Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society
In a country where unfortunately so little of the past has survived, the opportunity to grasp at the last few floating straws of our heritage before they disappear forever is overwhelmingly precious. Sadly due to fire and neglect much of the original Muskoka tourist infrastructure of buildings and boats has disappeared leaving us with only faded photographs and fading memories of a time when the 'world's elite' came to the Muskoka Lakes for their summers.

The Bigwin Inn once one of the world's top resorts is now a mere shadow of its former glory. Once the wonder of its age, the spectacular ballroom became the latest jewel to disappear through sheer neglect and indifference.

However, there is one last remnant of the passing pageant that has been rescued at the 11th hour that is capable of turning back the clock for tens of thousands of people. The Bigwin ferry was raised, literally from the bottom of the lake where she had been rotting for decades by a dedicated band of volunteers. To restore this nearly one hundred-year-old vessel to its original glory so that thousand can once again see a wonderful part of our past brought back to life.

To restore the Bigwin Steamboat to its original 1910 condition as the centerpiece of a new Lake of Bays Marine Museum to be located in Dorset on the historic Olde Clayton Property. Total cost for purchasing and upgrading the land, buildings and restoring the Bigwin is $1.3 million.

This is the last of the original fleet of steam ferryboats that plied the Lake in the late 19th to mid 20th century that is available for restoration. The success of the Segwun, the Wanda III and now the Wenonah II on Lake Muskoka clearly indicate the popularity of our Muskoka marine heritage. The restoration work, docking site purchase, and preparation though substantial are modest compared to the enormous benefit of saving a priceless part of our history from near extinction to the benefit of today's and tomorrow's generations.

The Bigwin is 66' in length with 11' 8" beam and depth of 6' 1" with a registered weight of 25 tons. After years of neglect, the boat sat partially submerged on the bottom of her slip at Bigwin Inn. The Bigwin was purchased in 1991 and after considerable volunteer effort, she was raised and floated to dry dock in South Portage.

A permanent Docking Facility has been identified in Dorset known as the Clayton property wharf and building were used by the Huntsville, Lake of Bays Navigation Company and the Bigwin Livery Company. The building was used for selling tickets and storing shipments and mail. The upstairs was used as sleeping quarters by the ship captains of the Mohawk Belle and the Iroquois steamboats.

The Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society have secured an option to purchase this property. We are in the process of raising money to help us save this historic site. The Marine Museum is offering the unique opportunity for families, individuals or corporations to have their name displayed in perpetuity on Lake of Bays for future generations of families to see.

The Steamboat operators used the wharf area since 1885 and ticket office standing directly beside the wharf since approximately 1918 as the centre for steamboat traffic across Lake of Bays. The steamboat companies were responsible for allowing settlers, farmers, trappers, tourists and others to come to this lake before roads were developed. It is this wharf; ticket office and land that served this region and help make it what it is today. Unfortunately this property has been neglected for over 10 years and we fear that if not protected by our Marine Museum the building may be lost forever. It is the intention of the Marine Museum to restore the ticket office and wharf. The Bigwin steamboat has been moved to this property, which we hope will be its permanent home.

For a relatively modest investment, a part of our heritage can be brought back to life for thousands to enjoy. The proposal would see the restoration of the Bigwin ferry and the historic Huntsville Navigation Company building and dock. This was part of the original infrastructure that opened up the lake to settlers and tourists in the last century or so. The Lakes and rivers were the highways and the steamers the transport that plied them. The restoration will provide an opportunity for both residents and visitors in the area to relive an experience that otherwise will be lost forever. A hundred years from now, people will say thank you to the foresight and generosity of those who brought this spectacular boat and docking facilities back to life.

Bigwin Steamboat Restoration
Phase I

The restoration process is actually underway and progressing well. Thanks to a grant from the Trillium Foundation we have removed and replaced 10 steel frames in the stern of the boat and replaced them. We now getting the hull prepared for planking, which we hope to begin in April of 2003. In phase 1 we plan to complete the following work:

1. Repair all steel frames, clean and prime with rust inhibiting paint.
2. Plank the hull.
3. Replace the keel and deadwood.
4. Repair the deck on the bow, stern and sides.
5. Rebuild the Wheelhouse.
6. Purchase, refurbish and install steam engine, propeller shaft and propeller.
7. Install new windows.
8. Install submersible pumps and put Bigwin in the water moored to the wharf in Dorset.


The objects for which the corporation is incorporated are:

To promote public interest in the marine and navigational heritage of the Lake of Bays region, in the District of Muskoka, and to that end;

To preserve, restore, construct and reconstruct, maintain, display and demonstrate to the public antique, classic and heritage vessels and boats;

To establish, maintain and operate dockage and storage facilities for the Society's vessels;

To establish a public museum displaying artifacts, pictures, displays, memorabilia and models; and to collect oral and written historical recollections concerning marine history of the Lake and area;

To conduct programs designed to acquaint the public with the marine history and traditions of the area.


Follow the progress of the restoration here at:
Brought to you by the Lake of Bays Marine Museum & Navigation Society.