Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

South Portage, Steam Trains and Steamboats

The public dock at South Portage, Lake of Bays, is the site of an Ontario Heritage Historical Plaque that commemorates the wonderful little Portage Flyer railway we spoke about in the last post.

This project was a collaboration of the muncipal Heritage Advisory Committee, Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, the Railway Society that runs the Portage Flyer at Muskoka Heritage Place and private donors. Like Topsy, the project 'grew'. It began as being just a plaque... but then Russ Nicholls was able to find us a donor who offered to provide a short section of the original narrow-gauge railway track. That lead to the concept of rehabilitating and beautifying the shorelines, which brought in BarkNursery -- designers of ecological gardens, and the local residents at South Portage who came out to help design, plant and tend to the garden.

It's a beautiful spot, and was included on a tour for the Ontario Horticultural Society when they met last summer in Baysville.

It's more than that, however. The South Portage dock is a curious shape. That's because it started (like our project) as one thing... but grew. It began as the Lake of Bays terminal of the railway, with a long dock projecting out into the lake where the railway could run. On either side were docking facilities for the barges and lake steamers that plied Lake of Bays. The largest of these were the S.S. Mohawk Belle, built right here on Lake of Bays, and the S.S. Iroquois.

When the Iroquois - seen in this photograph at the dock in Dorset - was decommissioned, she was left tied to the South Portage dock. And she burned. What was left was, quite simply, sunk. Fill was poured into the hull of the sunken ship, and that provided the current width of the South Portage dock.

If you stand on a clear day on the end of the dock, and look down into the water to the right side of the dock, you can still see the stern of the ship.

You can't disturb it, though. The Marine Heritage Act carries massive fines for messing about with wrecks. You can see it, however, and get a sense of the size of this steamer.

And maybe dream a bit about those days, when you'd arrive on that narrow little railway, and then climb aboard the steamer, in long dresses and gentlemen's suits, with trunks full of clothing, to spend the summer on the Lake.

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