Information adapted from "The Land Between" written by Vernon LeCraw (with permission)

When Champlain first passed through the Kawarthas in 1615, he found the area deserted. By the mid 1700s the area was surveyed by the British and there is no doubt that fur traders arrived in the late 1700s. The Indians who had inhabited the area had moved closer to Lake Simcoe. The word Kawartha is derived from an Anishnabe word meaning "bright waters and happy lands". Inaskingiquash was thought to be the Indian name for Shadow Lake with the French name being Lac Des Isles. There are two versions of the Indian name for Coboconk: one being Quash-Qua-Be-onk (where the gulls meet or nest), and the other is Ko-Ash-Hob-O-Gong (meaning running water).

From the mid 1800s, timber was the main commodity in the area and saw mills were located along the Gull River. Thousands upon thousands of logs flowed down the Gull River, and over the Norland Dam, and down the long trip to Trenton, taking two years to reach their destination.

The first tourists set foot in the area in 1865 passing through the Gull River System. About 1910 Rev Eugene Curts built a cottage on Mud Turtle Lake (now Shadow Lake). Subsequently, a Mr. Anderson, a member of the Crooked Lake hunting gang coming from Buffalo, NY, built a cottage in Norland.

More tourists (or cottagers) began to buy properties in the area: Ralph Salter purchased the island at the foot of Big Mud Turtle Lake. James LeCraw built a chain of cottages known as Shadow Lake Resort. L.E. Whittmore established Beaver Lodge Camp on the west shore of Mud Turtle Lake around l927. Two Boy Scout camps were established in the 1930s and Camp Endobanah, at the north end of Shadow Lake, is still active today.

Coboconk Jail

Information adapted from the "Coboconk New Horizons Club" newsletter.

Located on Water Street, the Coboconk jail, the smallest jail in Canada, was built in 1884 by Albert Ryckman. It still has the original iron bars and two-foot thick limestone walls (the limestone was mined from the Coboconk quarry).

Originally the Jail contained two cells as well as the sheriff's desk. Wooden doors, each with a barred window, led to the cells. A small wood stove was used for heating - the original brick chimney can still be seen on the roof. Although some repairs have been made, the general building remains the same. After the closure of the Jail, the cell doors were used in the Ryckman cottage until being returned to the Jail for display.

The Jail was occupied many times at the turn of the century, by the local lumberjacks, after their weekend binges. The local stonemason who built it for the community did so with much foresight. He cleverly left a couple of blocks in the wall intact, but without mortar, so they could be easily removed and then replaced. This offered a means of escape to detainees. It is said that on several occasions, he availed himself of the opportunity to do just this when he was incarcerated.

Mr Joseph Wakelin was the first and only known County Constable and Jail Master, being appointed in 1899. At this time he also held the position of Truant Officer for the Coboconk Public School. Mr Wakelin is remebered for putting people "away" for the night after one too many at the Pattie House, and also for catching people speeding down the street in their buggies. Constable Wakelin was particularly strict on "moonshiners" and people caught fishing or hunting on Sunday.

The New Horizons Club took over the use of the Jail in 1974, and "Ye Olde Jail" continues to display and sell the arts and crafts made by its members.

This unique stone Jail, the smallest in Canada, is an interesting and important part of our heritage. The Jail house has been well maintained for over 100 years, and has been designated a "heritage" building to be preserved for future generations.

Coboconk Railway Station

The Coboconk Railway Station was originally built in 1872 by the Toronto Nippissing Railway as the last station on the line. It immediately became the centre of activity for both business and social activity. The train became the "life line" for the community, bringing much needed supplies, especially in the winter when the roads were impassable and allowing local products to be shipped to market.

The station was destroyed by fire in 1903 and was replaced with the one that is now being restored. This building is unique in that it was designed to serve as the station master's residence as well as the station.

The station continued to actively serve the community until the late 1950s when highways became improved. In 1965 the last train left Coboconk and the station was closed down. The station has lain dormant and partially hidden from view for 30 years behind a building supply company.

In 1995 it was found that the station was to be demolished and this brought immediate concern from the community. Since government funding had been frozen, there was no other choice than to begin a "grass roots" campaign to raise the necessary money. This was started by the Bexley Architectural Advisory Committee and continued by a new board of management formed specifically for this project.

Through much support from local service clubs, community groups, and individuals, the station has been moved to the Legion Park and has been mounted on a new foundation.

Much work now has to be done in order to restore the building (inside and out) and this is why we are now looking for volunteers. You don't have to be an experienced tradesman as there are lots of unskilled taskd that have to be done.

When completely resored this building will be the focal point in a heritage village. This "village" will be a great asset to Coboconk and the surrounding communities as it will attract many visitors to this area. This is a community project which is funded solely by public donations.

There are plans to develop a Laidlaw Heritage Park in this area with the station being the central point of the project. The goal is not only to preserve the history of the area but to also be able to develop this area in order to enhance the economic development of the area.

If you would like to help make this happen by making a contribution or by buying some of the following products, please call Bob or Barb Curry at 1-705-454-1878 or email us at barbc44@sympatico.cafor further info.

Products available include: T-shirts, sweatshirts, postcards, photographs, framed historic prints, train whistles, engineer caps, etc.

Canada's Fresh Water Summit

On June 19 2010, and coinciding with the Summer Solstice, Coboconk was officially designated as Canada's Fresh Water Summit, on the country's highest fresh water lake from where you can take your boat to all four points of the compass.

Representatives of federal and provincial ministries, conservancies and entertainers joined City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Ric McGee and Council to officially unveil "Canada's Fresh Water Summit" tourist attraction.

(photo courtesy of Barbara-Ann MacEachern and Kawartha Lakes This Week/

Balsam Lake, although not the world's highest fresh water lake, at 256.5 m above sea level, is unique in that from a point in Coboconk, one can circumnavigate the globe without ever touching land.

The Summit itself, at the municipal dock in Coboconk (coordinates 44.39.476N-78.47.815W), has been recognized by Parks Canada.

Click here to read more about it on
Click here to see a video of the opening celebrations on

CKL On The Canadian Monopoly Board

In June of 2010, The City of Kawartha Lakes was selected as one of the top 65 cities in Canada to win 1 of 22 spots on the "Monopoly Canada" edition game board, right next to Free Parking. The orange suite is shared with Chiliwack BC and Montreal, and sells for a cool $2 million.




The care and protection of our Land, Lakes and River system so that
future generations will enjoy what we today are enjoying