Discovering The 1000 Islands In New York State And Ontario, Canada

One of the most memorable travel experiences I could imagine would be discovering a place on the planet of extraordinary beauty that I had never known about - but had lived very close to over forty years ago in upstate New York. Straddling both the State of New York and Ontario Canada, this archipelago of 1000 Islands (really about 1800 islands) is one of the most beautiful waterways in North America and attracts visitors and seasonal residents to enjoy the confluence of the Great Lakes (Huron, Michigan, Ontario, Superior, and Erie) as they flow into the St. Lawrence River/Seaway headed into the Atlantic Ocean.

People with a variety of lifestyles are drawn to the region, especially east coast residents and Canadian families, plus the rich and famous from Europe and Asia. They are attracted to North America's most panoramic and eclectic mix of riverside abodes and scenic vistas. There are structures from the lean-to, cabin, contemporary two story and ranch style homes, to mansions and a few castles, all posed in a picture perfect nautical setting, many with lush forest cover.                                                                                                                            My close-up view of the 1000 Islands was from the deck of a sparsely populated ferry boat cruiser that steered close to the islands, some with iconic buildings and structures (including at least 100 of the islands). This year on a warm and sunny September day my leisurely two hour cruise through very clear waters on a Big Ben ferry, included commentary on legends of the waterway, and accounts of the development of the region from the late 1800s to the present.

As a Midwesterner, I learned that Chicago based Pullman Railroad car developer, George Pullman, was one of the early industrial giants to bring national attention to the islands when he built a summer cottage on one island, and invited his rich friends to discover the enticing ambiance of the waterway. Soon dozens of masters of the universe (mostly from New York) were building fancy fishing cottages on the islands and mooring their boats while enjoying a summer escape from the bustle of the big city. Over the decades less wealthy families who enjoy fishing, boating, and water sports, have built more modest get-away accommodations on hundreds of these islands both in New York and Canada. There are still dozens of unoccupied islands, many of which are populated bird perches and sanctuaries.

The 1000 Islands are, I learned, at their most sublime in the summer. Between May and September thousands of tourists descend to the region and populate not just the waterways and islands, but clusters of nearby delightful little towns in New York and Canada. My arrival came at the end of the high season when there was easy occupancy availability in B&Bs, motels and a newer delightful 4 Star hotel, the elegant 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, perched right on the water.

I have lived across the street from or within short walking distance to Lake Michigan for over 30 years of my life. When I didn't have this particular privilege in Chicago, I fondly recall my life on the west coast when I lived across the street from San Francisco Bay and Rochester, New York where Lake Ontario was close to my little apartment. I guess, as any Pisces, I am drawn to the waterways.  My visit to the 1000 Islands was a special treat. It was an introduction to one of nature's special gifts to the continent that I should have known about, but didn't. It was a discovery that I will be sharing with whomever will listen to my high praise for this exquisite resort region, for years to come.

 Pat Johnson

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