We finally paid a visit to one of Georgian Bay Land Trust’s finer properties, American Camp Island, which has been a GBLT holding since 2007 and is part of the Wah Wah Taysee group of islands just off the small craft route, near Indian Harbour. We had poked our bow into the inner harbour on a previous run, to check it out, but didn’t have time to go ashore. This time, we made a point of running some 25 miles north from home and devoting an afternoon to a visit.
Technically, we didn’t even visit American Camp Island. A group of people from two small runabouts were swimming and otherwise hanging out there. American Camp Island is a “green” GBLT property, meaning it’s open to the public, with some restrictions (green properties are limited to “low- impact activities like picnicking, swimming, taking photographs, hiking and bird watching.” You can “NEVER camp overnight, light fires, leave garbage, damage or remove natural materials, make loud noise, or use motorized vehicles.”) The trust asks that no more than ten people visit American Camp Island at one time. There is supposed to be a flagpole where a steward can raise a red flag to indicate no one else is allowed ashore. I couldn’t see a flagpole, but as we poked around in the dinghy, we decided to avoid American Camp Island and went ashore instead at Andrew’s Island, which is immediately west of American Camp Island (beyond the two rocks and the 7-foot sounding in the chart) and is part of the larger holding. I’m not sure photos do this rockscape/waterscape justice, and the view south towards home is spectacular.
I had assumed the name “American Camp Island” referred to a fishing camp that might have existed here, but according to the GBLT’s property history,
In the late 1800s, one of the Alexander brothers
(either Sir Douglas or Bert) purchased the island
group now known to us as the Alexander Islands
from the Crown. Sir Douglas Alexander was a
British subject who married a Canadian woman
working and living in New York. His two sisters
and brothers-in-law referred to Sir Douglas and
his wife as “the New Yorkers”, a nickname which
ultimately led to the island name we’re familiar
The story goes that the name “American Camp”
was first used after Sir Douglas Alexander and
his family had a picnic on the island in the late
1800s or early 1900s, and it seems to have stuck
Visitors arrive by a variety of craft, and cottagers seem to have worked out which nooks and crannies they can safely negotiate with small powerboats for a picnic or swim. If you’re a larger vessel or are visiting for the first time, the main inner anchorage is the best bet. There seems to be deep water all the way in, although a bow lookout for shoals would be prudent. The harbour is well protected from waves, but the islands are so low that you’re pretty much exposed to the breeze. When we were there, a modest southerly of 10+ knots was kicking up a slight chop in the harbour. The anchorage must be an interesting place in a blow. I recommend having the fishfinder on and being sure you’re above flat, muddy bottom, and not rock, before tossing the hook.