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Take several steps back in time on Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail (10 photos)

Historic trail begins at Memorial Square/Meridian Place in downtown Barrie and ends at Historic Fort Willow in Springwater Township

Need a stress reliever?

How about taking a good walk and learning a little bit of history at the same time?

The Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail  which begins at Memorial Square/Meridian Place in downtown Barrie and ends at Historic Fort Willow in Springwater Township  lets users get some fresh air and a history primer.

The trail is about five kilometres long as it winds its way through Barrie and then another 10 kilometres through Springwater Township and its forests.

At Meridian Place in downtown Barrie, visitors will see features that commemorate the Huron and Ouendat peoples who lived around the Kempenfelt Bay area, and the trade route they used prior to the arrival of Europeans: the Nine Mile Portage.

The Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail includes recreational trails that closely follow the original Indigenous trails as well as historical trails that follow the actual route of the portage, including sections of Ross and Letitia streets in Barrie.

Strategically located as a supply depot during the War of 1812  connecting British forces on the Upper and Lower Great Lakes, including Fort Michilimackinac, near Sault Ste Marie  the Fort Willow area was also actively used for centuries by First Nations people, fur traders and French explorers as part of a major transportation route.

The Huron/Ouendat, Neutral, and Tionontatehronnon peoples traded extensively in the area and used the trail long before Europeans arrived on the scene, according to local historian Brad Rudachyk.

“The Nine Mile Portage, running from the western end of Kempenfelt Bay to Willow Creek and into the Nottawasaga River at Georgian Bay, was one of many pre-contact trade and transportation routes in Huronia,” he says.

Then came the white man, with Samual de Champlain arriving in Huronia in 1615, changing the landscape forever.

“The Nine Mile Portage proved its worth during the latter stages of the War of 1812,” says Rudachyk. “Although the Penetanguishene Road had been opened in 1814, the portage remained the military’s preferred supply route.

“As Andrew Hunter writes, in his A History of Simcoe County, apart from its military purposes, 'the Nine Mile Portage was the only highway over which traders, settlers, and Indians passed for many years, and was therefore vastly important in the life of the district at that time'."