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The Brock Isles

Written by on November 1, 2017 in One in The Thousand

Brock Isles boathouse. Photo by Kim Lunman

Brockville calls itself “The City of the 1000 Islands” for a reason: It owns a number of them in its own backyard on the St. Lawrence River. The municipality purchased 29 islands for park purposes in 1933 from the federal government for the grand sum of $3,631.

Today, 16 have been designed for public use with boat launches. Most are named after British officers from the War of 1812 who fought under the command of Brockville’s namesake: Sir Isaac Brock. Last year, the city added six paddle in and paddle out sites for kayakers for easy access to the public islands.

Skelton Island - Island Life Magazine

Skelton Island: A freighter passes  one of Brockville’s municipally-owned islands. Photo by Kim Lunman.

The eastern gateway to the 1000 Islands starts in Brockville at Three Sister Islands, one of a number of privately owned islands along this stretch of River across from Morristown. Brockville celebrates its island history again this year with its 2nd annual Island Breakfast June 25th to June 27th. The  event offers a hot breakfast and boat shuttles to city-owned Refugee Island at St. Lawrence Park. The city’s waterfront parks and harbour are spectacular stops for ship watching as freighters pass close to the shores of the islands in the aptly-named Brockville Narrows. Historic shipwrecks in the area draw divers from around the globe to some of the best fresh water diving in the world. Sailboats dot the River outside the city’s historic Brockville Yacht Club, which also owns a property and dockage for its members at nearby Smith Island. Smith Island is one of a number of private islands including Oriental, Prince Alfred and Prince Royal Islands in the Brockville Narrows.

Stovin Island - Island Life Magazine

Stovin Island: A Thousand Islands National Park near Brockville. Photo by Kim Lunman. 

Parks Canada owns several Brockville area islands including Stovin Island, a popular spot for cliff jumping, and Victoria Island off the shores of St. Lawrence Park. Victoria Island was donated to Parks Canada  by a parliamentarian also known as the father of Canada’s flag. John Ross Matheson, a former Brockville Member of Parliament, helped develop both the Order of Canada and the Maple Leaf flag.  Matheson, who passed away at the age of 95 in 2013, and his wife Edith donated the .5 acre property off the shores of St. Lawrence Park to Thousand Islands National Park in 2000. A former judge and parliamentarian for Leeds-Grenville, Matheson purchased the island in 1959. The Brock Isles feature two Thousand Islands National Parks: Stovin Island and Victoria Island. 

The World War II veteran donated the island to illustrate the importance of protecting and preserving Brockville’s islands. There is no dock to the island and camping is not permitted. Access is limited to kayaks, canoes and small boats. 

Victoria Island - Island Life Magazine

Victoria Island: A mink makes this Thousand Islands National Parks off the shores of Brockville home. Photo by Kim Lunman.

Boaters make this area a summer playground while boat tours offered at Blockhouse Island offer visitors a number of tours. 1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises offers several sightseeing charters and tours including its “Jewels of the St. Lawrence” tour off Brockville’s Blockhouse Island and the “Singer Castle Express” aboard a high-speed catamaran.There are  a few U.S. islands in this stretch of the River off Morristown N.Y. including Old Man River and the aptly-named American Island. 

Island Oasis - Island Life Magazine

Everest Island: A privately owned island retreat off the shores of Brockville. Photo by Kim Lunman.

Brockville’s newest tourism attraction spotlights the 1000 Islands on both sides of the border. The Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing is a 25,000-square foot interactive, learning and discovery centre on the city’s waterfront overlooking the Brock Isles and the harbour’s busy Blockhouse Island.

Blockhouse Island - Island Life Magazine

Brockville’s Backyard.  Photo by Kim Lunman.

 

Its focus is on building awareness and appreciation for the 1000 Islands region by inspiring curiosity through experiential learning.  Its attractions include a live River Otter exhibit, shipwrecks, walk-through aquarium tunnels, roof-level ropes courses and a replica of an historic steam yacht and more. 

It’s true the Brock Isles are a boaters’ paradise but you can enjoy ship watching from its many waterfront trails, parks and historic shores and breathtaking views of what I like to call Brockville’s Backyard: The River.

 

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