Flying my drone over Buckhorn Lock 31 of the Trent Severn Waterway and Reach Harbour Marina, just outside of Buckhorn Ontario:
I love history. I love reading books chucked full of old black & white pictures, especially when I can stand on the same soil where those images were first born onto the land.
My friend Larry Budnark has been lending me out of his considerable collection of books on our region of Ontario, most of which are long out of print.
Enid Mallory’s “KAWARTHA – Living on These Lakes” is one such compilation of images and first-hand written accounts of life in these parts; the very towns and waterways Wendy and I are fortunate to be living around. (The Kawartha Lakes and intertwining rivers are the heart and sole of the Trent Severn Waterway, connecting Lake Ontario to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.)
When we first moved here three years ago, I saw this causeway that reminded me of those along the Florida Keys, originally planted by Flagler’s Railroad. This one crosses Lake Chemong, between the towns of Bridgenorth and Ennismore. A portion of it is raised to a 22 foot high bridge, so that vessels transiting this part of the canal system can make passage. Lo and behold to my surprise, I found the history of that causeway in Enid Mallory’s book! As soon as I saw the old image of a floating bridge in the book, taken sometime in the 1920s, I recognized the location, even though it looks nothing in the old photograph like what it is today.
The story goes like this: In 1825, some 2000 Irish immigrants arrived in the area where the city of Peterborough Ontario is today, about 10 km from the town of Bridgenorth. 67 of those families drew lots across the lake from Bridgenorth and settled what is today Ennismore, originally named Gore of Emily. In the days when these Irish families found the other side of the lake so very beautiful, it was the beginning of the steamboat days, and canoes and paddle boats were the mode of personal transport. While to the south east Chemong Lake blocked the road to Peterborough, a 3945 foot row across to Bridgenorth was doable most of the time in the summer and once winter arrived, they had unlimited, albeit dangerous access across the frozen lake.
To the north east and north west lay Buckhorn Lake and Pigeon Lake. To travel to Peterborough without having to cross Chemong Lake, meant going around the lake, adding 24 km to the journey. So, when the horse drawn wagons became more important than canoes and steamers, those scenic waters surrounding Ennismore became a major problem.
In 1844 a ferry service was financed by council but proved to be too expensive and was short lived.
In 1869, municipalities around Chemong Lake got together and eventually managed to finance a floating bridge. From 1870 to 1949, a floating bridge would control access to Ennismore. The bridge also made township history, as it was so scary that aside from the existing locals, other people simply refused to use it. Stories of life with a floating bridge abound in the book and talk about ice destroying huge sections every year that needed rebuild, hair raising cattle drives, buggy and early car rides on stormy days across a heaving structure often awash under huge swells induced by the wide open fetch of the lake. “Cows and horses, and later cars, slid off the dancing, tilting bridge into the water of Chemong.” One account tells of waves high enough to wash over the car and a passenger having to walk ahead making sure the bridge was still there.
For the most part, strangers simply did not go to Ennismore to visit or to settle for 79 years! That was instrumental in coloring the language, kindling the wit of the Irish story teller and shaping the legends that still live on.
“Although the bridge never drowned people directly, it did so by default. Each spring and fall there were times when the bridge was impassable and the ice of Chemong unsafe. At these times the muddy waters of Chemong took their victims.”
On Christmas day of 1897 Nancy and David Gifford, in their teens, did not make the crossing.” Jim Gifford was not born until 1903 but the memory of that Christmas tragedy haunted his family and formed part of his heritage. Nancy and David would have been his aunt and uncle had they lived. Jim Gifford went on to become reeve of Ennismore and later warden of Peterborough County.” He did not rest until he was able to scour the political countryside for the money to tear out the old floating bridge and build a new causeway.
On June 23 1949, 8000 spectators watched as a new causeway was opened, connecting Ennismore to Bridgenorth. Rebuilt a few times and improved upon, this causeway is still the connection today.
About a year ago I found an internet radio station that perfectly filled the void of not being on an island and not being on island time. We love it here on the Great Lakes now, this part of Ontario is absolutely beautiful and we enjoy the change of seasons, snow in the winter, but the tropics are always going to be remembered as the fondest of our memories, of younger days, and to some degree will always be missed. – (as usual, we normally retain more of the upsides and quickly forget the sometimes unbearable heat, nasty passages and hurricanes…)
So, it is http://www.tikiislandradio.com. We have been listening for about 9 months now and the experience have become what feels like our extended “island family” as far as everyone goes from station owners to listeners and artists. What DJ John does really is original and while I am not an internet radio expert, it probably is pretty unique.
There are two live shows daily, after a shoeless flight to a virtual barefoot island destination, way far south of somewhere north.
A few days ago DJ John asked for us listeners to come up with some station ID submissions. I recalled the awesome accent and voice of a Jamaican lady doing one of Jimmy B’s station IDs on Radio Margaritaville.
Well, after some rum, Wendy and I decided that I could sound like some Bahama Joe and we sent a “station ID” à la Hungarian Joe, to DJ John. He actually aired it, so I posted an MP3 file of it on my Facebook page, as I kept thinking of the Ziggy Marley song John plays in this little segment. I keep correlating Ziggy’s dragonfly watching our environment going down the drain, to our recent toxic Blue-Green Algae bloom here on this beautiful lake, which I have been quite distraught over for the last four weeks. I know a lot of my Facebook friends have been reading about the algae problem that I and some other locals have been trying to put out there, so I hope they hear the message in the Ziggy tune…. (just click the play button)
A month ago today, an unprecedented pollution induced algae bloom was born on Nogies Creek Bay of Pigeon Lake North. Then finally, today it would appear it is dying off.
This is a huge local environmental concern and I started a discussion about it on our Bobcaygeon Facebook page, which in turn caused our local community newspaper to take action and shed some light on the problem of our authorities hiding their heads in the sand; turns out as always, politics coupled with failing to understand how time can run out for us to make the much need corrections to the poisoning of our waters.
Here is a link to the Facebook page and a few images of what toxic Blue-Green Algae looks like: (No, that’s not blue paint spilled into the water, that is the toxic component of the bloom!)