Bon Echo’s Wanderer Tour

Today’s “Behind the scenes” blog comes from Caitie Carney,  a member of Bon Echo’s Discovery Program team.

If you asked visitors at Bon Echo Provincial Park “What keeps you coming back?”, the answer you’d probably hear is “Mazinaw Rock.”

Standing 92 m (300 feet) above Mazinaw Lake, Mazinaw Rock is a spectacle that commands the attention of visitors both on land and on water.

Mazinaw Rock has many stories to tell, including those of the Indigenous pictographs carefully painted on the rock 300-1000 years ago. Many of our visitors are captivated by the pictographs and the glimpses  into Indigenous culture and history they provide.

All aboard!

A convenient way for park visitors to get an up-close look at Mazinaw Rock is Bon Echo’s 45-minute interpretive tour, nicknamed The Wanderer Tour.

Credit: Curtis Bird

The Friends of Bon Echo Park work with park staff to give visitors the chance to get close to the pictographs and Mazinaw Rock by taking them out on the Wanderer Tour.

Bon Echo is the only park that offers motorized boat tours, making it unique in the Ontario Parks system. During the 45-minute tour, visitors learn about the pictographs, the logging era, the Bon Echo Inn, and the establishment of Bon Echo Provincial Park.

In addition to the landscape’s history, visitors also learn about Mazinaw Rock’s ecosystem, including the flora and fauna that live and grow there.

Today’s Wanderer Tour got its name from the original Wanderer boat that operated on Mazinaw Lake during the time of the Bon Echo Inn. The Wanderer was responsible for safely transporting guests from the south end of Mazinaw Lake to the inn.

Getting out on the water

As a park naturalist at Bon Echo, one of my favorite parts of the day is being out on the water providing interpretation on the Wanderer Tour.

During my first summer at Bon Echo, the tour was something I was nervous about doing. When I saw the script for the first time, it looked intimidating. It’s a large file with pages of information to learn by heart. It left me wondering if I could ever remember all that material in just a handful of weeks.

Luckily, our Discovery team trains vigorously for these tours. First, we witness experienced staff present the tour to have a better understanding of presentation styles and interpretive techniques, as everyone’s tour is different. We then do practice tours in front of our co-workers to make sure we’re ready to give an excellent tour to the public. Practice makes perfect.

Working on the Wanderer Tour requires a lot additional training. The job requires staff to not only interpret information for the guests on the boat, but to also be a responsible deckhand. During our staff training period, we have days designated to learning the tour script, getting our Pleasure Craft Operator Card, training in Marine Emergency Duties (MED A3), and getting certified in Marine First Aid. We also complete additional boat safety training sessions throughout the summer, including person-overboard drills. The goal of this training is to make sure all guests feel as safe as possible.

Captain Andy on duty

The Wanderer Tour continues to change and evolve over the years; each new staff adds their personal touch.

One thing that remains constant is one of our trusty captains, Andy White, affectionately known as Captain Andy. Captain Andy has been driving the boat for our interpretive boat tour since May of 2008.

To get a captain’s perspective, I asked Andy about his time here at Bon Echo; this is what he told me.

In 2008, Andy’s sister-in-law was working with the Friends of Bon Echo, overseeing Greystones Gift Shop and the boat services. The Friends  were looking for another captain, and Andy decided to accept the challenge.

Captain Andy had previously driven boats, so his training consisted mostly of getting to know Mazinaw Lake and its tricky weather conditions, as well as the tour.

Today, after twelve years of captaining, Andy knows everything there is to know about the Mazinaw. Having such a skilled and knowledgeable captain at the helm puts both timid staff and visitors at complete ease.

A must-see attraction

From a distance, Mazinaw Rock looks striking, but from up-close on the Wanderer Tour, it has a feeling you can’t begin to describe.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

The feeling you get when you’re on the water and transported over 1,000 years back in time is truly mesmerizing.

The Wanderer Tour is an experience that captivates and inspires many of Bon Echo’s visitors. Next time you come to Bon Echo, be sure you add a trip on the Wanderer to your list of activities!

Plan your trip to Bon Echo Provincial Park today!