List of Ontario colonization roads

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Road signs marking the Opeongo Road

The Colonization Roads were roads created during the 1840s and 1850s to open up or provide access to areas in Central and Eastern Ontario for settlement and agricultural development. The colonization roads were used by settlers, much like modern-day highways, to lead them towards areas for settlement.


During the early-1800s, the government of Upper Canada, a majority of which is now Ontario, appropriated settlers to various lots which had been surveyed along the lake shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The townships established along these fronts contained generally fertile land composed of glacial till and clay-rich loam. As these townships filled up, business opportunities presented themselves for investors to purchase native lands and open them to settlement. The Canada Company was the most successful of these ventures, and attracted settlers to vast areas of land in Western Ontario by building routes such as the Huron Road and the Toronto–Sydenham Road during the 1830s and 1840s.[1] As these areas too filled, the government came under pressure to open up the unforgiving terrain of the Canadian Shield to settlement, and sought to establish a network of east–west and north–south roads between the Ottawa Valley and Georgian Bay. This area was known as the Ottawa–Huron Tract.[2]

In 1847, an exploration survey was carried out by Robert Bell to lay out the lines that would become the Opeongo Road, Hastings Road and Addington Road. The Public Lands Act, passed in 1853, permitted the granting of land to settlers who were at least 18. Those settlers who cleared at least 12 acres (49,000 m2) within four years, built a house within a year and resided on the grant for at least five years would receive the title to that land. The government subsequently built over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) of roads over the following 20 years to provide access to these grants.[3]

However, the promises of fertile land in this new northern tract of wilderness proved false. Beneath thin layers of sparsely spread soil was solid granite. Where this granite descended deeper, valleys formed and filled with muskeg. Despite an early influx of settlers, the vast majority of grants were abandoned by the turn of the century; only 40% remained. During the first half of the 1900s, many of these colonization roads were incorporated into the growing provincial highway network. Some sections were improved to modern highway standards, while others were subsequently bypassed or abandoned. The roads that were not incorporated as highways either became local roads or were consumed by nature.[4]

Though many other roads in the province can be considered "colonization roads", such as Yonge Street, Hurontario Street, the Provincial Road, (later Highway 2), the Talbot Trail (Highway 3), the Garafraxa Road (Highway 6) and the Penetanguishene Road (Highway 93), they were either constructed for military purposes, or by private investment.

In October 2016, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival premiered a documentary titled Colonization Road at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox. The documentary explores these roads within various treaty territories of Canada and the relationships which surround them. Subsequently, the film has toured throughout Canada and in January 2017, CBC Television's Firsthand program aired a broadcast version of Colonization Road.[5]


The terrain these roads pass through is interlaced with many hills, lakes, forests, swamps and bedrock outcroppings. The location of many of these roads is in the Canadian Shield, among the most rugged terrain in all of Ontario. The soil is generally thin and unsuitable for the agricultural development that these roads were built to spur.

Most of the colonization roads are not provincially maintained highways. Instead they follow county roads, and local town/township roads. A few have even been converted into hiking trails and bike trails.

List of Colonization Roads[edit]

Below is a list of all the colonization roads.

The Addington Road was surveyed as far north as the Opeongo Line in Brudenell

Addington Road[edit]

The Addington Road
Length113 km (70 mi)

The Addington Colonization Road was one of the initial routes surveyed in 1847. The contract to construct the road was awarded to A. B. Perry, who completed more than half of the length from the Clare River to the Opeongo Line by 1856.[6] In the south it began in the village of Clareview and travelled north to the Opeongo Line, where the village of Brudenell was established. From north of Clareview to the community of Ferguson Corners (southwest of Denbigh), Highway 41 follows the old road, though in many places bypasses have been constructed and the old road named Addington Road followed by a number from one to eight. North of Ferguson Corners, the old road has been consumed by the forest, though short spurs are evident west of Denbigh and north and south of Quadeville.

