Port Rowan, Ontario

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Lighthouse and docks, Port Rowan, ON

Port Rowan is a town in Norfolk County, Ontario on Lake Erie, adjacent to Long Point. This lakeside community has a population of less than 1000 people and sports a number of traditional small business such as Twins Ice Cream Parlor which has been operating in the town for decades, in addition to a growing retirement population.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Bay Fest
  • 3 Economy
  • 4 Climate
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Port Rowan's earliest known inhabitants, from around the year 1000 until approximately 300–350 years later, were the Algonquin nation. They were noted flint-workers and evidence of the skill in crafting arrowheads is still to be found in open worked field areas surrounding the hamlet. The next wave of inhabitants were the Attawandaron nation, the Neutrals, who occupied the region from about 1350 until their absorption by the Iroquois in the year 1651. The last significant native nation to occupy the area was the Mississaugas.

Key buildings, including John Backhouse`s mill, that date back to the 18th century, remain in existence today.[1] During the War of 1812 American soldiers burned all the mills on Lake Erie`s north shore, from the St Clair River to the Grand River, except for the Backhouse mill, and one other. According to Ron Brown, in ″The Lake Erie Shore: Ontario's Forgotten South Coast″, Backhouse`s mill was skipped due to powerful connections within the USA.

The South Norfolk Railway reached Port Rowan in 1886.[1] It was acquired by the Canadian National Railway, which operated it until 1965.

In 1970 New Democratic Party MPP Morton Shulman asserted that Port Rowan was the destination of secret meetings of mafia leaders.[2]

In 2001, Haldimand-Norfolk was dissolved into two separate single-tier counties. Port Rowan became part of the newly formed County of Norfolk.

Bay Fest[edit]

For more than 30 years, Port Rowan hosted Bayfest which is an annual Labour Day celebration. The celebration was originally known as the Tomato Fest. Bayfest typically lasts for 3 days each year. The celebration usually features a parade, vendors and fireworks. [3]


During the 18th century fishing, milling, and timber processing were the main industries, exploiting the water power of nearby watercourses.[1] In 1850 the town processed 4,000,000 metres or 13,000,000 feet of timber. 1850 marked the beginning of shipbuilding in Port Rowan.

With the decline of the fishing, lumber and milling industries, tourism is the main economic activity in the region. Local sports include angling and boating in the Long Point Inner Bay and golfing at Stark's Golf Course at the edge of town. Bird Studies Canada is based at Port Rowan. Port Rowan in 2011 built a state of the art Water Treatment Plant, which assures future growth capacity in the town and its burgeoning retirement community.

Its proximity to Long Point, a major bird flight-path, and World Biosphere Reserve, makes Port Rowan a popular destination for bird-watchers.[4] Some of the few remaining stands the old growth Carolinian forest that were present all over Southern Ontario can be found near Port Rowan.

There is a historic replica village nearby at the Backus Conservation Area.[5]

By July 2018, Port Rowan will be without a local bank for business and personal transactions. Calls to Tillsonburg are considered to be long-distance to Port Rowan residents so that banking by phone simply isn't an option. The majority of the retirement population must choose between maintaining a vehicle on the road or having Internet access due to old age pension payments not matching up to the rising cost of goods and services. All the small businesses are in area have trusted the local bank for decades and are not equipped to deal with Internet banking. Online banking has gained popularity in both urban and rural areas due to its fast and reliable service.[6] While the Long Point Country Chamber of Commerce is attempting to attract a credit union in town similar in nature to Tangerine, the well-established banks are removing their presence away from the rural communities of Ontario at a fast pace. Places like Service Ontario and the Backus Heritage Conservation Area may have to shutter their doors after the departure of CIBC; leading to an almost-immediate loss of jobs in the area.[7]

By the year 2020, Port Rowan will experience Internet speeds and a level of reliability that is roughly comparable to Delhi thanks to an underground cable system that will hook up communities like Langton, Courtland and St. Williams into the world of reliable broadband Internet. There are plans to eventually connect the rest of Southwestern Ontario into some form of high-speed Internet/cable television service.[8]


Port Rowan traditionally belongs to the humid continental climate zone; even with the recent epidemic of mild winters and extremely warm and dry summers. Like in all communities, towns, and cities throughout the world, global warming due to human industrial activity has drastically altered the climate of Port Rowan throughout the decades.

