Posts tagged " Lake Muskoka "

A Brief History of Muskoka: Part 5 – Milford Bay & Beaumaris

February 29th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Did you miss Part 4? Read it Here

Milford Bay

Milford Bay is a small town on the northeastern coast of Lake Muskoka, built on a section of lake named (you guessed it!) Milford Bay; an inlet sheltered from the rest of Lake Muskoka by Tondern Island. Established along with the rest of Muskoka in the second half of the 19th century, thanks largely to The Free Grants and Homestead Act of 1868—which allowed settlers to claim up to 100 acres of land, provided they met certain conditions regarding the development of the land; 200 acres in extenuating circumstances—Milford Bay grew alongside Tondern Island, to which it has been connected by bridge since the 1870s. Capitalizing on Muskoka’s growing tourism industry, Robert Stroud; an early settler of Milford Bay who moved to the area in 1873; built the Milford Bay House in 1887, on a plot of land known as Huckleberry Rock. While a popular destination for new settlers and tourists alike, Milford Bay House was unfortunately burned to the ground in a terrible fire in 1933. Today, still a popular spot among tourists and cottagers, Milford Bay provides an important link to Tondern Island.


Beaumaris is a small settlement located on Tondern Island in Lake Muskoka; which, as mentioned above, is strategically linked to the mainland by a bridge at Milford Bay as it has been since the 1870s. Tondern Island, with a total area of 338 acres, was originally purchased from the crown by Paul Dane, an Irish immigrant, in 1868 for a total price of $101. Upon his death in 1871, ownership of the island passed to his nephew Maurice John McCarthy, who sold the island to brothers-in-law John Willmott and Edward Prowse in 1873. Prowse and Willmott are attributed with developing the settlement on Tondern Island, which they named Beaumaris. This included the construction of a bridge, connecting Tondern Island to the mainland at Milford Bay; the clearing of a section of forest to be converted to pasture; and the installation of a dock, which led to Beaumaris becoming an important transit point during the steamship era. As Muskoka became an increasingly popular tourist destination and word spread of Beaumaris’ natural beauty and excellent fishing, Willmott and Prowse profited through further calculated developments: Willmott opened an eponymous general store; and Prowse established the Beaumaris Hotel, which saw great success thanks its location midway between Port Carling and Bracebridge, and the rapid increase in steamship travel coupled with the majestic pier he built near the hotel. As many patrons of the hotel were known to spend entire seasons there, and demand for purchasable land increased, Willmott and Prowse began parceling and selling lots to vacationers seeking permanent residence. Thus the first cottages on Tondern Island were developed. As for the Beaumaris Hotel, it remained a popular getaway among vacationers until July 21, 1945, when it was burned in an act of arson by Edward John Van Buren, who was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 2 years in prison. The hotel was never rebuilt. Instead, the land on which it once stood is now part of the Beaumaris Golf Club. In addition to the golf club, Beaumaris is also home to the Beaumaris Yacht Club and the Beaumaris Marina. Tondern Island is one of the most desirable locations for vacation property in Muskoka, and certainly not one to be overlooked.

This concludes our brief history of Muskoka series. We hope you enjoyed it!

A Brief History of Muskoka: Part 1 – The Muskoka Lakes

February 1st, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet
Most Ontarians have, more than likely, at least heard of the Muskoka Lakes. While the use of these two words back-to-back has been known to cause some confusion for certain people in the past—(i.e. “Does that mean all lakes in Muskoka?”)—the term “Muskoka Lakes” typically refers to either the three largest interconnected bodies of water in the Muskoka area; Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph; or the township that houses all three, aptly named the Township of Muskoka Lakes and often referred to as both the jewel of Muskoka and the heart of cottage country. In 1870, the area now known as the Township of Muskoka Lakes was opened for settlement. At this time, it was divided into several geographic and municipal townships: Cardwell, Christie, Humphrey, Medora, and Wood. It was not until 101 years later, in 1971, that Bala, Port Carling, Windermere, and the townships of Cardwell, Medora, Watt, Wood, (and part of Monck Township) were merged to create the municipal structure that exists to this day.


 With poor, rocky soil compliments of the rugged Canadian Shield, Muskoka has never been particularly suited to agriculture (although with dedication and care many gardeners have created and maintained some truly stunning and artistic gardens throughout the area). Instead, with its surplus of lush forests, it was timber that proved the greatest economic attractant, driving the initial Muskoka settlement in the latter half of the 19th century. Later, after a decline in the resource industries, and with a fast-growing urbanized Southern Ontario population in close proximity, tourism became Muskoka’s chief industry. Many visitors to the area, after experiencing its natural wonder, could not bear the thought of leaving and so purchased land and built summer homes in Muskoka, and thus cottage country was born. As the largest lakes in the area; Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph are home to the greatest number, and some of the most desirable cottages in all of Muskoka.


 The Muskoka Lakes were named by the Honourable William Robinson, Commissioner for Indian Affairs and member of the House of Assembly. Lake Muskoka was named, as was the area as a whole, after Mesqua Ukie or Chief Yellowhead, a Chippewa chief whose tribe used the forest surrounding the lake as their hunting grounds into the mid-19thcentury. Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau were both named in honour of Joseph Rousseau—Robinson’s close personal friend and trading partner. The westernmost of the Muskoka Lakes, Lake Joseph has the deepest recorded water in all of Muskoka—measured at 93.8 m. Lake Joseph drains through the Joseph River east to Lake Rosseau, arguably one of the most popular recreation lakes in Ontario; with an intricate array of islands, bays, peninsulas, and other various shoreline features, Lake Rosseau’s summers come alive with water sports from swimming, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding and water skiing, to lazy-pontoon-party-boating (it’s a sport too!). Finally, the largest and southernmost of the three, and fed by both Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau—the eponymous Lake Muskoka; a crystal clear lake enjoyed by cottagers, year-round residents, and tourists alike; and bordered by the scenic towns of Bala on the southwest shore, and Gravenhurst on the southeast. Like both Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau, Lake Muskoka offers premier fishing, with varieties ranging from muskellunge to largemouth and smallmouth bass, lake trout and walleye. Whether you have a particular interest in one lake, or are simply trying to familiarize yourself with the area; whether you are an angler, swimmer, or semi-pro lazy-pontoon-party-boater (again, it’s a sport!); whether you choose to vacation in the Muskoka Lakes for the first time, or are considering buying your first cottage; with something for everyong, when you choose the Muskoka Lakes, you can’t go wrong.


Continue to Part 2