A little history about the Morson area, which we like to think of as the best kept secret on Lake of the Woods.
When you arrive in Morson, you are only a step away from vast tracts of unspoiled islands, forests, and the incredible fishing, hunting, and natural scenery of Lake of the Woods. This is the land of spectacular sunrises, sunsets, and northern lights displays that take your breath away.
The Morson area offers a wilderness experience where you can enjoy fresh air and solitude as you witness wildlife in its natural habitat. After spending time in this spectacular Canadian Shield environment, you will appreciate both its tranquil gentleness as well as its sheer ruggedness. Morson offers the kind of experiences that tend to stay with you for a lifetime.
At the turn of the century, the area now known as Morson was a vast forest. The earliest known inhabitants of the Morson area were the Ojibway Indians. The Ojibway depended on the generosity of the land for wild game, fish, and fur. Blueberries and wild rice were among their dietary staples. Many of their material goods were made from birch bark and leather.
Centuries old indian rock paintings on Lake of the Woods stand as remnants of the area’s earliest inhabitants. They are believed to be 800 – 900 years old, indian rock paintings on Lake of the Woods still mystify historians and chemists. Even though the art is considered primitive, the materials used by the early artists to create it have not been equaled in modern times. Their durability through centuries of exposure to the climate is proof. The face of an overhanging cliff on the north side of Painted Rock Island is one of many sites that rock paintings that are known to exist on Lake of the Woods. They can be viewed from a boat in the channel between Painted Rock Island and Splitrock Island.
French fur traders arrived in the late 1600’s. By 1731, Lake of the Woods was part of a busy water route between Winnipeg and Lake Superior. However, settlement and development of the Morson area would not begin until more than 150 years later.
As the 1800’s came to a close, land grants offered by the government attracted Scandinavian settlers. The need to clear land in accordance with the guidelines of the grants was the impetus for a timbering industry as well as the emergence of a small agricultural community in and around the Morson and Bergland communities. A surveyor noted in 1908 that, “the overland route to Morson was, in some places, little more than a footpath through the swamps.”
The busy water route carried passengers from Kenora via Lake of the Woods to ports along the Rainy River. Lumber companies used the route for towing logs. It was the lumber companies who complained that night travel on the lake was nearly impossible. In response, the Tomahawk Island Lighthouse was built in 1900. Lighthouse keepers operated the lighthouse until 1946, when it was converted to automatic equipment. In 1963, it was sold to the Pentney family and moved to its present location at the end of Lighthouse Road. The lighthouse has been restored and converted to a museum with artifacts pertaining to early lake travel.
The era of the steamships came to a close when the railroads came through. Sometime between 1910 and 1920, the first tourist resort was established on Cedar Island. During the early years, their guests were boated to the island from the town of Rainy River. In 1929, a year after Morson was incorporated, a road was built to Taylor Bay. During the next decade, several resorts were established and tourism gained a firm foothold in the Morson economy.
In the early 1940’s, Highway #621 was extended to its present day terminus at the Government Dock in Hanson Bay. Hydroelectricity was installed in the area in 1952 and telephone service arrived in 1961.
In 1997, the Townships of Morson and McCrosson-Tovell amalgamated to form the present municipal boundaries of Lake of the Woods Township. The annexation of a portion of the islands on Lake of the Woods was incorporated into those municipal boundaries in 1998.
The new millennium has brought the construction of two new bridges on Hwy #621 to replace structures that were well beyond their life spans. One to cross the Big Grassy River in Bergland and the other to cross Eleanor Lake within the Morson town limits. Our community is excited about the new international bridge being built between Baudette, MN and Rainy River, ON that started in 2018 and on schedule to be completed by the fall of 2020. It is the first new bridge construction linking Canada and the USA built west of Maine since its predecessor was erected in 1960.
Bypassed by major highways and located at the end of a secondary hard-surfaced road, Morson is truly off the beaten path. Morson isn’t very big – about 200 residents live here year-round — and there are no busy shopping malls, four-lane highways or tall skyscrapers. What we may lack in size, we more than make up for through the experience of a wonderful world away from the hustle and bustle of mainstream life.
What makes Lake of the Woods so great? Most agree it’s because its shorelines and islands are largely undeveloped. Travelers can marvel at much of the same scenery that the first explorers saw when they discovered this island-studded gem in the center of the continent.
