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May 20, 2024

Gamebridge from the West

By Guy Scott

The village of Gamebridge sprang up in Mara Township at the point where the Centre Line bridge crossed the Talbot River. The Talbot River starts in Bexley Township and flows into Lake Simcoe near Gamebridge. It is a very shallow stream that was often impassable for much of the year. However, it was an important part of the native canoe route between Lake Simcoe and the westernmost of the Kawartha Lakes: Balsam Lake. When Champlain passed through the area in 1615, it was mostly impassable. A few miles up the Talbot River from its mouth at Gamebridge, the Natives would abandon the river and portage along its route to Balsam Lake. When the Trent Canal was completed, the Talbot River was dammed and turned into part of the Canal. Three locks were built from Bolsover to Gamebridge with this section opening in 1907. Gamebridge became a port on the canal.

A post office was established at the site in 1869 and operated until 1970. No records exist on where the name comes from, but no doubt, the bridge played a role! The hamlet contained the usual pioneer trappings: Blacksmith shop, Presbyterian Church, as many as 3 general stores, a railway station and the famous Gamebridge Inn. Opened in 1863 to serve travelers on the local road, it was a large structure that was owned by the famous family of William Mackenzie from Kirkfield. The hamlet declined as business was drawn away by the larger centres of Beaverton and Orillia. The hamlet of Brechin just to the north became the township seat and Gamebridge languished. The arrival of the Trent Canal helped a bit. The newest change to the canal at Gamebridge meant a new route and high bridge over the Canal.

Today Gamebridge contains about 360 residents and relies mostly on tourism generated by Lake Simcoe and the Canal. Every spring the Talbot River fills with spawning pickerel, blocked by the dams from going upstream.

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