Mazinaw Country is a place to be explored. Beautiful scenery and lakes wait in this rugged playground. This unique wilderness region is here for the adventure and the hospitality of the local folk is unsurpassed. Breathtaking high country and rushing rivers hold the secrets of an area steeped in the history of the early Ontario pioneers. Mazinaw Country exudes the feeling of heartland wilderness. Mazinaw Rock, rising majestically from the deep lake is one feature of this most beautiful region of Ontario. Unique geological features fill the countryside. Ancient rock lies exposed, softer rock long worn away by the elements. There is mystery and magic in Mazinaw Country.
Bon Echo features several lakes, including part of Mazinaw Lake, the second-deepest lake in Ontario. The southeastern shore of Mazinaw Lake features the massive 100 m (330 ft) high Mazinaw Rock, an escarpment rising out of the water, adorned with many native pictographs. The unofficial mascot of Bon Echo Park is the Ojibwe trickster figure and culture hero, Nanabush, who is among the 260 plus pictographs found in the area. Pictographs are often confused with petroglyphs, which are rock carvings rather than the rock paintings found on Mazinaw. The site of the Mazinaw pictographs was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1982.
Purchased in 1889 by Dr. Weston A. Price and his wife, who were inspired by Mazinaw Rock and the surrounding area. They named the area "Bon Echo" because of the acoustical properties of the Rock, bouncing sound across Mazinaw Lake. The Prices built a large hotel at the narrows, the Bon Echo Inn, which catered to the wealthy who were looking for a healthful retreat. Price banned alcohol on the premises due to strong religious beliefs and the Inn attracted primarily people who shared the Price's beliefs. The hotel was also populated by a contingent of Methodist pastors, and attendance at Sunday church was required by those who stayed there.
After several successful years at the Inn, a personal tragedy compelled Dr. Price to sell his holdings at Bon Echo. He found a buyer in Howard and Flora MacDonald Denison. Flora was both a successful business operator in Toronto and a vocal proponent of women's rights, starting, along with other feminists, the Canadian Suffrage Association. Years earlier the Denisons had attempted to purchase a cottage from Price, but instead had settled for a lot south of the Inn when Price was reluctant to sell to them. After obtaining the property for $15,000, they sent away the pastors and turned Bon Echo Inn into a haven for artists, poets, and writers, most notably James Thurber.
Although Walt Whitman had never visited Bon Echo, Flora admired Whitman's work so much that she commissioned a piece of his poetry to be chiseled into the face of the rock in foot-tall lettering, where it can still be seen. The work was performed by two Aberdeen, Scotland stone masons and took all of the summer of 1919 to complete.
After her death in 1921, the land and inn was inherited by Merrill Denison, her son and a very successful entrepreneur. He continued to operate the inn until the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. After that, the inn was leased to the Leavens Brothers who operated it as a summer hotel, and other portions of the property were rented out for use as a boys' camp and other recreational purposes. In 1936, the inn and many outbuildings were destroyed in a fire started by lightning striking the bakehouse. The loss was not fully covered by insurance, and the inn was never rebuilt.
Merrill Denison continued to spend summers at Bon Echo, using it as a quiet location to write. Some of the cottages, including Dollywood and Greystones, remained in use as summer getaways for years, but financially the property was often a burden on the Denisons. In 1955, the Province of Ontario passed legislation allowing them to accept donations of land to form provincial parks. Although he could have made a substantial profit dividing and selling sections of the property as building lots, Denison's interests in conservation led him to donate the land to the province for the purpose of forming a park in 1959.
In 1965, Bon Echo Provincial Park officially opened. A plaque was placed at the narrows dedicating the park to Flora MacDonald Denison and Muriel Denison.
Mazinaw Lake Monster
The Indigenous native name for the creature is Mishipashoo. Legends say that a water spirit inhabits Mazinaw Lake. The natives would offer tobacco to this spirit before embarking on a journey across such waters. The tobacco was offered with a prayer to appease this spirit with the hope that it would not whip up its great spiked tail and tip their canoe.
One of the stories says that over a hundred years ago, a man named Andrew was at the lake with his family and he and his siblings were jumping from rock to rock along the sides of the lake. Suddenly, Andrew saw what looked like a huge fish. There were also some reports that people who saw this creature described it as a serpent. In 1977, a man by the name of Mont Woods, a county constable for Lennox and Addington working for the Ministry of Natural Resources, saw something like a large eel or sturgeon and later when pulling up nets one had a hole in it about 4 feet wide . The theory is that it is a large sturgeon at least 14 feet long, which is a monster in terms of size.