Part 2: Travelling The Bruce Peninsula

Read Part 1

Carrying on from Colpoy’s Bay the east road No.9 leads almost parallel to Highway 6 past Sydney Bay and Hope Bay to Dyer Bay. Along the way are several small “Nature Reserves” which can only be reached from the Bruce Trail. The area around Hope and Barrow Bays is the most impressive one with its steep white limestone cliffs.

About 5km north of Hope Bay you can turn right and follow the signs to the “Scenic Caves”, a number of erosion caves in the cliffs above Rush Cove. Private property but accessible to the public for a small fee. Wear solid shoes and bring a flashlight and mosquito netting or repellent.

The Forty Hills

The east road north of Hope and Barrow Bays was an experience not to be missed. After a relaxing drive along the flat rocky shoreline of Lions Head we came to the section called the Forty Hills. I have no idea whether it still exists, but it was my favourite, requiring full control over our car, with my wife and kids hanging on for their lives. The hills and hairpin turns never seemed to end, and once they did, I was always sorry that the excitement was over!

Twenty kilometers north of Isthmus Bay we come to the end of the east road at Brinkman’s Corners. We turn right and reach Dyer’s Bay in a few minutes. It is the start of a 12 km long trip along the shoreline to the Cabot Head Lighthouse and Research Station.

Cabot Head Lighthouse

Cabot Head Lighthouse circa 1957

Cabot Head Lighthouse circa 1957

The only way for supplies to reach the lighthouse was by boat, until an adventurous and rough shoreline drive was built in early 1960. I was probably one of the very first users of that road, because it was still under construction. When I decided to follow it in July 1960 I ended up at the lighthouse, which rarely received visitors. Instead of overnighting in my Volkswagen, the Harry Hopkins family, who had been the Lighthouse Keepers since 1951 invited me into their new house, which was built in 1958 and let me sleep in the little extension room next to the entrance. I spent a couple of pleasant days there, climbing up into the lighthouse tower and assisting Harry in cleaning and polishing the parabolic reflectors. I remember the fear his wife had of the numerous snakes around the lighthouse. She had her husband build a concrete walkway to their outhouse toilet to avoid possibly stepping on rattlesnakes. My question as to what Lighthouse Families do when there are few visitors was answered, I guess, by the fact that the previous Lighthouse Keepers, the Howard Boyle Family, had nine children, whose names all started with “K” or “C”.

There is now an easy road somewhat away from the shoreline leading to the Cabot Head Lighthouse and the Cabot Head Research Station. In about 1971 electricity came to the lighthouse. A new skeletal tower was constructed nearby and the lantern room atop the house removed. There was one more Lighthouse Keeper from 1981 to 1988, when the light became fully automated.

Cabot Head Research Station

Map Cabot Head Research StationThings have changed there. At the other side of Wingfield Bay there is now a Birds Canada Research Station which accepts several “students” each year under the Cabot Head Stewardship Program. It is a unique opportunity for those interested in experiencing the Bruce Peninsula first hand, while at the same time helping nature. Students stay in two rustic cabins, maintain the light and look after some other duties like bird migration monitoring. Their main basic purpose is really to maintain a people presence at the light, which operates automatically.



Bruce Peninsula National Park

Bog at Cabot Head

Bog at Cabot Head

The area was previously a Provincial Park. Some additional private land was acquired, and the Park became a National Park in 1987. We camped there in the 1960’s, and access payment was already required. Cyprus Lake Campground is the centre of the 15,400 hectare park and has a nice sandy beach on fair-sized Cyprus Lake. Close to the campground a lengthy path takes you to the stone beach. From there we used to walk north on the Bruce Trail for a couple of hundred meters and look for a narrow hole in the ground, through which you could literally squeeze yourself and drop down to a short trail which led to a several rocky outcrops, on which we generally found groups of divers assembled, partying between dives to the wrecks and into the adjacent grotto. There are apparently now two easier ways to get down there.

Read Part 3

Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.