route.
To find the dolmen, paddle north along the Kelso River. Before you reach Lajenida Lake, you’ll see the dolmen on the eastern shoreline, on a slightly elevated bedrock outcrop, about 20 m from the waterline. It’s easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled. Locals claim the dolmen had runes (old Norse inscriptions)–now gone–carved into it.
Found at WGS 84 15T E 656208 N 5309535 or N47° 55’ 12.3” W90° 54’ 32.8”. There is a YouTube video (with a map) – ‘Kelso River Route: The Hunt for the Viking Dolmen,’ (4: 58).
Travel northwest of Thunder Bay on Hwy 17 to Ignace. West on Hwy. 17 for 24 km to the Doreen Lake Rd., heading south to south east for 24 km. Turn ESE or left on to Moosehide Rd. Drive 2.5 km and you will cross a small bridge and another 2.0 km and you will come to an access with lakes on both sides of the road.
Take the lake (referred to as Devil’s Gap Lake) on the south or right side. Paddle south to the east shore (1 km) of the first lake (no name). Portage to the second no name lake and paddle to the SE bay and the dolmen is close to the water’s edge on the SE shore 15 U 581575 5455282 or N49° 14’41.5” W91° 52’ 45.1” (also a day trip).
Topo maps 52 G5 Ignace and 52 G4 White Otter Lake will help. (There is a great set of pictographs on Devil’s Gap Lake - part of the Turtle River Provincial Park canoe route- south of the gap on the west shore.)
West of Wawa
Near White River, west of Wawa; also a day trip. At the north end of town, just past the mill, turn west or left off of Highway 17. Cross the railway tracks and the White River bridge on the Domtar 600 Rd., heading southwards. At 8.9 km there is a junction, turn south, then drive another 20.3 km from the junction. These are good logging roads.
Access is on Soulier Lake, paddle to NE corner, through the wetland to the Pokei River (Topo 42 C6 – Pokei Lake). The dolmen stone is another 2 km, on the south side of the small river island. 16 U 625113 5360902 or N 48° 23 21.3” W85° 18’ 38.3”.