Port Rowan's first mild winter since Confederation occurred in the year 1975.[9] The warmest summers that Port Rowan has witnessed occurred in 1998, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 (with the exception of the month of July[10]), 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.[11]

Should the sea levels rise by 60 metres or 200 feet, Port Rowan would not be affected by flooding.[12] However, it may be affected by droughts as a by-product of the dislocation of available fresh water and may be forced to rely on desalinated salt water piped in from the Eastern United States. Constructing the proper infrastructure to carry the water hundreds of miles away would take considerable manpower along with significant economic costs and an unprecedented level of cooperation from multiple federal, state/provincial, and municipal governments.


  1. ^ a b c Ron Brown (2009). "The Lake Erie Shore: Ontario's Forgotten South Coast". Dundurn. pp. 36, 38, 40, 41, 88–90, 91, 126, 127, 128, 153. ISBN 9781554883882. Retrieved 2012-11-23. During the scorched-earth policy of the invading American militia during the War of 1812, all mills along the Erie shore as far as the Grand River were burned to the ground. All, that is, except the mill belonging to John Backhouse, and Tisdale's mill in Vittoria. It is most likely the invaders did not want to march into the interior, as they thought there was a British garrison at Turkey Point. 
  2. ^ Bill Hickey (1970-10-08). "Ontario labelled mafia haven". Queen`s Park, Ontario: Windsor Star. p. 72. Retrieved 2012-11-23. Amid tales of Mafia gatherings at such Ontario centres as Turkey Point, Port Rowan and Toronto, the High Park member alleged that Ontario was rife with organized crime and claimed that OPP were doing nothing to stop it. 
  3. ^ "Long Point Country Bayfest". Long Point Country Bayfest. Retrieved 2017-11-12. 
  4. ^ Margaret Munro (2012-08-26). "Return of the 'hoodies': Tough little bird flies back from the brink of extinction". Port Rowan: Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-23. Many of them are songbirds that migrate incredible distances to seek out the few remaining remnants of Carolinian forest that once dominated the region. 
  5. ^ Paul John Knowles (1998). "Niagara & Southwestern Ontario: A Colourguide". Formac Publishing Company. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9780887804267. Retrieved 2012-11-23. For a lesson in history dating back two centuries, check out the Backus Conservation Area just north of Port Rowan, where you'll find twenty historic buildings lovingly restored, including the John Backhouse Mill from 1798. 
  6. ^ CIBC to close Port Rowan, Jarvis branches at Simcoe Reformer
  7. ^ CIBC will transfer accounts to Hagersville at Simcoe Reformer
  8. ^ High-speed Internet coming to Courtland at Simcoe Reformer
  9. ^ "Maximum Freezing Degree-Days as a Winter Severity Index for the Great Lakes, 1897–1977". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 2017-11-12. 
  10. ^ "Ontario Weather Review - July 2009". Environment Canada. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  11. ^ "Global Analysis - Annual 2016". NOAA. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "Impact of global warming on Port Rowan, Ontario". Firetree. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 

External links[edit]

  • Harry B. Barrett (1977). "Lore & Legends of Long Point". Burns and MacEachearn. ISBN 9780968608012. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  • David Stone (2003). "Long Point: Last Port of Call". Boston Mills Press. ISBN 9781550460797. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  • Dave Stone, David R. Frew (1993). "The Lake Erie Quadrangle: waters of repose". Erie County Historical Society. pp. 41, 204. ISBN 9781883658205. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 

Coordinates: 42°37′19.5″N 80°26′57.0″W / 42.622083°N 80.449167°W / 42.622083; -80.449167

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