South River is a community on Highway 124 near Algonquin Park in the Almaguin Highlands region of Parry Sound District of Ontario. The town of South River boasts two provincial parks within close proximity of the town. Mikisew, a 323 acre Provincial Park on Eagle Lake is located about 15 kms to the west of the town. Approximately 20 kms to the east is one of the entry points to Algonquin Park at Round Lake (Lake Kawawaymog).
South River is a popular destination for tourists as it services the many cottagers and campers that frequent the numerous lakes and rivers in the area. To the west of the town and past Mikisew Provincial Park lies the Old Rosseau-Nipissing Road, part of Ontario's Forgotten Trails System. Completed in 1873 the road stretched from the tip of Lake Rosseau to Nipissing, a distance of more than 100 kms. (70 miles).
Many settlers followed this route on the way to their free grant land and settled in Lount Township. The communities of Mecanoma (Bummer's Roost), Rye and Wattenwyle are located in Lount township. The Detta family settled in Mecanoma at Deer Lake and added a hunting lodge in the 1920's known as Deer Lake Lodge.
In 1874 Lount Township was surveyed and named in honour of William Lount, a lawyer and politician. William Lount was born in 1840 at Holland Landing, York County Upper Canada (Ontario) and practised law in Barrie, and Toronto, representing Simcoe North in the 1st Parliament of Ontario and Toronto Centre in the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal member from 1896 to 1897.
The majority of settlement that took place in Lount Township occurred along the Rosseau-Nipissing Road. Just to the east of this road the Muskoka Road, begun in 1869 and completed in 1885 extended northward from Washago. Many settlers travelling this route settled in Machar Township.
Machar Township was formed in 1875 and named after Rev. John Machar, a Presbyterian clergyman, scholar and teacher. Born in Tannadice, Forfarshire (Angus), Scotland in 1796, he was the youngest of David and Jean Machir's nine children. Machar received his education in Scotland and was ordained as a minister in 1819. In 1827 he arrived in Kingston where he continued working as a pastor and educator. He was instrumental in the founding of Queen's College in Kingston, Ontario and served as principal from 1846-1854.
When Machar Township was surveyed by Elihee Stewart in 1875 he noted that some of the streams flowed northward to Lake Nipissing, while others flowed south-westerly to the Magnetawan River. Another river, the South River flowed in a northerly direction to Lake Nipissing and it is from this river that the town of South River received it's name.
The South River played an important role in the lumber industry as early as 1860. The South River was not an easy river to navigate by boat because of the numerous waterfalls. Dams and log chutes were built to help transport logs along the South River to South Bay on Lake Nipissing. J.R. Booth owned a logging company in Machar Township.
The Standard Chemical Company, South River, Ontario c1920
In 1904 the Standard Chemical Company began logging in the area and built a sawmill and chemical plant in South River. Cordwood sent to the chemical plant was used to make charcoal, wood alcohol (methanol) and acetate of lime. At the height of production the company employed over 500 people and was the area's largest employer. As new technologies were invented the need for these products diminished and eventually the company ceased operation.
When a bridge was built across the narrows at Eagle Lake in 1915 and with the invention of the automobile the area was further opened up to tourists who purchased lakefront properties from area farmers and built summer residences at Deer and Eagle Lakes. In 1964 Mikisew Provincial Park was established, making the area even more popular.
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