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Biking Wolfe Island, Ontario

Ever thought of biking Wolfe Island?

Wolfe Island sits at the spot where Lake Ontario joins the St. Lawrence River. According to their website they are in fact one of the Thousand Islands. Wolfe Island is accessed by a year round, free ferry ride from the Kingston waterfront. From May to October you can also ferry over from Cape Vincent, New York. There’s a small customs office at Alexandria Point making it one of the easier points of entry into Canada.

The last time I set foot on the island I was a Queen’s Universty student in the ’70’s. This week I was here to bike and explore Wolfe Island.

First the good news. The island still retains it’s laid back charm. There are lots of farmers, a few small businesses, several artists, a golden retriever breeder, welders, boatbuilders… There aren’t alot of services. For meals look to a small restaurant at The General Wolfe Hotel and at Brown’s Bay Inn. A bakery is well situated across from the ferry lineup. There are a few places to stay on the island. Unfortunately the Wolfe Manor B&B seems to be closed now. It was housed in an impressive building that is still worth a visit.

Bike routes on Wolfe Island

My plan was to bike the three suggested cycling routes – which were 18, 28 and 58 kms respectively. You can download the routes from the Wolfe Island website. Rent bikes on the island in the summer at the Summer Dock Studio, across from Fargo’s Store but reserve ahead of time by calling 613-385-1868. Otherwise rent in Kingston or bring one with you.

The shorter route started well with lovely water views and very peaceful biking. In fact, all I could hear were the birds, especially since the migration is on. There were lots I’d never seen before but I forgot my binoculars. About halfway into the first loop you hit gravel road. Fine initially but stay tuned. You can link up with the 28km route without going all the back to Marysville. Do take the side excursion to Big Sandy Bay. This is a good place for a picnic. Enjoy protected dunes and a sandy beach.

After leaving the beach you hit pavement again on the main road (95) linking the two ferries. Continue on this road until you reach the ferry to New York State. It’s pretty countryside through here. Then either retrace your steps to stay on pavement or meander back to Marysville on any number of dirt side roads.

Those two routes were fine – mostly peaceful, easy cycling. The 58 km route was a disappointment, mostly because I couldn’t do it. There is alot of construction going on (more wind turbines or ???) so there are lots of HUGE dumptrucks. It hasn’t rained in awhile so every time a truck went by there was so much dust you literally couldn’t see across the road. Perhaps the trucks only operate turning the week but until the construction is finished it’s not worth trying the long route.

Wolfe Island’s Dusty Roads

Wind farms on Wolfe Island

I guess progress means wind farms and that’s exactly what Wolfe Island has become – one giant windfarm. Someone on the ferry loved their look – very futuristic she thought whereas I see them as a blight on the landscape. I’m sure their construction caused considerable debate. On the bright side they do warn you ahead of time if it’s too windy to cycle.

So is it worth it to go biking on Wolfe Island?

Yes if you’re in the Kingston area and staying for a few days. It would be a great side trip for all those Queen’s parents with time on their hands.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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March 2011 Update

One of the big problems with the wind turbines according to an article in the June 2010 Canadian Geographic magazine is that a large number of bats are killed.

Robert Barclay says:

… concluded that taller towers kill more bats, although not solely because the small mammals are hit by the rotating blades. About half the bats in his study died after flying into pockets of low air pressure near the blades, which caused barotrauma …he likens the condition to “the bends”. Bats are an essential part of our environment, he stresses, and are the main consumer of insects that fly at night, such as mosquitoes and insects that damage crops. Eliminating these bats would change the entire ecology of the area.

And from an article by Richard Blackwell –  A shockingly high fatality rate at Wolfe Island windfarm distresses Nature Canada conservationists. Between July and December 2009, 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines. Click on the link to read the whole article on windfarms. It seems obvious to me that a great deal more research needs to go into windfarms – and a realistic cost-benefit analysis needs to be done. Obvious but will it happen?

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