Thousand Islands National Park
A tiny but beautiful water based park
in the heart of 1000 Islands country
Thousand Islands National Park is a collection of mainland properties and 20 islands and 93 islets and shoals in the St Lawrence River between the cities of Brockville and Kingston in Eastern Ontario. Formerly known as St. Lawrence Islands National Park it was first established in 1904 with a grant of land from the Mallory family. It was the first Canadian National Park east of the Rocky Mountains and is located in the heart of the 1000 Islands tourist district. The park is part of the UNESCO Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve protecting several at risk species and ecologically important areas.
The third smallest national park in Canada it is only 24.4 square kilometeres in size and stretches over 80 kilometers of the upper St. Lawrence River with much of it being accessible by boat only. Thousand Islands National Park has a visitor centre at Mallorytown on the mainland on the 1000 Island parkway between Brockville and Gananoque.
Originally inhabited by aboriginals who used the islands for hunting and fishing their pictographs can still be seen on many shoreline cliffs. Settlers eventually took over the islands and many of the larger ones were farmed but proved to barren to sustain profitably. Of importance to the defense of Canada (see my Rideau Canal page) there is a unique Martello Tower on Cedar Island (Cathcart Tower) at the mouth of the canal. Eventually most of the islands were taken over by the government for preservation.
Some of the more popular sights to be seen on the various islands of Thousand Islands National Park include:
Adelaide Island -
has a significant native archaeological site and a large waterfowl habitat.
Grenadier Island -
There are many sights to see on this large island including:
Constance Island -
- Former farms started by United Empire Loyalists in the central portion of the island.
- The northern portion of the island contains the former site of the Angler's Inn and to this day is still a popular fishing destination.
- The western part of the island has the sight of the former lighthouse.
has a sill under the 1000 Islands Bridge over which swift water plunges 65 metres (201 feet).
Gordon Island -
has several historical sites of the former aboriginal presence.
Mulcaster Island -
has a diverse ecosystem dubbed "Nature's Arboretum"
Camelot Island -
Magnificent scenery with steep cliffs along its rugged shoreline.
Mermaid Island -
a great example of the ice age effects that shaped this part of the province.
McDonald Island -
An excellent wildlife habitat prime for exploring
Beau Rivage Island -
The parks premier spot for picnicking and camping.
Cedar Island -
site of the historically significant Martello Tower, a national historic site and former key part of the City of Kingston's defense.
Location of Thousand Islands National Park
How to get to Thousand Islands National Park:
You can get to the 1000 Islands Parkway from Highway 401 at exits 647 to 685 I coming from the United States you can reach it via the I-81 to 1000 Islands International Bridge.
The Mallorytown Landing visitor centre, trails and boat launch are located at 1121-1000 Islands Parkway. This can be directly reached by taking exit 675 on Highway 401. Other facilities at Mallorytown Landing include a playground and picnic area, toilet facilities, a boat launch with overnight docking availability and a historic British War of 1812 gunboat exit. There is also a 1.7 kilometre (1 mile) hiking trail through some woodland and wetland areas. Full services at the park are during the peak season from mid-May to early October (actually Victoria day weekend to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend). For more information visit the official park website at: Thousand Islands National Park
You can get some spectacular views of the park and the unique river landscape by driving the length of the Thousand Islands Parkway which runs the full length of the park. This makes for an excellent side trip without much of a diversion if traveling between the cities of Ottawa and Toronto (or Toronto and Montreal) and I would highly recommend it. It is simply beautiful and a photographer's delight.
Thousand Islands National Park is primarily a water-oriented park and some type of water craft is needed to access most islands. The park does not provide transportation to and from the various islands. There is however numerous water taxi services available in the area.
Boaters of all types use the islands as stopovers for journeys up or down the St. Lawrence River or for cruising on then nearby Rideau Canal. Many of the parks islands have limited facilities and book up quickly in the busy summer months.
