Making Muskoka
280 pages, 6 x 9
42 b&w photos, 9 maps, 1 chart/diagram
Release Date:15 May 2023
Release Date:15 Oct 2022
Release Date:15 Oct 2022
Release Date:15 Oct 2022

Making Muskoka

Tourism, Rural Identity, and Sustainability, 1870–1920

UBC Press

Making Muskoka traces the evolution of the region from 1870 to 1920. Over this period, this rocky section of Ontario underwent a profound transition from Indigenous homelands to a settler community and a part-time playground for nature tourists and wealthy cottagers. But what were the consequences for those who lived there year-round?

As the late nineteenth century turned into the early twentieth, settler colonialism upended Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee communities through homesteading, steamboat navigation, commercial logging, and industrial leather tanning. The region was unsuited to farming, however, and within the first generation of resettlement, tourism became an integral feature of life. Andrew Watson considers the impact of this development on rural identity, tensions between large- and household-scale logging operations, and the dramatic effects of consumer culture and the global shift toward fossil fuels on settlers’ ability to control the tourism economy after 1900.

Making Muskoka uncovers the connections between lived experience and rural identity in communities shaped by tourism at a time when sustainable opportunities for a sedentary life were few on the Canadian Shield.

Scholars and students of environmental history, Canadian history, and historical geography will want to add this book to their libraries, as will permanent and part-time Muskoka residents.


  • 2023, Shortlisted - Saskatchewan Book Awards
Making Muskoka offers a nuanced and multi-dimensional analysis of the economic and cultural life of Muskoka between 1870 and 1920 by examining the construction and reproduction of rural identities on this area of the Canadian Shield, with close attention to the intersections between tourism and other enterprises in Muskoka. Patricia Jasen, author of Wild Things: Nature, Culture, and Tourism in Ontario, 1790–1914
Making Muskoka is a story of change – of change in landscapes, technologies, attitudes, and aspirations; of the ways in which people thought of themselves, their relations with the land, and with each other; and about the viability of those arrangements. From the foreword by Graeme Wynn, professor emeritus, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
Watson’s book lays out environmental-historical groundwork for tourism in Muskoka that urges further study of economic exchange in neo‐materialist terms. Rowan Sky, University of Toronto, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Most histories of tourism take the perspective of the tourist, and so the settler’s-eye view provided by Andrew Watson is unique. Richard W. Judd, author of The Untilled Garden: Natural History and the Origins of American Conservation, 1730–1850
Andrew Watson has produced a timely, readable study with new insights into the evolving interrelationships and interdependencies of the different groups of people who have, either seasonally or permanently, tried to make Muskoka their home. Richard Tatley, Muskoka historian

Andrew Watson is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan. His work has appeared in publications such as Agricultural History, Scientia Canadensis, Regional Environmental Change, and Canadian Historical Review. He has also served as editor-in-chief of The Otter, the blog of the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE).


1 Rural Identity and Resettlement of the Canadian Shield, 1860–80

2 Indigenous Identity, Settler Colonialism, and Tourism, 1850–1920

3 Rural Identity and Tourism, 1870–1900

4 The Promise of Wood-Resource Harvesting, 1870–1920

5 Fossil Fuels, Consumer Culture, and the Tourism Economy, 1900–20


Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index

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