The nobility and natural beauty of the St. Lawrence River and the Islands are the lasting by-product of the Great Ice Age. Here you will be astounded at the clean, clear, deep, fresh water, which flows among the infinite variety of islands.
Indian tribes known as the “Confederacy of the Iroquois” which was comprised of the Mohawk, Oneidas, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca Tribes originally inhabited the 1000 Islands region. The tribes lived in longhouses, grew crops of corn, beans, squash, hunted in the forests, and fished in the lakes and river. It was the French explorers who named the 1000 Islands but the Indians more perceptively called this area the Garden of the Great Spirit or “Manitonna”.
The famous French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, in the early 1600′s, first explored the 1000 Islands. A Jesuit missionary, Father Le Moyne, in 1654 set up missions to lure Indian tribes from the British and Dutch fur traders to the French. The St. Lawrence River was the principal route for the “couriers de bois”, colorful French fur traders who, by canoe, explored westward in search of furs. Soon, Indian warfare ensued between the powerful Iroquois and the Ottawa and Huron Tribes. The Iroquois were encouraged by the British, in order to increase their fur trade and to get a greater hold on the North American continent.
At first, the Islands were a peaceful sanctuary for the bold and hardy voyageurs either before or after their encounter with the treacherous Long Sault and Lachine Rapids. Soon Indians and river pirates began to prey upon the fur-laden canoes and bateaux of the French traders. Eventually, the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763) in Europe, between England and France, enveloped North America. Both sides among the islands constructed small fortresses and outposts and fierce skirmishes were fought. Eventually, Britain was the victor and Canada and the 1000 Islands became British territory. Tales of buried French treasure and sunken French gold pay ships still abound today in the 1000 Islands.
Loyalist refugees from the eastern seaboard of the United States during the American War of Independence fled to the 1000 Islands region and began to build a significant English presence. Soon again, however, the region was involved in a conflict that was started in Europe, the Napoleonic Wars. In North America, it was known as the War of 1812 and Britain and the United States were at conflict. With the many skirmishes in the Islands, the United States did not take full advantage of the weak link in Canada’s defense and capture this isolated British colony. The treaty of Ghent settled the hostilities and forever prohibited warships on the St. Lawrence River; a condition that today is still in force and the tranquility of the “Garden of the Great Spirit” remains.
Pirate’s Weekend in the 1000 Islands commemorates the rowdy deeds of a lovable old river pirate of the 1830′s “Bill Johnston”. He was first Admiral of the “1000 Islands Navy”, leading many exploits during the Rebellions in Upper Canada.
In the St. Lawrence Valley there is a very special green giant known as the monumental 1000 Islands Bridge, providing a vital and scenic link between two of the world’s great nations…Canada and the United States. The name “1000 Islands” is actually a misnomer as there are over 1800 registered islands in the 1000 Islands region. Citizens of both the United States and Canada privately own most. We also have a multitude of provincial, state and federal parks…there are 14 national island parks alone. Castles such as Boldt and Jorstadt and cottages along “Millionaires Row” are renowned throughout the world as a sample of the opulence of a bygone era.
The 1000 Islands are a once in a lifetime experience that you will relive every time you return! Walk the footsteps of history. Take a fishing holiday. Enjoy the water sports and boating of the area. Imagine you are a river pirate! Please visit us and savour our brand of Canadian hospitality here in Rockport, 1000 Islands, and Canada.
Indian Folk Legend
Long ago, Manitou, the Great Spirit, sat alone in his shining sky-lodge. He was sad and puzzled. The people fought continuously. He decided to help them.
Parting the sky-curtain, Manitou came down to earth. On his back was a large, mysterious bundle wrapped in his blanket. On the bank of the mighty St. Lawrence, he laid down his bundle. He called all the people together. He gave them a beautiful garden to be their home forever and he told them they must not fight, or they would risk losing the gift.
For a time all went well. However, the old quarrels were not dead; by and by, the beautiful garden rang with the cries of war. Manitou came again and said, “You have not kept peace so I will have to take the garden away”.
Wrapping the garden in his blanket, he started back to the sky. Just as he was about to part the sky-curtain, his blanket broke. Down tumbled the garden into the St. Lawrence. As it struck, it broke into hundreds upon hundreds of pieces, big and little and these pieces became the 1000 Islands