Culture & Heritage
Since the 1800s the Native Peoples of Alderville and Hiawatha have built communities on the both shores of the lake. Samuel de Champlain was the first known European to see Rice Lake when he travelled with a group of Hurons from Georgian Bay down the Trent-Severn Waterway to Lake Ontario. In the 1820s Settlers started moving in from the south and early settlers established the first inns, taverns and ferry services on the lake. They were the transfer points on the long trip from the south to the north townships. The taverns provided an essential respite for weary travelers, when the 12 miles from Cobourg took almost a day’s journey!!
The Cobourg and Peterborough Railway was completed in 1854 and crossed Rice Lake from Harwood to Hiawatha. However, the thick layers of ice that covered the lake in the winter damaged the bridge beyond repair and it was deemed unsafe and closed within six years. Sections of the railway bed are still clearly visible on the lake and offer an excellent area to fish.
The dawn of the tourist industry took place when big excursion steamboats plied the Trent-Severn system. Lakeside summer hotels in the Canadian wilderness attracted many vacationers. Entrepreneurs found they could be successful capitalizing on the natural advantages of Rice Lake – its scenic beauty and excellent hunting and fishing opportunities. And so, the businesses that proved to be the most rewarding through the years at Rice Lake have been those catering to the tourist industry.
Nestled along the banks of the historic Indian River, Lang Pioneer Village Museum features over twenty-five restored and furnished buildings constructed between 1825 and 1899. Many of the buildings were donated by townships within the County of Peterborough and moved to their present site when the Museum was founded.
The village museum also boasts a fully operational grist mill, originally built in 1846, where you can see whole wheat ground into flour and purchase a bag as a souvenir of your visit. And, for anyone who has an interest in in lumber milling or antique woodworking tools, the original sawmill at Hope Mill Conservation Area is a must see! This circa 1830 operating water-powered sawmill is located on Indian River and offers sawing demonstrations and guided tours. Art lovers exploring the region should visit ZimArt’s Rice Lake Gallery, best described as a museum in the great outdoors, to enjoy Canada’s most comprehensive collection of hand-carved stone sculpture from Zimbabwe, on display in the gorgeous Kawartha landscape.