The Muskoka Wharf is located in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario on the southern edge of Muskoka Bay on Lake Muskoka. The Muskoka Wharf is the home port of the RMS Segwun, the oldest operating steamship in North America and the last surviving original steamship from the fleet of several dozen that served the county of Muskoka, Ontario in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and the Wenonah II, a modern replica of an early 20th-century steamship. The Muskoka Wharf, once a vibrant hub of economic activity at the union of a major railroad terminus and steamship port, fell into decline as roads and automobiles were introduced to the region, but has experienced a major economic resurgence since the creation of a heritage-based development area in 2005.
Long before today's Muskoka Wharf had any restaurants, stores, or hotels, the wharf was a major center of Ontario’s boat building and logging industries. When steamboating began in Muskoka in the 1860s, the shipment of logs and other goods to markets along the east coast of the United States and Canada became easier and faster. When the railroad reached Muskoka in 1875, hundreds, even thousands, of immigrants, summer tourists, visitors, and cottage dwellers were seen on the Muskoka Wharf Station docks, ready to board steamships that would take them to their destinations on Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph, and Lake Rosseau (together, the “Muskoka Lakes”). As the waterfront became more popular and as the region's economy boomed with people coming to and from Muskoka, cottages were set up lakeside and Gravenhurst became a very attractive area for settlers and companies. In the early 1900s, however, the prosperous and successful Muskoka Wharf lost a lot of its activity to the development of the automobile. As more people drove to their new cottages and tourist destinations, trains and steamships declined in Muskoka, creating an economic downturn for the Muskoka Wharf.
In 2005, a $170 million, 89-acre development took place at the Muskoka Wharf, transforming the former industrial land into an improved, “inclusive cottage destination” that now offers boat rentals, hotel rooms, gourmet restaurants, museums, parks and playgrounds, shopping, a farmers market, nearby golf, and more. The Muskoka Wharf offers a variety of steamship cruises on the RMS Segwun and the Wenonah II.
One of the most popular occurrences at the Muskoka Wharf is the annual Farmers' Market, established in 1992. Over 80,000 cottagers, tourists, and local residents come to the wharf each year to buy and sell an assortment of arts and crafts, jewelry, produce, meats and cheese, apparel, and much more. People can explore the stores and restaurants, play on the playground, take a swim in the lake, take a boat ride on one of the steamships, visit the marina, or venture off into the town of Gravenhurst. A weekly waterski show is held at Muskoka Wharf during the summer as well as fireworks displays.
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- Wagner- Chazalon, Andrew (2007). Grace and Speed. Bracebridge, ON: Algonquin International. pp. Ch. 8.
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