Get to know MSHS

Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society (MSHS) is the registered charity that owns the Royal Mail Ship Segwun, Wenonah II, and Wanda III and operates the Muskoka Discovery Centre. We are membership-based and not-for-profit with a clear vision:

Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society is the leader in demonstrating the culture and heritage of the Muskoka region and its contribution to Canada by presenting compelling, entertaining and educational experiences, attractions, and events.

MSHS – More than 150 years of steamboating

1866: The Muskoka Lakes Navigation Company was formed in 1866 by A. P. Cockburn. The business ran the first Muskoka steamship, Wenonah.  From 1866 – 1958, this company eventually operated 19 different steamers.  They sailed the Muskoka Lakes taking people, goods and mail to various resorts and cottages.

1871: Side wheel paddle steamer Nipissing was built.

1886: Nipissing burns.

1887: Nipissing II built, inheriting the machinery of Nipissing.

1914: Nipissing II retired, following a major machinery breakdown.

1915: Wanda III built for the Eaton family. She was the largest, fastest and most prestigious steam yacht on the Muskoka lakes.

1925: After laying idol, Nipissing II was extensively rebuilt and renamed Segwun, the Ojibwa word for springtime.

1958: Segwun retires due to declining business. Muskoka Lakes Navigation Company stops operating steamships on the Muskoka Lakes.

1961: Segwun becomes a floating museum.

1969: The floating museum closes.

1972: Ontario road Builders Association began restoration of Segwun.

1973: The Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society was formed May 4, 1973 by the Ontario Road Builders Association to facilitate their fund-raising efforts to restore RMS Segwun.

1981: Muskoka Lakes Navigation and Hotel Company was revived to become the commercial operator of Segwun. The company leased Segwun from MSHS. The 15 shareholders of the Navigation and Hotel Company raised $85,000 of equity capital.

1982: The Ontario Road Builders withdrew from the Society in favour of a Board of Directors selected by the Society members.

1986: Muskoka Lakes Navigation and Hotel Company shares are transferred to MSHS, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary.

1992: MSHS built the Segwun Heritage Centre at the Gravenhurst wharf, providing an overview of Muskoka steamboat history. The Centre became a ticket office, gift shop and office space. Also in 1992, the Society took ownership of the steam yacht Wanda III.

1993: With the help of fundraising and some grants, the Society restored Wanda III, and she was re-launched.

The late 1990s:  MSHS commissioned the building of Wenonah II, a ship licensed for 200 passengers. 

2002: Wenonah II commenced service.

2016: MSHS celebrates 150 years of steamboat history on the Muskoka Lakes.

2017: MSHS will mark RMS Segwun’s 130 years of service to the people of Muskoka Region.

Muskoka Discovery Centre and KidZone at Muskoka Wharf

In 2000, the Society joined with the Town of Gravenhurst and the Evanco Company in developing the Muskoka Wharf Project at the Gravenhurst waterfront. A large attraction and museum building was constructed, the Muskoka Discovery Centre including the Grace and Speed Boat House. The Muskoka Discovery Centre was opened in June 2006.

The Centre offers an interactive experience to individuals and families that is unrivaled anywhere in the region.  The Centre provides a glimpse into the unique aspects of Muskoka life that have attracted millions of visitors and have spawned countless memories. The KidZone engages youngsters through hands-on play based on sound educational principles. State-of-the art exhibits capture the glory of the Muskoka experience; the rich history of steamships, wooden boats and luxury hotels that made Muskoka a jewel in Ontario’s tourism crown.

What your MSHS membership supports

Through the exhibits and events at the Muskoka Discovery Centre and the continued operations of the RMS Segwun, Wenonah II and Wanda III, The Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society continues the legacy of preserving, promoting and educating about the steamships, boat building and resorts of the Muskoka area for present and future generations.

Today, the Society is a private, not-for-profit registered charitable organization managed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The operations are administered by 7 full-time staff, more than 60 seasonal and part-time staff, and about 100 volunteers. Our volunteers donate more than 34,000 hours per year. The Society funds its operations and educational programs by ship ticket sales, Discovery Centre admissions and room rentals, membership fees, fund raising, government grants and donations.  Donations of any size are greatly appreciated. Membership in the Society is 1,000 strong and growing at a steady pace. New members and volunteers are always welcome.