The Lake Association

The Sydenham Lake Association was established in 2011 and is an incorporated not-for profit Lake Association that boasts a membership approaching 50% of the lake.

The SLA has worked to foster a relationship with Sydenham Lake Stakeholders.  This includes South Frontenac Township, Cataraqui Regional Conservation Authority (CRCA), Source Water Protection and the Ministry of the Environment.

Mission

To enhance the enjoyment of Sydenham, Bulls Eye, and Little Long Lakes, now and for future generations.

Objectives

  • Community Building
  • Lake Advocacy
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Membership Advocacy

The Lake

Sydenham Lake is located approximately 25 km. north of Kingston in south eastern Ontario and is situated within the upper portion of the greater Millhaven Creek Watershed. It is the largest lake in the watershed, covering 5% of the total watershed area.

Sydenham is a medium sized lake with a total shoreline perimeter of 53.9 kilometres and an approximate surface area of 7.8 square kilometres. There is one outlet that flows into Millhaven Creek, located in the village of Sydenham. The Sydenham Lake Dam is operated by the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and is primarily responsible for maintaining the lake’s water level, which varies minimally throughout the seasons.

The Land

Frontenac County (along with many of the other counties ‘fronting’ on Lake Ontario) consists of two geologic characteristics. The northern part is pre-Cambrian bedrock Canadian Shield topography while the southern region is Limestone bedrock of the St. Lawrence Lowlands laid down by ancient seas. Our lake has the relatively unique circumstance of being situated on the boundary between the two. This geology fundamentally explains the lake’s character as it exists today. The more populated region to the south of the lake is based mainly on agricultural communities while the area to the north is largely a recreational, hunting, fishing, and (in earlier days) mining region. As lakefront property was developed over time it usually took the form of camp or cottage structures particularly on the north and Eel Bay shores owing to the shield nature of the land there.

First Nations

Little is known of the extent to which the First Nations peoples used the area around what is now called Sydenham Lake. Based on an agricultural lifestyle, Iroquoian villages grew up along the Lake Ontario Shore, while the Algonkian peoples evolved as nomadic hunter and fisher tribes living in temporary encampments as they moved along rivers and lakes in Canadian Shield regions. So it’s possible that the Iroquois may have travelled up Millhaven Creek from Lake Ontario, passing through what is now Millhaven, Odessa, Mud Lake, and Sydenham. Or possibly the Algonkians may have travelled as far south as what is now Loughborough Township. We do know that local families have found arrowheads and other artifacts in the vicinity. Otto Gossage told of children in the early 1900’s playing in a rotting old dugout canoe that had been on the shore for years near the present Canoe Club.

Sydenham Village

The hamlet of Sydenham was laid out about 1846. Sometime prior to 1853 a post office was created there called Loughborough Post Office. There are some references that indicate Sydenham was called “West Loughborough” or just “Loughboro” after the post office there, which suggests the post office must have been established as early as the late 1830’s. The post office continued to be called Loughborough until 1 June 1883 when it’s name was officially changed to Sydenham. A map of the village from about 1860 shows 77 structures all told including homes and businesses. By 1856 the Sydenham Road had been constructed from Kingston to Sydenham (16 miles long, 9 of which were macadamized).

Boating on Sydenham Lake

Cooper writes in 1856 that a small steamboat or scow was used for transportation on Mill Creek between the villages of Sydenham and Mill Creek. Subsequent references show that a small steamer was used to haul a barge on Sydenham Lake bringing materials from the mines on Eel Lake at the north eastern end of the lake to the village for processing or shipment out to Kingston. It is not clear if this is the same steamboat as was used on Mill Creek or a new one.

Early drawings and then photographs show that boating for pleasure has long been one of the lake’s main attractions which is not surprising given the cottage nature of most of the lakefront development. Sailboats as well as canoes and rowboats have been used from very early days. Several photos from the early 1900s show picnic parties and many boathouses at various locations along the shores of the lake.