NY Thousand Island Question

I’m planning a September paddling trip to the 1000 islands, first time visit. Is it feasible to circumnavigate Wellesley Island in one day? Which direction (assuming prevailing winds)is best? Much current in the American Narrows? It looks like a choke point.

Unfortunately my passport is expired and I procrastinated too long to apply for a passport card, so this trip will be limited to the U.S. side. I’m hoping to snag one of the walk-in waterfront sites in Wellesley Island State Park and daytrip from several launch points for about a week.

info …

– Last Updated: Jul-26-09 9:43 AM EST –

Hi ..i have some experinence in the area from yrs past but not a expert on 1000 isles....1st point ...you really need to be aware where you are as far as the border line is ....Border Patrol aren't too kind up there @ times. since 9/11. bring/obtain a good map and GPS if u have them. make sure you have required safety gear- whistle, air horn , life vest, etc.
I'm not sure you can circumnavigate Wellesley, the border is just north of Lake of the Isles. I can vouch for the St Lawrence being very busy with commercial traffic( ocean going freighters), power boats, etc. at times. Also expect a strong to moderate wind all the time. river current is fairly strong. you"ll probably be ok as you duck in behind the small isles but if your in the main river, it could get rough. main river current runs from clayton to alex bay direction.
Alex bay, on Rt 12 , is just down the road from and over the bridge from Wellesley and is a resort town, Boldt Castle may interest you as a side trip if weather is bad. It's been cool and rainy here in NY this summer , so expect/plan on inclement weather during your visit. Many nights have been pretty darn cool !! Low 50's / hi 40's at nite @ x's

additional info

– Last Updated: Jul-26-09 11:52 AM EST –

I've done some paddling in the Thousand Islands, but have only ever circumnavigated Wellesley in a motorboat. I put the trip at just shy of 20 miles. It's pretty easy to stay in US waters, but have never had any problems when straying into Canadian waters before (although I wouldn't land without a passport, of course).

I definitely recommend a clockwise route. You'll be going against the current on the south side of the island (including through the American Narrows), but if you stick close to the south shore (mainland side) of the river, you'll be out of the shipping channel and the current is not too bad. The real current issue is in "The Rift" between Wellesley and Hill Islands, where the islands nearly touch each other. Haven't been through in twenty years, but my recollection is that at the tightest pinch point it'd be extremely difficult to make any headway against the current paddling.

As the earlier poster said, boat traffic is pretty heavy, especially around Alexandria Bay. Wouldn't worry too much about the big freighters. You'll see them, but they won't sneak up on you.


Wellesley Island
I cannot speak for this year, regarding enforcement of the border while you’re on the water, but I’ve never been stopped by the Canadian or US guys. I’ve been eyeballed several times, but never approached and stopped.

In any case, the only ‘danger zone’ where you might be questioned, would be the stretch on the north side of the island running west of the International Rift where the Canada/USA border is quite close to the island. As long as you stay reasonably close to the island along that stretch, I doubt you’d be challenged by the Canadian Coast Guard or the Canadian Border Agency. And I suspect that if challenged, they might just ask you to move more south back into USA waters.

Yes, you can certainly circumnavigate the island – given the above paragraphs as a caveat. Going through the International Rift is not a big deal, in either direction. There is a current, but it’s not that strong. Noticable, I’d say, but not ‘strong’.

There is a strong-ish current, and lots of upboils, eddys and confused water in the area of the Canadian side of the Ivy Lea Bridge. But I’ve paddled both directions through there, and while upstream is hard work, it’s quite doable.

Boat traffic falls off considerably once we get past Labour Day, so I wouldn’t worry about it, except maybe near marinas.

Have fun!


the only thing I’d add
is that Blue Cheese is better

This time of year

– Last Updated: Jul-26-09 6:43 PM EST –

I have no experience paddling on either side of border; I paddle this area only in early May and Late October.

But I do know at this time of the year there will be power boat and shipping traffic, especially on the American side.

Here are some misc. U.S. Thousand Isalnd GPS Waypoints:

1.Grass Point State Park (Public Launch Site)
N 44° 17.003’ W 75° 59.947’

2.Canoe Point Sate Park
N 44° 18.561’ W 76° 04.464’

3.McHales on the River (Cottages Slightly NE of Clayton:Private Launch Site)
N 44° 15.144’ W 76° 03.030’

4.Kring Point State Park (Public Launch Site)
N 44° 22.537’ W 75° 51.546’

5.Pee Stop after Kring Point State Park
N 44° 20.856’ W 75° 54.256’

6.Mary Island Sate Park
N 44° 21.839’ W 75° 55.384’

7.Chippewa Bay (Public Launch Site)
N 44° 26.495’ W 75° 45.795’

8.Pee Stop after Chippewa Bay (Oak Island SE Corner)
N 44° 25.490’ W 75° 47.324’

9.Cedar Island State Park
N 44° 27.041’ W 75° 47.363’

Next time you come up North, being a passport and check out the Canadian Thousand Islands:


Hope this information is helpful.


Thanks for the feedback…
I’m not too concerned about the boat traffic volume, I’ll be hitting it during the workweek in mid-September. If the trip is in the vicinity or 20 miles or so, that should be a nice day if I have decent weather and allow some rubbernecking around some of the more interesting islets. Good to know both directions are possible, the most exposed portion will be traveling up the west side of Wellesley back to the campsite so I might get that out of the way first if building west winds are forecast. As long as I could power through the rift upcurrent I have options.