Magnetawan, situated in the Almaguin Highlands within the Parry Sound District, comprises two main communities: the Village of Magnetawan and Ahmic Harbour. It's conveniently located just 3 hours north of Downtown Toronto, 45 minutes northeast of Parry Sound, 45 minutes northwest of Huntsville. In the last few years it has become an increasingly popular cottaging area.

The name "Magnetawan" finds its roots in the Native dialect, signifying "swiftly flowing waters." Originally, it was spelled with an extra "a" "Maganetawan." Of significant note, Barbara Hanley, the first woman ever elected mayor of a community in Canada, was born in Magnetawan in 1882.

Originating in Algonquin Park, the Magnetawan River meanders its way through lakes, rapids, and waterfalls, eventually reaching Georgian Bay. Ahmic Lake marks the midpoint of this watershed. The lake's waters flow out at Knoepli Falls, a scenic spot to stop just off highway #124. From here you have the opportunity to embark by canoe or kayak and journey down the river all the way to Britt. In the early spring several companies do river rafting adventures on the Mighty Mag starting at Knoepli.

Ahmic Lake near Cedar Croft, Magnetawan
Photo Credit; Sue Jamison

The Steamboat Era

Around 1878, the introduction of passenger boats marked a significant development in Magnetawan's transportation history. The first of these vessels was the "Armour," followed by the "Wenonah," and later the "Glenada." These boats departed from Burk's Falls at 7:30 AM and reached Magnetawan around noon, making stops at Youngers, Ashdowns, and Ballams landings along the river, as well as Midlothian, Geddes, and Cowans wharf on the lake whenever they were flagged down or had cargo to pick up. You can still see the old steamboat stop / boarding house in Magnetawan today, it's located at the bridge on the north side.

During the summer months, boats were the lifeline for transporting mail, merchants' supplies, and tourists. These boats traveled as far as Ahmic Harbour, making stops at various tourist wharves along the lake. There were even moonlight boat excursions which ventured as far as Lake Cecebe and would return to port late into the night. Allen Kennedy served as the first lock master, followed by Frank Stewart, who held the position for an impressive 29 years.

As water traffic in the area continued to increase, there arose a need for a navigational marker in the river to guide vessels entering the locks. Consequently, a lighthouse was constructed. While the original lighthouse was eventually demolished, the year 1995 saw the Magnetawan River Heritage Association take the initiative to build a replica on the very same site. In the winter of 2021 it was badly damaged and rebuilt once again by the Langfords, a local family who have

Boat captains navigating the river would signal their arrival to the lockmaster by sounding three distinct blasts on their whistles as they passed by the lighthouse. A nearby resident, Mrs. Nicholson, played a crucial role by lighting a lamp at the lighthouse every evening, contributing to the safety and navigation of the waterway.

The "Glenda" on the Magnetawan River
The Magnetawan Steamboat "Glenda" in her prime
Magnetawan lighthouse on Lake Cecebe
Photo Credit; Sue Jamison

The Timber Era

As the road system developed in the early 20th century, Magnetawan began to become even more focused on the forest. There were several large scale commercial maple syrup operations including Crosbies in the Horn Lake area as well as just south of Lake Cecebe. Many of the hemlock groves were cut down not for timber,  but for their tannin rich bark which was taken to the tannery in Burks Falls. There were many sawmills scattered throughout the township almost always near the river as it as tghe main conduit to move logs. As the timber depleted they slowly closed down but one, the Croziers, is still in operation today at Rockwyn landing. Many a home or cottage in Magnetawan is made with Crozier lumber!

There are 5 main lakes in Magnetawan. Ahmic, Cecebe, Horn, Neighick(Beaver) & Whalley along with several smaller ones. Of these, Ahmic Lake & Lake Cecebe were settled the earliest because they were easily accessed. As a result most of the older cottages or "camps" as they were called, can be found there. Many of these historic buildings are still standing with their original boat houses lovingly preserved. One of the interesting facts about the Magnetawan lake system was the early adoption of strict regulation on development. Far ahead of its time, the township strictly regulated the waterfront which saved it from the over-development seen in other areas. It doesn't take a very long boat ride to appreciate the wisdom in this decision. There is also a the Magnetawan Watershed Land Trust dedicated to the preservation of the lakes. Their mission is "To preserve the natural, historical, scenic, and recreational value of the Magnetawan River Watershed for the benefit of future generations through land and conservation easement acquisition for the purpose of conservation and stewardship."

The Cottage Era

Although cottaging in the Magnetawan area began in the late 1800s, it really began to flourish in the 50s and 60s as new roads were built and old ones improved. With easier access and much lower construction costs, a new wave of cottagers descended on the area generally building modest structures, many still with no running water or electricity. With the addition of submarine power lines running along the lake bed in the late 70s and early 80s cottages were slowly wired and plumbed and many converted to 4 season. Today, many of those cottages are being torn down and replaced by much larger homes, particularly on Lake Cecebe and Neighick Lake.

Cottage on Ahmic Lake, Magnetawan
Photo Credit: Sue Jamison

Like the rest of the Parry Sound area and much of Ontario, real estate has risen sharply over the last few years. Waterfront prices in particular have seen enormous gains since early 2019. Since the first quarter of 2023 we have seen a slight easing of prices which I suspect will continue into 2024. For the first time ever, homes in Magnetawan rose above $500,000. They too have fallen slightly but given prices in southern Ontario they still seem like a bargain.

When it comes to cottages, Ahmic commands the highest prices followed by Horn and Neighick with Cecebe close behind. Whalley, Crawford, Midlothian & several smaller lakes round out the lower price properties.

Magnetawan Waterfront Real Estate | Historical Average Cottage Price

Magnetawan Residential Real Estate | Historical Average Home Price

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