Bancroft is located in Hastings County, which was established in 1792 as the eleventh county of Upper Canada. The first settlers were United Empire Loyalists and later came Irish settlers fleeing the potato famines. During the town’s early years, it had several names. It started as York Mills, then York Branch, The Branch, and finally it became York River in 1861. The name was changed again in 1879 to Bancroft by the energetic Senator Billa Flint who was instrumental in bringing many skilled tradespeople to this area. The name was changed in honor of his wife, Phoebe, whose maiden name was Bancroft.
The York River flows through the centre of town, emptying into the Madawaska River before joining the Ottawa River. This area was the centre for logging, trapping, and mining in Hastings County; from 1858 to 1872 there was a steady influx of settlers eager to start their homes and get title to the free 100 acre parcels being offered.
Bancroft’s Blue coloured Sodalite
The Town of Bancroft is known as the “Mineral Capital of Canada”. Over 1600 different mineral species have been identified in this part of the province. The annual “Rockhound Gemboree” in August attracts thousands of people from around the world. Uranium mining in the 1950’s and 60’s created a modern day boom in this area. At its peak, the mill was treating 1600 tons of ore per day. Bancroft became an incorporated village in December of 1904.
Autumn is spectacular – the foliage turns to golds and red. Enjoy a hike a Egan Chutes Provincial Park or take a day trip to Algonquin Provincial Park to experience the array of fall colour. For hunting enthusiasts, the Bancroft area offers game including partridge, deer and moose. In 2000, elk were re-introduced to the area.
The York River flows through the centre of town and is being developed with park areas, playgrounds and trails. The compact and walkable downtown shopping area consists of numerous boutiques offering unique gifts and crafts. Bancroft has so much to offer and yet maintains a quiet, relaxing pace. In June 2004, Bancroft was the first place winner in TVO Studio 2’s Most Talented Town contest, winning out over 150 other entries. Bancroft generates its own arts scene and the arts community is a self-nurturing grassroots movement that goes on all year ’round.
Art Gallery of Bancroft
Bancroft Curling Club
The Bancroft Curling Club was established in 1957 and has operated every year since, making it an integral part of the Bancroft community for over 60 years.
Pickle Ball & Curling
Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum
Step back in time with a visit to the North Hastings Heritage Museum, nestled in the Riverside Park beside the York River. The museum was once the headquarters of the Bronson-Weston Lumber Company before it was turned into a home and now a museum. The museum itself contains ten galleries of the community’s history. Many artifacts displayed in the galleries have been donated over the years by people of the area, reflecting a rich local history. Artifacts range from Victorian costumes and mineral collections to agricultural tools and early doctors and dentistry equipment.
The museum is housed in a log cabin that was built for the Bronson Company in 1853 and moved to town as a Centennial project in 1967.
Adult $4.00, student $2.00, family $5.00, children under 12 are free
Bancroft Village Playhouse
Originally the town hall, the Bancroft Village Playhouse later became the local jail and court house, and then a Christian education centre where many locals still remember attending Sunday school. According to numerous credible sources, it is haunted- but they’re friendly ghosts.
Beautifully renovated into a centre for the performing arts in 1993, the auditorium has vintage velvet seats and luxurious stage curtains. The lobby has original tin ceilings. Currently owned by the church next door, the facility is operated by Hospice North Hastings as a fundraising venue. Partnering with TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) through their Film Circuit Program, Hospice North Hastings holds The North of 7 Film Fest program every second Tuesday of the month at 4:15 and 7:00 pm from September to June.
Live music and entertainment. For more details, visit:
(off Station Street)
A series of parks line the banks of the York River in Bancroft, ON. Cenotaph Park is on River St, just south of Station St. Nice location for a picnic. Two memorials are incorporated into the cenotaph. A marble plaque “in honor of our fallen heroes in war 1914-1918” is set in a fieldstone base.
