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Route 6 - Raft Narrows

Raft Narrows Photo
Trailhead: 

The Ivy Lea Campground is an ideal access point for paddlers on day and extended trips in the Ivy Lea region. Secure parking is available, at this fully serviced park facility, with a nearby general store. The wayside-park at Halstead’s Bay is also a suitable launch point for shorter day trips, however it lacks an easy launch site (you have to launch off a rock beach) and no secure overnight parking is available. Those embarking on extended trips in this part of the Thousand Islands will find that many marinas and inns maintain boat launches and offer secure overnight parking facilities.

Trip Length / Distance: 

A half-day of paddling is easily filled on this leisurely loop that skirts the shores of Hill Island. Nearby island and mainland camping and accommodations easily permits extended stays.

The return trip from Ivy Lea Village around Hill Island is roughly 18km. This trip is shortened by using the launch at Ivy Lea Campground.

Points of Interest: 

Lost Channel

The Lost Channel passes under the second span of the Thousand Islands International Bridge, near Georgina and Constance Islands, amidst the myriad channels created by the numerous small islands.

Georgina Island 

Microclimate describes the small but significant differences that exist within the same locale-in this case on the same island! Vegetation is quickly affected by tiny variations in habitat, and this microclimate phenomenon of the Thousand Islands ecology is readily apparent as you walk the trails of Georgina Island. The island’s rocky southwestern slope is exposed to direct sunlight and heavy winds that combine to create a habitat that only hardy species can prosper. A pitch pine and red oak forest dominates the western end, and gradually gives way to a pure pitch pine stand on the southwestern tip of the island. Other species with a southern affinity found on Georgina include milk vetch, hairy bush clover and southern arrowood. The gently sloping northern side of the island is sheltered from sun and most winds. Lofty hemlock and white pine sway overhead to provide a dense shade, yielding a moist and cool habitat that supports species typical of northern forests like yellow clintonia. The island is home to 12 rare plant species including Indian cucumber root and pink lady’s slipper, an uncommon orchid that sends its roots into the moist soils near a seasonal pool. Large docking facilities in small bays on the north and south face of the island provide ample room to land and stroll. Follow the directions on the trailhead and enjoy the trails that loop the island. The two campsites on Georgina are part of limited island camping on this route.

Batterman’s Point

Stop in at the picnic pavilion built on a tiny piece of rock on the northeast corner of Hill Island.

Darlingside

In the 1840s, the general store at Darlingside served the needs of Thousand Islands residents and visitors. Built in 1843, the store is Georgian style and features finely carved wood finishings. Today Darlingside is a historic site to be admired as you paddle Raft Narrows.

Smuggler’s Cove

The infamous smuggling days on the river saw this deep, narrow cove a favourite of horse thieves and rum-runners. Virgin Island at the mouth of the cove hid most comings and goings from easy view of constables that may have patrolled the waters, but didn’t stop the illegal activity from taking place. Of course the authorities were wise to this and were not below posing undercover as fishermen or trappers working the bay! Look for Smuggler’s Cave at the end of the cove - a depot rumoured to house Spanish bullion, caseloads of Prohibition-era booze, and untold other contraband. Today, the east side of Smuggler’s Cove is the site of Ivy Lea Campsite, a perfect spot to pull out for the evening.

Lover’s Lane

Paddle the narrow cut of water that divides the picturesque shorelines rimmed with hemlock and white pine, through Lover’s Lane in the tiny channel on the north side of Ivy Island. Can you guess how this place was named?

Petroglyphs

As you cruise the shoreline at the Raft Narrows, keep an eye to the granite walls for petroglyph images. First Nations used granite as canvas and some of their ancient artwork remains on display today.

Extensions: 

Extended trips upstream to explore the Navy Islands (#5) and Lake Fleet Arm (#4) are reasonable extensions to consider for adventure paddling. For those continuing eastward, the Grenadier Island route (#7) begins in Rockport, just a short paddle downriver.

Notes and Cautions: 

Rough Waters and Fast Currents

The current quickens near Georgina Island as the river plunges over an underwater waterfall north of the island. The narrow channels on the west and south ends of the island also carry a rapid flow of water.

In the International Rift the current can accelerate a paddler's pace considerably. If eastbound, exercise caution as the currents whisk you through this narrow cut.

Lean, rudder or brace as you see fit! If heading westbound, power up through the cut staying close to shore to avoid any craft heading downstream under current power! Stay near shore and be ready to use a bracing stroke as you paddle.

Recreation Channel

The recreational boating channel bisects this route in many places. Be aware of other vessels and be careful crossing the channel.

Tour Boats

Several tour boats operate out of Rockport and Alexandria Bay, and frequent this portion of the Thousand Islands. Give these vessel a wide berth, and don’t be surprised if several friendly folks wave, smile and snap a photo or two!

Open Waters

Paddlers heading downriver to begin the Grenadier Island route, must navigate a wide crossing between Club Island and Tar Island, just offshore of Rockport. This area is often busy with recreational craft and tour boats, and is known for its choppy waters. Be cautious here.

Note: Click "Download Map (PDF)" link to the right to download/print guide and map of route.

The Raft Narrows route leads paddlers through the heart of the Thousand Islands, past Hill Island, and through the sheltered passage of Lake of the Isles. Between the tiny communities of Ivy Lea and Rockport, the St. Lawrence river reaches its narrowest point in the Raft Narrows, a busy section where the traffic overhead on the International Bridge seems surreal in the beautiful surroundings. The legends dance along the mysterious Lost Channel, echo off the rocky shore of Constance Island and whistle through lofty pines somehow secure atop solid granite. Ample camping on the mainland at Ivy Lea Campsite and island sites on Georgina lure paddlers to stay at the midway point of the 1000 Islands Water Trail.

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