This site is known as the head of the lake. The Mississippi river runs down a steep hill, known as High Falls. It was here the indigenous people portaged their canoes to the beach and paddled across the lake and down the Mississippi river. Prehistoric artifacts, including spearheads, have been found in this area, dated from the Laurentian Archaic period of 5000 to 1000BC. In a cave, above the lake, a skeleton and bones were found as well as a clay pot dated as 1200 to 1300 years old. The 5 km long lake was once a summer and winter highway. Logs were held in the lake before being driven further down the Mississippi towards the mills. In winter the lake was an ice road for hauling hay and pulpwood. Since the late 1800s, there has been a summer population here living in a row of cottages. There was also a sawmill and a post office. Today, there is a dam at the top of the hill, built in the 1930s. It is still used for producing hydro electricity.
TO DO - Bring a canoe or kayak and paddle across the lake. Swim or sunbathe on the sandy beach.
The Lanark Highlands Basketry Museum began in the 1930’s as a stable. A doctor, named Dr. Kerr, lived in the village, and saved the life of a local builder. The builder was so grateful, he offered to build the doctor a house and a stable for his horse and carriage. He acquired the site that had originally been used for the first Presbyterian church at the top of the hill. Built with local wood, the buildings were exceptionally well made, and during the following years the stable was converted into a dance hall with a beautiful floor. This saved it from becoming a garage. Eighty years later, it is still in very good condition. Ankaret Dean moved into the house in 2012 and three years later, her husband died. He had used the stable for a carpentry workshop. Ankaret taught and collected baskets for 30 years. The stable became the perfect location for a basketry museum. There are over 200 exhibits including; a willow boat, bee skeps, basketry tools, a library and materials. The only baskets shown are made with local materials.
Demonstrations and classes are held regularly from May to October when the museum is open. Hours are: Saturdays from 11-3pm, or anytime by appointment. 613-278-1203
TO DO - see various exhibits and demonstrations, take a workshop, walk in the garden to see the different basketry materials growing, and watch the bees.
The first Presbyterian church was a log building on the site of the present-day basketry museum. The second church was built down the hill in the village. It was torn down in 1877 when the present stone church was built. In 1922, the bell was engraved with the names of the local men who were killed in the first world war.
TO DO - photograph the beautiful old stone church, walk through the village, visit the Hill General Store, and the Agricultural Hall grounds.
The land for this church was purchased in 1876 and used as a cemetery until the church was built in 1895. This is one of the earliest Roman Catholic graveyards in Ontario and has many visitors. The name, Saint Columbkill was chosen in memory of the saint who lived in both Scotland and Ireland. Saint Columbkill represented a link between the two groups of founding settlers.
TO DO - photograph and enjoy this beautiful little white church, wander through the historic pioneer graveyard
The lodge was originally a log cabin built in 1949 by Jack and Ruby Smith. They came from Pennsylvania, and this was the origin of the name, Sylvania Lodge. After a series of owners, it fell into disrepair. Then it was purchased by Brian Forester in a bankruptcy sale in 1992. At that time, there were a few trailer sites and 4 cottages. He moved the original log building to its present site, set it on a basement and built the glassed-in veranda overlooking beautiful Dalhousie Lake. Now, it is a busy licenced restaurant, with 70 trailer sites, a campground, a boat launch, and a beach. Sylvania Lodge is open from early May to the end of October.
TO DO - licensed restaurant, boat launch, camping, swimming in the Mississippi River
The Purdon Conservation Area is a unique fen and wetland famous for its exceptionally large native collection of Showy Lady’s-Slipper orchids. Each year between mid June and early July, thousands of magnificent orchids burst into delicate pink and white blooms. It is rare to find a colony of this size and Purdon Conservation is home to the largest collection in Canada. These orchids exist today thanks to the care of Joe Purdon who, for more than 50 years nurtured a small colony on his farm. This colony eventually grew into more than 16,000 blooms. After his death, Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority acquired the site in 1984, and pledged to preserve it for the enjoyment and enrichment of future generations. Since that time many, many volunteers have helped to construct the boardwalk and signs around the orchids. More recently, the trails have been built out into the wetlands.
TO DO - photograph, walk, picnic, washroom facilities
Circa 1894 Bed and Breakfast and Spa was originally a church building in Watsons Corners. Initial church services were held in Fife’s Blacksmith shop as early as 1875. St. Andrew’s Zion church opened its doors on the present-day location in October, 1894. In 1965, St. Andrew’s became part of the newly-formed Central Lanark Pastor Charge and was renamed, St. Andrew’s United Church. In 2013, the church was decommissioned and sold to Donna Dillman, also proud owner of the former United Church in Poland. Donna and her partner Cam Allen, a long-time green builder, converted the church building into a very attractive, sustainably-responsible home. The former Sunday School serves as a bed and breakfast accommodation. The adjoining day-spa was added in 2015.
The spa is open daily by appointment, and has two outdoor hot tubs, a cold tub, and a Finnish Sauna. Indoors, enjoy the FAR Infra-red and the NIR Infra-red saunas. Seating is available on the three levels of decking and inside in the quiet room.
TO DO - Stay, relax in the spa and enjoy the thermo-therapy experience. Meals, massages and Reiki are available to guests by appointment.
In 1828, the members of the St. Andrews Philanthropic Society sent a petition to the Earl of Dalhousie, Governor-in-Chief of Canada, requesting assistance to build a local library. In due course, he sent 100 pounds and 120 books, some of which can still be found in the library today. The library was housed in the St. Andrew’s Hall in Watsons Corners. The members added books from their own collections and at one time, the original library contained 800 books. Bi-monthly meetings were held and settlers would walk many miles in winter and summer to borrow books and to enjoy the social occasion. As time went on, the library became less important. Schooling improved and public libraries were opened. St. Andrew’s Hall was sold. In 1992, an addition was added to the Watsons Corners Community Centre, which now houses some of the original Dalhousie library books and early settlers’ effects.
TO DO - Enquire at the Circa 1894 Spa for permission to view the library. See the original books donated by Lord Dalhousie on their original book shelves, and enjoy the museum collection of settlers effects.