North Channel



We are now on what is called the North Channel a protected passage between Manitoulin Island and Ontario’s southern shore.  The North Channel is a picturesque boating paradise, the area is filled with coves, inlets and marinas.  The eastern edge of the North Channel commences where the Badgeley and Manitoulin Islands come closest to the west of  Killarney and Lansdown Channel.   It was created by glaciers and the channel has some of the oldest rocks in the world exposed on its north shore.  Many of the rocks in this area are more than 3 billion years old.  We quickly notice the change in scenery the North Channel is much more rugged in appearance than Georgian Bay and there are far fewer cottages.  Passages are wider than found on the small craft route through Georgian Bay and there are fewer small islands (but larger ones) and more open water to cover.   Although there are fewer anchorages they tend to be larger and less populated.


This is my captain and its his birthday today Saturday July 22.  We celebrated it last night at Killarney carousel bar listening to Andy Lowe which made for a short night and early morning.  Heading west from Killarney we are going to take the northwest side of the three islands Badgeley, Centre, and Partridge island on the inside passage known as the Lansdowne Channel.


This is a picture of the beautiful clear water with the morning sun shinning on us as we navigate up the North Channel.  Add to that all the spectacular scenery with fresh water, no tides and no current and we are in cruising heaven.


The North Channel is bounded on the south by Manitoulin Island the largest fresh water island in the world.  The North shore is lined by the La Cloche Mountains, miles of white quartz highlands covered in dark green forest.  There are many islands as we navigated up the Channel this one is called Badgeley Island.  Midway along Badgeley Point on the north shore is Snug Harbor a great protected anchorage and beautiful sheltered cove off the Lansdown Channel

IMG_7611These are just more pictures of how beautiful it is navigating up the North Channel.  At the end of Lansdowne Channel 9 miles from Killarney the mountain backed vista of Frazer Bay opens to the north.  This Beautiful wedge-shaped bay is deep and clear.


This is Strawberry Island combined Lighthouse and Dwelling was built-in 1881 to guard the approach to a narrow section of the North Channel and served the developing fishing and shipping industry on Manitoulin island and the port of Little Current.  The lighthouse is located on a small low-lying point of land at the northern tip of Strawberry Island.  The lighthouse dwelling consist of three-story light tower with a one and a half story dwelling and one story red roof kitchen.  Over its long life the lighthouse has been tended by a number of dedicated keepers.  The lighthouse has been carefully maintained over time and retains its appeal while it is used as a seasonal dwelling.


After the Strawberry Lighthouse we came up to Hwy 6 Swing Bridge and the North Channel narrows to 800 feet with a swift current.  The one lane highway swing bridge is Manitoulin Islands only connection to the mainland and was originally built-in 1914 as a railway bridge by Algoma Eastern Railway.   In 1946 the ministry of transportation came to an agreement that permitted road vehicle traffic in addition to rail traffic.  Rail service to Little Current and Manitoulin Island was abandoned by CPR in the 1980s.  In the summer the swing bridge opens to marine traffic on the hour for 15 minutes from sunrise to sunset delaying road traffic.   We had to make sure we were there when it opened or would have to wait another hr.  Past the bridge is Little Current Marina and the town docks stretching along the waterfront providing 1,800 feet of dock space along the seawall for guest.  Little Current is the only place in the North Channel that actually has a current, hence the name.

The town of Little Current bills itself as the Gateway to Manitoulin Island.  Considering the only land access to the island is the iconic swing bridge on the east end of town and also Port of Entry for Canada.  The town is quite literally the gateway to the world’s largest freshwater island and has been since its founding in 1879.  Little Current was named variously by different groups for the swift strong currents of water running between the narrow passageway which connects the North Channel and Georgia Bay.  In the late 19th century lake vessel stopped here to take on wood for fuel.  The lumbering trade was foremost in the region at the time and saw mills were established at nearby Low Islands.   We no sooner docked and we had security officers asking us questions as where did we come from, when did we enter Canada, did we have any firearms and tobacco on board.  We had no problem with the officers and they wished us a good day and safe travels.

After we were all settled in Johnny, Liz, Kent, and I walked downtown to see what they offered.  The downtown area is directly across from the town dock and has a department store, gift shop, and Anchor Inn Hotel and dinning.  Liz and I checked out some more gift shops and the men decided to wait for us at Anchor Inn which has been around since 1888.  It has a bar, restaurant, and rooms for rent up stairs along with a great patio to enjoy some drinks or dinner.  We joined the guy for a drink then all walked back to our boat.