The Bobcaygeon Road near the old Peterson Road, west of Carnarvon

Bobcaygeon Road[edit]

The Bobcaygeon Road
Length89 km (55 mi)

The Bobcaygeon Colonization Road opened up the northern half of Peterborough and Victoria counties and much of Haliburton County. The road begins in the village of Bobcaygeon and travels north through Minden, ending north of the old Peterson Road (Highway 118). The old road was surveyed as far north as the Oxtongue river, but never improved beyond that. It now forms the boundary between Minden and Algonquin Highlands and further north the boundary between Muskoka and Haliburton. The former Highway 649 and Highway 121 were eventually assigned along the majority of the southern half of this road. From Minden north to Highway 118 the road is a paved township road. Between Ox Narrows and Dorset, Highway 35 generally follows the original survey line.

Buckhorn Road[edit]

The Buckhorn Road
Length48 km (30 mi)

Buckhorn Road begins just north of Peterborough at Lakefield Road. From Peterborough to the town of Buckhorn, Buckhorn Road is referred to as Highway 23 and is still labelled as Buckhorn Road at many intersections. North of Buckhorn, the road is no longer listed as Buckhorn Road, but rather Highway 36 until Flynn's Turn. From there, Highway 507 is Buckhorn Road until it reaches the town of Gooderham. Slightly west of Gooderham, the old colonization road continues via Highway 3, also known as Glamorgan Road, until Highway 118 just outside Haliburton.

Burleigh Road[edit]

The Burleigh Road
LocationBurleigh Falls–[Aspley, Ontario
Length0 km (0 mi)

The Burleigh Road begins in Burleigh Falls and continues north along Ontario Highway 28. It passes through Apsley and by-passes the town. However, inside the town is the old colonization road and is named Burleigh Street. Continuing up Highway 28, turning northwest at Kidds Corners, here it overlapped the Cheddar Road (Dyno Road or Haliburton County Road 48). As you continue on, a little way pass the old Dyno Mine site it use to turned west and go though the town of Cheddar, then continued to the town of Cope Falls, from here it was known as the Burleigh Road again and continued north on the east side of Cope Creek, towards Cope Lake, where it met the Deer Lake Road which ran east to the town of Deer Lake and Ontario Highway 500. The Burleigh Road then turned west, crossing over Cope Creek, and the Irondale River, and into the town of Wilberforce, then turned north onto Ontario Highway 500, (Loop Road, Haliburton County 648), and pass the Wilberforce Public School, and up the hill. From here on it was again known as the Burleigh Road, & continued northeast running on the east side of Clement Lake, and the west side of Grace Lake and ended at the colonial Kennaway Road which started in the town of Haliburton, and ran east though the town of Kennaway, and ended when it intersected with the colonial Peterson Road.[1]

Note! You can't drive or walk on most of the old colonial Burleigh Road south of Wilberforce. A lot of it is private, some of it is being used as snowmobile trails, these you might be able to walk on. If you'd like to walk some of the middle part of it, park at the Wilberforce Public School, and then walk up the road going up the hill to Clement Lake. On both sides of this road there use to be farms and farm buildings. Most of the families from around here left during the Great Depression by train on the Irondale Bancroft & Ottawa Railroad /* IB&O */ and moved out to the western provinces. They just up and left everything behind. Even their cars, parked in the out buildings. When I was very young, I and out on Grace Lake, you could see the open fields on the ridges along the Burleigh Road. In the winter you could see the snow on the roofs. They finally caved in from the snow loads & weather. To drive on the north part of it you must go north on Loop Road or Haliburton County Road 648, and turn left at the Wilberforce Legion onto County Road 15 or the old Burleigh Road; at the top of the hill keep left and keep going until you come to the colonial Kennaway Road where the original Burleigh Road ended. Turn left onto Kennaway Road, it will bring you out onto Highway 118. Turn Right to Haliburton or Left to Tory Hill. Note! The Kenaway Road passes though part of the Toronto Boy Scouts Reserve, so watch out for the boys & their leaders. This is not a well kept dirt road, it's narrow in some places with lots of sharp corners. So BEWARE of oncoming traffic. If you stay on Haliburton County Road 15, you'll end up at the entrance to Harcourt Park, a private community. If you go though their gates your trespassing and can be charged. [2] [7]

Cameron Road[edit]

The Cameron Road

The Cameron Road travelled north from Rosedale to Minden and is now the route of Highway 35.

