St. Lawrence Parks ~ “The jewel of the St. Lawrence Parks system” ~ 1000 Island Parkway
by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams
During our travels east this summer, it occurred to Gary & me that there is still so much to do, see, experience and enjoy throughout the St. Lawrence region. Part of the adventure is “getting there”. While travelling to Fort Henry in Kingston, then on to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, we enjoyed the St. Lawrence Waterway, as we drove along “the heart of the majestic Thousand Islands and at the foot of the towering Ivy Lea Suspension Bridge”. The St. Lawrence Parks system offers 150 campsites and four cabins, set amid the granite and greenery of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. It was so calm and relaxing, that we had a hard time continuing on, but excitement ahead spurred us on!
On our travels along the 1000 Island Parkway we saw numerous bicyclists travelling along the Parkways fantastic bike trails. The path starts about 10 kilometers west of Brockville and continues to the eastern outskirts of Gananoque, stretching for almost 40 kilometers. Most of the pathways are paved. We were not surprised to see work crews paving the day we drove along. It made us aware of just how much pathway was available and we caught a glimpse of the opportunities for cycling. We have been through this stretch before and it is not uncommon to see occasional horses with riders crossing at various points along the way. Many areas along this relaxing bike route offer great views of the River and its islands, which have made the Thousand Islands a world class tourist destination. There are small towns, historical sites and plaques, campgrounds, motels, and resorts along the way. It’s interesting to note that there are no fees to enter the parks by bike or to use the path. The terrain in the area is relatively flat, but the trail itself has a surprising number of long slopes. They say at a leisurely pace, it should be possible for many people to cycle the length of the path (in one direction) in 2 to 3 hours.
Brown's Bay Park ~
Part way along the 1000 Island Parkway, lies the Brown's Bay Park area. This is the oldest of all of the Parks of the St. Lawrence. Before the St. Lawrence Seaway came into existence, Brown's Bay was the only provincial park between Gananoque and the Quebec border. It continues to be a popular stopping point for travelers to enjoy some outdoor recreation en route between Toronto and Montreal.
It's amazing that I had never noticed it before. We had passed it several times during our numerous journeys along the Parkway. Fortunately this trip we did notice it and ventured in for a look. We are glad that we did and have earmarked it as a place to visit again and to spend much more time there (with perhaps a picnic lunch!). The sandy beach had a few visitors enjoying themselves, playing and swimming. The playground offered something for everyone too! This park had very mature trees lining the perimeter. They offered great shady rest areas for families to picnic by. Gary had a change to speak with a lawn maintenance employee who very extremely informative and friendly! This St. Lawrence Park had very full lush grounds well kept and manicured. The time that we did have, we drove to the far reaches of the Park and discovered a dock where boats can launch from. As it was mid-week, this area was very peaceful and quite. From the end of the dock, the view is spectacular! It was fun to watch the freighters float by with what seemed like no effort.
Along the way we took the time to travel through the quaint Village of Rockport. Rockport and the 1000 Islands have attracted several artists, including three independent Artist studios easily that are accessible by boat, car or on foot, offering beautiful craftsmanship. Several other Artists from the surrounding areas have their work available in local shops. The murals, on the side of the historic buildings, were very intriguing. You will find paintings, photography, pottery, jewellery, wood carvings, tapestry bags. At the Summerhouse Studio we found silk-screened clothing, hand painted clothing, floor cloths, table lines and twig furniture. There are boutiques and gift shops with a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs of the area, as well as convenience stores offering groceries and toiletries for boaters, cottagers, travellers and island campers. Local honey is also a big favourite in the village and with the cottagers, as are books about the area. There are marine supplies and water toys for the boaters at the marinas and for the divers, there is a Dive Shop for diving equipment. Thers are lots of souvenirs of the wrecks and fabulous underwater adventures. We definitely will need to return for a more “up-close” discovery.
Although we did not have time to travel to other amazing Jewel of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, we are mentioning, as described on the Commissions' website, some of the highlights that await discovery!
The Long Sault Parkway was unique in its creation. Halfway between Kingston and Montreal a series of eleven islands sweep in an arc through the St. Lawrence River like a necklace of green jewels. A series of causeways and bridges connect these former hilltops of the Lost Villages. It is a series of 11 islands that were created from high points of land left after the flooding of the St. Lawrence River during the construction of the Seaway in the 1950's. Several villages once stood where the river now lies, a fascinating story captured at the Lost Villages display along the Parkway. Children's programming is offered at Riverside-Cedar, Long Sault Parkway.
The Long Sault Parkway is home to three unique Campgrounds with over 600 campsites (Mille Roches, Woodlands, and McLarens) where you can get away from it all in the heart of the river. It also boasts the largest public beach on the St. Lawrence corridor (Mille Roches), winding bike paths, pristine nature trails, boat launches, picnic parks, diving and remarkable fishing. In fact, Hoople Creek Basin is one of the largest natural Pickerel fish hatcheries and fishing areas in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. This is a natural paradise, second to none and it runs through a river only minutes away from Canada's major commercial artery for the 401.
Spread over two islands, the campgrounds of Mille Roches offer seclusion and tranquility set amidst a forest canopy of mature trees and 219 campsites. Mille Roches has the largest number of waterfront sites among the parks of the St. Lawrence, with 63 sites along its wooded shores.
Mille Roches Beach is the largest sand beach on the St. Lawrence corridor spanning a long arching bay that is also the site of Long Sault's 'Thunder on the River' annual hydroplane races. The beach features water sports rentals and an island themed snack bar.
As its name suggests, Woodlands Campground is located in a beautiful wooded setting facing Lake St. Lawrence. It boats some of the most memorable sunsets in the area which you can enjoy from its two sandy, private beaches. Each August, its 178 campsites play host to the largest outdoor dog show in Canada.
Woodlands Beach and Picnic area, located on the river side of the island, is the ideal location for large scale community events, so why not consider this serene park and beach setting for your next church group, sports team or club get together. There is room for groups from twenty to two thousand.
Located next door to Upper Canada Village and Crysler Park Marina, Crysler Beach is the perfect place for family gatherings and office picnics.
Glengarry Day Use Area
Less than an hour west of Montreal, Glengarry Park and Beach is located on the tranquil shores of Lake St. Francis on the St. Lawrence. Across the river you can see the majestic spires of Saint-Anicet and in the distance the imposing Adirondack Mountains.
Some 183 campsites are situated among a towering stand of old growth pine. The park features a sandy beach that arcs around a sheltered bay, boat launch facilities and waterfront food concession. The region is an angler's paradise, boasting some of the best bass and carp fishing anywhere.
To discover more about the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, please check out their website at http://www.parks.on.ca/index.cfm/en/home. Enjoy your travels!