(formerly Sparrow Park)
Just off Highway 62 North of Town, near Eagle’s Nest Crescent. This park has picnic tables and a boat launch. Trips and Trails, is just downriver, an outfitting and rental shop with spaces for docking and guided tours available. An excellent access point allowing for manageable excursion by water, just 1 km from the Town of Bancroft.
(leash free) Newkirk Blvd.
Follow Bridge Street east to Billa Street. Turn left onto Newkirk Blvd. The Dog Park is on your left, just beside the Bancroft Community Centre.
Eagle’s Nest Park
Eagles Nest Park is owned by the Town of Bancroft and maintained by a volunteer not-for-profit incorporated organization, Stewards of Bancroft Eagles Nest Park Inc.
A series of trails in the park offer a variety of different ecosystems, plants, trees, animals and birds and other wildlife. The Hawkwatch, a favourite spot in the part, provides an amazing vista over the York River valley and town of Bancroft below. To get there, follow Hastings St (Highway 62) north through town and watch for the signs.
Alternatively, you can sit in the Tim Horton’s across the road and watch rock and ice climbers ascend the extraordinary rock face of the Eagle’s Nest cliff.
A bend of the York River has become a wetland with an adjacent sand flat, where poplar, white birch, ash, buffaloberry, and purple flowering raspberry grow. Minerals found here include nepheline, sodalite, biotite, zircon, and blue corundum.
Park Facilities and Activities: There are no visitor facilities. There are no visitor facilities. However, a short walk along an unmaintained road will take visitors to three picturesque waterfalls within the nature reserve. Mineral collecting and camping are prohibited. Ontario’s Living Legacy Land Use Strategy proposed an addition to Egan Chutes Provincial Nature Reserve. The existing nature reserve and the proposed addition of Crown land shoreline portions of the York River may be reclassified as a waterway class provincial park, with nature reserve zone components within the new park.
It is worth bringing your bathing suit to Egan Chutes, where Kings Marsh offers a spectacular sand bar and hundreds of sunfish sparkle like jewels in the swirling river. The chutes are a mile long and the path runs along several kilometres of cliffs. Deep sand dunes run contrast to rocky ledges and natural whirlpools swirl in the river against granite cliffs. The trails are secluded and it is not unusual to find couples in the natural whirlpools or bathers at King’s Marsh.
For mineral enthusiasts, Egan’s Chutes is a rockhound’s paradise where blue sodalite, a locally grown tectosilicate mineral, is readily found along the shoreline. The Princess of Wales is known to have ordered 130 tons of sodalite from the mine on Highway 28 in the early 1900’s.
Location: About 15 kilometres east of Bancroft.
Size: 1105.96 ha
Year established: 1989
Park Classification: Nature Reserve
Follow the York River further downstream from Egan Chute, which is closer to the highway. There is a path on the east side of the river that leads to the Chute. It is about 2.5 km hike.
Offering home grown and homemade local products from local vendors. Fridays 11 am-4 pm * May (long weekend) to Thanksgiving at Bancroft’s Millennium Park.
Freedom Skateboard Park
In Riverside Park off Station Street at Heritage Way
Genealogy Resource Centre
Located in the Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum.
The first dam was built in 1866 by Harris & Bronson, the first lumbering company to set up operations here. Those in Bancroft were always wary of the 12 foot wooden dam, holding back the entire lake. It was under constant surveillance, especially in the spring when the run-off would put extra stress on the structure and usually flooded Bancroft. In 1908 High Falls powered an electric light plant, a woolen mill, saw mill and grist mill.
Ironically when the dam was rebuilt in 1933, the original timbers were found to be sound, but the new concrete was poured during the frost season, and almost immediately found to be defective.
The Current dam was built in 1952. The effect of damming High Falls was to flood much of the shoreline, creating a much larger lake.