Frontenac Road[edit]

The Fronenac Road travelled north from Kingston to the Madawaska River at Matawatchan.

The road was first surveyed in 1852 and 1853 by Provincial Land Surveyor Thomas Fraser Gibbs. Warren Godfrey (for whom a town along the road is named) oversaw construction, completing the road as far north as the Mississippi Road at Plevna via Parham, Mountain Grove and Ardoch, completing the task by 1862. An extension northwest to the Madawaska River at Matawatchan was completed by 1869.[8] However, much of this section has been lost to the forest.

Garafraxa Road[edit]

Garafraxa Road
LocationGuelphOwen Sound

The Garafraxa Road was built to extend the Brock Road north from Guelph to the new settlement of Sydenham, renamed Owen Sound in 1851, on Georgian Bay. An Order-in-Council was passed calling for the building of this road on April 13, 1837. Deputy Surveyor Charles Rankin was given free rein to lay a line between Oakville and Sydenham. Rankin surveyed the line north of Arthur before the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion broke out in Toronto. In 1839, John McDonald was hired to resurvey the line. He completed the survey between Guelph and Fergus that year, and to Arthur by October 1842.[9] Construction of the line between Arthur and Sydenham began at both ends in 1843.[10] The entire route was navigable by 1848. By 1861, the majority had been graveled, and tollgates briefly established between Fergus and Owen Sound. The entire route became part of Highway 6 in 1920.[9]

Great North Road[edit]

The Great North Road
LocationParry SoundCommanda
Length97 km (60 mi)

The Great North Road connected the Parry Sound Road in Parry Sound with the Nipissing Road in Commanda. Today, Highway 124 largely follows the old road.[11]

Hastings Road[edit]

The Hastings Road
Length113 km (70 mi)

The Hastings Road was surveyed and built to the northern boundary of Hastings county, north of the hamlet of Lake St. Peter. It was continued north into the District of Nipissing under the name of "the north road" and at one time could be driven to an intersection with the current Highway 60 between Whitney and Madawaska. At one time it intersected with the Snow, Monck and Peterson roads.[12]

Lavant Road[edit]

The Lavant Road
LocationSnow RoadLanark Road

Mississippi Road[edit]

The Mississippi Road
Length98 km (61 mi)

The Mississippi Road began at a junction with Frontenac Road and Snow Road in the village of Plevna and travelled northwest, bisecting the Addington Road near Denbigh. It ended at the Hastings Road in Bancroft, where the Monck Road continued west. Today, Brule Lake Road and Buckshot Lake Road (Lennox and Addington County Road 30) follow a majority of the southwest portion of the road. Between Denbigh and Bancroft, Highway 28 travels adjacent to the old road, which has generally been consumed by the forest.

Monck Road[edit]

The Monck Road
Length172 km (107 mi)

The Monck Road was a dual purpose road of establishing a colonization and military route east from Lake Couchiching to the junction of the Hastings and Mississippi colonization roads at what is now Bancroft, the[Monck Road was surveyed through 1864 and 1865. Construction began the following year and was completed seven years later in 1873. It was named in honour of Charles Stanley Monck, who was Governor General of Canada at that time.

