Our History

An Alton Family Tradition Since 1854

Towering some three hundred and fifty feet above the north shore of Lake Erie stands a mountain of sand, a most interesting phenomenon of nature known as the Sand Hills. This freak of nature far off the beaten path has been growing and shifting for centuries due to the prevailing southwest winds. Judging by fragments of pottery, arrowheads and flints found in the vicinity, it appears that the Indians occupied the areas as a campground long before the white man realized it existed.

John Alton purchased the farm from the Crown in 1850. In the Norfolk County Atlas printed in 1877, it tells of the large Sand Hills on John Alton’s farm. At that time the summit was crowned by the observatory of the United States Lake Survey. This structure was framed of heavy timber to form a tripod about 70 ft. high, on the top was a tent to protect the observers and the instruments from the sun and wind. A similar station was built on Long Point and another in Pennsylvania and at definite intervals mirrors were flashed from one station to the other. From this they obtained satisfactory data to provide reliable charts for the sailors. It also tells of visitors climbing the hills and baseball games being played there.

About 1890 George W. Alton started charging horse and buggies 10¢ to visit the Sand Hills. In 1926 when Stanley B. Alton was the owner, cars were starting to come and the entrance fee was raised to 25¢ per car. The first campers started to come in 1930. Stanley continued to operate the park until 1965 when James and Dorothy Alton took over. Since the death of James in 1994 the park remains in the Alton Family now being owned by Dorothy and son John.

  • 1850

    John Alton moved from Burlington homestead and purchased lot 10, the farm just west of and adjacent to the present day park.
  • John Alton purchased the location for Sand Hill Park from the Crown, which has remained in the Alton family since that time.
  • 1886

    The homestead at the park was constructed and later in 1927 the addition was built onto the home.
  • 1890

    George Alton started charging horse and buggies 10 cents to visit the Sand Hills. It was then another 10 cents to stable their horses and feed them grain. During this time period the maintenance and care of the grounds became an issue. People would leave garbage behind in areas of the park that generally were being used for agricultural. This garbage needed to be cleaned up which took a lot of time and effort for the Alton family.
  • 1900

    George Alton was approached by a glass manufacturer from the United States. He wanted to purchase the fine Sand Hill sand that is perfect for glass making. The sand was supposed to be transported across Lake Erie by ship and then would be made into hand-blown glass. George decided not to sell the sand as the amount needed would greatly deplete the Sand Hill.
  • 1926

    The admission costs increased to 25 cents per car.
  • 1930

    The Sand Hills first start seeing signs of erosion and movement of the hill towards the East end.
  • 1936

    The first crop of flu-cured tobacco is grown at Sand Hill Park. The tobacco transformed the dry sandy lands of Southern Ontario into one of the richest farm lands in Canada. These tobacco crops had a major impact in the growth and development of Sand Hill Park, providing capital for modern improvements.
  • 1950

    Lake Erie water levels drop to an all-time low where local marinas were having problems getting boats in and out. Ontario Hydro took matters into their own hands and decided to increase the flow of water into Lake Erie. This in turned began to raise the water level which in turn greatly increased the erosion along the Sand Hill.
  • 1955

    Stanley Alton introduced the first Sika deer into the park which were something people hadn’t seen before.
  • 1971

    The first seasonal campers arrived at Sand Hill Park. New shower building is built with four showers and men’s and women’s washrooms.
  • 1979

    The first marked out campsites are created including services such as hydro, water and sewer for the first time in Sand Hill Park history.
  • 1988

    Elk are introduced into the park and become one of the main attractions for guests.
  • 1995

    Playground is created in memory of the late James Alton which included a slide, swings and rope ladder.
  • 1997

    3000 tons of rock are brought into the park and placed along the shoreline to fight the erosion.
  • 1998

    Volleyball court is created near the center pavilion.
  • 2004

    The 200 section is created with 30 Amp underground services and water hookups.
  • 2005

    Basketball and shuffle board courts are created.
  • 2008

    The 100 section is created with 30 Amp underground services and water hookups.
  • 2010

    Another 3000 tons of rock brought into the park to help with erosion control.
  • 2011

    New swing sets are built at the front entrance with a teeter totter and sand box surrounding the playground.
  • 2012

    New expansion is operational with 50 new seasonal sites. Within these sites 22 have 50 Amp services and 28 have 30 Amp services, all which include water and sewer hook ups.
  • 2015

    New band shell is built near the center pavilion to host special events such as musical performances and movie nights.

Generations of Altons in Canada

Thomas Alton


Came to Canada in 1819 from Westmoreland County, England to Nelson Township (present day Burlington) where he and his wife Charlotte farmed 1250 acres of land. Thomas and Charlotte had 16 children: Hannah, Mary, George Shepherd, Nancy Cleaver, John, David, Frances, Joseph, Thomas, Samuel Bondhead, Charlotte, Marion, James, Ezra, Maria and Sarah Ann.

John Alton


Settled in Houghton Township and married Eliza Walton in 1852. She died one month after giving birth to their second son in 1856. John remarried in 1858 to Margaret Walker and they had three sons and one daughter.

George Walker Alton


Married Janet Jackson in 1886 and had two children Jennie and Stanley.

Stanley Bruce Alton


Married Eldena Antell in 1917 and had three children Elretta Ferne, Fred Lewis, and James Edward.

James Edward Alton


Married Dorothy Maud Scott in 1949 and had three children Judith Eldena, Shirley Elizabeth and John Edward.

John Edward Alton


Married Sharon Dorothy Boswell in 1991 and have three children Zachariah James, Thomas Waldon and Arabella Dorothy.