Parks Canada Site #2: Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Dog-friendly Fort George in Niagara on the Lake www.dogtrotting.netGrade school was the last time I visited Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – until I took my dog there in February 2017. Wow, time has passed.

Is Fort Greorge dog-friendly?

When you revisit a historic site as an adult two things happen: you understand the historical context that likely eluded you as a kid, and you understand why you’re there. It’s not just an outing.

Well, ok. It is an outing.

My dog Victor and I are on a mission: Fort George is stop number two on our yearlong quest to see Canada’s National Parks and Historic Sites. It’s the county’s 150 Anniversary and to celebrate we have our free 2017 Parks Canada Pass dangling from the car’s rear view mirror.

We’re heading to at least one dog-friendly National Parks Canada site per month – most in Ontario, our home province.

Dog-friendly Fort George in Niagara on the Lake

“You’ve got your pass, head on in,” the clerk says to me at the entrance of Fort George. “But you might have to carry your dog in some of the buildings,” she adds, “because of the artifacts.”

Wait. I can take my dog Victor into the buildings? Awesome.

That’s not true of most of the living history museums this little mutt and I have explored together, including the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. But here, nothing’s off limits and there’s wide-open space, which Victor loves, along with weird smells like aging wood and wild animals.

February and March no surprise are off-season; the fort is only open on weekends. The skating rink in the woods draws the most visitors. (Parking is $6).

Victor didn’t bring his skates, so we head into the fort.

Dog-friendly Fort George in Niagara on the Lake

Fort George, originally built between 1796 and 1799, served to defend Canada, then a British colony, against American attacks during the war of 1812. A massive bombardment by U.S. troops in 1813 left it in smoking ruins. The Americans rebuilt it, but retreated in December of that year.

Fort George was abandon in the 1820s, after the British  and First Nations secured the area. In 1950, the site was refurbished to its 1812 appearance and opened as a public museum. Parks Canada has been responsible for the site since 1969.

Today, you can tour many buildings including the soldiers’ barracks where costumed interpreters tell you about the visibly cramped living conditions – and pose for pictures with your dog if you ask. Comparatively, the reconstructed officers’ quarters are a stark contrast in comfort and amenities. In this building, interpreters play flutes and answer questions around the dining table set with china and stemware.

Carrying my dog isn’t really necessary, because all he does is walk on the wooden floors like everyone else and sniffs in corners – fortunately, not like everyone else.

Dog-friendly Fort George in Niagara on the Lake

Except for the musket firing twice a day, Victor loves it here – outside anyway. The advantage of being in a fort is six walls of tall wooden stakes fence it in. Few people are here today. So, I let my dog run, glorious and free, around the cannons on elevated hills – artillery now pointing towards expensive homes lining the Niagara River. (Yes, dogs are supposed to remain on leash).

From the cannon vantage point, there’s a clear view of the U.S. and any advancing troops crossing the river. (No word on advancing ideological threats though). Today, the yacht club is the most menacing thing in sight.

My little black terrier would have done well among 19th century amenities, or at least he’s enjoying them now. I like to think that’s due to his advanced intelligence and appreciation for historical preservation. Likely, though it’s the smells.Dog-friendly Fort George in Niagara on the Lake

For a dog, this place is an olfactory field day. Apparently, rabbits, foxes and even deer stroll through the grounds at night. Field mice are plentiful and even in the cold, Victor finds one and chases it around a cannon (but doesn’t catch it).

Rodent catcher would likely be my dog’s calling if he were one of the pups who once lived among the soldiers – assuming paintings in the officer’s quarters depicting dogs are accurate.

The jail, however, Victor isn’t so fond. (Yes, the’s a preserved jail). My dog enters enthusiastically, sniffing creepy dank cells smaller than horse stalls. But he retreats quickly preferring grassy knolls, more space and freedom.

Read about Canada’s National Parks in this National Geographic Guide Book available from Amazon (affiliate link).

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  1. […] with costumed interpreters and birch bark canoes. I love re-enactment history, and so did Victor. (Check out Victor’s visit to Fort George here). And yes, dogs are welcome at Fort Williams assuming they are leashed and owners take […]

  2. […] Check out our incredibly dog-friendly adventures at Fort George. […]

  3. […] It’s also a Parks Canada historic site, and it’s the sixth stopped on our yearlong quest to visit as many dog-friendly Parks Canada sites with our Canada 150 Pass as possible. Previously, we’ve been to Pelee National Park and Fort George. […]

  4. Great post – Here in the UK it is still hard to take your dog into alot of places – wish I could, maybe all it takes though is for me to ask – thank you x

    1. Thanks. Honestly, I’m a big fan of ‘easier to get forgiveness than permission,’ so I often take my dog with me into stores etc. and wait to see if I get asked to leave. If not, I keep shopping.
      (You might like the Red Coats at Fort George)

  5. What a great post, I love reading about others adventures to different places with the dog, thank you so so much for this 🙂

    1. Thanks. Hopefully, I find a few more.

  6. Oh this is such a cool post! I think it’s super cool that you are doing one dog-friendly Parks Canada site per month — I love this idea. I also love the pic with the soldier. My dogs wouldn’t have enjoyed the musket firing either. 🙂 Cannot wait to see future adventures!

    1. Thanks! I looks like we’re going to be going to more sites in the summer than the shoulder seasons, though. Only the outdoors stuff seems to be dog friendly.

  7. I’ll have to keep this in mind for future pet friendly trips. I love places that we get to experience with our dogs.

    1. If you’re in the Niagara Falls area, it’s best to check out Niagara-on-the-Lake instead…

  8. what a wonderful vacation. I can’t wait till we get to go somewhere. Getting travel fever

    1. Fortunately, it was a drive from our house but finding outings in the winter is tough – especially places I can bring the dog.

  9. What a great quest for your and your dog! And a fun 2nd stop, sounds like doggy olfactory heaven and a great tour for humans too!

    1. My dog spent a ridiculous amount of time smelling here … even for him. He’s part terrier of course. (Not interested in birds, though).

      1. Good dog! 😉

  10. That looks like a really cool place for a non-outing outing, especially because it’s SO dog friendly! Love your resolution to visit a new park every month too. Sounds like a great way to see a lot of cool places with your pup.

    1. This one was particularly dog friendly. But now that I’m researching others, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to fulfill our quest… we’ll see.

  11. Sounds like a great place to visit and am glad that Victor was allowed in the buildings and got to run around “free” for a while. I visited the Canada side of Niagara Falls many moons ago. I didn’t even realize there was a fort there. Shows how observant I am. LOL

    1. It’s not a big fort – amazing we won that war at all. Without Iroquois help, we’d be part of the US today.

      1. I have to tell you, when I first glanced at your comment, my mind changed the o to and a in fort and I was thinking, “What comment did I make?!” LOL

  12. Wow. I had figured that all historical buildings would be off-limits to dogs. I think a whole bunch more destinations just opened up to us.

    1. I was surprised too but really there was little damage a dog could do … that kids can’t. Frankly I think the big boots the ‘red coats’ (costumed interpreters) wear likely do more damage to the floors than paws.

      1. Good point. I’m thinking with three mutts, they might take up more space but there’s only one way to find out.

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