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Gull River (Balsam Lake): Map

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The Gull River and watershed, lying within the Victoriamarker and Haliburtonmarker counties of south-central Ontariomarker, is an important system of reservoir lakes which drain into Balsam Lake, the highest lake on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The lakes of the system were flooded during the 1800s by man-made cofferdams in order to preserve the flow of the river throughout the year. While the original purpose of this was to aid lumberjacks - who were cutting pine, spruce and hemlock in the area - in sending logs downstream to Trentonmarker after the initial spring flooding had subsided, it would serve a dual purpose when the lock between Balsam Lake and Cameron Lakemarker was completed in 1873, connecting Trenton with Coboconkmarker. Balsam lake was raised 5 metres to provide enough depth for steamboats passing through the lock.

Since that time, the Gull River has been an integral part of the Trent-Severn Waterway. The system's lakes' water levels are closely monitored in order to preserve the reservoir year-round, as well as to protect the cottage lands adjacent to the lakes. Lake levels generally swell during the spring thaw and late fall, and settle back to normal by mid-June. The lowest water levels are in late winter.

The river's lowest and southernmost lake, Silver Lake, lies upon the boundary line between the granite Canadian Shield, and the Limestone sheaths which lie south of it. The lakes and rivers north of Silver Lake twist and wind between the mountains and valleys created by the retreating glaciers at the end of the ice age. The result is the spectacular and pristine wilderness that has earned Highway 35 a reputation as one of the most scenic highways of Ontario.

Most of the lake front property on the lower sections of the Gull River system was divided into deep narrow lots in the 1830s, unlike the regular-sized concessions in the adjacent land. These properties would in time develop into the many cottages that dot the lakes today.

An artificial white water course was constructed through Minden and has earned the river a reputation amongst enthusiasts and kayakers.

Etymology

While there are no sources as to the naming of the gull river, one of the possible origins is a translation of the name of the village of Coboconk. The name is translated from the Indian (Likely Ojibwa) term, Quash-qua-be-conk, meaning "where the gulls nest." The town of Mindenmarker, about north, was named Gull River prior to April 1, 1859.

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