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Sailing Canada’s National Parks: The Great Lakes

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2017 is Canada’s sesquicentennial (that is to say, 150 years since Confederation), and to celebrate, Parks Canada is making access to national parks free for the year. substantial number of those national parks are on significant coastlines, and can be explored by boat. In this blog, the third of the series, we will provide information about National Parks on the Great Lakes.


Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Thousand Islands National Park, credit to Parks Canada

Thousand Islands National Park
Park Website

Journey to the picturesque granite islands and windswept pine trees of Thousand Islands National Park. Explore secluded bays by kayak or powerboat. Enjoy a day by the river or overnight in waterfront oTENTik accommodations at the park’s mainland visitor centre. Discover rare species of turtles and birdlife alongside undulating hiking trails. Experience the magic of this captivating and historic wilderness, just a few hours from Toronto or Montreal.

Parks Canada welcomes families to play together in the country’s beautiful spaces. In Eastern Ontario, boaters flock to the cozy clusters of islands in Thousand Islands National Park to reconnect with their loved ones and recharge against a backdrop of natural beauty. Breathe in pine scented air on an island hike, take in a family nature program from a park interpreter who will personally visit your dock, or relax among friends – it’s your choice. Enjoy the comforts of your boat on fully serviced islands or tranquil, rustic islands. For the more adventurous, set up a tent with the kids and gather ‘round the fire for marshmallows.

Charts: 1437 Summerland Group to Grindstone Island, Grindstone Island to Carlton Island
Cruising Guide: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, Ports Lake Ontario

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Point Pelee National Park, credit to Parks Canada

Point Pelee National Park
Park Website

At the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland – Point Pelee National Park, experience nature like never before. Each spring, view flocks of migratory birds, joined in autumn by waves of vivid Monarch butterflies. In winter, wander snowy trails past ice-cloaked trees and in summer, bask on sandy beaches. Whether you cycle, paddle or hike Canada’s smallest but most ecologically diverse national park, you’ll be immersed in an unforgettable eco-adventure.

Charts: 2123 Point Pelee Passage to Detroit River
Cruising Guides: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, Ports Lake Erie & Lake St Clair

 

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Fathom Five National marine Park, credit to Parks Canada

Fathom Five National Marine Park
Park Website

Featuring both ancient geological wonders and a vital cultural legacy, Fathom Five National Marine Park reaches out from Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula to protect a lush archipelago and a surrounding freshwater ecosystem.

Iconic flowerpot formations flank 420 million year-old dolomite cliffs on Flowerpot Island, home to stunted white cedars, mixed-woodland and rare ferns and orchids. Three historic lightstations hearken to Lake Huron’s mid-19th century shipping heritage. Below the surface, 22 shipwrecks haunt the lake-water and fascinating geological formations scar the rocky bottom.

Flowerpot Island, the most accessible island within the park, welcomes guests with coastal and woodland hikes, two famous flowerpots and backcountry campsites. Or, delve the depths on a snorkel or scuba excursion to explore the wrecks and submerged natural wonders that define Canada’s first National Marine Conservation Area.

Fathom Five awaits—home to underwater mystery, island exploration, rich culture and incredible opportunities for discovery.

Charts: 2235 Cape Hurd to Lonely Island, Cape Hurd to Tobermory & Cove Island, 2292 Chantry Island to Cove Island
Cruising Guide: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, Paddling and Hiking the Georgian Bay Coast, Ports Cruising Guide Georgian Bay, the North Channel and Lake Huron

 

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Bruce Peninsula National Park, credit to Parks Canada

Bruce Peninsula National Park
Park Website

Bruce Peninsula National Park welcomes explorers of all ages to uncover the natural wonders of its limestone coasts, mixed-wood forests, cliffside cedars, clear-water lakes and vibrant orchids. Situated along Southern Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment, and part of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, this stunning 156-sq-km park is easily accessible via highway, only four hours from Toronto.

This is the traditional home of the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations, who have drawn subsistence and spirituality from this land for centuries, as well as a protected preserve for more than 200 species of birds, mammals both small and large, amphibians and even some rare reptiles.

