Piebird Farm Sanctuary
Vegan / Vegetarian Bed & Breakfast, Nipissing Ontario
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The Old Nipissing Road - Cycling Tour

Take the train up to North Bay with your bicycles and come stay at Piebird Bed & Breakfast in Nipissing Village at the trail head. Cycle down the Old Nipissing Road to South River and Magnetawan before catching the train out of Hunstville again -- or do it in reverse! Contact us for accommodation availability at Piebird and more information on our B&B Association members along the route!

The Old Nipissing Road Cycling Tour

Old Nipissing RoadCycle the old colonization road, the path of the pioneers and take in the natural beauty of the Almaguin Highlands and absorb the history of hope and hardship of abandoned farms and ghost towns. The cycling tour starts in Nipissing and makes its way south past Magnetawan to Rosseau. Commanda, Rye, Mecamoma, Spence, Dufferin Bridge, and Seguin Falls are only some of the original settlements along the trail, most of which are overgrown by nature and time.

The 120-km route winds along gravel road, bush trail and paved portions, you'll pass the history of abandoned settler's cabins and the beauty of this rugged country. The section of the trail north of Highway 518 is now part of the Trans Canada Trail, and the Forgotten Trails network covers a portion of it around South River as well.

The History of the Old Nipissing Road

Old Nipissing Road The Old Nipissing Road was the last of about twenty colonization roads built by the Ontario government to open the area between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay to settlers. The Nipissing Road (Rosseau Nipissing Colonization Road) was built the over 110 km from Lake Rosseau to Nipissing Village and the mouth of the South River at Lake Nipissing.

In 1864, construction begun at Lake Rosseau because people could get there by stagecoach, and later by train and steamboat from the south. Construction north continued through Magnetawan, Bummer’s Roost, Rye, Commanda and Nipissing Village. By 1870, this road was open for sleighs in winter and by 1875 for wagons. By 1865 the road was reported passable by wagons, although stumping operations continued until 1867

In the early days the road could only be walked or travelled by pole-jumpers dragged by a horse or oxen as the road was just a blazed trail through the bush with logs laid like corduroy across the swampy sections.

There were a few settlers already in Nipissing Village who had paddled down the Champlain Trail along the Mattawa-Ottawa River route.

Eventually, other horse drawn transportation developed along the Nipissing Road, including regular stage coach runs. The trip, depending on the weather and the destination, took several days and required stops along the way.

Entrepreneurs set up stopping places along the way, and several small communities serving the traveller and local settlements developed. General stores, blacksmith shops, churches and homes, etc. followed. The settlers became the work force in the forests and mills and bought some of the lumber to build their homes and barns.

Some of these stopping places, like Magnetewan on the river of the same name, developed because of water access. Others developed as new cross-roads were built to access the acreage in the adjoining townships as well as to connect with the Muskoka and Parry Sound colonization roads.

The Draw to the Old Nipissing Road

Nipissing RoadIn 1853 the government passed the Public Lands Act, to give free land grants to settlers, upon or in the vicinity of any Public Roads. The act offered grants of land of 100 acres in size. Under this act, a person 18 years or older, could claim 100 acres and be deeded in five years, if they built a cabin (20 x 16 feet), cleared at least two acres a years to a total of fifteen in five years, and stayed there during that time.

Pamphlets were circulated in the British Isles, France, Prussia, the German states and Norway, painting a rosy picture of the prospects of life in the Canadian bush, where a man could, with thrift and industry, rise from a mere farm labourer to the proud owner of a farm of his own.

Among other things, the pamphleteers assured their readers that the new Eden abounded in fish, game, wild fruit and maple sugar. Less was said about mosquitoes, blackflies, and long cold winters

Upon arrival, newcomers were advised to select their lots in September, build a shanty as quickly as possible and utilize the winter for chopping and clearing, so as to have some space ready for planting crops in the spring. Wives and children were best left back at the front settlements until the spring, in order to spare them the full rigors of that first winter in the bush.

Crops planted in the leaf-compost soil of the forest floor mixed with ashes, often did quite well at first, especially root crops like potatoes and turnips. The emphasis, however, soon shifted to grain. Livestock was scarce because of the problems of feeding and housing them over the winters. When available, oxen were the usual beasts of burden until the 1870s, when they began to give way to horses.

The Demise of the Old Nipissing Road

Originally it was expected that the local settlers would keep the roads maintained, but of course the settlers had enough to do without spending a lot of time and effort on the roads. Unbearable conditions, poor soil, the demise of the lumber business and the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway to the east doomed the road. Settlers streamed away to the west, leaving behind overgrown bush farms and vacant villages. These ghost towns and numerous abandoned farms are all that is left along most of the Old Nipissing Road.








Variation: When reaching Eagle Lake road, you may choose to travel the Historic Rye Route which follows the original Nipissing Road (now Rye Road in this part) to the Jerusalem Road and past the ghost town of Rye.


Contact hosts Sherry & Yan -- (705) 724-1144
113 Chapman's Landing Rd., Nipissing Village ON., P0H 1W0

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