Thousand Islands boating – part of the joy is watching the huge ships on the river. Ships are amazing to watch, and in the 1000 Islands between the U.S. and Canada, you can see them close-up and personal, even if you’re not there. In today’s post I’ll show you how!
Due to the St Lawrence River’s length, these amazing vessels pass close to many towns and parks, and share the same navigable waterways that pleasure craft use. I recall watching 1000 Islands shipping around Clayton and Alexandria Bay in New York state as a kid. Back then, they were coal-powered and had to stop at coal refueling docks like this. Amazing stuff.
If you never had a chance to experience ship watching, it’s a lot of fun and not hard to do. All you have to do is be at, or on, the St Lawrence River.
Or do you?
Here’s the secret – you can see these ships all season long … via Twitter
Just follow any number of St Lawrence River ship watchers. You’ll really appreciate the time they spend taking and posting pictures, and you can tell they have a love for the hobby and a sense of connection to these vessels, their cargo, and their journey. What kind of ships will you see? All kinds! St Lawrence River cruises, cargo ships, tour boats, military ships, tugboats, barges, and many more.
Let me show you a few examples to get started:
One of my latest Twitter discoveries serves up a regular feed of photos, definitely worth a follow. I recently reached out to @SeawayNNY, since several recent tweets featured ships passing by my favorite spot (Clayton NY and Calumet Island), and asked if I could share some photos with you. Thankfully the answer was “yes”.
Here are a few of the great shots from @SeawayNNY:
Having spent so many years of summers on the St Lawrence watching ships pass by Clayton and up close from our family boat, I really enjoy the detail in these shots. These photo tweets really capture the beauty and working nature of these busy vessels.
Want more? You got it!
There are several other Twitter accounts I follow that serve up wonderful 1000 Islands ship pictures. Each day I see some amazing shots and it keeps me close to the place I spent a lot of time at as a kid, and still love today. Give them a follow, too!
Whether you call it the Thousand Islands or the 1000 Islands, it’s a great place. Beautiful islands, great boating and fishing, relaxation, and ships. All shapes and sizes of ships.
It’s fun to check out the ship names and very often spot interesting cargo. One of the most fascinating cargo loads I’ve seen was a deck full of huge wind turbine blades. Yeah, via Twitter! Visiting one of the St Lawrence ship tracker websites or Twitter accounts keeps you tuned in to a lot of interesting shipping activity.
Thanks again to @SeawayNNY, and if you have a favorite source of 1000 Islands ship pictures, I’d love it if you would leave a comment below.
Also, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media!
Boating in the 1000 Islands is timeless. I remember it from the boyhood vantage point of the 1960’s when I spent the summers at Calumet Island Marina, Clayton, NY, and Alexandria Bay, NY. I can still hear the sounds and see the sights in my head. I haven’t been back in maybe 14 years, but I imagine today it’s a lot like it was then. So what’s different? Who out there remembers the 1000 Islands from the 60’s and can compare it to today?
Let me take a stab at it, without the benefit of first-hand knowledge.
Obviously Calumet Island is different. From its glorious heyday complete with castle and service harbor, to the 60’s marina, to today as a private residence, Calumet has a beauty and charm all its own.
Here’s a photo from a seaplane in 1967, and you can see how many trees it had back then. The castle ruins were still plentiful and provided quite a sight-seeing adventure for my brother and I, though there was no way to get safely close. I visited in the early 2000’s and it was very clean and for the first time in my life I was able to see the turret and stairs facing the Clayton side that was completely overgrown in the 60’s. The Calumet harbor was filled with boats, so many that “finger docks” sprung out from the stone walkways to accommodate all the customers. Today none of those era remain, though a few new ones have sprouted according to photo’s I’ve seen.
Here’s a mystery and a puzzler – why was the Calumet Island Skiff House roof and the taxi boat painted orange? We called it “Calumet Orange” in our days there during the 1960’s for lack of a better term. Here’s what I think: advertising. Calumet Island was a marina back then and a business needs to attract proper attention. If you looked across the river from Clayton, there was no mistaking that orange roof! The island itself is beautiful to look at, but that glint of orange would surely draw your eye and make you ask “Why? What’s over there?” The answer was “a marina, a nice place to keep your boat”. A short while into the 60’s the marina’s small taxi boat got a hull of the same color. I suspect for the same reason. It became a matching extension to the marina at Calumet Island. What do you think? If there’s another reason you know about, it would be interesting if you’d share it.