A captivating playground in all seasons, guests enjoy hikes ranging from front-country walks to multi-day backcountry treks, summertime swims in pristine lakes and rock-scrambles along the rugged Georgian Bay shoreline. Serene camping in comfortable yurts, drive-to campsites or the remote backcountry makes extended getaways into this magical environment both convenient and fun.

Charts: 2235 Cape Hurd to Lonely Island, Cape Hurd to Tobermory & Cove Island, 2292 Chantry Island to Cove Island
Cruising Guides: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, Paddling and Hiking the Georgian Bay Coast, Ports Cruising Guide Georgian Bay, the North Channel and Lake Huron

 

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, credit to Parks Canada

Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Park Website

Georgian Bay Islands National Park protects 63 islands within Earth’s largest freshwater archipelago, stretching for 50 kilometres along eastern Georgian Bay. Eight-kilometre-long Beausoleil Island is the main island, a 15-minute boat-ride from Honey Harbour, and the hub of visitor activity.

This island park harbours incredible biodiversity. Windswept pines and Precambrian granite of the Canadian Shield transition to forests of sugar maple and smooth-barked beech, punctuated by occasional conifers. Birdlife from raptors to songbirds fly above, small mammals scamper through forest undergrowth and this national park protects a greater variety of reptiles and amphibians than any other in Canada. Cultural roots run deep, reaching back through 5,500 years of human history.

Guests hike more than dozen marked paths, cycle scenic trails, swim from sandy or stony shores, ply remote waters via paddle or powerboat and unwind at campsites and cabins overlooking a vast and serene Great Lakes shoreline.

Charts: 2202 Port Severn to Parry Sound, 2241 Port Severn to Christian Island
Cruising Guide: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, Paddling and Hiking the Georgian Bay Coast, Ports Cruising Guide Georgian Bay, The North Channel and Lake Huron

 

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
Parks Canada

Imagine a landscape where wind and waves caress the shores of tranquil sheltered bays and endless rugged coastlines – a place where a myriad of shipwrecks lay strewn on the lake floor offering silent testimony to the powers of Superior. The Anishinabek people have called this place Gitchi Gumme or “The Big Lake” and have lived on her shores for thousands of years, respecting the strength of her waters and the bounty of her lands.

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is a site so vast that, once established, it will be one of the largest freshwater protected areas in the world. Come fish, kayak and swim in her waves, hike her trails in search of waterfowl, migratory songbirds and wildlife and feel the grip of nature.

Charts: The LSNMCA is in the area East of Thunder Bay, so there no specific charts of that area. The charts listed here provide detail for the shore around the Marine Conservation Area. 2302 St Ignace Island to Passage Island, 2303 Jackfish Bay to St Ignace Island, 2304 Oiseau Bay to Jackfish Island, 2308 Michipicoten Island to Oiseau Bay, 2309 Cape Gargantua to Otter Head
Cruising Guide: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario,

 

Sailing Canada's National Parks: The Great Lakes
Pukaskwa National Park, credit to Parks Canada

Pukaskwa National Park
Parks Website

Expanding over 1,878-square-kilometres on Lake Superior’s remote northern coast, Pukaskwa National Park is a captivating wilderness that weaves untouched nature with the long history of the Anishinaabe First Nations.

This is Ontario’s only wilderness national park, defined by pink-and-slate granite shores, Great Lake temperaments and near-endless stretches of spruce, fir, pine and hardwoods. Biodiverse coastal regions—where wetland, lake and forest meet—are home to iconic Canadian species like bald eagles, moose and bears. Sandy beaches and accessible campsites welcome families. Scenic hiking trails range from weeklong expeditions to gentle nature walks. And canoeists and kayakers can paddle along a coast removed from human influence on advanced expeditions or easy day-routes. Pukaskwa is a place where everyone can catch a glimpse of the rich traditions, values and contemporary life of the Anishinaabe, the local Indigenous People.

Chart: 2309 Cape Gargantua to Otter Head
Cruising Guides: Great Lakes Waterway Guide 2017, Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario

 

In addition, the Trent- Severn Waterway (which is managed by Parks Canada) has free locking this year, as part of the same program that provides no-cost access to the National Parks. Information about this can be found in this blog from last year

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