The Thousand Islands
If you would like to refresh your mind in summer time and think of visiting a place where you can cruise on the river, take fresh air, and relish in eye-catching scenery, then the Thousand Islands can be one of your must-visits.
The Thousand Islands are, in fact, composed of an archipelago of 1,864 islands between the Canada–US borders in the Saint Lawrence River, spanning about 50 miles (80 km) downstream from Kingston, Ontario. The Canadian islands come to be in the province of Ontario and the U.S. islands in the state of New York.
The islands range in size from over 40 square miles (100 km2) to smaller islands occupied by a single residence, or uninhabited outcroppings of rocks. To count as one of the Thousand Islands, emergent land within the river channel must have at least one square foot (0.093 m2) of land above water level year-round, and support at least two living trees.
- The largest island in the group, Wolfe Island, stands entirely in Ontario. Other large islands in the archipelago include New York’s Grindstone Island and Wellesley Island, and Ontario’s Howe Island.
- Adjacent to Wolfe Island but part of New York is Carleton Island, the site of a ruined fort, Fort Haldimand, built in 1779 by the British during the American Revolutionary War. The island was captured by three American soldiers during the War of 1812and remains part of the United States today.
- Deer Island, about two miles (3.2 km) north of Alexandria Bay, is owned by the secret society of Skull and Bones.
- A pair of islands southwest of Grenadier Islandare collectively called Zavikon Island. A popular but incorrect tale is that the larger island is in Canada, while the smaller one is in the United States, and the foot bridge between them is the shortest international bridge in the world. Zavikon Island is entirely located in the Canadian territory and belongs to the Leeds and Grenville municipal unit.
- Longue Vue Islandis the only artificial island in the region.
- Ironsides Islandis home to one of the largest Great blue heron rookeries in northern New York State, where over one thousand herons return to breed each April. The uninhabited rocky island near Alexandria Bay, New York is owned by The Nature Conservancy and was listed as a National Natural Landmark in 1967.
- Calumet Islandis located near Clayton, New York. The privately owned island formerly featured a “castle” mansion belonging to New York tobacco tycoon Charles G. Emery, and later hosted a marina in the 1960s.
Before European colonization, the Thousand Islands region was home to, or visited by, members of the Iroquois Confederacy and Ojibwa people. Their name for the islands was Manitouana or the “Garden of the Great Spirit”.
The region was a part of the War of 1812 between the British Empire and the United States. Many sites from the war can be found, such as Fort Wellington in Prescott, Ontario and the garrison on Chimney Island, Mallorytown, Ontario. Museums about the war can be found on both the Canadian and American side of the river.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many distinguished visitors made the region widely known as a summer resort. During the half century (1874–1912) of the resort’s greatest prominence, most wealthy vacationers came from New York City, joined by prominent families from Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other cities of the United States and Canada. Several grand hotels provided luxurious accommodations while steamboats offered extensive tours among the islands. Wealthy and middle-class summer residents built summer homes, and the region retains a historically important collection of vacation homes from this time.
Among the lavish homes built during this time were several masonry “castles”, some of which remain as international landmarks. The region’s first castle, Castle Rest, was built in 1888; it was destroyed in the mid-20th century. The most famous extant examples are “The Towers” on Dark Island, now called Singer Castle, and the previously long-neglected Boldt Castle on Heart Island, which had been left unfinished for over 75 years upon the untimely death of George Boldt‘s wife. It has since been completed over the recent decades in accord with Boldt’s original plans.
The Thousand Islands have long been a center for recreational boating. Large steam yachts, many designed by Nathanael Herreshoff, required distinctive yacht houses. The region was known also for innovative power boating during this period. Three local yacht clubs hosted the Gold Cup Races of the American Power Boat Association for nine consecutive years.
Batterman’s Point Gazebo on Hill Island, part of Canada’s Thousand Islands National Park
Many of the islands are publicly owned. A group of 21 islands form the Thousand Islands National Park, the oldest of Canada’s national parks east of the Rocky Mountains. The park hosts campgrounds, inland walking trails, annual family events, as well as a national heritage building.
