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National Parks Summer Guide: St. Lawrence Islands

St  Lawrence Islands
St Lawrence Islands by
Jason Roberts

The first national park of Canada east of the Rocky Mountains, St. Lawrence Islands National Park is formed by all or part of 24 islands and more than 80 shoals and islets in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. The park was established in 1904 as a response to concerns of the locals about preservation of natural beauty on the majority of the Thousand Islands which were privately held. Just a few hours of ride from Toronto you can find the rocky islands, windswept pines, and refreshing waters which are just a perfect place for vacation with the flavour of the northern wilderness. Place is also the traditional summer home to Haudenosaunee and Mississauga Anishinaabe whose historic summer sites are in interesting contrast to the rugged islands with spectacular animal inhabitants, turtles and eagles including. Presence of the Great Lakes makes climate in the area moderated by the effect of a "heat sink". Services are offered May to mid-October, while the park is open-year round.

1 Landscape

2 Flora and Fauna

3 Getting to St. Lawrence Islands

4 Experiences to Discover

5 Water Sports
5.1 Misty Isles Lodge
5.2 1000 Islands Kayaking
5.3 Kayaking
5.4 Canoeing
5.5 Boating
5.6 Swimming
5.7 Scuba Diving
5.8 Fishing

6 Hiking

7 On the Islands!

8 Traces of History

9 Where to Stay
9.1 Camping
9.2 Accommodations
10 Useful Websites

Landscape

The Thousand Islands were formed ten thousand years ago by a granite chain of more than a thousand mountains from retreating glaciers scraping sediment of the landscape around present Kingston. Today, the area contains winding necklace of river jewels, whispering marshlands, rock outcroppings and a rich diversity of plant and animal species which attracts visitors from around the globe to admire beauty of 24 islands, 129 islets, and 8 mainland tracts known as St. Lawrence Islands National Parks.

With only over 24 square kilometres, St. Lawrence national park is the third smallest national park in the country. Its area takes over 80 kilometres of the upper St. Lawrence River. Substantial part of the park is naturally accessible by boat only. Park's visitor centre can be found at Mallorytown on the mainland.

Flora and Fauna

Red Fox by Wikimedia Commons
Red Fox by Wikimedia
Commons

Many species found here occur nowhere else in Canada, most notably the pitch pine. Prescribed burns in the park promote its regeneration, otherwise at risk in the province. The variety of habitats and vegetation is reflected by the faunal diversity. More than 30 species of reptiles and amphibians (only Georgian Bay Islands National Park boasts greater diversity of them), 200 species of birds, 80 species of fish, and 50 mammal species can be spotted in the area. Some of the larger islands are inhabited by deer, red fox, and coyote. Black rat snakes, wild turkey, and osprey are species whose population numbers are monitored in the park. Other notable examples of species common in the area, but rare in the rest of Canada, are rue anemone and bittern. You can still see deerberries on some islands.

Getting to St. Lawrence Islands

If you're heading to the park from Kingston, follow Highway 401E to Cornwall, then take exit 675 and continue on Mallorytown Road which leads directly to the Visitor Centre in Mallorytown Landing, the mainland headquarters. Other facilities at Mallorytown Landing are picnic area, toilets, a boat lunch with overnight docking. Park is also accessible from the United States through the Thousand Islands International Bridge. Regular train service to several local stations is available.

Experiences to Discover

Fishing, boating, and sightseeing cruises belong among the major attractions. Summer is ideal time to relax on the beach and enjoy picnic time. The national park includes several trails and campsites, as well as docking on most park islands. Average temperatures in July rise to 21 degrees Celsius, occasional summer storms accompanied by winds sometimes occur. This national park may be small in size but there are great activities and things to see!

Water Sports

Misty Isles Lodge
Misty Isles Lodge

The national park is primarily water-orientated and due to its nature it's necessary to have some type of water craft to reach most islands. There's no transportation provided by the park however water taxi services are available.

