Sunday, May 25, 2014

Research: Camping in the Thousand Islands National Park

A bit of a departure from my usual format - I've been doing some research on camping in the 1000 Islands National Park and thought that I would share some of this consolidated information for people who are interested.  The park is an unusual camping experience, where you'd be camping alongside an important waterway of both touristic and commercial value, so you may share the water with cargo ships, speedboats, yachts, sailboats, motorboats, kayaks, and/or canoes.  This is enough to turn off a lot of the backcountry camping set, and with good reason.  But if this doesn't deter the intrepid, adventurous spirit that compels you to explore every last patch of nationally or provincially controlled parkland, then I've created list of pointers from various sources to help get you on your way.  Personally, with all the logistical issues, I'm hesitant to head out to these campgrounds. However, it certainly is a unique camping opportunity in Eastern Ontario, which is sorely lacking in quality camping opportunities (though this one may not qualify). 

Things to consider
  • There are 20 islands of varying distance from the mainland available for camping, dispersed along an approximately 75 km linear stretch of water.  This means that some islands will be very far from mainland pubic docking points, while others might be more conveniently located - consult the following services chart from Parks Canada and Google Maps.  Some docks require payment, some do not (likely watercraft dependent). 
  • There are no water taps at any of the island campgrounds.  This means you'll either want to lug in bottled water or filter from the river. Most sites I've seen are written by folks who are put off by this, as am I; as great as my water filter is, I'm not confident in its ability to remove the potentially wide array of contaminants flowing in from neighbouring municipal wastewater treatment plants, boat traffic, cottages and industrial effluent.  This is likely an overly cautious position to be taking, as the concentrations are likely low and dosages are small, but the uncertainty here is also high - hence I'd choose to avoid it (has anybody seen any testing on St. Lawrence water quality in the area?)
  • The islands typically have multiple docks, with many campsites scattered along their hiking trails.  Some of these require payment, some are free, some are designated for paddlers. Hiking into your site on an island hiking trail sounds great until you consider you're likely lugging in your water.  Fortunately, it seems most sites are located within a few hundred metres of the docks. As well, be warned that many of these sites are clustered together - e.g. Camelot Island, Beau Rivage
  • You're on a busy seaway - you will not find solitude, peace & quiet, nor dark, starry night skies here.  In addition, many islands have mooring buoys just offshore, so the potential for noisy neighbours exists both on land and on the water
  • A few campers have recommended certain islands:
    • From Trip Advisor (lecdm) - Camelot, Aubrey
    • From CCR (Kim Gass) - Endymion, Camelot and Gordon and Mulcaster

Valuable Resources
  • Parks Canada - It's in dire need of a redesign since this website feels very "early 2000s", but we must appreciate that Parks Canada gets shamefully little funding. If you do enough digging, you'll find a lot of valuable information here. Most notable are the pages with the maps for the individual islands and the chart of the facilities and services.
  • Frontenac Arch Biosphere - Trail information, maps, outfitters, route info, etc., just a fantastic resource for this area and the rest of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere
  • My Canadian Canoe Routes - The forum should be browsed for the latest information, though in truth this park doesn't get much discussion.

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