History of King's Highway 96:
King's Highway 96 was one of two King's Highways serving Wolfe Island, an island township lying in the middle of the St. Lawrence River near Kingston. Highway 96 ran from east-to-west across Wolfe Island, while adjacent Highway 95 ran from north-to-south across the island. The two highways serving Wolfe Island were unique routes in Ontario's provincial highway network, in that both highways were physically separated from the mainland. In fact, they were Ontario's only King's Highways that were not connected to the rest of the highway system by a fixed road link (i.e. a bridge or a tunnel). These two highways are connected to Highway 2 in Downtown Kingston by a year-round ferry service.
Highway 96 was first assumed as a new King's Highway by the Ontario Department of Highways (DHO) on May 22, 1935, at a length of 32.2 km. Highway 96 began near the Simcoe Island Ferry Dock at the western end of Wolfe Island and ran easterly to Port Metcalfe at the eastern tip of Wolfe Island. Highway 96 shares a short concurrent route with Highway 95 through Marysville, Wolfe Island's only major community. Highway 96 was a gravel-surfaced highway until 1960, when it was paved. Apart from a minor realignment west of Marysville, the route of Highway 96 has remained unchanged since the 1930s. On January 1, 1998, Highway 96 was downloaded to the Township of Frontenac Islands. Although it is now a township road, the route is still often referred to as "Highway 96" by motorists. Unless posted otherwise, the speed limit on Highway 96 is 80 km/h (50 mph). Services are available in Marysville only. Please visit the Highway 96 Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 96.
For Ontario highway enthusiasts, Wolfe Island provides a fascinating look into the past. As noted above, Highway 95 and Highway 96 have changed very little since they were designated as provincial highways in the 1930s. The traffic volumes on Wolfe Island are negligible, so the roads have not been upgraded to modern standards. While Highway 96 is paved from end-to-end, the road has no shoulders in most places. The highway lanes are a bit narrower than those seen on mainland highways and the pavement is a coarser type, that is usually employed for use on Secondary Highways. There are some very sharp bends, particularly on the eastern leg of Highway 96 east of Marysville. Also, the trees lying within the highway's right-of-way were left in place. Roadside trees on mainland King's Highways are very rarely seen, as most were removed in the 1950s and 1960s as highways were widened or were cut down to eliminate collision hazards. On Wolfe Island, there are many tree-lined sections on Highway 96, where the trees are scarcely a metre or two from the edge of the pavement. The presence of roadside trees can pose a collision hazard on high-speed, high traffic volume roads. However, Wolfe Island's two highways are quiet for the most part, and the adjacent trees are a welcome change from the standard Ontario provincial highway. Wolfe Island provides road enthusiasts with a rare insight into the construction style and standards of Ontario's pre-war King's Highways. If you are ever in the Kingston area, Wolfe Island makes a nice day trip.
Wolfe Island Ferry Information: The ferry to Wolfe Island from Downtown Kingston is run by the Ministry of Transportation. The ferry crossing from Kingston takes about 25 minutes, with service offered at regular intervals throughout the day (see MTO's Kingston-area Ferry Schedules Page). The Wolfe Island Ferry can accommodate approximately 55 vehicles and 330 passengers per trip. There is no toll to utilize the Wolfe Island Ferry and service is offered year-round. However, in the winter months, the Wolfe Island Ferry arrives and departs from the Dawson's Point Dock, located about 5 km east of Marysville off of Highway 96. Information about the Hornes Ferry to Cape Vincent, New York is contained on the Highway 95 page.
Additional Information About King's Highway 96:
Learn More About King's Highway 96 (My Upcoming Publications)
King's Highway 96 - Route Information (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)
King's Highway 96 - A Virtual Tour (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)