port carling lock

Home Regions of OntarioMuskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park Region

Port Carling, Ontario

Port Carling is located along the Indian River between Lake Muskoka and Lake Joseph. Port Carling was incorporated into a village in 1896. In 1971 Cardwell Township, Watt Township, Medora and Wood Townships, Bala, Port Carling, Windermere and part of Monck Township were merged into the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Originally called Obajewanung (or Obogawanung) meaning "meeting place" in Ojibway, the early settlers referred to it as Indian Village. When the Colonization Road was built in 1859 settlers began arriving in the area, eager for the Free Land Grants that were being offered by the government.

In 1865 two brothers named Bailey arrived with their families and were the first permanent settlers in Indian Village. Alexander Bailey claimed the land on the south side of the river and built a log cabin while Michael claimed the land on the north side.

Donald Cockburn established the first trading post around the same time and when the locks were completed in 1871 he became the first lockmaster. In 1866 Benjamin Hardcastle Johnston and his four sons William, Robert, Benjamin Jr., and Garry arrived in Muskoka from London, Ontario and settled on land at Brackenrig Bay. In 1868 he was appointed the first postmaster and named the village Port Carling after his friend, the Hon. John Carling, who was Minister of Public Works in the local government of John Sandfield Macdonald and an advocate for building the locks at Port Carling.

locks at port carling 1910
Locks at Port Carling, 1910
Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

From 1869-1871 a set of locks were constructed making boat travel possible between Gravenhurst and Rosseau. This would allow settlers easier access to their free land grants but it also fuelled a new industry in Northern Ontario, the tourist trade.

Between 1871 and 1884 several resorts were built at Port Carling and the surrounding area. The Ferndale House was built in 1880 to accommodate tourists. Every day during the summer months a steamship would dock at the resort, dropping off and picking up passengers.

Today Port Carling is best known for it's upscale cottages and summer residences. The wharf, once such a vital part of the village, now contains boutiques and restaurants. Many of the older buildings along the main street remain and have been turned into businesses.

ferndale house lake muskoka
Ferndale House
Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

Places to Explore

Algonquin Provincial Park
Almaguin Highlands
Midlothian Ridge/Screaming Heads
Seguin Recreational Trail

Ontario Cities and Towns

Bala, Ontario
Bear Lake/Sprucedale, Ontario
Bracebridge, Ontario
Port Carling, Ontario
South River, Ontario

Explore by Region

R1: Southwest Ontario
R2: Niagara Canada
R3: Hamilton, Halton & Brant
R4: Huron, Perth, Waterloo & Wellington
R5: Greater Toronto Area
R6: York, Durham & the Hills of Headwaters
R7: Bruce Peninsula, Southern Georgian Bay & Lake Simcoe
R8: Kawarthas & Northumberland
R9: South Eastern Ontario
R10: Ottawa & Countryside
R11: Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley
R12: Muskoka, Parry Sound & Algonquin Park
R13a: North Eastern Ontario
R13b: Sault Ste. Marie – Algoma
R13c: Northwest Ontario