Wellesly Island State Park campsite on the edge of the St. Lawrence River.
We left Grand Rapids around noon on Saturday after taking a bit longer than planned to pack up (aka gather all the paddling gear). We crossed into Canada at the Blue Water Bridge, and then drove pretty much straight through to Thousand Islands National Park and crossed back out to the US at Wellesley Island State Park in New York. It was supposedly about a 8-9 hour drive, but with stops and all, we got to the park just before 11:00. We setup camp, went and showered (it’s a nice campground, with hot showers) and went to bed.
We spent one day at Thousand Islands on the US side. On a combination of our interest in paddling to something notable and the visitor center guide’s recommendation we drove up to Alexandria Bay and put the kayaks in the water at a public boat launch. It was at the end of Crossman St. and we parked on the street a few blocks away, if you’re wanting to look it up. This was supposedly one of the few free launches in the area and it did not appear to get especially heavy use.
Boldt Castle from the grounds / island entryway
From there we paddled out into the St. Lawrence River and turned right to head toward Boldt Castle. The Castle is on Heart Island, which has a small harbor for private boats to dock as well as the commercial tour docking location. We pulled the kayaks up on shore and locked them to a lamp-post (probably an unnecessary precaution, but given that they were our way off the island it seemed prudent).
Admission to the castle was $10 and we spent the extra to get the audio tour. We spent a few hours walking the grounds, following the audio tour stops. The one line summary is that the entire island, including the four story (accessible, a few more total) castle was built up by George C. Boldt to display his love for his wife Louise. But, as it turns out, Louise died and he immediately stopped all work on the castle, so it was left unfinished and unmaintained for years. Unfortunately, I goofed and erased all my pictures from Heart Island, but it was a neat place to poke around for a bit.
When we got back on the water, we paddled the rest of the way across the St. Lawrence River to the boathouse and then turned upstream (West) to paddle among the many islands. The only interesting part from a paddling perspective was that right around Stony Crest Island we hit current that was 3-ish MPH – notably different than everywhere else we had paddled. We crossed back to the south side of the river there, but not without getting swept downstream in a stronger current and some standing waves just off of Stony Crest which pushed us back around the East side of the island. This was weird, because the river there didn’t seem any different than anywhere else we had paddled and most places were nearly still.
Once we got to the Southern banks on the river, we continued West some more. I wasn’t running a GPS, but I think we went about 3.5 miles upstream from the castle. The wind had picked up a good bit as well as the current in some places, and with no specific destination in mind, we turned back somewhere around the mouth of Swan Bay. The trip back was faster, being down wind, down current and having fewer islands to thread through.
The drive back to camp took us by a small town, and I had packed some frozen venison chunks, so we stopped off at a grocery store and got some vegetables and skewers, returned to the campground and made a fantastic sunset shishkebab dinner.
Venison kebabs for dinner. Grand Rapids back-yard Bambi!
The next day we headed out crossing back into Canada to continue toward Maine. We first spent a bit of time attempting to scope out some additional paddling right near the campground, but our attempt to find a launch led us down a long dirt road ending in a cluster of private residences with no water access in sight. Thousand Islands was about in the middle of the trip, so there was another 8-9 hours drive to get to Acadia anyway. We made it to Mt. Desert Island kind of late and checked into our nice little room at the Belle Island Hotel which was going to serve as our home for the next week.