The following activities are available in Thousand Islands National Park:
Mainland trails can be found in two locations along the 1000 Islands Parkway:
Jones Creek Trails
are accessed 6 kilometers (3.6 miles) east of Mallorytown Landing. This is a network of trails stretching over 12 kilometres (6.1 miles) with a variety of rails ranging from very easy to difficult. Along the way you will undoubtedly spot numerous indigenous wildlife and several scenic vistas. There is also a very scenic boardwalk through some St. Lawrence wetlands.
Landon Bay Trails
are accessed at the Landon Bay centre at 302 – 1000 Islands Parkway. This easy to walk trail network stretches over 7 kilometres (4.2 miles) and is more geared towards children although there are several nice scenic lookouts along its length. Located at the Landon bay visitor centre is a playground, pool, picnic area and campground
All islands within the park have hiking trails of varying length and difficulty.
There are primitive campsites available on 10 of the 20 islands and all islands have basic toilet facilities. The following islands have primitive campsites available during the open season:
Grenadier East Island -
Georgina Island -
Gordon Island -
Mulcaster Island -
Camelot Island -
Aubrey Island -
McDonald Island -
Beau Rivage Island -
Milton Island -
Group campsite areas are available at Mallorytown Landing and Central Grenadier Island only and must be reserved in advance. They book up early so if interested make sure you reserve early.
While the waters of the St. Lawrence River are cold swimming is nevertheless a popular summer activity. In addition to being able to swim off most islands there is also a small beach at Mallory Landing.
Sea Kayaking is becoming an increasingly popular spot throughout the 1000 Islands are and nowhere is this mote evident than in Thousand Islands National Park. Since this is a water based park kayaking provides the perfect means for experiencing the many sights the park has to offer. There are numerous rental and guide services available in the area. A few sites to check out for more information are:
Please note that the various channels throughout the park have heavy boat traffic. Beware of the wakes they produce as this could cause your vessel to overturn. Most of the channels have heavy currents and swift undertows and care should always be taken.
As with kayaking above the park is a paradise for paddlers. Since the islands have limited docking facilities the ability for canoes to land almost anywhere make them the perfect vehicle for discovering the various sights within the park. Please note that the water is swift in many areas so care should always be taken. The water of the St. Lawrence River is large and open and is very cold which prove dangerous if an accident should occur. Always canoe in groups and stay close to shore unless very experienced.
The area around the 1000 Islands has long been a boater's paradise. The various channels and inlets throughout the park are usually heavily trafficked during the summer months. Since Thousand Islands National Park is mainly a water based park and provides no water transport services it naturally caters to boaters with their own vehicles.
All islands have mooring docks or buoys but you should check the parks official site to see what size boat they can handle depending on your draught. It should be noted that the St. Lawrence River has many dangerous shoals and up to date accurate charts are a necessity. The area also has heavy boat traffic as the nearby Rideau Canal is one of North America's premier boating destinations.
The dangerous shoals and swift currents of the St. Lawrence River have resulted in many shipwrecks over the years. As a result, today the park attracts divers from all over the world who come to explore them. The water is not as clear as some other popular Ontario diving spots and is cold and swift running in many spots, only experienced divers or divers in a group with a master diver in the lead should attempt any dives. Care should be taken as boat traffic is very heavy.
The area around the Thousand Islands National Park is a definite fishing destination for anglers from around the world. It is a particularly popular destination for Americans and fellow Ontarians. The narrow channels between the islands allow for onshore fishing opportunities and many large sport species are to be found. A little further offshore and you will see plenty of small fishing craft in search of large lake specimens.
Whether you wish to participate in some of the various activities or simply wish to come and see one of the most beautiful areas of the province the 1000 Islands area and the Thousand Islands National Park are definitely worth a visit. Even a simple drive by on the 1000 Islands Parkway will let you appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
If you do intend to stay a little longer, this is a major tourist destination and there are plenty of accommodations available. Check out my 1000 Islands page for more information.
Thousand Islands National Park may be small in size but there is enough activities and things to see for everyone. Not that far from Toronto or Ottawa the park can easily be done as a day trip is desired. This is definitely one of the most picturesque spots in Ontario if not all of Canada.
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