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Tuesday Tales from the Archives – Navigation Companies

January 16, 2018


If, as a visitor to the Big Three Muskoka Lakes, you sail aboard one of our ships, you may be unaware of the long history of navigation companies behind the experience. The first company to operate a steamship on Lake Muskoka was the Lakes of Muskoka Steamboat Line founded in 1866. A. P. Cockburn was the manager and the man who built and sailed the very first steamboat on Lake Muskoka – Wenonah (I). He added Waubamik, Nipissing (I), Simcoe and Rosseau.

In 1881, the company changed its name, but not its manager. Muskoka & Nipissing Navigation Company added to the fleet the ships Muskoka, Lake Joseph, Kenozha, Oriole and Nipissing (II).

In 1889, the company name changed again to Muskoka & Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd. A. P. remained manager, adding Medora, Ahmic, Islander and Charlie M to the fleet.

In 1903, the name changed for the fourth time, lasting for 52 years. It was the first time A. P. Cockburn stepped away from direct involvement with the company.  The Muskoka Lakes Navigation & Hotel Company added Sagamo, Cherokee, Ada Alice, Constance, Mink/Waome to the fleet. It was during this period that Nippissing (II) became Segwun.

In 1955, the Golden Age of Muskoka steamers ended. Sagamo and Segwun began their lives as stationary vessels. Sagamo became a restaurant and Segwun, a museum. They were the last of the mighty fleet that had sailed for 89 years. The company operated under the name Gravenhurst Steamship Lines.

In 1981, the name Muskoka Lakes Navigation & Hotel Company was resurrected. Refurbishing RMS Segwun so she could sail again with passengers was the business goal.

The MLN&HC name was retired for a second time in 2005. On January 1, 2006, the Muskoka Steamships Association was launched.  The fleet now consists of RMS Segwun, the purpose-built Wenonah II and the historic steam yacht Wanda III.

There is no company navigating the Big Three Muskoka Lakes with as long as history as Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre, our current operating name.