Misty Isles Lodge

Apart from water taxi services, this company offers boat rental, floating docks, boat ramp and ample parking for trailers. Their professional guides can make your fishing more enjoyable.

1000 Islands Kayaking

Rental packages up to one week and guided tours are offered. Shuttle services include water taxi service and land transportation.

Islands are often used as stopovers for journeys on the St. Lawrence River or on nearby Rideau Canal, one of North America's premier boating destinations. You should book facilities on the islands in advance as many of them have limited possibilities.

Kayaking

1000 Islands Kayaking
1000 Islands Kayaking

Kayakers will feel in the park like in heaven! Water-based St. Lawrence Islands National Park is a real paradise with rich offer of exciting sights to explore. Various water routes of the park have heavy boat traffic in the summer season, so keep an eye on safety as also heavy currents and swift undertows can appear.

Canoeing

Paddlers have as many possibilities as kayakers in the park. Docking on the islands is limited and canoes which can land almost anywhere are perfect means of transport. Don't forget to take care when paddling through cold and wild waters and try to stay close to the shore if you're not a professional.

Boating

Numerous channels and inlets in the national park carry heavy traffic in the summer months and the park caters to boaters with own vehicles. Mooring docks or buoys are available on all islands however check in advance the official site for the size they can handle.

Rental and guide services available in the area include:

1000 Islands Boat Rentals

Pontoon, boat, and cottage rentals along with guided fishing tours.

Ahoy Rentals

At Ahoy Rentals they can help you if you're looking for personalized sailing and kayaking excursions with experienced staff.

Pecks Gas Dock
Peck's Gas Dock

Peck's Marina

You can also stop in here for a delicious meal, as well as stay in their motel in a nice harbour with golf courses. Boat rentals and related services offered.

Swimming

You can enjoy summer swimming in the waters of the St. Lawrence River. A small beach is available at Mallory Landing.

Scuba Diving

The park is today an attractive site where divers from around the globe come to explore its waters with many shipwrecks, being a result of the dangerous shoals and swift currents in the are. The waters are less clear compared to other popular diving spots in Ontario, in many places cold and swift running.

ABUCS Scuba

Personalized and professional dive service for everyone interested in revealing secrets of dozens of historically rich underwater sites with shipwrecks. Dive shop and full service diver facility. Summer camps for kids may be an attractive choice for your children.

Seeway Vision Dive Charter Services

Located in Brockville, Seeway Vision Dive benefits from its position amongst some of the best shore diving sights on the St. Lawrence River. You can rent a dive boat here.

The Dive Brockville Adventure Centre

Offers rentals an air station along with kayak and canoe rentals. They have Open Water Scuba Diving courses for ages 12 and up.

River Diver
River Diver

River Diver

They cater to all types of divers, from pleasure diving to technical dives. They offer diving from April to November.

Fishing

Anglers can enjoy a particularly popular fishing destination for Ontarians. Many large sport species can be found in the channels between the islands which are ideal for onshore fishing opportunities.

Hiking

At Mallorytown Landing: the Lowland Trail spans through one kilometre and passes through Red Pine Plantation, wetland, and old farm. Slightly longer Granite Ridge Loop Trail follows through a hardwood forest and continues to the Lowland Trail. Both mainland trails are quite easy.

For more extensive trail network on mainland explore six trails at nearby Landon Bay. If you're willing to make a daylong adventure, the park's extensive Jones Creek Trail System of looping paths and gorgeous views is just a right choice.

Numerous hiking trails can be found on all islands. Geocaching is also possible.

On the Islands!

Most popular of the various islands of the park include:

Adelaide Island with its native archeological site and spectacular water habitat.

Large Grenadier Island offers many exciting sights. In the central part of the island are former farms started by United Empire Loyalists. For a popular fishing destination, head to the north. In the west, you can find remains of old lighthouse.

