Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
Jess and Kay Valley stand in front of a cabin

This post comes from Jill Legault, Park Information Specialist for Quetico Provincial Park.

It’s the time of year to celebrate love.

Some love stories are rooted in nature, like Jess and Kay Valley. Here is the story of how Quetico Provincial Park brought these two lovebirds together for a long and happy life in the wild.

Finding love in nature

Basswood Lake CabinCabin 16 on Basswood Lake
Black and white photograph of a man in front of logs.jess valley

Jess Valley is described as one of the best lumberjacks Quetico Provincial Park has ever seen.

Jess worked as a park ranger for the Department of Lands and Forestry, which is now known as the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. He protected Quetico’s rugged wilderness for 35 years, starting on September 11, 1928.

He was stationed at Cabin 16 on Basswood Lake, which runs along the US border.

During that time, Jess met a local American named Kay. Kay was from Ely, Minnesota.

Black and white photograph of Kay on a boat.kay valley

Jess and Kay fell in love and soon after got married. However, the park administration at the time did not give permission for the newlyweds to live together.

For a time, our Quetico Romeo and Juliet were forced to live apart. Kay lived as close to Jess as possible, but on the opposite side of the lake in the United States.

Ranger Huts MapA map of the location of Ranger Cabin 16. North of Basswood Lake you can see Valley Lake, named after Jess and Kay Valley.

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It was common knowledge that Jess frequently sneaked out to be with Kay. It happened so often that she finally installed a huge bell in Ranger Cabin 16.

Campers seeking permits sometimes arrived at the cabin to find it empty. To summon Jess to the other side of the lake, they would ring the huge bell as loud as they could. Jess could hear the doorbell ringing from Kay’s cabin on the American side of the lake and she was coming back to help them.

The trading post

The park store in 1939.

In 1938, Kay was finally allowed to move to the park and live with her husband. To keep herself busy, she took over the management of the trading post that was located on the same island.

Black and white photograph of a man holding a fish.jess valley

The trading post at Basswood Lake had a deep history. It stood on the island for over a century and was used by both French and Northwestern voyagers, as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1955, the park canceled the trading post’s permit. Even with the trading post closed, Jess and Kay would remain on the island to run the ranger station together.

Jess and Kay spent many happy years together on the island. Jess, an avid fisherman, always referred to Kay as “my catch.”

Jess and Kay remained on the island until 1963, when they both retired.

Jess and Kay Valley stand in front of a cabin.

Jess and Kay aren’t the first to find love in a provincial park and they definitely won’t be the last.

Do you have a provincial park love story? Share it with us on social media with #MyOPLoveStory.