St. Lawrence Islands National Park, one of Canada’s smallest national parks, is located in the beautiful 1000 Islands region. The park consists of several mainland properties and more than 20 islands between Kingston and Brockville and is the traditional territory of two distinct aboriginal cultures, the Haudenosaunee (Ho dee no shoe ni) or Six Nations-Iroquois Confederacy and the Misi-zaagiing or the Mississauga Anishinaabe, close relatives of the Ojibwa People.
The Haudenosaunee, an agricultural people, know the 1000 Islands area as Tsitkawehnoton (Jeet gah weh know doon), meaning “The Many Islands.” The Misi-zaagiing, traditionally a hunting and gathering society, call the area Gicchi siibi, meaning “The Great River.”
One hundred years ago, as the cities of North America were developing, with their inherent problems of pollution and overcrowding, many people sought to escape to the countryside. Those with means searched for natural areas they called wilderness, a place not too far away with clear, clean water and fresh air. They longed to banish their fatigue and commune with nature.
The Thousand Islands since the 1860s had been a tourist destination, especially for those who enjoyed fishing for bass, northern pike, and muskellunge.
By the late 1800s, most of the Thousand Islands had been sold off by the government for cottage development. There was a great fear amongst the local population that there would be no public space left in the islands and all the land would be in private hands.
Local citizens pressured their representatives and lobbied the federal government to keep land public and create a park reserve in the Thousand Islands. A petition from local citizens in Prescott and Brockville to the Governor General stated “people are afraid that if the island are sold the timber now growing on them will be destroyed, their beauty spoiled and the source of health and recreation they now afford to the public will be utterly destroyed.”
Finally, nine islands and a small piece of property at Mallorytown Landing donated by the Mallory family, were put together to form the nucleus of the national park.
The nine islands, Gordon, Endymion, Camelot, Georgina, Constance, Beau Rivage, Aubrey, Mermaid and Adelaide (plus Stovin Island, which was added in 1905), had been held in trust by the Federal Government for the Mississauga Indians since the 1850s. These island preserves had been used by local people for camping and picnicking for generations and had been protected since the 1870s by Island Guardians hired by the federal government. By Order in Council on September 20, 1904, St. Lawrence Islands National Park was established as one of the first national parks in Canada.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park represents the unique natural features of the Frontenac Arch, the portion of the Canadian Shield that extends down into eastern Ontario and crosses the St. Lawrence River forming the Thousand Islands. This unique area is recognized internationally as one of UNESCO’s World Biosphere Reserves.
Today, St. Lawrence Islands National Park protects more than 20 km2 in the 1000 Islands region, allowing public access to many islands and mainland properties between Kingston and Brockville. Facilities include a mainland hiking trail network, a visitor centre with exhibits and picnic facilities at Mallorytown Landing, and docking, hiking and camping on park islands.
For more information, visit www.pc.gc.ca/sli or call 613-923-5261.
Editor's note: Information provided by the St. Lawrence Islands National Park