Stokes Bay Tourist and Fishing Centre

STOKES BAY Commercial fishing and tourism, the main industries of Stokes Bay, have flourished during the past summer according to local residents.

     Within the past two weeks catches of whitefish alone in this Lake Huron area have netted over 1,000 pounds in a couple of days. Good hauls of trilbee are also reported.

     The services of George McLay who operated a fishing guide boat in addition to a real estate business have been much in demand by tourists and members of a large private anglers’ club on nearby Tamarac Island. Most anglers cast for perch and bass which are more plentiful than some of the other species.

     Stokes Bay presently has three commercial fishing tugs on which local men are employed. In the fall and winter months there is excellent hunting.

     Many beautiful cottages surround the shoreline and demands on realtors for cottage sites, even 100 acre lots, are accumulating. The larger lots are scarce. A number of cottagers are from various parts of the United States and Canada. Many have been coming to Stokes Bay for a number of years.

     Women tourists who are members of the Women’s Institute in their respective hometowns can soon get on “common ground.”

     The Institute women meet in the former village schoolhouse which is also used as a community centre.

     Church life in the village consists mainly of a year-round Sunday School class of 30 while, for the adults, services are conducted only in the summer months in Knox Presbyterian Church by a student minister.

Photo by: Roy Nicholls
The beautiful Stokes River flowing into Stokes Bay

     Those of various other faiths attending the church outnumber the Presbyterians. Residents however, testify to the warm fellowship that is enjoyed by all who worship there.

     Stokes Bay has a colourful history. Once an Indian settlement, the high ridge of land near the government dock was dotted with wigwams, Many relics, such as arrowheads and other weapons, have been discovered in recent years.

     Stokes Bay became a community with the arrival of the first white family in a 20 foot sailing boat in 1879. The main food in those days was fish and potatoes.

     In pioneer days the village became the halfway house of the Bruce Peninsula with three hotels doing an active trade and several boarding houses. Many of the hotel patrons were drawn from the sawmill workers and lumber camps in the vicinity.

     The hotel business came to an abrupt end when all the timber was cut and the camps and mills closed down.

     The timber was shipped in sailing vessels and on great rafts. Tan bark from the hemlock in the countryside was used for tanning leather.

     Later, a wooden railway track was built to carry the lumber to the bay. One reason for building the track of wood was due to scarcity and high costs of steel. Even the pegs as well as the ties, sleepers and rails were built of wood.

     The wooden railway did not last long however as on one of its few trips the engine proved too heavy for the tracks. Thus ended Stokes Bay’s one and only railroad.

     The largest and most successful mill was built on Tamarac Island about 1892. In 1899 it was bought by Knechtel Co. of Hanover and was operated until 1911. In 1913 it was sold to the Tamarac Island Fishing and Shooting Club.

     Several of the shoals in Lake Huron off Stokes Bay have been the scene of shipwrecks.

     Two years ago a fine new government dock was built.

     Stokes Bay was a favourite spot of H. Vincent Elliott, well known historian and authority on the Bruce Peninsula.

Pages 385-388 of Benchmarks
A History of Eastnor Township and Lion’s Head
Compiled by The Eastnor & Lion’s Head Historical Society
Copyright 1987