In the nineteenth century, the Government of Ontario (and Upper Canada that preceded it) expected that practically all land would become farmland. In the first decades, as they were laying out the southern regions, this agricultural transformation worked reasonably well, but once they moved north into the country of the Canadian Shield, the pace of settlement noticeably slackened. The province was not dissuaded and continued to survey townships for agriculture, while building Colonization Roads, hoping to attract migrants.
James Dickson of Fenelon Falls was one of the surveyors who was hired to lay out the Nipissing District (as the Province then called it). Dickson loving hunting, fishing and canoeing, and as he explored this region, he found that it was a paradise for the kind of recreation that he enjoyed. He realized that if he communicated how beautiful the region was, other people would want to visit it too. In 1886 he published Camping in the Muskoka Region, and was instrumental in persuading the Province to turn the region into its first park. Algonquin National Park (though it was administered by the Province, it was originally called a national park, it was a park of national significance) opened in 1893, reflecting Dickson’s ideas of what the park could be.
Camping in the Muskoka Region explained to visitors how to reach the park (in the days before there was even a railway), then took them on a backcountry journey near what is now the Highway 60 Corridor. This photo essay follows a modern trip through the region that Dickson charted.
Check out the online exhibition on James Dickson:
Camping in the Muskoka Region is also available online:
Clouds Brewing above the Fall Colours on Fawn Lake
As autumn approaches, a maple leaf begins to change colour.
A Stag Root with a pond in the background
The sky reflected between lily pads, Little Doe Lake
A rock face that is part of the cliff on the south shore of Tom Thomson Lake.
Paddling up to the portage from Joe to Canoe Lake, with Joe Lake rail bridge in the background as a storm gathers above
Sitting on a Stump
A maple leaf resting on a tree stump, on the shore of Tom Thomson Lake
A paper birch recovering from having its bark peeled by campers
Morning Mist Through the Trees on Tom Thomson Lake
Islands in Sunbeam Lake
A canoe passing in front of an island on Tom Thomson Lake
An interesting burl on a campsite at Tom Thomson Lake
A tall pine tree looks down a the tornado swath on the portage from Sunbeam to Tree Frog Lakes
A mossy ball growing in a tree root