We Couldn’t Miss The Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge At Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery
We followed the Cranberry Route in Muskoka in the fall and could not miss a chance to experience the Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge at Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery. The Bog to Bottle Discovery Tour at Johnston’s is a guided tour followed by a tutored wine tasting. It is part of the Canadian Signature Experience collection selected by the Canadian Tourism Commission. The Cranberry Bog Plunge was awarded the Premier’s Award For Agri-Food Innovation Excellence in 2017.
With our weekend pass, we wandered around the site and saw the cranberry farm operation. And visited the store for chocolate covered cranberries!
The wagon tour was an educational trip around the cranberry fields, narrated by the owner Wendy. We learned so much about cranberries! From there we did a great wine tasting with 6 different drinks.
But the highlight of our visit was a plunge into the cranberry bog! We suited up in waders, stepped into the water and were surrounded by floating cranberries. Could it be any more fun?
A Return To The Johnston’s Cranberry Bog At The Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery
On our first fall visit to Muskoka this year, we stopped at the Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery. It was just before cranberry harvest season. So we knew we wanted to return. When the weather forecast looked perfect, it was the right time to explore the Cranberry Route in Muskoka.
As we watched the weather, we watched the ticket availability for the Johnston’s cranberry bog experience. During the week, various activities were scheduled separately. But on the weekends the only option was an All Access Pass. For us, the weather dictated a weekend visit. We planned for an early time slot. And this gave us a great reason for an overnight return stay at the JW Marriott Rosseau!
The online ticket process captured our license plate so we were quickly checked onto the property. During Covid-19, strict processes and reduced capacity was in place. And without an All Access Pass we could not even wander on the property on the weekend. We were issued wrist bands and a schedule for our visit.
The experience started with a narrated wagon ride where we learned more about cranberry farming. We then moved to a wine tasting. And we finished up with the Johnston’s Cranberry bog plunge.
We Wandered Around Before Our Tour Began
There was a large outdoor space with Muskoka chairs in front of a fire pit. Picnic tables were placed at well distanced spots to enjoy snacks purchased at the Cranberry Cafe in McArthur House.
Another set of Muskoka chairs were placed with a view out over the cranberry fields. It was a great spot for another view of the fall colours.
We went into the store and filled up our shopping cart while it was still quiet. There was a wide range of products for sale. Fresh cranberries were packaged. But we wanted a supply of dark chocolate covered cranberries and blueberries. We had a favourite chocolate cranberry spot in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. But we did not know when we might return there.
Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery also offered curbside pickup. So we knew one way to fill up our shopping basket on a return trip!
With our shopping and some pictures done, we headed for the wagon ride.
An Educational Wagon Ride Around The Cranberry Bog
The wagon seats were clearly marked with a large number of empty seats to provide social distancing. We chose seats near the front when we learned that the owner Wendy was doing the commentary during our wagon ride. She sat behind a plastic barrier with a microphone.
The wagon pulled by a tractor followed a route around several of the cranberry fields. As we went along, we caught glimpses of cranberry bogs before and after they were flooded.
On our route we went past the large statue of the Bala Bog Monster Koilos. The sculpture was created by Michael Christian in 2007 for Burning Man. It resided in several spots in Ontario before it settled at Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery in 2019.
Throughout our wagon ride, we learned a lot about cranberry farming from Wendy. As we walked around the property we stopped regularly to check out signs that told us more about this fascinating business.
A wagon ride around the cranberry fields was a great start to our visit. The timing of the various events on our schedule was well spread out. So it gave us time to wander closer to the bogs we passed on our wagon ride.
A Few Things To Know About Farming Cranberries
We were amazed to learn that there were over 100 varieties of cranberries. Johnston’s currently harvested 5 varieties.
Wendy told us about the various ways that cranberries were harvested. We saw the wet harvesting all over the Johnston’s site. We were fascinated by the bogs that were already flooded. Bright red cranberries covered the large surface of the water. We learned that the cranberries had 4 air chambers which was why they floated.
In other fields, the cranberry plants were still dry. Cranberries don’t grow in water. The red colour of the field was obvious. But the cranberries were hard to see as they grew close to the ground on dense vines.
