Ontario- and all of Canada in fact- has a strong historical link to the forest, logging, fire fighting, forest rangers, and fire tower lookouts. Watching the CBC adventure tv show "The Forest Rangers" on reruns for years, gave me a keen interest in the history and locations of these 80 and 100 ft. steel structures. Today it is sad to see many of the old towers have been dismantled without a trace- their illustrious past unknown by many young Ontarians. In fact, many of Ontario's hundreds of towers were taken down before I was even born. Half of them remain, and there are only two left which are manned and fully operational. Both are here in the Petawawa Research Forest east of Algonquin Park.

I received a map from fellow "Forest Rangers" fan, Robert Eno, which shows the locations of these towers and their respective forest districts in Ontario. To see this 1963 map click here.

When I contacted various people across our province, and asked them about each tower in their vicinity, I was alarmed to learn how many never even knew these sentinels once existed in their own backyards (there were a total of 325 manned towers, and over 80 were located in Southern Ontario alone). For instance, the Dysart Tower which overlooks the village of Haliburton still stands, but the cupola has been removed. It can be seen clearly from Hwy. 118, and yet none of the young folk in town have a clue what this structure is. I was surprised to learn that there once was a tower in the vicinity of Gravenhurst (where we spent the summers at our cottage). Also, there were some towers located reasonably close to my home- in the Ganaraska and Northumberland Forests north of Port Hope and Cobourg. I decided I would produce a website to preserve the history of our fire tower lookouts and the towermen that worked them.

Most of the towers were erected between the 1920's and the 1950's when forest fire protection was in it's heyday. They came under the jurisdiction of Ontario's former Department of Lands and Forests which became the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1972. As the 1960's progressed the towers were in use less and less as aerial fire spotting and fire fighting crews took over. The government decided that they didn't want any lawsuits on their hands in case careless citizens climbed the unmanned towers and were injured in the process. The decision then went through to have many destroyed. This was done by either placing TNT charges at the base footings to blow them down, or by forest ranger crews who took them apart piece by piece. The odd one was pulled over by truck and left to decay on the sides of mountains. Today, the few that the government have decided to leave standing are used by the province's municipalities as landmarks and tourists attractions. The nine major tourist hot spot towers that I know of are located at: Field, Red Lake, Fort Frances, Ignace, The Frost Centre, Elliot Lake, Parry Sound, Dorset, and Temagami, Ontario. Most of these are newer towers that replaced the originals. Some of the more popular originals still used by backwoods sightseers are situated at: Restoule Provincial Park, Algonquin Park at Big Crow Lake, Ishpatina Ridge (Ont.'s highest point), Maple Mountain (near Temagami), Mount Ogidaki, Windy Lake, and the Larose Forest SE of Ottawa. (I have added a NEW PAGE HERE that lists all the 150 + towers still standing in the province. If anyone can add some more to this list please email me with the details.)

Though Ontario's and Quebec's ground fire tower detection systems have become a thing of the past, some Canadian provinces and many U.S. states still use the system. According to Henry Isenberg of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, "British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have active towers. The most towers per square area of any country in the world are the 236 towers of Portugal; and would you believe there are 40 active towers in Israel?"

The USA had 8,000 active towers in the 1950's, but now only a few 100 remain in full-time use. When towers there have become too old or unnecessary they are sometimes put up for sale at an auction. Once a tower went up for sale on ebay.com.

Though many Ontario towers were wasted in the 1970's, it is good to see some that have been dismantled and given to local museums: like the Hungerford Tower now at the Tweed Heritage Centre, and the Northumberland Tower now at the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum on 95 Mill Street in Port Hope. The old Bruce County Tower's remains sit on the grounds of the Northern Bruce Peninsula Fire Dept. in Tobermory; the Jamieson's Mtn. Tower's cupola was removed to the Pembroke MNR office and restored in 2003; the Thistle Tower is being restored and re-erected in the village of Field in 2009; the Northumberland Forest Tower was erected on an island in Rice Lake; and the Olden Tower at Mountain Grove has also been removed and restored in 2009 at property near Parry Sound.

