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The lands on both sides of the St. Lawrence were among the first to be colonized by Loyalists fleeing the newly independent United States. They settled on a small strip of land; forests to the north were unsuitable to agriculture and farming, and thus only little hamlets developed. Today, human presence is scarce, and forests of broad-leafed and coniferous trees crisscrossed by lakes and rivers set the backdrop for this region.
The Muskoka Lakes
For nearly a century now, the lovely Muskoka Lakes region has been attracting vacationers, who come here for the charming villages and unobtrusive but well-developed tourist infrastructure.
Bruce Peninsula extends into Lake Huron, forming one side of magnificent Georgian Bay, whose shores are dotted with vacation spots. The Bruce Peninsula, the continuation of the Niagara Escarpment, extends into Lake Huron, rising up here and there to form islands, most importantly Manitoulin Island. This ridge is as high as 100m in some places, making for some remarkably beautiful scenery that you can enjoy during an outing in one of the parks that protects this unique area. Collingwood, also located on the shores of Georgian Bay, was an important shipbuilding centre at the beginning of this century. When that industry started to decline, the town managed to capitalize on its location near the Blue Mountains and the lovely beaches on the bay, and develop a prosperous tourist industry. Magnificent Wasaga Beach, a strip of sand stretching about 14km along Georgian Bay, is a virtual paradise for vacationers looking for places to enjoy water sports. This area is a good place to have fun, and is popular with a younger crowd.
The Kawartha Lakes
This region has been geared towards tourism since 1876, when vacationers started coming here to enjoy the peaceful natural setting of Kawatha, whose Amerindian name means "Land of Shining Water." Kawatha has since become Kawartha, but has managed to retain its unique character, having successfully combined the beauty of a still unspoiled natural setting with the comfort of a few charming little villages where visitors can dine and sleep.
In 1893, Algonquin Provincial Park (Whitney, 705-633-5572) was created, thus protecting 7,700km² of Ontario's territory from the forest industry. This vast stretch of wilderness boasts some fantastic scenery, which has charmed many a visitor. Back in 1912, it was a source of inspiration for Canadian painter Tom Thomson, whose presence will linger here forever, since he not only created his most beautiful works in the park, but also died here mysteriously in 1917. Shortly after, following in Thomson's footsteps, the Canadian landscape painters known as the Group of Seven came here in search of subject matter.
For over a century, Algonquin Park has been captivating outdoor enthusiasts, who are drawn here by the shimmering lakes with their small population of loons, the rivers that wind around the bases of rocky cliffs, the forest of maples, birches and conifers, the clearings covered with blueberry bushes, and the varied animal life that includes beavers, racoons, deer, moose, black bears and more. As you set out by foot or by canoe into the heart of this untamed wilderness, you will be embarking on one of the most enchanting journeys imaginable.
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