Muskoka Traditions


160 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55046-444-2
DDC 971.3'16




Photos by Donna Griffith
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



The part of central Ontario known as Muskoka consists of three large
towns plus smaller villages, a few small farms, woods, rocks, and lakes.
Lots of lakes. Muskoka’s role as Ontario’s cottage country started
in the mid-1800s when wealthy Americans and Torontonians headed north to
fish, boat, and play in those pristine lakes. Their recreational
activities led to a cottage culture rich with traditions that still

Muskoka traditions centre around water. Jumping into the water from the
boathouse roof. Swimming around the family’s island. Slow-go boating.
Speed boating. Cruising on the big steamers. Ice fishing. Poking along
shore in a skiff. Competing in regattas. Boat building. Boat restoring.
Even taking the boat to church.

The theme of the work is that the Muskokas are changing, yet traditions
remain alive. In addition to the traditions directly linked to the
lakes, there are others celebrated in the book: gathering wild leeks,
Native crafts, painting scenes, music, skiing, telling ghost stories,
logging, and the strongest tradition of all, the springtime ritual of
getting ready for the arrival of the tourists. While celebrating
continuity down through the century, today’s Muskoka is present on
every page in both text and pictures. The text does a lot of
name-dropping (another Muskoka tradition), yet is quite readable. The
photos are good illustrations, conveying the energy and variety of
scenes and activities that characterize the area today.


Wagner-Chazalon, Andrew., “Muskoka Traditions,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,