Leg 2, From Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge to the beach at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site
When you leave Harbor Island NWR, go due west to the west side of Little Trout Island where you can visit the ship wreck J. C. Ford at N 46 02.664 W 83 50.280. Its big brass propeller can be seen from the surface. The Ford caught fire and sank on November 26, 1924.
Fort St. Joseph is a Canadian National Historic Site. There is an outstanding museum and interpretive center near the site of the old fort that was built of limestone quarried from Lime Island. The museum focuses on the fur trade and British military history. The fort was used to stage the attack on Mackinaw Island at the beginning of the War of 1812. There are no camping options at or near Fort St. Joseph, other than on Lime Island. It should be noted that international travel requires inspection at the designated Homeland Security site located at the Yacht Haven on Drummond Island.
The Fort is open from Victoria Day (mid May) to the Canadian Thanksgiving (early October) and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 705-246-2664 summer and 705-941-6203 winter.
The War of 1812 helped foster the resolution of the boundary between the United States and Canada. Fort Collier (on Drummond Island) was constructed after the War of 1812 in the mistaken belief that Drummond Island would remain British and St. Joseph would be ceded to the United States. Many years passed before this issue was resolved and as a result Fort Collier (referred to as Fort Drummond) (1815-1828) was the last British fort in the United States of America.
Photo by D. Sandell
|Besides the Museum and interpretive center the historic center has a totally restored chimney, a powder magazine and ruins from many other building including a bake house and kitchen, stores building, lime kiln, blacksmith shop and many civilian structures. You can view Drummond from the shores of Fort St. Joseph and also, Lime Island, Harbor Island and the Saint Marys River. There are nature trails, which have interpretive signs, and its a great location for viewing both up bound and down bound river traffic.|
Leg 3, Fort ST. Joseph National Historic Site to Lime Island
Once you leave Old Fort St. Joseph Point, heading north, the Island right in front of you is Lime Island. Aim for the southern end. This is a distance of about 1-1/2 mile. Once there, travel the shoreline on the west side to the docks on the northeast end, a distance of a little over 2 miles. At this point you can stay out of the main St. Marys shipping lane by hugging the west shore of Lime Island.
Lime Island was never an official town, but did have a post office from 1891to 1892, then reactivated in 1914 until about 1940. Even though never established as a town, the island once had a population of 100. The Island was used as a fueling station and dock operated by the Pittsburg Coal Company. There are two bunker fuel storage tanks on the Island near the dock. You can’t miss them. Following the trail north and past the bunker fuel tanks is a British era limekiln, a lime waste deposit, and limestone quarry. These archeological sites were related to the construction of Fort St. Joseph.
In the 1840s, Lime Island was homesteaded and farmed. Later a resort hotel was constructed on the island and hosted Diamond Jim Brady and other notables. The island couldn’t compete with the likes of the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, and the island became a refueling station for most of its history.
As mentioned earlier, Lime Island has camping platforms in two locations: (1) The dock area on the northwest end of the island that has seven platforms. And (2) The sandy beach on the southeast that has four platforms facing St. Joseph Island and Fort St. Joseph.
During this trip you have visited Drummond Island, one of the largest fresh water Islands in the world, you have kayaked in and among its fifty plus outlying islands, bays and coves. You have walked the old growth oak and pine forest of Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge and you have crossed an international border under your own steam. You have taken a step back in history to visit the past, not only another time, but other cultures. You have stood where British solders drilled and paddled the same waters with the early French, British and Indian tribes. You have seen close up, great ore carriers from the waters edge, and if close enough, humbled by there great size. And if this is not enough you could have walked nature trails, and picked a handful of berries or caught a stringer of fish for dinner. Maybe your best moment was seeing the large brass propeller from the shipwreck J.C. Ford or the Sandhill Crane you saw walking on Harbor Island, or maybe it was sitting on the dock at Lime Island with beer in hand watching the sunset in the west. You ask a hundred paddlers what was there best moment and you get a hundred stories. What will your story be?