Clayton is different. To me, one of the big differences between then and now are the coal docks. As a kid, it was so neat to see the big ships close up while they took on coal for fuel. I can still hear the very unique sound of the coal as it dropped down the long chutes into the ship’s storage areas. Watching these behemoths maneuver to the mooring and deckhands securing the steel cables to the huge pilings and cleats left indelible images in my head. I’ve seen pictures of that part of Clayton today and it has certainly been spruced up since the coal docks went away. The adjacent town docks were configured a bit differently then, and the Golden Anchor restaurant sat above the side opposite the coal docks (and as I recall, the US Customs office). Occasionally, small single-deck wooden tour boats docked next to the Golden Anchor, I believe part of the Uncle Sam Boat Tours line. And far down the other river-side of town was McCormick’s restaurant, a period photo of which can be found in the Thousand Islands Life article in the References below, as well as Rice’s Marina where my father got his minnows for our weekly fishing trips to Grindstone Island.
Alexandria Bay? Well, that was a far-away destination to me! Every few summers my family would make the voyage there from Calumet Island. I remember how neat is was to pass under the 1000 Islands Bridge as cars passed overhead, seeing a hotel near where we docked (I believe it was the Edgewood Resort), and a western-themed family spot called “Adventure Town”. They had wild west shows and a train ride that included a “real” gold robbery! (You did not want to be the kid sitting on the bag of gold when the bad guys came a’ ridin’ in!) The link I had below has gone dead, but if you’re interested in Adventure Town, you can probably find a clip on YouTube.
McCormick’s Restaurant and American Boat Line
In this old postcard, you can see the street-side view of McCormick’s Restaurant next to the old American Boat Line tourboat office. For more information on the American Boat Line and their 1000 Islands tours, see this post I wrote.
Now it’s your turn. How does it compare? What’s still there and what isn’t? Are boat operators any better or worse today than at that earlier period of time? Has anything changed significantly in the past few decades? What’s your favorite timeless spot? Leave a comment below and share your recollections of the area both past and present. It’ll be fun!
(Photo used with permission from the “J.W. King Photography Collection” and supplied for use by Tom King)
A 1000 Islands cruise is a great getaway. The vessels have changed over the years, but the fun hasn’t. I’ve posted before about my fascination with the old American Boat Line 1000 Islands tour boats: Adonis, Venus, and Neptune. The former was the first double decker in the line, made of wood, some confirmation that she was built on a PT boat hull, and downright nice looking! Recently, I got in touch with Tom (Twitter handle @tbogie52), who answered a few 1000 Islands trivia questions I tweeted, and found out he was a crewman for one season on the original Adonis. So we got to trading questions and answers, and I learned a few new things about the Adonis. Let me share them with you: (more…)
A 1000 Islands fishing vacation is one of the greatest ways to spend part of your summer. When I was a kid, my brother and I each had a fishing pole and together we’d drop or cast a line from my father’s boat or the docks at Calumet Island Marina. The shallow water was clear enough to let us see maybe 5 or 6 feet down and spotting the type of fish to go after was fairly easy. Outside the harbor in deeper water, the St Lawrence was fairly low-visibility compared to today. The easiest fishing in the harbor was for the small ones that would take any bait we put on the hook. Ideally, we were looking for large or small mouth bass (something to eat) but always ended up with perch, sunfish, or the small rockbass. They’d all end up back in the water (in fact, I don’t recall ever catching an actual “eating fish”, though my father did fry some perch once – I suppose to show it could be done). Perch are bony little fish; lots of work to eat! I did latch onto a pike from the bow of our Steel King in the harbor, but alas, it was too small to keep. Another occasional find in the harbor was carp, but that wasn’t a favorite.
The “real fish” were found outside the harbor; for us, off Grindstone Island. The good ones were large mouth and small mouth bass, and we feasted on many of them over 10 years of summer visits. Once my father did bring in an eel. My young imagination wondered if it was electric and almost cautioned him not to grab it, but before I could say anything, he had removed the hook and sent it back to the cool river water.
Occasionally, trolling was the order of the day. For that, I learned about a different kind of fishing pole, very stiff, with steel line. Muskies and Northern Pike were the targets and, though I found trolling to be a bit of a bore at that age, the thrills begin quickly when we hooked one. Even when I was freezing aboard a wooden flying-bridge Pacemaker one cold November west of Calumet Island, snow coming down, the prospect of seeing that fighting fish kept me in the game. In the end, it was just a cold day fishing, with no reward other than having been there. Good enough.