Port Rowan, Ontario
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Port Rowan, Ontario
Lighthouse and docks, Port Rowan, ON

Port Rowan is a town in Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada. It is located on Lake Erie, adjacent to Long Point. The lakeside community has a population of fewer than 1500 people and sports a number of traditional small businesses such as Twin's Ice Cream Parlour, which has been operating in the town for decades.

There is also a growing retirement population; with the majority of the residents being between 70-79 years of age as of 2016. Most of the residents were born in Canada, but there are 25 individuals who were born in the United States of America and nearly 200 people born in Europe. English is the most commonly spoken language there; although other languages are spoken by a fair amount of the residents. Females slightly outnumber males in this town; there are only 85 children and 400 adolescents and working-age adults.[1]

Walking through Port Rowan is simple provided that caution is taken around traffic. The streets can get busy at times but the amount of traffic is light compared to cities like Hamilton, Kitchener, or London. Recommended activities include walking, hiking, running, and cycling. While most of the streets have sidewalks, people are safer to walk in a single line. Walking in this community is possible on a year-round basis and most of the streets are gravel unlike Delhi or Langton where the streets are asphalt.[2]

Port Rowan is the home of Robert F. Hill, a film director, screenwriter and actor who worked in Hollywood from the 1910s to the 1960s; specializing in silent films.


Port Rowan's earliest known inhabitants, from around the year 1000 until approximately 300-350 years later, were the Algonquin nation. They were noted flint-workers and evidence of the skill in crafting arrowheads is still to be found in open worked field areas surrounding the hamlet. The next wave of inhabitants were the Attawandaron nation, the Neutrals, who occupied the region from about 1350 until their absorption by the Iroquois in the year 1651. The last significant native nation to occupy the area was the Mississaugas.

Key buildings, including John Backhouse`s mill, that date back to the 18th century, remain in existence today.[3] During the War of 1812 American soldiers burned all the mills on Lake Erie`s north shore, from the St Clair River to the Grand River, except for the Backhouse mill, and one other. According to Ron Brown, in ?The Lake Erie Shore: Ontario's Forgotten South Coast?, Backhouse`s mill was skipped due to powerful connections within the USA.

The South Norfolk Railway reached Port Rowan in 1886.[3] It was acquired by the Canadian National Railway, which operated it until 1965.

By the mid-1960s, Port Rowan was noted for its close proximity to hunting, fishing, and recreation. However, the practicing dentist of that time choose to retire after serving the community since the 1930s. As a result, approximately 6000 people were in dire need of a dentist.[4]

In 1970 New Democratic Party MPP Morton Shulman asserted that Port Rowan was the destination of secret meetings of mafia leaders.[5]

In 2001, Haldimand-Norfolk was dissolved into two separate single-tier counties. Port Rowan became part of the newly formed County of Norfolk.

In 2017, Port Rowan was officially named the birdhouse capital of Canada.


For more than 30 years, Port Rowan hosted Bayfest which is an annual Labour Day celebration. The celebration was originally known as the Tomato Fest. Bayfest typically lasts for three days each year. The celebration usually features a parade, vendors, and fireworks.[6]

Franni's Attic is one of the top five places to visit in Port Rowan; offering a variety of antiques, furniture, and hardware that ranges from average to excellent levels of quality. Expect to spend at least 180 minutes browsing through the store's historical treasures.[7]

Uncles Country Coffee is an inexpensive Canadian-style cafe that has served the Port Rowan area for years. They have a very good selection of items on the menu that include donuts, French fries, hamburgers (the house specialty comes with bacon and cheese), and cakes. The service is friendly and is a favorite among locals. All orders are made at the counter, breakfast can be enjoyed all day, and free refills of either pop or water are available on site. Uncles Country Coffee is considered to be motorcycle-friendly and is open year-round.[8]

Twin's Ice Cream Parlour is a dessert place that is popular with the teenagers in this small town. During the summer season, the restaurant offers ice cream at a reasonable price and an excellent level of quality. Alternate selections include frozen yogurt for the more health conscious and banana splits for those craving the extra potassium.[9]

The Port Rowan Wetlands were created in 1970 and provides a way for locals and tourists to experience live birds, snakes, and turtles. The trail in addition to the wetlands are open year-round and are easily accessible to wheelchair users.[10]

Port Rowan Lion's Park is also an attractive place to find birds; with at least 71 species of bird found within the area in 2019 alone. Typical species found there are the Great Blue Heron, the Herring Gull, and the Bonaparte's Gull.[11]

The Port Rowan LCBO provides a convenient beverage selection for the Port Rowan community, although it is known for having a smaller selection compared to outlets in neighbouring Langton or Delhi.


During the 18th century fishing, milling, and timber processing were the main industries, exploiting the water power of nearby watercourses.[3] In 1850 the town processed 4,000,000 metres or 13,000,000 feet of timber. 1850 marked the beginning of shipbuilding in Port Rowan.

With the decline of the fishing, lumber and milling industries, tourism is the main economic activity in the region. Local sports include angling and boating in the Long Point Inner Bay and golfing at Stark's Golf Course at the edge of town. Bird Studies Canada is based at Port Rowan. Port Rowan in 2011 built a state of the art Water Treatment Plant, which assures future growth capacity in the town and its burgeoning retirement community.

Its proximity to Long Point, a major bird flight-path, and World Biosphere Reserve, makes Port Rowan a popular destination for bird-watchers.[12] Some of the few remaining stands the old growth Carolinian forest that were present all over Southern Ontario can be found near Port Rowan.

