Lion's Head
A Sailors Refuge

Lion's Head Lighthouse With The Lion's Head Directly Behind It

lions head lighthouseLion's Head Lighthouse Today Is a Replica Built By Local High School Students
Behind Is The The "Lion's Head" Profile

Courtesy of Wikipedia


Lion’s Head probably welcomed its first visitors/settlers in the 1860s. But, prior to that, sailors had often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Travel was not always so easy, or pleasant, on the Bruce Peninsula in the early days! Many of the first settlements were more easily reached by water than by land.

Today there are many reasons why cottagers choose to build their holiday retreats on the peninsula.

However, the magnificent Georgian Bay sun rises, or the romantic Lake Huron sunsets were not likely the main reason why early settlers chose to make a life on the Bruce Peninsula.  

From early newspaper reports we know that settlers were living in Tobermory by the early 1850s.

However, the rest of the Upper Peninsula did not welcome pioneers in any numbers until almost two decades later.

The first settlers usually arrived by boat and took up land close to the shoreline. Consequently, the first areas settled were in bays and inlets along the coastline of the peninsula.

In fact, some early lumbermen toiling in the bush near Isthmus Bay did not even realize that they were only a short walking distance from Georgian Bay. This was due to the fact that the forests were so dense that land travel was difficult at best.


First Settlers Arrive at Lion's Head

In the1860s settlers arrived on the eastern shores of the Bruce Peninsula.

Isthmus Bay was well known to the early sailors on Georgian Bay.

Not only did it afford a safe haven from rough stormy waters, but it also was recognizable for an image that jutted out of the rocky outcropping which marked Point Hangcliff where it protruded into Georgian Bay on the southern limit of Isthmus Bay.  

Centuries of wind, snow and rain carved the image of the head of a lion on the rocky outcropping.

Many sailors, and later the settlers of the area, came to think of the lion as the protector of the waters of Isthmus Bay. Consequently, it was not long after the settlers arrived that the small settlement was re-named Lion’s Head.

In 1875 Lion’s Head boasted the only store in Eastnor Township, and in the same year a post office was opened in the community.

In 1879 Robert Watt built a saw and gristmill in the community. At that time the community had about one hundred citizens, two stores, a black smith shop and a pump factory.

This was a boom time in the community. By 1883, the population had doubled, and the commercial sector boasted five stores and two hotels.  

Lion’s Head was a regular port of call for the vessels that supplied the coastal trade on the peninsula.

As well, increased lumbering activity in the area meant that area logs and other wood products were being shipped out of the region as far as the American mid-west.

In order to facilitate the increased activity in the port a new wharf was built. In 1883, amid expectation of increased shipping traffic the community petitioned the government to dredge the harbour in order to enable larger vessels to call at Lion’s Head. 

The government responded to this request and equipment to dredge the harbour arrived the same year.

Lion’s Head remained an important lumbering centre into the twentieth century.  

Today Lion’s Head is a centre of tourism, and the lion’s head still guards the southern entrance to the bay.

However, the same elements that created the image have continued to erode the rocky outcropping. Some claim that the lion has disappeared, but if you look closely, you can still see it watching over mariners who seek refuge in the beautiful Isthmus Bay. 


The information used in this story came from many sources. However, the most important was Norman Robertson’s History of the County of Bruce. 

This Article originally appeared in my weekly column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.




Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

Barrow Bay Ontario a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!

Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone. 

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.

Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.

Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.

Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.

Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing, at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!

Sauble Beach  This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.

Lion's Head  Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Park Head  Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.

Stokes Bay  Welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.

Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.

Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy. 

Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Wiarton Ontario  This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.

Wiarton  had ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.

Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper  A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...

Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities 

Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

  1. History Articles
  2. Bruce Penninsula
  3. Lion's Head