Cranberries were harvested in several different ways. Some were hand picked. But other pieces of equipment were used to harvest as well.
During packaging the cranberries were first washed and air dried. Did you know that cranberries bounce? The cranberries were put in a large machine that looked like a ladder with seven steps. The good ones bounced to the bottom while the bad ones stayed on the steps. Some cranberries were sold fresh. But others went through a drying process for packaging.
We never knew there was so much to learn about cranberry farming, harvesting and processing.
Wine Tasting At Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery
David likes his wine sweet. We tried ice wines in the Niagara Region and on the west coast in Canada. And on our last visit to British Columbia we toured the Fraser Valley and checked out the fruit wines and ciders. So we definitely were interested in wine tasting at the Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery.
The winery started producing wines with very small batches of 500 bottles. But demand soon created a complete product line.
Two different wine tasting options were available. On our weekend All Access Pass we tried 6 different drinks. During the week, a wine and cheese pairing was available as a stand-alone event.
The tables were set up so that you stayed with your small group for the tasting. The six different drink samples were in cups put into a labelled cupcake tin. We sampled from driest to sweetest – Muskoka Red, Cranberry, Cranberry-Blueberry, White Cranberry and then Blueberry wines. The rosé wine was all sold out so the 6th drink was the Cliff Jump Cider.
The variation in taste as we moved through the wines was interesting. The wines started dry and tart. But we were surprised that even the sweetest was not syrupy sweet. The wine tasting warmed us up before we set off for the Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge.
A Colourful Walk To The Cranberry Plunge Bog
From the wine tasting area we saw the cranberry bog where the plunge happened off in the far field. After our wine tasting we did not dawdle but started on the long walk out to the bog.
David’s GPS showed the walk we did around the Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery. There was a slight hill to get down to and back up from the field. The bog plunge was not really suitable for people who were mobility challenged. And height restrictions meant that children could not do the plunge.
It was a lovely fall walk through the woods. The pond reflected the changing colours on the trees. Every now and then we moved aside as working machinery passed by.
As we walked along we followed the path on the outside of the fields to the plunge area. We saw the main buildings up on the hill. And then we arrived at the plunge bog
We were excited as we checked in. It was time for our fun at the Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge.
The Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge
The changing areas were all carefully separated with benches and plastic. We got our waders and began the process of getting dressed. As scuba divers we were used to squirming into neoprene suits. This was about as much fun!
When we planned this excursion, I was very worried about the bog bottom being slippery. And worried that I might fall in and swim in the cranberries. But the path into the bog was gentle and David stopped to help. When I moved slowly my footing felt stable. Only when I stopped did I have to be careful as my boots sunk into the mud on the bottom. David had his camera ready at all times!
Playing In The Cranberry Bog
We dressed quickly and got into the bog first. So we had lots of time to play in the cranberry bog. And even when others showed up, the spacing was far enough apart that we even removed our masks. We scooped up cranberries and looked at them. And then laughed as we threw them in the air.
In the bog we found mostly red cranberries but we also saw white cranberries. These were still ripe cranberries. The white cranberries were used in the White Cranberry Wine.
Our Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge at Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery was so much fun. A great fall activity on our travels on the Cranberry Route in Muskoka in the fall.
We Had A Blast Doing The Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge At Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery
As we travelled the Cranberry Route in Muskoka in the fall we found a lot of fun and tasty adventures. But we were so glad we planned an excursion to experience the Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge at Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery.
The fall colours were still vibrant when we visited. So it was great as we wandered around the farm and saw the cranberry operations. And we picked up a supply of chocolate covered cranberries!
We learned so much on our wagon ride with Wendy. The wine tasting selection offered an interesting variety. But our plunge into the cranberry bog was something we will remember for a long time!
Cranberries are only native to North America. Although there are “cousins” to cranberries in other countries (e.g. lingonberry in Sweden, the cowberry in England). Even blueberries are cousins. If you visit North America in the fall, plan to experience the cranberry harvest and a bog walk!
Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery planned to be open in the winter for a different set of activities. The bogs were flooded and ice rinks were created. We will definitely plan a return visit in the winter!
Have you done the Johnston’s Cranberry Bog Plunge At Muskoka Lakes Farm And Winery? What was your favourite part of the day?
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