Several historical sites with the evidence of the former aboriginal presence are at Gordon Island.

Mulcaster Island attracts visitors for mesmerizing beauty of its nature.

Camelot Island by Jason Roberts2
Camelot Island by Jason
Roberts

Enjoy picturesque scenery of steep cliffs and its wild rugged shoreline on Camelot Island.

Mermaid Island serves as a great example for geological history of the area, most notably of the ice age effects.

McDonald Island has an excellent wildlife habitat waiting to be explored.

If you're looking for unforgettable picnicking and camping, you should visit Beau Rivage Island.

Cedar Island with historic Martello Tower once a key part of the City of Kingston's defense, belongs among significant national historic sites of the area.

Traces of History

St. Lawrence park offers activities for those interested in its history which began about 10,000 years ago when Aboriginals settled in the area. Numerous artifacts found in the park give us an evidence about their way of life which was predominantly focused on fishing and hunting. In 1979, an invaluable piece of a 2500-year old pot was found by a diver. On some shoreline cliffs, pictographs have survived despite the activity of acid rain and vandals.

Where to Stay

Camping

Primitive campsites are available during the summer season on these 10 islands:

Grenadier Island (East, Central, North) – 22 sites
Georgina Island – 2 sites
Gordon Island – 2 sites
Mulcaster Island – 2 sites
Camelot Island – 6 sites
Aubrey Island – 8 sites
McDonald Island – 11 sites
Beau Rivage Island – 8 sites
Milton Island – 2 sites
CedarIsland – 4 sites

Group campsite areas are available only at Mallorytown Landing and Central Grenadier Island and must be reserved in advance. They book up early so if interested make sure you make your reservation early enough.

Accommodations

Gananoque Inn Spa
Gananoque Inn Spa

Gananoque Inn & Spa

The historic building is located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in cozy town of Gananoque. Idyllic atmoshpere and hospitality with extensive service offeres. For unforgettable stay, choose waterfront rooms (from $299).

Victoria Rose Inn

Looking for elegance? This historic 1872 Inn and hotel can be found in the Gananoque offering boutique hotel accommodations. Rooms with whirlpool bathtubs and fireplaces are available for getaway or romantic vacation.

Bridge Island Motel
Boat House Country Inn
Jan's Gallery Bed and Breakfast

Useful Websites

St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada at National Parks of Canada website

Website of local, monthly-issued magazine Thousand Islands Life

Town of Gananoque official website

The Landon Bay Centre

3 Comments

  • Marianne Kelly

    Hi Julie,

    What a lovely website! I work for St. Lawrence Islands National Park and your website came up on “Google Alerts” in my inbox because it addresses the park.

    Thank you for including such lovely and informative visitor information. I just wanted to suggest one change. There are 22 campsites on all of Grenadier Island (including the distinct properties of Grenadier East, Grenadier Central and Grenadier North). If you have website editing capabilities, that might mean a lot fewer confused visitors to the park.

    Thanks for the wonderful coverage,
    Marianne Kelly
    marianne.kelly@pc.gc.ca
    613-923-5261 x117

  • Julie Kinnear

    Hello Marianne,

    Thank you very much for your clarification and nice feedback! I’ve edited part about the campsites, I hope there aren’t any other messed up information.

    Best wishes,
    Julie

  • Wayne

    Most every source I see online shows Thousand Islands National Park (its new name since March 2013) as being 9 square km, and the smallest in the country. Yet its size more than doubled in 2008. Where did you find 24 sq. km? I can’t even find that information on the park’s own website!

    If it is now 24 sq. km, that would make it the fourth (not third) smallest national park, wouldn’t it? A list I see shows Georgian Bay Islands (13 sq. km), Point Pelee (15) and Prince Edward Island (22) as smaller.

    Thanks!

    Feel free to post this to the page, but please email me to reply (and you can omit this request from the posting). Thanks again.

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