Liz and Johnny took us out for supper later that evening at Anchor Inn for Kent’s birthday and then we came back to our boat for pie and ice-cream.  Anita and Amy both called their dad and wished him a Happy Birthday which really made it special.  We had to stay at Little Current an extra day due to high wind and rain.

Once we left Little Current marina, with the help of the dockhands, we headed for the open waters of the main passage of the North Channel.  We have islands that are lined with white pine trees to our port (left) side and La Choche Mountains in front of us.  The scenery is amazing to see.

Our plans for Monday night is to anchor out in Benjamin Island if it’s not to crowded or our second choice is Crocker Island.  We have to navigate past Schreiber and Bourinot Island in the Waubuno Channel.


The Benjamin Islands are a small group of islands that lie towards the eastern end of the fabulous North Channel.  The scenery is spectacular sculpted and carved by glaciers, wind and weather,  these beautiful pink granite islands offer breathtaking views, still quiet nights, and star-studded skies.  They provide a rocky refuge for the cruising boaters.  The two principal Benjamin Islands are skilled by a number of smaller rocks known as The Sow & Pigs and Boars.

Benjamin Island lie to the north of Clapperton and northwest of Amedoroz Island.  A startling pink granite anomaly in this land of gray granite and limestone and emerald-green pines, the four major islands of the group are justly famous for their spectacular scenery.  Benjamin Island was beautiful but with our two boats there may not be enough room to swing if the wind came up.

We went across and anchored in Crocker Island anchorage which was more protected and wider.  We anchored and Johnny and Liz tied to us then Johnny put out a stern anchor off the back of their boat.  Once we were anchored Johnny, Kent,and I took our dingy out for a ride to see up close the beautiful scenery, while Liz enjoyed the scenery from the front of her boat.

It was so quiet and peaceful being anchored.  The evening turned out to be amazing with my wonderful captain, great friends, and drinking Dark & Stormy with Liz.  Then we had this amazing sunset I didn’t want the evening to end.


A necklace of uninhabited islands strung along another inside passage of the north shore begins at McBean Channel approaching from the east side of Croker Island.

Coming out of McBean Channel you immediate pass west and it can be a bit tricky because of charted , but unbuoyed rocks in the channel on either side of Irwin island.


Beyond Oak Bay McBean channel widens for about four miles to the tightest pass Little Detroit where a lumber town once flourished.  Because of the blind dogleg we were required to call Security on the VHF radio announcing our passage.


The chain of islands form the Whalesback Channel resulting in a protected inland waterway.  We didn’t go to spanish a popular stop at the eastern end of the Whalesback Channel.

Instead we are heading to Blind River a town situated on the North Channel in the Algoma District of Ontario.  Blind River is the northern most point of the great loop.    The voyageurs named this river the Blind River because the mouth was not visible along the canoe route.  The name was adopted by the settlement that grew at the mouth of the river .  The logging industry developed because of the accessibility of timber along the Blind river and Mississagi watersheds.  The first sawmill was built at the mouth of the river.  In 1906 Blind river was incorporated and a second larger saw mill was built and in 1929 Carpenter Hixon Co. built a pine sawmill producing 89 million board feet of lumber in its first year.


The mill survived over forty years as the largest white pine sawmill east of the rocky mountains.  The Great Mississagi Fire of 1948 led to a depletion of timber, difficult economic conditions and the eventual closing of the mill in 1969.  No evidence of a lightning strike was observed so it’s believed that a poacher or muskrat trapper was the cause.   The fire started near the headwaters of the Sharpsand River within boundaries of the Mississagi Forest.


We only planed on staying one night but the weather didn’t agree with us.  We woke up to high winds and rain that lasted almost all day.  Oue time in Canada is coming to and end as we should be back in the states tomorrow Thursday.  We have navigated some of the most beautiful cruising waters from the Trent-Severn Waterway to the North Channel and through Georgian Bay.  We had 44 locks with two lift locks and then lock 44 Big Chute is not really a lock but a marine railway.  So in all probability we traverse 42 locks on a trip through the 240 miles of the Trent-Severn Waterway.    People ask me what has been my favorite place to be and that is a very hard question.  Each area is unique in its own way some are more scenic, a bigger town, more stores, have more museums, but overall its all been amazing so far.


This was another wonderful sunset on the water the last one we will see in Canada.

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