Sunday, July 22, 2007

Manitoulin Island

Swing Bridge on only road to Manitoulin Island at Little Current

This post may sound like a geography lesson but then, I always loved geography at school. We spent last week on Manitoulin Island, a large island at the top of Lake Huron, a seven hour drive from home. Driving north from Toronto, one passes fertile farmland, the Holland Marsh at Bradford and then the lakes and rocks of the Canadian Shield change the landscape beyond Orillia and Parry Sound on Georgian Bay. We drove on to Sudbury, the mining city and historical Nickel Capital and to Espanola where native Canadians sold wild blueberries along the roadway.

The road turns south and is cut through metamorphic rock as it descends to the first islands of the North Channel of Lake Huron. There is only one road from the mainland to Manitoulin Island and it is shared with boats. Every hour the bridge swings to allow marine traffic to pass through from Little Current. The only other access is by the ferry which travels to and from Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth.

Manitoulin Island is part of the Niagara Escarpment (marked in red)

Manitoulin is part of the Niagara Escarpment so in spite of its latitude, belongs geologically to southern Ontario. Towering limestone cliffs rise above Lake Huron and over one hundred smaller lakes are found on the island. The vegetation is different than what is found on the rocks of the Sudbury area. There are farms on the island, many abandoned, but the soil is productive enough for crops and cattle. There are miles of meadows, creek beds, marshland, shoreline, cliffs and mixed forest making a haven for many, many birds and animals. If you miss the warbler migration in the spring, you can get a warbler fix all summer up here! Groomed trails pass through level terrain or the challenging rocky heights of the Cup and Saucer Trail. There are caves and fossil remains in the cliffs of the escarpment.

Cup and Saucer Trail

There are six Anishinaabe First Nation reserves on the island and aboriginal settlements have been present here for thousands of years. The name Manitoulin means "Den of the Great Spirit Manitou". There is also interesting history involving Jesuit missionaries, mariners and fur traders over the last few hundred years. Each tiny community has its own stories and legends with old buildings and tiny museums to explore as one imagines life in this remote area in the past.

Lighthouse and Anglican Church at Manitowaning

We stayed at Bass Creek Resort, a fishing camp on the shores of the largest inland lake, Lake Manitou. The word "resort" is used very loosely, but we did have running water, a shower and electricity in our tiny cabin. My husband was happy because he could fish, I was happy because there were miles of easy exploring in the vicinity, and we were both happy because there were very few biting insects around. In the afternoons we drove to some new trail or community on the island.

Bass Creek Resort

Without television, internet, fast food restaurants (not even a Tim Hortons), or any city life, it was easy to settle into a slow island pace. The days were longer by at least an hour with a spectacular sunset at about 9:30 each evening. Night time allowed for clear star-gazing, if you could stay awake after a day of fresh air.

The context for a few more posts has been set.

Bridal Veil Falls at Kagowan- an escarpment waterfall


  1. I love that little Anglican church. And the waterfalls--both lovely photos.
    Resort, huhn? Hmmm--well, it sounds like it was a restoring place.

  2. Sounds so serene and peaceful. Thanks for sharing your trip. Hope to see more photos.

  3. Hi Ruth,
    I'm glad you had a nice relaxing vacation and your transition back to reality hasn't been too traumatic.
    When we vacation in northern Minnesota, I also find it easy to slow down to the less structured pace and I love the silence (no cars, trucks or planes).
    Looking forward to more pictures and stories of your trip.

  4. What a magical place and what a very cool Anglican church! Can't wait to see more.

  5. Glad you are back, Ruth. Vacationing in such a peaceful setting must be invigorating! It's beautiful there and I will admit I'd miss internet and our electronic connections, but not much when there is much to see. Your photos are great!

  6. Oh yes! Keeep them coming. I thoroughly enjoyed this post - thanks for the tour. It looks like a trip north is in my future...

  7. Anonymous3:09 pm GMT-4

    Love reading about your trip and looks like a wonderful place to visit!

  8. That's what I'm talking about!This is my idea of a getaway spot.

  9. KGMom- The little church yard had a very interesting old cemetery. In a real resort, I wouldn't be cooking!

    MaryC- I enjoyed the account of your trip as well. It is nice to virtually visit places far from our home.

    RuthieJ- My transition to reality started at 8AM this morning. It is nice to write about our vacation and keep it alive a little longer ;-)

    Jayne- White clapboard buildings look so clean and neat. There are a number of similar churches on the island.

    Mary- Thanks. I honestly did not miss the electronic connections, but do enjoy them at home. I did a lot of reading too.

    LauraO- I think the Canadian "near north" is spectacular. I am sure you have some nice wilderness areas in your neck of the woods. I liked this vacation area because it is not total wilderness. I don't mind a tiny cabin or an outhouse, but am not a camper.

    Tom and Larry- This is an area you guys would enjoy greatly!

  10. Anonymous8:08 pm GMT-4

    I recently spent one week on Lake Mindemoya and toured many parts of the island as well. I must say I seriously considered quitting my job to retire there. It felt like the place I have been searching for, a natural place for me to be. The everchanging landscapes, the sound of the lapping waves and multitude of birds singing was just what my tired spirit needed. I just have to wait until next summer to enjoy it again.

  11. Anon- Nice of you to stop by and comment. I could easily spend 3 seasons a year on the island, but am not so sure about the winters. Sure wish I had more than a week up there this year!


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