The Red Green Show: 1997 Season [DVD]
All 17 episodes from the seventh season--including "Running of the Bulls," "The Strange Ranger," "Big Guy Little Guy," "The Good Old Hockey Game," and "The Winter Carnival"--have been collected in a three-disc set.

The Incredible Journey [DVD](1963) DVD
When their masters go abroad on vacation and leave them in the care of a friend 200 miles away, a trio of homesick house pets--a bull terrier, Labrador pup, and Siamese cat--take their first chance to slip away, only to find themselves confronted with daunting adventures in the Canadian wilderness. Live-action Disney family classic from the Sheila Burnford book stars Emile Genest, John Drainie, Jan Rubes; Rex Allen narrates. 80 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English.

The Littlest Hobo TV Series Collection 1 [DVD]
One of the most popular family shows on '60s Canadian TV was revived in this 1979-85 incarnation. Join four-footed hero Hobo on his trek across the Great White North, as the German shepherd aids those he meets before heading back on the road.

Road To Avonlea: The Complete First Volume [DVD]
All 13 episodes from the first season--including "The Journey Begins," "Old Lady Lloyd," "Proof of the Pudding," "Conversions," and "Nothing Endures But Change"--are featured in a four-disc set.

Trailer Park Boys: The Movie [DVD](2006) DVD
Big-screen version of the popular Canadian sitcom chronicles the hilarious lives of the low-class residents of the Sunnyvale Trailer Park. When offbeat pals Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are released from prison after serving 18 months for robbing an ATM, they decide to pull off a final caper that could make them rich--or send them back to the big house. Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay, Mike Smith star. 91 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1; Subtitles: Spanish; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes footage; interviews.

Canada Cup '76 [DVD] DVD
The Canada Cup was a six-team round robin international hockey tournament boasting the best players in the world. In 1976, Canada assembled perhaps the finest team ever put on ice with Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito, Denis Potvin, and MVP Bobby Orr. This four-disc set features highlights of the entire tourney, plus six of Canada's seven games in their broadcast entirety, including the two exciting wins over Czechoslovakia in the final. 11 2/3 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; audio commentary; bonus documentary; photo gallery.

Leave It To Beaver: Season One [DVD](1957) DVD
All 39 episodes from the premiere season--including "Captain Jack," "The Haircut," "Beaver's Crush," "Wally's Girl Trouble," and "The State vs. Beaver"--are presented in a six-disc set. 17 1/4 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish; unaired pilot. **39 episodes on 6 discs. 17 1/4 hrs.**

The Wizard Of Oz (75th Anniversary) [Blu-ray](1939)
Follow Dorothy over the rainbow and down the Yellow Brick Road in one of the most beloved films in cinematic history. Not in Kansas anymore after a tornado whisks her away to the Land of Oz, Dorothy is off for adventure in the Emerald City with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto, too, all the while being chased by the Wicked Witch of the West and looking for a way home. Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, and Frank Morgan star. 102 min. Standard; Soundtracks: English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English (SDH), French, Spanish; audio commentary; "making of" documentary; sing-along songs.

Little House On The Prairie: Season 1 [DVD]
All 23 episodes from the debut season--including "Harvest of Friends," "The Lord Is My Shepherd," "Christmas at Plum Creek," "The Circus" and "Founder's Day"--are featured in a six-disc set.

Star Trek: Season 1 [Blu-ray](1966)
All 29 episodes from the series's debut season--including "The Man Trap," "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the two-part "The Menagerie," "Balance of Terror," "This Side of Paradise," and "The City on the Edge of Forever"--are featured in a seven-disc set. Includes the broadcast versions of the episodes and the remastered versions featuring all-new CGI special effects. 24 1/3 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtracks: English DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio, Dolby Digital mono, French Dolby Digital mono, Spanish Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish; featurettes. **29 episodes on 7 discs. 24 1/2 hrs.**

The Andy Griffith Show: Complete Series Collection [DVD] DVD
Forty-disc collector's set includes all eight seasons of the TV show, the 1960 "Make Room for Daddy" episode that introduced Sheriff Andy Taylor and the town of Mayberry, and the 1986 reunion movie "Return to Mayberry." 106 1/2 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.

Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Season [DVD]
All 36 episodes from season one--including "Two on a Raft," "Good Night, Sweet Skipper," "Wrongway Feldman," "Gilligan Meets Jungle Boy," and "Voodoo Something to Me," as well as the original unaired pilot--are featured in a three-disc set.

M*A*S*H: Season One [DVD]
All 24 episodes from the debut season--including the pilot, "Chief Surgeon Who?," "Yankee Doodle Doctor," "Dear Dad," and "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet"--are featured in a three-disc set.

The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Complete Seasons 1-7 [DVD]
Follow the Dukes and the General Lee in everybody's secret favourite tv show.

Monty Python And The Holy Grail (Collector's Edition) [DVD](1975) DVD
The legend of King Arthur will never be the same once the Pythons get through with it. Klutzy knights, killer rabbits, coconut-laden swallows, taunting Frenchmen and other oddities all add up to one of the funniest, most outrageous comedies ever. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin star. 90 min. Widescreen; Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital mono, Japanese; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; screenplay; audio commentary by Jones, Gilliam, Cleese, Idle, Palin; animated menus; sing-along songs; documentary; featurettes; cast directory; theatrical trailers; film cel senitype; paperback of the script. Two-disc set.

Keeping Up Appearances: Collector's Edition [DVD] DVD
All 40 episodes and four Christmas specials, plus the retrospective programs "The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket" (1997) and "Life Lessons from Onslow" (2008), are featured in a 10-disc set. 22 1/2 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English; outtakes; featurettes; interviews. **40 episodes and 6 specials on 10 discs. 22 1/2 hrs.**

Coronation Street: 3 DVD Boxed Set [DVD] DVD
Say goodbye to one of Corrie Street's most roguish personalities in "Coronation Street: Farewell to Mike," as Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) takes his leave of the popular program after three decades of devilishly entertaining exploits. In this tribute program, Briggs is honored by his many co-workers and seen in a montage of clips. Narrated by Matthew Kelly. Three-disc set also includes "An Audience with Coronation Street," "Coronation Street: Family Albums." 135 min. total. Soundtrack: English.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga [Blu-ray]
Nine-disc set includes "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace," "Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones," "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope," "Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," "Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi," and three discs packed with bonus features. 2011 re-release editions.

The Beatles Anthology [DVD]
The long-awaited definitive Fab Four retrospective (five hours of which are exclusive to video) of pop music's most beloved and influential band traces The Beatles' evolution from their earliest efforts to their bitter break-up in 1970. Recent interviews with Paul, George and Ringo are woven through live concert footage, rare studio clips, home movies, press conferences and backstage footage to tell the definitive story of the four lads from Liverpool.

Don Cherry's Hard-Hitting Hockey [DVD](2008) DVD
Don Cherry is a former hockey player and coach who won the NHL Jack Adams Award for best coach during his days with the Boston Bruins in the '70s. However, Cherry is best known these days as the voice of the CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" who possesses a penchant for hard-nosed play. Join him for highlights of the 2007-2008 NHL season that features hits, bloopers, and scraps, all delivered in the classic Don Cherry style. 62 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English; Subtitles: English (SDH). NOTE: This Title Is Out Of Print; Limit One Per Customer.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Widescreen Version) [DVD]
Special six-disc boxed set includes widescreen versions of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

The Adventures Of Ma And Pa Kettle, Vol. 1 [DVD]
First, the hillbilly husband and wife played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride are introduced in the all-time favorite barnyard comedy "The Egg and I" (1947), with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. Then, the Kettle clan is about to be run out of their home until Pa wins "the home of the future" in a slogan-writing contest in "Ma and Pa Kettle" (1949). AKA: "The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle." The Kettles find themselves in New York where they unwittingly help a crook on the lam in "Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town" (1950). Finally, Ma and Pa head back to the homestead when they think there's uranium on the premises in "Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm" (1951).