Thirty New York state parks are managed as part of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation‘s Thousand Islands Region, including many that are located on river islands or along the New York shore. Many of these river parks were established in the late 19th and early 20th century as part of the St. Lawrence Reservation, and were among New York’s earliest land acquisitions for the purpose of preservation and recreational development. Among the larger parks are Wellesley Island State Park, which includes the largest camping complex in the region, and Robert Moses State Park.
Other boating, fishing and vacationing locations
- One of the few beaches in the Thousand Islands, Potter’s Beach (conserved by the Thousand Islands Land Trust) on the American Grindstone Island has a fine, shallow sandy bottom with a very gradual slope, and serves as a location for boats to set anchor and spend a day at the beach or hiking on the trails that extend around Grindstone Island.
- A popular location for swimming or anchoring out of the wind, the Lake of the Islesis a secluded area cut off from the rest of the St. Lawrence River by Wellesley Island and neighboring Canadian Hill Island. Access is limited through two narrow passages, one around the northeastern end of the island, and the other being the International Rift, which is a small, shallow, winding canal that leads you through to the north side of the island passing right underneath the customs bridge.
- Known for its fishing, especially pike, Eel Bay is a shallow bay just southwest of Wellesley Island.
- The Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) conserves over 8,500 acres (34 km2) of land in the Thousand Islands region. This land includes many creeks, nature preserves and over 30 miles (48 km) of trails that are open to the public, year-round, free of charge. TILT hosts an annual series of programs – TILTreks, TeenTreks, KidsTreks and TILTKids Camp – that give individuals and families the opportunity to participate in regional field trips, a variety of recreational activities, and attend presentations on wildlife or habitat preservation. TILT’s community events help further their conservation efforts in the Thousand Islands region.
- Boldt Castle, a testament of one man’s love of his wife, has been under renovation by its owner, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authoritysince 1977, and can be visited by boat or tour cruise. This 120-room mansion is located on Heart Island just across the shipping channel from Alexandria Bay. The grounds consist of the main castle, the power house, the play house, and a boat house tucked in across the bay on the inside of the island.
- Though not as famous as George Boldt’s Castle, Singer Castleon Dark Island is privately renovated and is open to tourists. Frederick Bourne had his castle constructed with secret passageways and hidden wine cellars so that he could spy on his guests while keeping his liquor out of sight during the prohibition era.
- The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New Yorkhouses antique wooden boats used or built in the region. The museum also features exhibits on the region’s maritime culture and is home to La Duchesse, George Boldt’s luxury houseboat.
- The Thousand Islands also facilitates freshwater shipwreck diving. Numerous wrecks lay at the bottom of the seaway includingAmerica, Islander, and Keystorm. There are wrecks that are appropriate for all diving skill levels.
Aviation and Airports
Passenger air service to the Thousand Islands region is available in both Ontario and New York. Watertown International Airport (ART) in Watertown, New York has daily service on American Airlines connecting through Philadelphia (PHL). Norman Rogers Airport (YGK) in Kingston, Ontario offers daily service on Air Canada connecting through Toronto Pearson. Both airports also offer private aviation services.
Maxson Airfield (FAA LID: 89NY) is a privately owned, private-use general aviation airport located two nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) south of the central business district of Alexandria Bay, a village in Jefferson County, New York. It once had commercial service provided by Mohawk Airlines. At that time, the airport bore the IATA airport code AXB. Maxson is available to the public by Maxson Airfield, LLC.
Brockville-Thousand Islands Regional Tackaberry Airport (IATA: XBR, TC LID: CNL3), also known as Brockville Municipal Airport, is a registered aerodrome located in Elizabethtown-Kitley Township, 4.8 nautical miles (8.9 km; 5.5 mi) northwest of the city of Brockville, Ontario, Canada.
More pictures and video of the islands are given below:
Watch the video: