Muskoka family photographer
Muskoka family photographer: We were lucky to get a beautiful summer day for this family’s photography session at their cottage on Lake Muskoka in Bracebridge, Ontario. And I must say that after a wet and rainy summer, this weather was welcomed with open arms as quite a few of my shoots had to be postponed this summer. Accordingly, when I was contacted by this family to capture their family reunion, I couldn’t have thought of a better place than at the cottage. as they had come together from all Ontario, the US & Switzerland. I absolutely love Muskoka cottage sessions as our family cottage in Muskoka is my favourite place in the world; it is my happy place. Here is a little bit of trivia about Lake Muskoka, as the historian in me just loves the history surrounding Muskoka’s most famous lake.
“The steamship era
Alexander Cockburn, sometimes called the Father of Muskoka, began placing steamers on the lake. Starting with the Wenonah, Ojibwa for first daughter, in 1866 Cockburn pressed the government to open the entire Muskoka lake system to navigation by installing locks in Port Carling and opening a cut between Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph at Port Sanfield. The government was eager to reinforce development in light of the faltering agricultural plan, and built the locks in Port Carling in 1871. Now Cockburn’s steamers had access to the entire lake system. Through the years he added more ships and when he died in 1905, his Muskoka Navigation Company was the largest of its kind in Canada.
In 1860 two young men, John Campbell and James Bain Jr made a journey that marked them as perhaps the first tourists in the region. Taking the Northern Railway to lake Simcoe, they took the steamer Emily May up the lake to Orillia, rowed across Lake Couchiching, and walked up the Colonization Road to Gravenhurst where they vacationed. They liked what they saw and repeated the journey every year bringing friends and relatives. These early tourist pioneers increased demand for transport services in the region, drawn by excellent fishing, natural beauty, and an air completely free of ragweed providing relief for hay fever sufferers (reference needed). Early tourists built camps, but were joined by others desiring better accommodations. Farmers who were barely scratching a living from the rocky soil soon found demand for overnight accommodations, resulting in the first boarding houses and hotels. The first wilderness hotel was built at the head of Lake Rosseau in 1870, called Rosseau House. It was owned by New Yorker W.H. Pratt. The idea caught on and tourists came establishing the tourist industry as the up-and-coming money earner in the 1880s.
The steamship era gave rise to the area’s great hotels; Rosseau, Royal Muskoka, Windemere, and Beaumaris. The area grew rapidly when the railroad reached Gravenhurst in 1875. Indeed, travel from Toronto, Pittsburgh, and New York became less a matter of endurance than expenditure. Trains regularly made the run from Toronto to Gravenhurst where travelers and their luggage were transferred to the great steamers of the Muskoka Navigation Co. such as the Sagamo. Making regular stops up the lakes, including Bracebridge, Beaumaris, and Port Carling, tourists there could transfer to smaller ships such as the Islander which could enter smaller ports. Vacationers often remained in the region weeks or even months in the summer. As families became seasonally established, they began building cottages near the hotels. At first simple affairs replicating the rustic environment of the early camps, but later grander including in some cases housing for significant staff. Initially cottagers relied on rowboats and canoes for daily transport and would sometimes row substantial distances. Eventually the era of the steam and gasoline launch came and people relied less on muscle power and more on motors. With the boats came the boathouses, often elaborate structures in their own right mimicking in many cases the look and feel of the main cottage.”
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