More than 100 years ago, in the days before electric refrigeration, Lake Simcoe’s ice was in great demand. In fact, ice from Lake Simcoe was shipped all over Canada and the eastern United States. Large industries grew up around the cutting, storing and shipping of the ice. The railways built spur lines into places on the lake to pick up the ice, which was harvested in blocks — some weighing over 300 pounds. The ice would be stored in ice houses between layers of sawdust.
I remember an ice house in Cedar Harbour and I believe that there are the remains of one still in Lefroy.
Cutting the ice on the lake was dangerous work. The men had to watch the huge saws, there were teams of horses involved and there was the open water to contend with. Many local farmers made a good living in the winter months out on the ice.
Next time you drop some ice cubes in your drink, think of where that ice would have come from in days gone by, when Lake Simcoe water was pristine.
On voting night, before the polls were closed, we drove down Dufferin Street, south of Highway 9 to the Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The Mayor of King, Steve Pellegrini, was there to greet us as well as representatives from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation.
The Koffler Reserve is made up of 880 acres and was given to the University of Toronto by Murray Koffler. Professor and Director Arthur Weis of the University of Toronto welcomed us and explained that the Reserve is an internationally recognized site for cutting-edge research and education in biodiversity, ecology and conservation biology. Courses offered by the university bring students to the Koffler Scientific Reserve for the type of hands-on experience in a natural environment that no other campus can offer. What a wonderful spot!
Mike Walters, General Manager Watershed Management, LSRCA, gave a talk about Lake Simcoe, and once again our learning about the watershed was enhanced.
Debby Beatty, President of the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, thanked us for coming and we were free to walk about and look at the displays mounted by the LSRCA and speak with the very knowledgeable staff present.
If you want to find out more about this wonderful spot, just google Koffler Scientific Reserve and you’ll find that there are environmental courses for the public to take winter and summer and you can enjoy walks on marked trails through parts of the Reserve.
My goodness! There are so many things to learn about in the Lake Simcoe Watershed.
Until next time, think about another industry on Lake Simcoe that depends on the ice.