Fascinating stories at Ontario Parks

Human interest stories are brought to life every year through unique programming at Ontario Parks.

There are no ghosts but the spirit of lumbermen and settlers live on at Bonnechere Provincial Park. The park’s cultural history began thousands of years ago with First Nations travelers. By 1840, settlers began to arrive. The McIntyre, McGuey Lafleur and Egan families to name a few. They cleared the land, harvested something called beaver hay and turned their homesteads into “carrying stops” where passing lumbermen could get a meal or a bed. Today, their stories are told at Basin Depot, once the hub of the lumber industry.

While researching Bronte Creek’s ghost tours, we discovered Henry Christopher Breckon married his bride, Margaret Jane McKay on September 26, 1883, exactly 127 years to the day of our research. That’s an interesting bit of sychronicity given that some think the Breckon’s home at Bronte Creek is haunted. The Breckons and their four children lived in the Spruce Lane farmhouse for many years. Henry died in 1931. His body was laid out in the front parlour of the farmhouse for a full day’s wake.The late 19th century farm operates much like it did a century ago. Ghost tours are offered in August.

A historic photo of Harry and Margaret Breckon

A rich First Nations history, two gold rushes and a 1910 forest fire provide plenty of stories for the night hike at Rushing River Provincial Park. This Kenora-area park is dominated by jack pine which grew from thousands of pine cones that split during the forest fire. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, hazelnuts and raspberries also grow in the park which has a visitor centre, playground and great paddling opportunities.

For 130 years before Sibbald Point became a provincial park, it was home to the Sibbald family. Eildon Hall, the 19th-century family manor still stands in the park and now operates as a park museum. Sibbald Point’s unique historical characters are brought to life on summer evening ghost walks. In the nearby cemetery of St. George’s Church, members of the Sibbald family are buried in a family plot. Two famous Canadian authors, Stephen Leacock and Mazo de la Roche, are also buried in the little cemetery.

Many more Ontario Parks share their cultural histories in unique ways. Visitors who join the Spirit Walk at Murphys Point will find themselves on a lantern lit trail leading down to the former Silver Queen Mine. An evening walk at Petroglyphs Provincial Park takes visitors to a sacred Ojibwa setting with ancient pictographs. Spirits of the Fire retells the story of a Wasaga Beach battle fought during the War of 1812. Generations of First Nations, explorers, loggers, and miners traveled through Sleeping Giant’s history. Their stories are shared on a Spirits of the Giant weekend. Samuel de Champlain and other great characters paddled the Mattawa River. Their tales are told at Echoes of the Past, a storytelling adventure at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.

Special events and programs are posted online in advance of the season.