Thousand Islands

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For other uses, see Thousand Islands (disambiguation).
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Sunset over one of the smallest islands. It supports one tree and two shrubs.
The Thousand Islands are a chain of islands that straddle the U.S.-Canada border in the Saint Lawrence River as it emerges from the northeast corner of Lake Ontario. The islands stretch for about 50 mi (80 km) downstream from Kingston, Ontario. The Canadian islands are in the province of Ontario. The U.S. islands are in the State of New York. The islands, which number 1,865 in all, range in size from over 100 kmĀ² to smaller islands occupied by a single residence, to even smaller uninhabited outcroppings of rocks that are home to migratory waterfowl. The number of islands was determined using the criteria that any island must be above water level for 365 days per year and support at least one tree or shrub.

Geologically, the islands are located where a branch of the Canadian Shield runs south across the river to join with the Adirondacks. The islands have long been popular with boaters.

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Aerial view of Boldt Castle and some of the Thousand Islands.

Around twenty of these islands form the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, the smallest of Canada's national parks. The Thousand Islands-Frontenac Arch region was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2002. The U.S. islands include numerous New York state parks, including Robert Moses State Park - Thousand Islands, located on an island in the St. Lawrence.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century many distinguished visitors made the region widely known as a summer resort. Several grand hotels provided luxurious accommodations while steamboats offered extensive tours among the islands. Wealthy and middle-class summer residents built summer homes. Some masonry "castles" remain as international landmarks. The most famous extant examples are "The Towers" on Dark Island, now called Singer Castle, and the long-neglected Boldt Castle on Heart Island which is slowly being restored.

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Location of Canadian counties that border the Thousand Islands.

During the half century (1874-1912) of the resort's greatest prominence, most wealthy vacationers came from New York City, joined by prominent families from Chicago, Pittsburgh and other cities of the United States and Canada. The region retains a historically important collection of vacation homes from this time. The Thousand Islands have long been a center for recreational boating. Large steam yachts, many designed by Nathanael Herreshoff required distinctive yacht houses. The region was known also for innovative power boating during this period. Three local yacht clubs hosted the Gold Cup Races of the American Power Boat Association for nine consecutive years. The Antique Boat Museum at Clayton, NY retains one of the world's major collections of recreational freshwater boats.

The Thousand Islands Bridge connects New York State and Ontario by traversing Wellesley Island at the northernmost point of US Interstate 81 in Jefferson County and meets Highway 137, which leads to Ontario Highway 401. The Thousand Islands Parkway provides a scenic view of many of the islands.

The largest island in the group, Wolfe Island, is located entirely in the Province of Ontario.

The Thousand Islands gave their name to the popular Thousand Island Dressing around the turn of the 20th century when Sophie LaLonde, of Clayton, New York who served the dressing at dinner for guests of her husband, a popular fishing guide, gave the recipe to Clayton hotel owner Ella Bertrand and New York City stage actress May Irwin (who shared it with hotel magnate George C. Boldt).

[edit] Curiosities

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One of the smaller islands, containing a single house
  • In the Saint Lawrence River, about two miles (3 km) north of Alexandria Bay, there is an island called Deer Island which is owned by the secret society of Skull and Bones.
  • There is a pair of islands called Zavikon. Tour operators in the area are fond of telling people for many years that one was in Canada and the other in the United States. This is, however, not true, as they are about 100 m from the border, on the Canadian side. The footbridge joining them across the narrow channel between them is therefore not the world's smallest international bridge, as is commonly said.
  • The road bridge spanning the International Rift, the channel between Hill Island (Canada) and Wellesley Island (USA) is also the world's shortest international road bridge.
  • There is only one artificial island in the entire region, Longue Vue Island.

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[edit] External links

Thousand Islands

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