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Visiting the Thousand Islands Bridge connecting Ivy Lea, Ontario and Collins Landing, New York: opened 1938
A practical and metaphorical deepening of links
The Thousand Islands Bridge was opened in 1938. It connects Ivy Lea, north of the St Lawrence River, Ontario, with Collins Landing, New York. The Bridge is actually a series of bridges (five in all); Hill Island, which is situated in the middle of the St Lawrence, is in the Province of Ontario, but its close to the US border at Wellesley Island in the State of New York.
The Bridge was formally opened jointly on August 18, 1938 by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. This event was but one among a series of measures which greatly eased in increase in trade and communications between the United States and Canada during the periods of office of these respective leaders, which coincided with each other over several years (1).
Construction was by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, which also financed the undertaking. This body was created by New York State in 1933, and continues to operate and maintain the Bridge.
The bridge system covers a total of about 13 kilometers of US and Canadian territory. Two of the structures are two-span continuous truss bridges; two others are suspension bridges; one is a steel arch bridge, and the remaining one is a stone-faced, concrete rigid frame bridge.
On Hill Island, Ontario, close to one of the bridges, there is an historical plaque, which was erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario. From a scenic perspective, the existence of the Bridge system has opened up the outstanding qualities of this cross-border area to a wider public, many of whom have purchased cottages on Hill Island, Ontario and Wellesley Island, New York, which would otherwise be much less accessible. Indeed, one would suspect that the building of the bridge proved to be the catalyst for the erecting of many of these cottages on Hill and Wellesley Islands.
Still, it is undoubtedly regrettable that this is for some travellers an area which they know only by going through rather than to ! And it may be frankly admitted also that the original impetus which drove FDR's and Mr King's governments to build the Thousand Islands Bridge was more commercial and logistical rather than for the immediate benefit of vacationers; and, indeed, the crossing remains of crucial importance for commercial road traffic. In this connection, the area lies on among the most direct road routes between Ottawa / Montreal and New York City.
In the immediate region, Gananoque, founded by United Empire Loyalists, is the nearest town in Ontario of any size, and Clayton, New York, would be its counterpart south of the river.
June 23, 2012
(1) Indeed, in 1940 at nearby Ogdensburg, New York, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King made an agreement which was to have a profound effect on the conduct of World War Two by their respective countries, marking Canada's increasing links with the United States, as her relations with Great Britain continued over a long period to loosen.
Also worth seeing
On Hill Island ,Ontario, itself, the 1000 Islands SkyDeck offers magnificent panoramas of the St Lawrence River.
Dewolf Point State Park , Wellesley Island, New York (distance: approx. 3 kilometres) has fine views of the Lake of the Isles; and various vacation amenities.
How to get there: From Ontario, Hill Island is served by road by the Canadian 401 freeway, via Route 137, and, from the US, by the Interstate 81. A small toll is charged to cross the Thousand Islands Bridge. By air, Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport, at nearby Kingston, Ontario, is served by Air Canada, offering scheduled flights to Toronto Pearson Airport and by charter airline Brock Air Services. Car rental is available from Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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