The leaves have changed colour and it’s getting chilly at night—which means we’re deep into fall in Ontario cottage country. At this time of year, swimming and water-skiing give way to road trips—the back-roadier, the better. And as Halloween approaches, what better way to explore Ontario cottage country than by seeking out some real-life ghost towns?
Muskoka is home to several abandoned towns, many established in the early days of the area’s settlement and resources boom, then abandoned as industry moved or other areas became more accessible. Many ghost towns are now no more than a dusty record in a forgotten municipal file or a blurry black-and-white photograph—but some still exist in the form of a building or two and, in some cases, an inhabitant or two.
Step back in history, but make sure not to step on private property—many of the buildings, although seemingly abandoned, are still owned by someone, and walking through them is considered trespassing. As well, many structures are unsafe—so stick to the side of the road and just take photographs.
Read on to find out about a few of Muskoka’s best-known abandoned places. (Thanks to Ontario Abandoned Places for the great info.)
As its name suggests, Germania, in the present-day Town of Bracebridge, was originally founded by German settlers lured by promises of fertile soil and a long growing period. Although the claims turned out to be exaggerated, Germania was, nonetheless, a busy crossroads at the end of the nineteenth century, with approximately 200 residents, a school, post office, general store, and blacksmith shop.
Once home to a well-publicized infanticide and several tragedies among the families who settled there, the town faded as new generations moved away instead of farming. Germania now exists in a few well-preserved cemeteries and the still-standing schoolhouse.
To reach Germania, take Hwy 11 to Doe Lake Road and go east. Turn left at Germania Road.
Although not quite a ghost town, the quiet Uffington of today, now part of the Town of Bracebridge, is a shadow of its former bustling self. Like Germania, the original settlers in the area were attracted by claims of rich farmland, which, although not quite accurate, nevertheless resulted in a town that had two general stores, three churches and a variety of other businesses—including a hotel where an attempted murder took place at the height of the town’s prosperity.
Unfortunately, most of the original farming families moved away in search of better land, and Uffington declined. The original Anglican church still stands, but many of the other original buildings have either collapsed or are unsafe.
Uffington is at the intersection of Uffington Road and Peterson Road in the Town of Bracebridge. Take Highway 11 to Highway 118 east, then head south on Hawn Road.
Falkenburg was one of the first settlements on the old Muskoka Road, which was built by the Ontario government in the mid-nineteenth century to connect Muskoka and North Bay. The 200-kilometre lumber road eventually became a busy stagecoach route to Bracebridge, and Falkenburg was built up to accommodate travellers as well as a population of farmers.
Eventually, rail travel began to replace stagecoaches, and Falkenburg declined. Tragedies on the railroad, such as the decapitation of a worker one cold February night, did not diminish the railroad’s popularity. Today, you can see the remains of an old mill at the west end of the present-day town—one of the only pieces of evidence of the once-thriving settlement.
To reach Falkenburg, travel north from Bracebridge up Muskoka Road 4, which parallels Highway 11. You’ll pass Falkenburg Station a few kilometres south of the town, which you can reach by turning right on the Moore Road.