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Wasaga... then and now.
(excerpts from “Sharing Memories” by Mary Watson, Town of Wasaga Beach Archivist) 

WASAGA BEACH

The Longest Freshwater Beach in the WORLD!


14 kilometers (~9 miles) of sandy beach...

                  Wasaga Beach has been considered one of Ontario's prime summer vacation Hot Spots!  With the recent development of the downhill ski resort village of Blue Mountain, we now are a complete 4 season vacation destination.  For over a century, visitors from all over the world have come to the mouth of the Nottawasaga River to walk the beach and wade out into the clear shallow waters of Georgian Bay.  Its sandy bottom and gradual depth increase make our beach a fantastic family swimming location with perfect conditions for all ages. 

                  During the summer months, the town of Wasaga Beach hosts numerous festivals and special events including fitness challenges, outdoor concerts, X-game challenges and so much more.   The beach has evolved over the years and has remained the focal point of Wasaga Beach but the area has also developed and grown to accommodate the overall tourist destination.  With a partnership with Ontario Provincial Parks, the surrounding parks have extensive hiking and biking trails in the summer months.  Some of these trail systems double as a premium Nordic ski trail system and also attracts numerous snowmobiler's in the winter season.  The extensive trail system is woven throughout the town and it is easy to meander through forest trails, sand-swept dunes, into quaint subdivisions and bustling business amenities.  Bring your camera, and your GPS and get lost in nature as you explore the vast green space built throughout Wasaga! 

                  The Nottawasaga River provides another spectacular part of Wasaga Beach, and that is the numerous fish species that congregate at the mouth of the river and enter the tributaries of the Simcoe water basin.  If you are interested in fishing, then look no further than the shores of the river as anglers have been coming year round to catch monster Rainbow trout, Salmon, pickerel and everything in between.  Check with the Ministry of Natural Resources fishing regulations to ensure legal compliance but throughout the year there are numerous fish species open to being harvested.  Not interested in standing on shore?  There are boat rentals, and charter fishing trips that can be planned, or bring your own boat and catch your limit while cruising the river or expansive bay. 

                  Over the past 15 years, Wasaga has attracted some big box department stores to permanently set up shop in the likes of Canadian Tire, Walmart and Loblaw’s The Super Store.  These big box stores provide stability to the economy as well as variety and content for our permanent residents.  The permanent resident population has dramatically increased as a result of the improved infrastructure and travel arteries leading into Wasaga Beach and the towns of Collingwood/Blue Mountain.  There are numerous vacation accommodations to meet your every desire. 

 

Some town history:

                  The United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812. The British
had early success controlling the Great Lakes during that war, but on
September 9, 1813, a battle saw the capture of all six British ships, with the
Americans gaining control of the Upper Great Lakes. The last surviving British
ship was the British Schooner, The Nancy, a fur-trading vessel that was
pressed into service during the war.  On August 13, 1814, three American
ships arrived at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River and found The Nancy
which was subsequently sunk and the mouth of the river was blocked with
debris by the enemy, which shut down the supply route.  After the Americans
left the area, the surviving crew built several small boats and made their way on Lake Huron to Fort Mackinac. The war ended soon after, with the British keeping control of the Upper Great Lakes and Upper Canada. In 1816, the British established a fort called Fort Nottawasaga or Schoonertown. The military establishment was moved to Penetanguishene, but a government storehouse was left for use by provincial land surveyors in the 1820ʼs and 1830ʼs. The remains of The Nancy were discovered in the Nottawasaga River in 1911 and the hull is preserved and displayed at the Nancy Island Museum, which was opened in 1928, along with artifacts of that era. It has evolved to include a theater, museum, replica lighthouse and outdoor artifacts and is known as Nancy Island Historic Site.

                  The first official use of the name Wasaga Beach appears around the end of the 1880ʼs. The Van Vlack settlement was situated in Flos Township, and the beach area was located roughly at the top end of Sunnidale Township. When the lots were subdivided in that Township, one subdivision was called Wasaga Beach. The name was a derivative of “Nottawasaga”.

                  Railway and road services gradually started to improve, and by the turn of the century, Wasaga had a hotel and a few cottages. Cars were becoming popular and it was a grand adventure to drive from your home to Wasaga Beach to spend the summer there. Most of the businesses were built along the beachfront, the main transportation route during the summer. The Capstan Inn was built in 1911 and was rebuilt in 1915 after a fire, then the Dardanella Dance Hall. Other hotels appeared; The Wasaga Inn, Hotel Breakers, the Allistonia, the Dyconia, etc. Smaller cottage courts were springing up as well, with wonderful names such as “Grouch No Longer”, “Birch Haven”, “Wasaga Huts” and “Golden Sands”.

                 Wasaga Beach had become a summer tourist haven. Local residents built their homes further inland, to avoid the blowing sand and winter elements. Houses were built along Golf Course Road, Mosley Street and Van Vlack Road (now River Road East). Wasagaʼs first school was a classroom above Eberhardtʼs Store at the northwest end of the Main Street Bridge and was called S.S. #14. A permanent school was built in 1939 on property donated by Anabel Sage Mills, which is now the Wasaga Beach Municipal Office.



















                 During the Second World War, Wasaga Beach became a popular holiday haven for soldiers and their families who enjoyed the atmosphere at the “Main End”, where one could partake in midway rides, a movie theater, outdoor and indoor bowling, dancing, and everything in between. Wasaga would see up to 100,000 people visit on the weekends when the weather was sunny and warm. Many of the weekend visitors would eventually return to Wasaga Beach and build summer cottages that later became their permanent homes. 

                Wasaga Beach became a Police Village in 1940, was designated an Improvement District in 1946 and an incorporated village in 1949. By 1966, Wasaga Beach had annexed Oakview Beach from Sunnidale Township and ultimately became a Town in 1974 with expanded borders from Nottawasaga, Sunnidale, and Flos.  During the late 40ʼs and early 50ʼs, Wasaga Beach had a reputation as being a “party spot”. Local residents and the government developed a plan in the late 1950ʼs to have the province assume control of the beachfront. By 1959, the beachfront became officially known as a Crown Beach and by 1967, many properties along the beachfront had been expropriated, with the buildings being auctioned off and moved to other areas. By 1973, the Province prohibited all vehicles from being driven along the beachfront.  In 1972 what was known locally as the “Main End” was closed off and turned into a pedestrian mall and in 1976 a second bridge was built further up the river. With Municipal sewer and water provided, subdivisions were being built and a “new” downtown was envisioned in the area of 19th Street.

                 Fast forward and the permanent population has grown considerably, with both young families and retirees moving to Wasaga. With many service clubs and our marvelous recreational opportunities, Wasaga has indeed grown into a thriving four-season town with a fantastic lifestyle.



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