Steamers on Lake Temagami

The Belle - biggest of them all


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THE END of the First World War marked the beginning of a new tourism era that soon overtook the best pre-war years. New lodges started appearing   Ojibway Lodge, Camp Eucaroma, Camp Acouchiching, Camp Chimo and new cottages were built. The Golden Years of tourism, the years O'Connor saw coming, arrived.

Success bred competition and Perron and Marsh was joined by Ted Guppy's Temagami Navigation Company in 1924. For daily runs, the boat lines divided the lake up. Perron and Marsh ran the Belle to Bear Island and up the North Arm. Temagami Navigation serviced the south lake.

The Belle continued to operate those Golden Years from 1925 to 1939, but age was taking a toll on her timbers. She had taken some damage from groundings on shoals, as it did one year south of the Lady Evelyn Hotel, and collisions







                                                      MICHAEL BARNES COLLECTION

with docks. Around 1930, it nearly destroyed the Keewaydin dock.

In the winter of 1939 or 1940, she sank in her winter quarters in Muddy Waters Bay (just west of today's Leisure Island Houseboat base). Probably the oakum in her seams

had worked loose. She sat there waterlogged for at least a year. Jack Stevens, a Temagami resident, recalled paddling a canoe into her muddy interior.


The landing, sometimes called the harbour or the docks, was divided, like the lake, into north and south. During the 1920s and 1930s the north side was Perron and Marsh's berths, sheds and ticket office, where the Belle is moored. The south side (everything below the Belle in this mid-1930s photo) belonged to Temagami Navigation Company.

After a costly salvage, she was ready for duty, but passenger traffic had tumbled during the Second World War. Her owner, Temagami Boat Company, suffered financially and appears to have kept her out of service for most of the war years. In late 1944, the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) later Ontario Northland purchased the boat line. The Belle was the only steamer left on the lake.

The railway decided that the old girl didn't fit with its ambitious plans to modernize the operation. At the end of the 1945 season, the last passenger steamer in northern Ontario was dismantled on the shore of Muddy Waters Bay.



Photo: Steamer Belle in winter ice, Temagami


Belle berthed for winter at the landing. In later winters, she was anchoured in the shallows of Muddy Waters Bay, safer there from thick ice. Ronnoco Hotel is in the background. c.1910.     

                                                        JAMES MARTIN COLLECTION

Photo: raconteur Captain Bill Reynolds (standing on the Aubrey Cosens)

  Photo: Belle moored at Keewaydin, c.1912

Cigar-chomping raconteur Bill Reynolds (standing on the Aubrey Cosens) was captain of the Belle in the 1930s. His favourite story involved a little adventure and a hint of amour. While flirting with a female passenger in the pilot house during a return from Keewaydin, a severe hailstorm struck. The window shattered and hail cut his face (leaving permanent scars). Unable to see shore, he drove the boat in circles until he could ground it on a mud bank. Then without missing a beat "Captain Valentine," as he was known, turned his attention back to the woman, who sponged the blood off his face. As he told a Temiskaming Speaker reporter with a twinkle in his eye, "She kept the handkerchief for a souvenir."



Signal poles were erected at major stops for boats on daily schedules. These were scheduled for the trip in, but return stops were made if signaled. Other stops, or flag stops, were made at cottages or smaller lodges if a special flag was out. The Belle is docked here at Keewaydin, c. 1912.




Series sources: Northern Steamboats by Richard Tatley, The Keewaydin Way by Brian Back, New Liskeard Speaker, Temiskaming Speaker, Sudbury Star, Jack Stevens, Len Guppy, Domesday Book, 1931 annual T&NO Temagami tourism brochure, The Steamboat Era in the Muskokas by Richard Tatley

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If you have photos, anecdotes or information you would like to contribute to this series on Temagami's boat lines,

email Brian Back.


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