Lake of the Woods is considered North America’s other Great Lake. With over 1 million acres of water, 14,000 islands, and more than 65,000 miles of shoreline, Lake of the Woods has evolved into a world class outdoor recreation area for anglers, hunters, boaters and nature lovers. Its rocky shores, marshy inlets and sandy bays offer habitats suitable for trophy class sizes in many species of fish. The area of the lake near Morson offers some of the best angling to be found anywhere in the world.
Walleye, muskie, smallmouth bass, northern pike, crappie and perch are only minutes away from most docks and landings in Morson. You’re also close to the clear deep water of Whitefish Bay if lake trout is on your list of species to target.
Best of all, when you fish Lake of the Woods from Morson, you are in the island belt of the lake where shelter can be found that offers protection from winds on less than stellar weather days. Angling on Lake of the Woods out of Morson is truly fishing at its finest.
To ensure that Ontario fisheries remain healthy and can maintain a sustainable harvest, an advisory council made up of tourism, Ontario residents and the Ministry of Natural Resources biologists set daily catch and possession limits of the various species of fish available. They establish closed seasons and provide sanctuaries during spawning to allow Lake of the Woods natural reproduction to continue. Fishing regulation booklets are available at licence issuers as well as online. Be sure you know the current regulations and size restrictions for the areas you will be fishing.
Anglers are encouraged to practice catch-photo-release fishing (CPR Fishing.) A non-resident conservation licence may be purchased at a reduced price. The limits are lower than that of a regular licence, but still permit you to take a few fish home and to enjoy our famous shorelunches.
Just as the earliest inhabitants depended upon the bounty of the land and the water, so too do the tourism operators of today.
Lake of the Woods truly is a sportsman’s paradise. Wild rice bays are feeding grounds for migrating birds and the duck hunting here is among the finest in the world. Flocks of mallards, teal, wood ducks, and rafts of bluebills are available to the sure-eyed hunters. Geese are present as well. Relatively rare to the area just a decade ago, they continue to increase in number. Grouse are plentiful and offer great sport for the small game hunters who seek them out.
Moose, deer and bear roam the forests of the islands and mainland. Deer, attracted by farmers’ fields, are especially populous on the mainland. Deer and bear are hunted on both mainland and islands. If you are planning a hunting trip, make reservations early, as the hunt is limited.
Moose hunters are also advised to make their reservations well in advance. The only moose hunting available to non-residents is on the Aulneau Peninsula where primitive weapons must be used. The number of hunters that are allowed each season is limited. The Aulneau Peninsula is vast area of undeveloped wilderness in the approximate centre of Lake of the Woods. It has been designated as a Wildlife Management Unit where hunting big game is restricted. Only bows and arrows and black powder rifles may be used. The Peninsula is a challenge, not only because of the requirements for primitive weapons, but because of its size and rough terrain.
While remnants of logging, farming, commercial fishing and trapping remain; Morson’s future depends upon its well-established tourism industry. Our resorts are still called camps and their cooks are known as camp cooks. Camp cooks are a throwback from earlier years when the first tourist resorts were opened. Guests stayed in log cabins that were heated by wood and didn’t have the benefits of running water and indoor bathroom facilities.
The kitchen facilities were primitive by today’s standards. Early camp cooks used wood to fuel their stoves and ovens. Ice harvested during the winter and stored in layers of sawdust was used in old-fashioned iceboxes for refrigeration. In today’s resort kitchens, you can find walk-in coolers and freezers, microwave ovens, commercial fryers, large bread mixers and food processors.
There is one thing that hasn’t changed over the years. The smell of fresh baked bread and rolls, hearty servings of carefully prepared food, and tastes that will make your tongue tap-dance are still trademarks of the camp cooks. Dining rooms and restaurants frequently feature samples of local fare: desserts made from blueberries in season or wild rice soups and casseroles.
An unforgettable Lake of the Woods tradition you won’t want to miss is a famous shorelunch. Nothing can compare to the taste of freshly caught fish cooked over an open fire and served with all the trimmings.
Today, the thriving community attracts thousands of visitors each year. We welcome you to come and experience Morson, located on the very edge of the untamed wilderness. We have the facilities and services of over thirty businesses, which operate within the Lake of the Woods Township. Whether you are in our community for business or pleasure, our aim is to make your stay a pleasant one. Morson’s immediate access to vast wilderness areas and its outdoor recreational activities have made it an increasingly popular vacation spot. You will find a visit to Morson good for the spirit and good for the soul.