High Falls offers magnificent natural whirlpools, formed as waves crash against the pre-cambrian boulders below the dam, where mini-rainbows are reflected as water pools against granite. There are also rocky trails along the shoreline that fill up with people, who take off their shoes and put their toes into the rushing waves below the dam. To find this dam by car, follow the High Falls Trail at the intersection of South Baptiste and Y-Road. This semi-maintained dirt road runs approximately 2km long, and while there are potholes, even a mini car is able to make the trip in. There is a bay at the base of the falls, where swimmers congregate in the summer.
Highway 62N to Y road. Cross S. Baptiste Lake Road and follow to the end.
Locks of Love
Located at Millennium Park, on the walking bridge. Lovers are invited to put a padlock on a chain and throw the key away.
The multi-unit apartment building, near the corner of Bridge St. and Highway 62, was once a water-powered woollen mill, powered by a 40-foot wooden flume. Built around 1880, it is said to be the only one of its kind in the country. David Fuller & his wife Josephine built the mill, later their son Oswald took over. Damaged by fire on three separate occasions, the Fuller family repaired the damage to continue the business, producing more than 30,000 pounds of sheep’s wool a year, processed from local farms.
The York’s rushing water was vital to this operation, as it was used to remove lanolin from the wool. Here a dam and rapids begin a 2km portage for water travelers. This dam was once a locally owned hydro-electric power source that actually kept the town off the grid until the 1970’s by generating hydro-electric power for approximately 2700 residents. It is now owned by a Bracebridge Company.
It’s interesting to note that, in the 1950’s many medicinal plants found along the river were marketed with a great deal of success. Entrepreneur Jack Brown operated Dominion Essential oils, where Jan Woodlands is situated today. Brown would run balsam and cedar brush into his mill, producing local medicines. Some were sold and processed into cosmetic products, such as Noxema.
On the York River, the park was developed in May 2000, with financial assistance from the Canadian Millennium Partnership Program as well as donations from the public and business people in the Bancroft area. Amenities include a nice picnic area with washrooms and the Millennium Bridge with Locks of Love.
The York River Millennium Band Shell and club 580 are located in the park, beside the York River just north of downtown. It is a traditional log structure measuring 36 feet wide by 32 feet deep. Here, residents and cottagers are able to enjoy events such as music concerts, live theatre, comedy, and other entertainment.
Mineral Capital Concerts
Mineral Capital Concerts (at the Band Shell in Millennium Park)
Outdoors in the park- every Wednesday night, at 7:00 p.m.
Live music. Bring your own lawn chair.
In the old train station.
July and Aug., daily 9am-6pm; rest of year, Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm
Adults: $5.00 Children under 15 are Free
North Hastings Community Centre
Arena & Ball Diamonds, Home of the Rockhound Gemboree
North Hastings Community Fish Hatchery
The community hatchery initiative began in 2001 with the realization that local trout fisheries in our area were declining. Previous stocking efforts had been providing large-bodied fish that did not reproduce well in our smaller in-land lakes, especially under changing climate conditions. Following several community meetings, a group led by Dennis and Mary LeFeuvre decided to create the North Hastings Community Fish Hatchery with the support of many sponsors and partners. Construction of this state-of-art hatchery facility began in 2007, and volunteers have been producing fish since 2008.
The hatchery is raising a unique local strain of Lake Trout (named the ‘jewel’) that has adapted over time to the conditions in our area and is more likely to sustain healthy lake trout populations into the future. In recent years, the hatchery has also expanded production efforts to include brook trout and brown trout.
This hatchery was the vision and dream of Dennis LeFeuvre. He was a founding member and driving force in its development. Dennis passed away suddenly on June 2, 2010 but lived long enough to see Jewel lake trout start their life cycle in the hatchery and be stocked into local lakes. This hatchery is his legacy to our community.
Princess Sodalite Mine
Rock Farm & Rock Shop
Collector specimens, garden pieces,
Jewelry, gifts and more.
Playground & skateboard park. Heart of the Park outfitters/rentals ~ Waddle & Daub canteen are located in Riverside Park, behind the Post Office.
