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Visiting Lake Wilcox, Richmond Hill, Ontario: nature and changing names

Updated on March 3, 2016
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
View of Lake Wilcox in Richmond Hill, Ontario, from Sunset Beach Park
View of Lake Wilcox in Richmond Hill, Ontario, from Sunset Beach Park | Source
Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass | Source
Salix Nigra & Lucida; Plate from The North American Sylva, by Andrew Michaux, 1819
Salix Nigra & Lucida; Plate from The North American Sylva, by Andrew Michaux, 1819 | Source
DHC-2 Beaver float plane.
DHC-2 Beaver float plane. | Source

For your visit, this item may be of interest

Where nature now thrives

Changing names?

Yes, indeed. The photo which I have supplied shows Lake Wilcox, Richmond Hill, Ontario, seen from Sunset Beach Park (1). At least, this is what the Park was called. Recently, however, the Town of Richmond Hill officially renamed the Park. And it did not have to look very far to find a new name for it: it is now officially known as Lake Wilcox Park.

Well, the inquiring visitor might say, whoever Wilcox was, must have been a very worthy person for not only the lake but the park to be named for him or her.

Well, I suppose so, in a manner of speaking.

Except there never was a "Wilcox", spelt thus.

There was, however, a Mayor of Cork (1), Ireland, in the 18th century, whose name was William Willcocks, and it is for him that this body of water in Richmond Hill — and by extension, the Park — is named.

All very well, one might say, but what would the Mayor of Cork have to do with Richmond Hill?

Interestingly, the Mayor William Willcocks in question, who served as Mayor of Cork — one of Ireland's larger cities — broke the pattern of many European immigrants to Canada in that he was already prominent in his homeland by the time he emigrated.

And, oh, the Mayor's name — now attached to the Lake — was somehow garbled down the years.

Some more background: when Upper Canada's first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe took leave of absence in 1796, his recommended temporary replacement — who served until 1799 — was John Russell, a cousin of William Willcocks (also from Cork, Ireland). When Willcocks thus came to Canada, he was involved in some successful land investment undertakings, including at land adjacent to the lake now named for him.

The photo I supplied actually dates from before Sunshine Beach Park's name change, so I have left this in the caption.

And so to the Lake itself: it stretches to 55 hectares, and has a maximum depth of 17.4 metres. In character it is known as a kettle lake — along with other, smaller lakes in the district — which indicates that a receding glacier is thought to have formed it.

When I visited the locality around the Lake, a bush-plane had landed on it, and was moored close to the lakeshore. (I have supplied, for good measure, a picture of a de Havilland DNC-2 Beaver float plane.) The Lake's length is 1.5 kilometres (2).

For nearly 20 years the town of Richmond Hill has made a considerable anti-pollution drive with the waters of the lake. Various species of fish now thrive in the Lake, including perch, pike and sunfish; indeed, a local initiative is the Fish & Wildlife Sanctuary/Pike Hatchery.

Maple, oak, alder, dogwood and willow (Latin: salix; see diagram) are examples of native trees and shrubs found in the vicinity of the Lake. Owls and turtles are examples of locally spotted fauna.

While there are three parks around the shoreline of Lake Wilcox, much of the land facing onto the Lake is in private hands; local properties are assuredly very sought after.

March 3, 2016


(1) See also:

(2) Now the second city in the Republic of Ireland; its ceremonial head subsequently became known as the Lord Mayor.

(3) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia.

Richmond Hill, in York Region
Richmond Hill, in York Region | Source

Also worth seeing

In Richmond Hill itself, at 19 and 39 Church Street, respectively, recall prominent local personalities Amos Wright and Dr James Langstaff; adjacent to a park, no. 19 serves as a heritage centre for Richmond Hill.

Kleinburg (distance: approx. 25 kilometres) has the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and many of the Canadian Seven's works, among Canada's most important of galleries.

Black Creek Pioneer Village (distance: approx. 40 kilometres) borders the York Region in north-west Toronto, with numerous, moved or rebuilt heritage properties.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Lake Wilcox: approx. 43.9 kilometres). VIVA bus 84 stops at Sunset Beach Road, close to Lake Wilcox. Be advised that 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.

For your visit, this item may be of interest


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