Photos Taken October 2011
From my experience, few people are aware that The Thousand Islands refers to an actual place and not just salad dressing. The area in question is between Ontario and New York, along the St. Lawrence River and the uppermost section of Lake Ontario. The name The Thousand Islands is also a little off; there are actually closer to two thousand of them.
Several companies offer boat tours of the islands. Many tours allow you to visit one of two castles, either Boldt Castle on Heart Island or Singer Castle on Dark Island. This time, we opted for Boldt Castle. Someday we’ll return and check out the other one.
If you are coming from the US side, you do not need a passport for these tours since the boats do not land in Canada. The two islands with castles are also entirely within the United States.
The tour itself consists of a boat ride with a guide giving short histories and random facts about many of the islands, houses, and owners. At the end, if you want (and why wouldn’t you), the boat drops you off on Heart Island, and for a small fee you are allowed to roam the island and its buildings.
One story I found fascinating involved some statues on the US side. During Prohibition, according to our guide, whether or not the statues’ eyes were lit up let bootleggers on the Canadian side of the river know whether or not it was safe to bring over their booze.
The following is a somewhat blurry photo of the smallest official island, known as Tom Thumb. Our guide said to qualify as an “official” island, it must be bigger than a square foot, has to be above water year round, and must have at least one tree.
So those are some of the sights to be seen during the boat tour. It’s amazing how some of the houses have virtually no yard between them and the water.
After going up and down the river a bit, the boat then pulls into Heart Island. A quick history – in 1900, multimillionaire George Boldt ordered the construction of Boldt Castle for his wife. She died four years later. Heartbroken, George halted all work on the island and never returned. The castle and its surrounding buildings remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Commission paid one dollar for Heart Island.
All money made on the island goes toward restoring and preserving the castle and grounds.
You are allowed to roam most of the castle. There are two other buildings on the island as well. The powerhouse is at the back of the island and now serves as a museum. Alster Tower, at the front of the island, was closed for repairs when we visited.