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Established in 1977
Over 19 km of hiking trails and mountain biking trails
Beautiful lookout point over Silent Lake
No motor boats or electric motors are permitted on Silent Lake
Two sandy beaches
Some campsites are walk-in for camping enthusiasts
More than 40 km of groomed winter cross-country ski trails
Size: 1610.00 ha
Canada’s largest gem & mineral show.
Since 1963. Held the Civic Weekend in August.
A four day event held at the North Hastings Community Centre & Bancroft Curling Club.
The Heritage Trail System
A multi-use recreation trail that follows the old railway line linking Hastings County. A 156-km ribbon of land that stretches from Glen Ross to Lake St Peter. Within this right-of-way, you will find waterfalls, wetlands and ghost towns (like Brinklow and historical old buildings like Hogan’s Hotel built in 1862.
Vance Farm Park
The Vance Farm Park was donated by Donald and June Vance to the Town of Bancroft in 1998 and officially opened in August, 2001. The Park entrance is located at the end of Oak Street, in the southwest quadrant of the Town, and comprises an area of approximately 37 acres. The Vance Farm Park is a natural environmental setting consisting of walking and hiking trails. During the winter months a snowmobile trail crosses the property.
York River Brew Pub & York River Brewery
One of the town’s most attractive and historic buildings is the former Bancroft Hotel that was originally built in 1899-99 by James Best.
Bancroft was the first point of civilization on the long drive of lumbermen who had spent their winters in camps north of town. The job was dangerous, there were frequent accidents and drownings as the men would often have to enter the churning white water to try to dislodge log jams. Expert river men would tie ropes around their bodies and shimmy along the logs and once he’d knocked the jam loose, he’d make a dash for shore. Other loggers would hold the ropes, which would be used to try to rescue or retrieve those who didn’t make it back.
Those who did successfully relieve a jam were treated to a bonus from the lumber company and celebratory drinks from fellow drivers. Those were unsuccessful were often buried where they’d died and their boots were used to mark the grave. Legend has it that John Bernard, a native man, was buried according to this custom, right at the junction of Hastings and Bridge streets.
Beautifully renovated, the York River Brew Pub has a new menu.
Open Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday & Staurday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m..
The first hunter/gatherers at the lake were aboriginal people of the Algonquin nation. They named the lake Kaijick Manitou after their chief, meaning “Cedar Spirit”.
The lake was renamed Loon Lake and then Long Lake, by the white surveyors however, the native families of Bernard, Lavallee and Nipissing Chief Jean Baptiste and his Algonquin wife (which include Bernard, Lavallee) are believed to have been the earliest residents- hence, the village and lake became known as Baptiste.
With a railway close at hand, lumbering took on a more robust part in the development of Baptiste. The first mill was built in 1894 by Harris & Bronson. Jennings and King established themselves by 1914. When King left the firm, W.O. Bailey joined Jennings, and in 1925 Whitney Martin joined the company. In 1929, he bought full control and by then had three saw mills on Baptiste. Whitney and his son Grenville ran the Baptiste mills until 1957.
At first logs were driven from the headwaters down to High Falls, into the York River and on down to the Ottawa River. The arrival of sawmills and a rail line shortened the log drive. At Hughes Mill (Baptiste Lake Marina today), logs were processed and shipped by rail from a depot at Hughes Siding.
Whitney Martin, founder of Martin Lumber Co., purchased the Hughes Mill in the twenties. When it was destroyed by fire in 1930, he built a new, larger mill. In the early nineteen-fifties, Martin dismantled this lower mill to create cottage lots, and his son Grenville expanded Martin’s Mill at Harcourt.
Until 1984, Martin Lumber was the largest employer in the region. Edenswold (close to Birch Cliff Lodge) was the first tourist lodge on the lake. Built by John and Gertrude Payne in 1912, on the south shore, it catered to loggers and trainmen, and attracted the first U.S. tourists,
A dirt road built in the early nineteen thirties opened the north shore to cottagers and tourist lodges.