The Monck Road starts at Atherly, runs along Simcoe County 45 or Rama Road, which turns into City of Kawartha Lakes, it crosses Highway 35 at Norland and carries on to Kimount, turns right and cross over the Burnt River then turns left up the hill and continues towards Haliburton County 503, which runs though the towns of Furance Falls, Maxwell, Gooderham, Tory Hill, South Wilberforce, Cope Falls, Monck, Wood, and on in to the town of Bancroft. It is one of the oldest provincial roads north of Toronto. It has a rich history. From Lake Couchiching, it extends 150 kilometres east to Hastings Road at Bancroft.The Monck Road’s original purpose was twofold; firstly, that of opening up a wilderness area to settlement; secondly, it was intended to serve as an alternate military route from the upper Great Lakes to the Ottawa Valley. At that time the only other route was the St. Lawrence River, which was vulnerable to American attack.The route of the Monck Road was surveyed in 1864 to ‘65. Construction under Chief Engineer Snow began in 1866, and the road was finished in 1873. Settlement was encouraged by giving free grants of land along the route, assuming the settlers fulfilled the conditions of settlement. The free land turned out not to be too good for farming, but the resourceful settlers found additional sustenance and income in hunting, fishing and trapping. The Monck Road would luckily never be required for military purposes. Yet at the time of its construction there were threats not to be taken lightly. [13]

Muskoka Road[edit]

The Muskoka Road
LocationSevern BridgeNorth Bay
Length203 km (126 mi)

The Muskoka Road, most of which now forms Highway 11, was constructed in the late 1850s and early 1860s, quickly becoming the primary trunk road to Lake Nipissing. A series of towns eventually would flourish along its length, but the first of these was Bracebridge. East of Muskoka Falls, Thomas J. McMurray established a 400-acre (1,600,000 m2) townsite in the spring of 1861 at the intersection of the Muskoka Road and Peterson Road.[14]

Construction on the Muskoka Road began in 1858. At the time of Bracebridge's founding, the road did not extend beyond the Muskoka River.[14] It was opened as far as Sundridge by 1875. Today Highway 11 follows a majority of the route, but bypasses it in several locations, notably between Bracebridge and Huntsville.

Nipissing Road[edit]

The Nipissing Road
Length111 km (69 mi)


Old farm along the Opeongo Line

Ottawa and Opeongo Road[edit]

The Ottawa and Opeongo Road
LocationOpeongo LakeRenfrew
Length106 km (66 mi)

The Ottawa and Opeongo Road (also known as Opeongo Line) was one of the initial colonization roads surveyed by Hamlet Burritt and A.H. Sims under the supervision of Robert Bell in 1851-52. It was constructed westward from Renfrew beginning in 1854, reaching as far as the Hastings Road in Whitney by 1865; thereafter the survey line continued to Opeongo Lake.[16] Today, Highway 60 follows the old road between Algonquin Park and east of Barry's Bay. At that point, the road branches out to the southeast, following portions of Renfrew County Road 66, 512 and 64. Approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) west of Dacre, it encounters Highway 41. From there to Renfrew, Highway 132 follows the old road.[17] Several songs have been written about the Opeongo Line, one of the most recent by Canadian singer-songwriter Terry McLeish. His song, "The Opeongo Line", has been included in several musicals and in a tourist CD production of this historic road.

Parry Sound[edit]

The Parry Sound Road
LocationParry SoundFalkenburg Station
Length72 km (45 mi)

| Horseshoe Lake Road, Highway 141, Raymond Road, Manitoba Street | Highway 400/Highway 69, Highway 141, Muskoka District Road 35, Muskoka District Road 4 | Parry Sound | Bracebridge | Parry Sound
Horseshoe Lake

Pembroke and Mattawan Road[edit]

The Pembroke and Mattawan Road
Length158 km (98 mi)

The Pembroke and Mattawan road was proposed by the Minister of Agriculture Allan McNab in 1852. A survey was conducted in 1853 and construction began in 1854. By 1875 the road was officially open in summer months all the way from Pembroke to Mattawa. That original road went through what is now CFB Pettawa and the Atomic Energy lands north of the town of Chalk River. It followed what is now the Balmer Bay road east of the town of Deep River. West of Deep River the old road winds back and forth across Highway 17, which was built in the 1930s.[18]

Peterson Road[edit]

The Peterson Road
LocationBracebridgeBarry's Bay
Length164 km (102 mi)

The Peterson Road began in Bracebridge and travelled east to Maynooth, where it met the Hastings Road. From Maynooth, its snaked its way northeast to Barry's Bay to meet the Opeongo Line. It was surveyed by Joseph Peterson and built between 1858 and 1863 at a cost of around $39,000. Poor soil led to little settlement in the area and some sections were already overgrown by the 1870s, but the Maynooth-Combermere section proved to be a useful logging route.

