Putting Muskoka on the Map

From Indigenous Wayfinding to Satellite Imaging

Putting Muskoka on the Map
by J. Patrick Boyer



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About this book

Between Samuel Champlain’s first map in 1615 and today’s satellite images of Muskoka from outer space lies a centuries-long drama which proves that putting Muskoka on a map was neither easy nor simple. In this second book of his MODERN HISTORY OF MUSKOKA series, author J. Patrick Boyer presents a parade of human endurance and ingenuity, the indispensable roles of First Nations, the role of military planners, treachery and betrayal, the aspiration of land developers, the relationship between First Nations and settlers, the unique Muskoka role of legendary Canadian map-maker David Thompson – and the mystery of his “lost” maps just when they were needed most for Muskoka settlement. It is the full story, integrating global forces with local realities, including the tribulations of land surveyors endeavouring to subdivide raw Canadian Shield landscape into a neat grid, the challenges facing road-builders in the same terrain, governmental policies often in conflict, and the shift from logging and homesteading to a vacation economy which finally also put Muskoka on the continent’s social map.


Table of Contents

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Sample Chapter

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Endorsements for Putting Muskoka on the Map

“A map is a story of place. Patrick Boyer tells the tale of Canadian map-making on the cherished landscape Gordon Lightfoot called a ‘summer dream’ –– Ontario’s Muskoka District. Boyer situates this story against the horrific dispossession of the Ojibwe and the subsequent loss of Indigenous knowledge. In a poignant introduction, James Bartleman, one of Ontario’s finest Indigenous Elders, illuminates such sacrifice through his personal story. Boyer then skillfully charts the evolution of Canadian maps, while enticing readers with a mystery – the loss of early Muskoka maps compiled by the great cartographer David Thompson. An informative, engaging read.”

 – JOHN GEIGER, CM, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Ottawa


“Wayfinding, map-making, and satellite imaging are wonderful vehicles to relate an important perspective on the history of the region of Turtle Island known today as ‘Muskoka.’ The author’s passion for history and for Muskoka jump off the pages of this compelling read. It is also nice to read a history of Muskoka which begins well before the time of cottagers, steamships, and land surveyors. With this contribution, Patrick Boyer is continuing to put Muskoka on the map.”

 – KARIHWAKERON TIM THOMPSON Wáhta Mohawk Territory; Co-editor, International Indigenous Recognition of Prior Learning Practitioner Manual


“Putting Muskoka on the Map is nothing less than a faithful miniature of how Canada as a country came into itself – spearheaded by profound Indigenous knowledge of the land and the far-reaching travels of early Euro-Canadian explorers and cartographers, to the geological mapping conducted by Canada’s oldest national scientific agency – the Geological Survey of Canada – and the rewards of remote-sensed imagery and data. Succinctly and elegantly presented, Patrick Boyer’s extensively researched recounting is an engaging tour de force.”

– DR. MARC ST-ONGE, Senior Emeritus Scientist and Visiting Professor, Geological Survey of Canada and University of Oxford


“In 2019 it was a delight to read the inaugural volume in Patrick Boyer’s MODERN HISTORY OF MUSKOKA series, entitled Muskokans Fight the Great War. Not only does history come alive but, importantly, Patrick carefully delineates the role of First Nation people whose contribution to Canada’s wartime conflicts has too often been overlooked.

            “In now turning to the compelling story of how Muskoka came to be mapped – all the way from Indigenous way-finding to satellite imaging – Patrick has again placed the indispensable role of Indigenous People in full context. At this historic juncture in contemporary

Canadian affairs, when Truth is required as a basis for Reconciliation, I am proud to commend this comprehensive and engaging book.”

– HON. JAMES K. BARTLEMAN, OC, first Indigenous Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; author of The Redemption of Oscar Wolf and other works of historical fiction set in Muskoka


“Patrick Boyer brings original thinking to the Muskoka experience and its meanings.”

– GARY GETSON, Chair, Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre


“An amazingly wide-ranging work drawing together so many interesting threads and historical (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) themes. An engaging narrative.”

– DR. ROBERT MacDONALD, managing partner, Archaeological Services Inc.


“Using map-making as a lens, Patrick Boyer has woven a rich tapestry of the history and geography of Muskoka. A comprehensive and fascinating read for anyone interested in the cultural and natural heritage of Muskoka.”

– JUDITH MILLS, President, Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation


“A major accomplishment. This is Boyer at his most meticulous. His usual flair for writing is equally matched by the depth of his research as he plunges into the unearthing of Muskoka’s centuries-old and complicated stories of discovery.”

– BARRY PENHALE, Founding Publisher, Natural Heritage Books


“Patrick Boyer has recorded more history of his beloved Muskoka. Putting Muskoka on the Map provides a wealth of information, not merely about the mapping of the area, but also in vivid microcosm as he explains and comments on the idiosyncratic and colourful development of Canada. A valuable explanation and examination of the extraordinary people, the intrigues, and the events that determined and defined so much of Muskoka and of modern Canada.”

– MICHAEL J. GOODSPEED, author of How Different It Was: Canadians at the Time of Confederation


Putting Muskoka On the Map expertly records the evolution of cartographic knowledge about Muskoka in the context of Canada as a young country. Beyond that, Patrick Boyer masterfully documents the human side of the story. Through the millenniums when Indigenous peoples alone travelled the waterways, to their essential role with exploration, to their displacement by treaties when the land was settled, to the travails of first farmers, this book is essential to understanding early human interaction with the Muskoka watershed. Boyer has captured not only the bold exploits of explorers and surveyors, but also the associated aspects of intrigue, deceit, and hubris.

Putting Muskoka On the Map will prove to be a keystone book in Patrick Boyer’s MODERN HISTORY OF MUSKOKA series.

– IAN TURNBULL, Port Carling resident, retired District Commissioner of Community Services, long associated with Muskoka heritage organizations


“J. Patrick Boyer is the doyen of Muskoka studies.”

– BRIAN S. OSBORNE, Professor Emeritus of Geography, Queen’s University, and Past President of the Ontario Historical Society, in Ontario History, Spring 2015


Author Information

J. Patrick Boyer’s ancestors homesteaded in Muskoka before Confederation. Born and raised in Bracebridge, he holds an honours degree in economics and politics from Carleton, a Masters in history from University of Toronto, and a doctorate of law from UofT’s faculty of law. Boyer has been partner of a major Toronto law firm, a Member of Parliament, and parliamentary secretary for both External Affairs and National Defence. Dr. Boyer has taught at four universities, worked on democratic development overseas, and is the author of 25 books.



This book is the second title in the BOYER’S MODERN HISTORY OF MUSKOKA series

Book includes a Guide to Terminology for Indigenous names, an extensive subject index, and bibliography.

Price: $29.95 CDN and USA

317 pages, softcover

Numerous photos, many published for the first time.

39 maps; plus charts and maps created exclusively for this book.

ISBN: 978-1-7780493-0-9

Publisher: Muskoka Books, 2022