We present a multi-proxy study of environmental conditions during and after the recessional phases of pro-glacial Lake Algonquin in the vicinity of the North Bay outlet, Great Lakes Basin. Data presented comes from a new sedimentary profile obtained from the Balsam Creek kettle lake c. 34 km north-east of the city of North Bay. This site lies close to the north-east margin of the maximum extent of the post-Algonquin lake sequence, which drained through the Ottawa-Mattawa valley system. Our data are presented against a Bayesian age-depth model, supporting and extending regional understanding of vegetation succession in this part of north-east Ontario. The core profile provides a minimum age for the formation of the glacial outwash delta in which the kettle is set, as well as tentative timing for the Payette (post-Algonquin) lake phase. We highlight two discrete intervals during the Early Holocene, with modelled mean ages of: 8475–8040 cal. BP (332–316 cm) and 7645 cal. BP (286 cm), when climatic aridity affected the growth of vegetation within the kettle vicinity. Association with volcanic activity is posited. Cryptotephra dating to 7660–7430 cal. BP (mean age: 7580 cal. BP) is chronologically and geochemically assigned to the Mazama climactic eruption, while an earlier ash accumulation 8710–7865 cal. BP is tentatively sourced to an unknown eruption also in the Cascades region of Oregon. Outside of these periods, the Balsam Creek sequence shows considerable habitat stability and a character akin to that seen at more southerly latitudes. On this evidence we propose that access to reliable resources within kettle features could have aided the initial colonisation of northern Ontario’s environmentally dynamic early post-glacial landscape.