Today’s “Behind the Scenes” blog comes from Caitie Carney, a member of Bon Echo’s Discovery Program team.
If you asked visitors to Bon Echo Provincial Park “What keeps you coming back?”, the answer you would probably hear is “Mazinaw Rock.”
Located 300 feet (92 m) above Mazinaw Lake, Mazinaw Rock is a sight that attracts the attention of visitors both on land and in water.
Mazinaw Rock has many stories to tell, including those of indigenous pictographs carefully painted on the rock between 300 and 1,000 years ago. Many of our visitors are captivated by the pictographs and the glimpses into indigenous culture and history they provide.
A convenient way for park visitors to see Mazinaw Rock up close is Bon Echo’s 45-minute interpretive tour, dubbed The Wanderer Tour.
Credit: Curtis Bird
The Friends of Bon Echo Park work with park staff to give visitors the opportunity to get up close to the pictographs and Mazinaw Rock by taking them on the Wanderer Tour.
Bon Echo is the only park to offer motorized boat tours, making it unique in the Ontario park system. During the 45-minute tour, visitors learn about pictographs, the logging era, the Bon Echo Inn and the establishment of Bon Echo Provincial Park.
In addition to the history of the landscape, visitors also learn about Mazinaw Rock’s ecosystem, including the flora and fauna that live and grow there.
Today’s Wanderer Tour is named after the original Wanderer boat that operated on Mazinaw Lake during the days of the Bon Echo Inn. The Wanderer was responsible for safely transporting guests from the south end of Lake Mazinaw to the inn.
Go out to the water
As a Bon Echo Park naturalist, one of my favorite parts of the day is being on the water providing interpretation on the Wanderer Tour.
During my first summer at Bon Echo, touring was something I was nervous about doing. When I first saw the script, I found it intimidating. It is a large file with pages of information to learn by heart. He left me wondering if I would ever be able to remember all that material in just a few weeks.
Fortunately, our Discovery team trains vigorously for these tours. First, we witness how experienced staff present the tour to better understand presentation styles and interpretation techniques, as everyone’s tour is different. We then practice tours in front of our co-workers to ensure we are ready to provide a great tour to the public. Practice makes perfect.
Working on the Wanderer Tour requires a lot of additional training. The job requires staff to not only interpret information for guests on the ship, but also be responsible sailors. During our staff training period, we have designated days to learn the tour script, obtain our Pleasure Boat Operator Card, Marine Emergency Duties training (MED A3) and obtain Marine First Aid certification. We also completed additional boat safety training sessions throughout the summer, including person overboard drills. The goal of this training is to ensure that 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 trusted captains, Andy White, affectionately known as Captain Andy. Captain Andy has been driving the boat for our interpretive boat tour since May 2008.
To get the 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 Friends of Bon Echo, overseeing the Greystones gift shop and ship services. The Friends were looking for another captain and Andy decided to accept the challenge.
Captain Andy had driven boats before, so his training consisted mainly of learning about Mazinaw Lake and its complicated weather conditions, as well as the tour.
Today, after twelve years as captain, Andy knows everything there is to know about the Mazinaw. Having such a skilled and knowledgeable captain at the helm makes both timid staff and visitors feel completely at ease.
An unmissable attraction
From a distance, Mazinaw Rock looks amazing, but up close on the Wanderer Tour, it has a feeling that can’t begin to describe.
The feeling you get when you are in the water and are transported more than 1,000 years back in time is truly fascinating.
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 to add a ride on the Wanderer to your list of activities!