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Visiting Bracebridge, Ontario: remembering the 1885 vessel the 'Queen of the Isles'

Updated on July 15, 2011
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Rudder and propeller from the 1885 'Queen of the Isles' on display at Bracebridge, Muskoka, Ontario
Rudder and propeller from the 1885 'Queen of the Isles' on display at Bracebridge, Muskoka, Ontario | Source
Historical panel for the 'Queen of the Isles' display, Bracebridge
Historical panel for the 'Queen of the Isles' display, Bracebridge | Source

Commemorating marine transportation in 19th century Ontario

The 'Queen of the Isles' was a vessel which is commemorated at Bracebridge, in the Muskoka District Municipality of Ontario.

Some history

The vessel was built in Orillia in 1885. Originally this 27.8 tonne, 21.9 metre long vessel served as a passenger yacht on Lake Simcoe and the Bay of Quinte. With a 15 hp engine, the 'Queen' was regarded as fairly fast for her time.

When the 'Queen of the Isles' came to Lake Muskoka, it first served there as a yacht also, in association with the Brighton Beach Hotel. In 1895 it replaced the 'Rosseau' as a scowboat, from thence working as a tug, and proving to be much faster than the vessel it replaced.

From 1925 until 1934 the 'Queen of the Isles' served as a tug and workboat for boatbuilder Captain Levi Fraser. After this, it was dismantled and abandoned near what is now the Wellington Street Bridge, in Bracebridge.

The display

Thus for many years the remains of the vessel were ignored. But in 1993, during unrelated work, its remains were discovered and local opinion deemed it suitable to preserve its rudder and screw propeller as an exhibit, by way of a reminder of local marine heritage. This was accomplished by 1995, when these items from the vessel were mounted, together with an interpretive panel, close to one of the banks of the Muskoka River, facing the Bracebridge Falls, near the centre of the town.

The 'Queen of the Isles' showed therefore by its history how technological developments put it in a position to outclass other vessels in Ontarian waters, before it itself was surpassed by other vessels, built more recently. Its story also arguably demonstrates that a decades' old vessel might not be regarded at the end of its natural. commercial life as having historical value, but that this perception might definitely develop with the passage of time.

Also worth seeing

In Bracebridge itself, the High Falls attract many summer visitors. Woodchester Villa is an interesting 19th century octagon house, now a museum.

Muskoka Falls (distance: 4.4 kilometres) the Pioneer Cairn and the Peterson Road plaque are of historic interest.

Gravenhurst (distance: 18.1 kilometres); from here, the 'Segwun' sails regularly on Lake Muskoka.


How to get there: Toronto Pearson Airport (distance: 179.2 kilometres) to which Air Canada and WestJet fly from many North American destinations, is the largest international airport within accessible distance to Bracebridge, which is situated north of Toronto by road via Highways 400 and 11. Car hire is available at Toronto Pearson Airport. Ontario Northland operates rail services to Bracebridge from Toronto Union Station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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