The biggest secret of Manitoulin Island

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The biggest secret of Manitoulin Island
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Located in Lake Huron in Ontario and blessed with incredible natural beauty, Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island on our planet. It is Ontario’s best kept secret and the place where life moves at a slower pace and time and water flow gently together.

The biggest secret of Manitoulin IslandThe island has a significant Indigenous population, and their rich cultural heritage is reflected in art, music, traditional practices, and annual powwows.

The biggest secret of Manitoulin IslandManitoulin Island – names and legends

Manitoulin Island reflects the creations and spiritual beliefs of the first peoples who called it home. Names of many places on the Island reflect the original titles given to them by the Indigenous peoples.

The biggest secret of Manitoulin IslandManitoulin

In Exploring Manitoulin, historian Shelley Pearen interprets an Indigenous legend about the creation of the island, “the Great Spirit, known as Kitche Manitou, set aside the best pieces of the world when he created it, the bluest, most sparkling water; the whitest, most fleecy clouds; the brightest stars; the most fertile fields; the greenest forests […] and set it in an inland sea, Lake Huron […] and proclaimed it ‘Manitou Minis’ or ‘Island of Manitou’.”

“Manitoulin” is the Anglicized version of the name Manidoowaaling, which means “cave of the spirit” in the language of the Ojibwe. It was named for an underwater cave where a powerful spirit is said to live. The Great Spirit secretly travelled between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Other legends describe an “underwater monster,” Mishebeshu, depicted in art as a horned lynx, an immense ‘cat serpent’ that struck awe and fear in all who saw it.

Mindemoya

Lake Mindemoya and Treasure Island in it, also known as Mindemoya, were named Mindemoya because of the distinctive shape of the island: rising at one end to a long, flat hill, with a steep drop to a short, low area at the other end. According to legend, a great chieftain or demi-god who once lived in Sault Ste. Marie, had a wife who would not give him any peace. In frustration he eventually kicked her and sent her flying to land on her hands and knees in Lake Mindemoya, leaving her back and rump above the water, which we see today as the island. The word “Mindemoya” supposedly means “old lady’s bottom”. The island lent its name to Lake Mindemoya and in turn to the village of Mindemoya. The island was renamed “Treasure Island” by a tourist operator who built a resort there in the early 20th century.

Wikwemikong

The largest unceded Indian reserve in North America, Wikwemikong, with a population of over 3000 people means “bay of the beaver”.

Manitoulin Island has over 100 lakes itself!

The biggest secret of Manitoulin IslandSurrounded by the clear blue waters of Lake Huron, this largest freshwater island in the world is large enough that it has over 100 lakes itself.

Being situated within a lake rather than the ocean or a river system, Manitoulin Island is not connected to any landmass other than the mainland by bridges or ferries. This unique geographical characteristic of being an island within a lake contributes to its distinction as a “lake island.”

The island’s boundaries are defined by the shores of Lake Huron, and its landscape, ecosystems, and cultural heritage are shaped by its relationship with the lake.

Most prominent lakes of Manitoulin Island

Its three most prominent lakes are Lake Manitou, Lake Kagawong and Lake Mindemoya. The largest one is Lake Manitou.

Lake Manitou

This is the largest lake on Manitoulin Island that covers an area of approximately 104 sq. km and offers incredible vistas and great opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water activities. It is drained by the Manitou River. There are several small islands in Lake Manitou, such as Roper Island and Bear Island in the very south of the western lobe of the lake, and McCracken’s Island in the neck, making them islands in a lake on an island in a lake.

Lake Kagawong

Lake Kagawong is a picturesque lake on Manitoulin Island that covers an area of approximately 23 sq. km and is known for its clear waters, sandy shorelines, and scenic views. The Lake is drained by the Kagawong River, which falls over Bridal Veil Falls into Lake Huron. Lake Kagawong has moderately deep (10-15m average) clear-green water, with vertical visibility of 5–6m. Ironically, the deepest areas of the lake are very close to shore. The easternmost shore of Lake Kagawong consists of a sheer rocky ledge. This ledge can be as low as 1–2m, but rises up to 15m at Red Rock. The cliffs of Red Rock rise from water that is in excess of 40m deep. Care should be taken when boating next to these cliffs, as rockfalls are frequent.

The biggest secret of Manitoulin Island
Bridal Veil Falls on Manitoulin island.

Lake Mindemoya

Lake Mindemoya is another significant lake on the island. It is the second-largest lake on Manitoulin Island, covering an area of about 55 sq. km. Its marl clay base contributes to a deep blue to light green colour. The lake reaches depths of 21m, while the average depth is 7m. The lake is known for its sandy beaches and is popular for swimming, fishing, and recreational boating.

The biggest secret of Manitoulin Island

World’s largest island in a lake on an island in a lake

Guinness World Records

“Treasure Island, also known as Mindemoya Island, is an island on Lake Mindemoya, which in turn sits on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada. The island is 1.4 km (0.87 miles) in length and approximately 400 metres wide (1,312 feet) – giving an overall area of 445,154 square metres (110 acres).”

That is the biggest secret of Manitoulin Island.

Haweater Festival

The biggest secret of Manitoulin IslandThe trademark of Manitoulin Island is hawberry. These berries are so distinctive that people born on the island are referred to as “Haweaters”. Each year on the August long weekend, the island hosts the Haweater Festival. The festival attracts numerous tourists; it features parades, firework shows, craft shows, and rural competitions such as horse pulls.

Hawberries are shrubs or small trees, mostly growing to 5–15 m tall, with small pome fruit and (usually) thorny branches. The name haw, originally an Old English term for hedge meaning “a fence with thorns” also applies to the fruit.

Manitoulin Island Treaty

The Manitoulin Island Treaty of 1862 is a significant historical event that resulted in the surrender of Indigenous lands on the island to the Canadian government. However, Manitoulin Island has the largest unceded Indian reserve in North America – Wikwemikong. The Treaty has shaped the relationship between Indigenous communities and the government and continues to be of historical and cultural importance.

How to get to Manitoulin

There are two options to get to Manitoulin Island – by car or by ferry:

  1. Year-round motor-vehicle access to the island is available via the one-lane Little Current Swing Bridge, which crosses the North Channel at Little Current.
  2. Chi-Cheemaun ferry: From late May to early October, a daily passenger-vehicle ferry, the MS Chi-Cheemaun (Ojibwe for “Big Canoe”), travels between Tobermory on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth. Winter ice prevents ferry service during that season. Chi-Cheemaun makes the 40 km (25 mi) trip in about one hour and 45 minutes, three times each day during peak season and twice a day (with an extra trip Fridays) during May/June and September/October. The ship is 111 m long with a 19 m beam and has capacity for 648 passengers and 143 vehicles, including room for large highway vehicles such as buses and transport trucks. Travelling on Chi-Cheemaun is very exciting … but it’s a different story.

Manitoulin Island is part of the Manitoulin District and is considered a separate municipality within Ontario. One of the Indigenous reserves in Manitoulin Island, the Wikwemikong, is the Canada’s only unceded reserve.

Wherever you go on this vast and beautiful island, you can feel the mystical aura of the place and its people.

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