There is a historic replica village nearby at the Backus Conservation Area.[13]

On June 30, 2018, Port Rowan officially lost their only bank for business and personal transactions. Calls to Tillsonburg are considered to be long-distance to Port Rowan residents so that banking by phone simply isn't an option. The majority of the retirement population must choose between maintaining a vehicle on the road or having Internet access due to old age pension payments not matching up to the rising cost of goods and services. All the small businesses were not equipped to deal with Internet banking and may face significant financial difficulties in the future. Online banking has gained popularity in both urban and rural areas due to its fast and reliable service.[14] The Long Point Country Chamber of Commerce was attempting to attract a credit union in the town similar in nature to Tangerine but to no avail. Meanwhile, the well-established banks are removing their presence away from the rural communities of Ontario at a fast pace. Places like Service Ontario and the Backus Heritage Conservation Area are destined to face some form of setbacks as a result of the bank closure and may have to stop operating; leading to an almost-immediate loss of jobs in the area.[15]

By the year 2020, Port Rowan will experience Internet speeds and a level of reliability that is roughly comparable to Delhi thanks to an underground cable system that will hook up communities like Langton, Courtland, and St. Williams into reliable broadband Internet access that is currently not commonly found in the area. There are plans to eventually connect the rest of Southwestern Ontario into some form of high-speed Internet/cable television service.[16]


From the late 1990s onwards, winters have became more mild due to Earth's changing climate. Port Rowan traditionally belongs to the humid continental climate zone, even with the recent mild winters and warmer dry summers. Like in all communities, towns, and cities throughout the world, global warming due to humyn industrial activity has drastically altered the climate of Port Rowan throughout the decades.

Port Rowan's first mild winter since Confederation occurred in the year 1975.[17] The warmest summers that Port Rowan has witnessed occurred in 1998, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 (with the exception of the month of July[18]), 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.[19]

Should the sea levels rise by 60 metres or 200 feet, Port Rowan would not be affected by flooding.[20] However, it may be affected by droughts as a by-product of the dislocation of available freshwater and may be forced to rely on desalinated salt water piped in from the Eastern United States. Constructing the proper infrastructure to carry the water hundreds of miles away would take considerable peoplepower along with significant economic costs and an unprecedented level of cooperation from multiple federal, state/provincial, and municipal governments.


  1. ^ Demographics information at City Population
  2. ^ Port Rowan Urban Trail information at Ontario Trails
  3. ^ a b c Ron Brown (2009). "The Lake Erie Shore: Ontario's Forgotten South Coast". Dundurn. pp. 36, 38, 40, 41, 88-90, 91, 126, 127, 128, 153. ISBN 9781554883882. Retrieved . During the scorched-earth policy of the invading American militia during the War of 1812, all mills along the Erie shore as far as the Grand River were burned to the ground. All, that is, except the mill belonging to John Backhouse, and Tisdale's mill in Vittoria. It is most likely the invaders did not want to march into the interior, as they thought there was a British garrison at Turkey Point.
  4. ^ Dentist Required at Google Books
  5. ^ Bill Hickey (1970-10-08). "Ontario labelled mafia haven". Queen`s Park, Ontario: Windsor Star. p. 72. Retrieved . Amid tales of Mafia gatherings at such Ontario centres as Turkey Point, Port Rowan and Toronto, the High Park member alleged that Ontario was rife with organized crime and claimed that OPP were doing nothing to stop it.
  6. ^ "Long Point Country Bayfest". Long Point Country Bayfest. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Franni's Attic at Trip Advisor
  8. ^ Uncles Country Coffee at Trip Advisor
  9. ^ Twin's Ice Cream Parlour at Trip Advisor
  10. ^ Port Rowan Wetlands at Visit Amazing Places
  11. ^ "Bird Counts in Port Rowan, Ontario". eBird. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Margaret Munro (2012-08-26). "Return of the 'hoodies': Tough little bird flies back from the brink of extinction". Port Rowan: Calgary Herald. Retrieved . Many of them are songbirds that migrate incredible distances to seek out the few remaining remnants of Carolinian forest that once dominated the region.[dead link]
  13. ^ Paul John Knowles (1998). "Niagara & Southwestern Ontario: A Colourguide". Formac Publishing Company. pp. 59-60. ISBN 9780887804267. Retrieved . For a lesson in history dating back two centuries, check out the Backus Conservation Area just north of Port Rowan, where you'll find twenty historic buildings lovingly restored, including the John Backhouse Mill from 1798.
  14. ^ CIBC to close Port Rowan, Jarvis branches at Simcoe Reformer
  15. ^ CIBC will transfer accounts to Hagersville at Simcoe Reformer
  16. ^ High-speed Internet coming to Courtland Archived 2017-08-12 at the Wayback Machine at Simcoe Reformer
  17. ^ "Maximum Freezing Degree-Days as a Winter Severity Index for the Great Lakes, 1897-1977". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Ontario Weather Review - July 2009". Environment Canada. 2009-09-01. Archived from the original on 2012-12-03. Retrieved .
  19. ^ "Global Analysis - Annual 2016". NOAA. Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ "Impact of global warming on Port Rowan, Ontario". Firetree. Retrieved .

External links

Coordinates: 42°37?19.5?N 80°26?57.0?W / 42.622083°N 80.449167°W / 42.622083; -80.449167

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