Today, the section from Bracebridge to Maynooth has mostly been consumed by the forest, though Highway 118 follows adjacent to the old road as far as Haliburton.[19] A small section remains as a local township road, east of Carnarvon, named Tulip Road. The old road that runs between Haliburton, north of Drag Lake, to the north end of Benior Lake, on the Elephant Lake Road or County Road 10 has been consumed by the forest and is untraceable. This part runs though the south end of Algonquin Park.

The section from Maynooth to Combermere and on to Barry's Bay is now the route of former Highway 62.

Highway 509 in Plevna, the junction of the Mississippi Road, Frontenac Road and Snow Road

Snow Road[edit]

The Snow Road

The Snow Road is a short minor branch of the colonization road network that connected the northern end of agricultural settlement in Maberly with the southeastern end of the Mississippi Road in Plevna. The Lavant Road branches off to the east at approximately the midpoint of the road. Today, County Road 36 follows the Snow Road through Lanark County, while the former Highway 509 follows the portion lying within Frontenac County.

North of the Head River, Kawartha Lakes 35 enters the Canadian Shield

Victoria Road[edit]

The Victoria Road

Victoria Road is one of several colonization roads in southern Ontario built in the 1850s to promote settlement in what was then the frontier of Ontario. The road continued north of its current terminus in Uphill into what is now the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park. It then followed the Black River north-east to the Peterson Road in Vankoughnet; this part of the road fell into disuse in the late 1800s. Between 1956 and 1998, the portion of The Victoria Road between Highway 46 (Highway 48 after 1975) and Highway 503 was designated as Secondary Highway 505. On January 1, 1998, the entire road south of Uphill was designated as Victoria County Road 35. Victoria County was restructured as the city Kawartha Lakes on January 1, 2001, which renamed the road as Kawartha Lakes Road 35.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shragge 1984, pp. 31, 40.
  2. ^ Shragge 1984, p. 17.
  3. ^ Shragge 1984, pp. 17–19.
  4. ^ Shragge 1984, p. 21.
  5. ^ Dargicevic, Nina (January 26, 2017). "The Documentary 'Colonization Road' Is About Real, Actual Roads". CBC Television. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Country Road Maps - Mazinaw Country
  7. ^ Myself, I've lived here all of my life
  8. ^ Frontenac Road Historical Plaque
  9. ^ a b Hutchinson, Jean F (1998). The History of Wellington County. Landsborough Printing Ltd. p. 12.
  10. ^ Hutchinson, Jean F (1998). The History of Wellington County. Landsborough Printing Ltd. p. 423.
  11. ^ Shragge 1984, p. 20.
  12. ^ Miller 1978, pp. 93-95, maps.
  13. ^ Monck Road Historical Plaque
  14. ^ a b Parry Sound: Gateway to Northern Ontario. p. 47
  15. ^ Ontario Plaque
  16. ^ Miller 1978, pp. 77-84, maps.
  17. ^ Shragge 1984, pp. 18, 20.
  18. ^ Mercer, Jennifer (1998). Staying the Run - A History of the Unified Townships of Rolph, Buchannan, Wylie and McKay. Pembroke Ontario: The Rolph, Buchannan, Wylie and McKay Historical Society. pp. 33–36. ISBN 0-9683918-0-X.
  19. ^ Miller 1978, pp. 92-93, maps.
  • Shragge, John; Bagnato, Sharon (1984). From Footpaths to Freeways. Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Historical Committee. ISBN 0-7743-9388-2.
  • Miller, Marilyn G.; Bucovetsky, Joe; Sisam, Elizabeth (1978). Straight lines in curved space : colonization roads in eastern Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation, Historical Planning and Research Branch. ISBN 0-7743-2978-5.