The first known tourists attracted to the lakes came not long after Bobs Lake was flooded. In 1872, the K&P railroad was completed along the western shore of Bobs Lake to Tichborne, providing travelers with easier access to the lakes. Well into the 1920s the roads to the lakes, which were intended for horse-drawn vehicles, made travel by auto difficult or not possible in some places. However, when word got out that there was good fishing to be had, the numbers of fishers from Ontario and the USA increased. Some brought tents to stay in for a few weeks, and others bought land in remote places along the shores where they could build humble “camps”; either a cedar log cabin with a fieldstone fireplace or alternatively, a framed cabin with a wood-stove. Some of these original cabins still remain around the lakes.
Most early visitors were affluent Americans and Canadians who hired guides and bought supplies from local stores and farmers. A few farm homes became tourist homes where visitors could board. Slowly, a small tourist industry developed and some commercial fishing camps began to operate on most sections of the lakes, a few even to the present.
After World War II, industrialization increased the incomes of many people; population and urbanization increased and many began to look for an escape to a quieter place where one could get closer to nature. In the1950s, shore lots sold for about a dollar per foot frontage and growing prosperity meant that many people could build elaborate cottages.
In the years that followed and to the present, the trend has been to more building on the shorelines, so townships have rezoned the shores to rural residential. In the early 1950s, when electricity was extended around the lakes, cottages began to take on the characteristics of urban homes. Many became summer homes and major investments for their owners. In recent years, some residences have been built as year round homes, worth several hundred thousand dollars and developers have created estate lots offered for sale also in the hundreds of thousand-dollar range. Taxes on waterfront properties have become a major source of revenue for the townships.
The result has been the gradual urbanization of the shoreline of both Bobs and Crow Lakes. In the last few years there has been a trend away from the simpler, smaller cottages to year round homes of larger and larger size. More people are making their homes on the lakes as people retire or as a changing work environment makes working from home and longer commutes feasible. The present affluence of our society makes a second home affordable to many, placing increasing pressure on the land around the lakes as desirable waterfront properties. The dramatic rise in property values we have seen in the last few years and the consequent rise in property taxes, also reduces the affordability of lake properties for some long term residents.