maple mountain myth
The highest point in Ontario
The summit of Maple Mountain, about 25 metres north of the fire tower, is 642 metres (2,106 feet) above sea level (asl). There is no shortage of people who say it is the highest point* in Ontario. Some disagree, calling it the second highest,** and yet others call it the third. During the Maple Mountain Project controversy between 1973 and 1974, proclaiming it as the second was a favourite sound bite of local mayors and the Chamber of Commerce.
It is none of these, and never, at least officially, was. Tip Top Mountain, in Pukaskwa National Park astride Lake Superior, took the top honour when it was measured by a geologist at Ontario's Bureau of Mines at 646 metres (2,120 feet) above sea level in 1899.
With the availability of more precise maps, it was officially overtaken in 1967 when Ogidaki Mountain, north of Sault Ste. Marie, was noted at 665 metres (2,183 feet).
With the creation of the federal 1:50,000 series topographical maps, and the printing of the 41P/7 map in 1970, the highest peak on Ishpatina Ridge came to the attention of cartographers. It was measured by contour lines at 686 metres (2,250 feet). By 1974, it was revised to 693 metres (2,275 feet)***. It hasn't been overtaken.
However, no press conference was held to announce it and the new rooftop of Ontario was never widely known. Only a few geographers and the most dedicated backcountry travellers knew because they had seen it marked on a little-used Ontario government map series.1
Hap Wilson, a backcountry ranger with MNR, did not even mention until the 1988 edition of his bestselling Temagami Canoe Routes book (1978), the bible for remote travel, that Ishpatina was Ontario's pinnacle.
Today, both Ishpatina and Maple Mountain reside inside Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park. Ishpatina lies south of Smoothwater Lake and 32 kilometres (20 miles) west of Maple Mountain. In height above the surrounding terrain, Maple Mountain does stand taller by 37 metres (121 ft). Nevertheless, Ishpatina carries the crown of highest elevation in Ontario.
* Measured as the elevation of land above sea level (asl). Not to be confused with height — aka vertical elevation or vertical rise — which is the height above the nearby landscape.
** Including the McGuffins in their book In the Footsteps of Grey Owl (2002), p.29, and the Temiskaming Speaker (Apr 12, 1989).
*** Height first published on MNR's Maple Mountain map: N.T.S. 41P/SE, 1974, 2275. Later published on the website of National Atlas of Canada as 693 metres. Presumably the 1974 revised height (from 2250 feet) was taken by ground survey.
† The actual heights for Ogidaki and Tip Top are known today as, updated from Ontario Base Maps, 654 and 641, respectively.
‡ Calculated from Ontario Base Map data.
1 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Maple Mountain map: N.T.S. 41P/SE, 1:126,720 (1974) and 1:100,000 (1983).
BACKGROUND: Ishpatina & Maple Mountain
Posted Jan. 11, 2005
Yr – Recognition year and its recorded elevation
Metres – Elevation asl
Sources: Ontario Geographic Names Board, Ontario Base Maps, MNR Maple Mountain map: N.T.S. 41P/SE, 1:126,720 (1974) & 1:100,000 (1983). Temiskaming Speaker, Hap Wilson's Temagami Canoe Routes.
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