History of King's Highway 96:
King's Highway 96 was a local highway in the County of Frontenac which served 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.
The history of Highway 96 dates back to 1935, when a second King's Highway was established on Wolfe Island by the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO). A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared by the DHO dated March 28, 1935, which showed the proposed assumption of a series of township roads between Port Metcalfe and the western tip of Wolfe Island near the Simcoe Island Ferry Dock as a new King's Highway. The new east-west highway was assumed by the DHO on May 22, 1935, and was subsequently assigned the King's Highway 96 designation. The new highway was approximately 20 miles (32 km) in length. Highway 96 began at Port Metcalfe and came to an end at 2nd Line Road about 6 km west of Marysville.
A revision was made to the route of Highway 96 near Scotch Settlement shortly after the highway was first established. As originally assumed in 1935, Highway 96 followed Oak Point Road and 13th Line Road. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared by the DHO dated July 27, 1936, which showed the revised alignment of Highway 96 through Scotch Settlement via Base Line Road. The new route of Highway 96 was assumed as a King's Highway on August 19, 1936, while jurisdiction over the old alignment of Highway 96 via Oak Point Road and 13th Line Road was transferred to the Township of Wolfe Island, effective August 16, 1936. Apart from a minor highway realignment west of Marysville, the route of Highway 96 has remained unchanged since the 1930s.
Highway 96 shares a short concurrent route with Highway 95 through Marysville, Wolfe Island's only major community. Highway 96 was initially a gravel-surfaced highway, but it was paved in 1960. 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). The only services on Wolfe Island are located in Marysville on Highway 96. 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, Wolfe Island's Highway 95 and Highway 96 have changed very little since they were designated as provincial highways back in the 1930s. The traffic volumes on Wolfe Island are negligible, so the roads have not been upgraded to the same modern standards commonly seen on mainland King's Highways. 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 near Port Metcalfe. 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 where the trees have been cut far back from the 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: