Georgian Bay (French:
baie Georgienne) is a large bay of Lake Huron, located in Ontario, Canada.
body of the bay lies east of the Bruce Peninsula and south of Manitoulin Island.
Bay is surrounded by (listed clockwise)
Sudbury District, Parry Sound
District, Simcoe County,
County and Bruce County.
The Main Channel separates the Bruce
Peninsula from Manitoulin Island and connects Georgian Bay to the
rest of Lake Huron. The North Channel of Lake Huron, located between Manitoulin Island
and the Sudbury District, west of Killarney, was once a popular route for steamships and is now used by a variety of
pleasure craft to travel to and from
The shores and waterways of the Georgian Bay were, and are, the
domain of the Anishinaabeg First Nations
peoples to the North and
the south. The bay was thus a major Algonquian
route. Samuel de Champlain
first European to explore and map the area in 1615-1616, called it
"La Mer douce" (the calm sea). It was named "Georgian Bay" (after
King George IV
Lieutenant Henry Wolsey
of the Royal Navy
Main body of Georgian Bay highlighted
on the map of the Great Lakes
Georgian Bay is about 320 kilometres (200 miles) long by 80
kilometres (50 miles) wide. It covers over 15,000 square kilometres (5800
square miles), making it almost as large as Lake Ontario.
Eastern Georgian Bay is part of the
southern edge of the Canadian
, granite bedrock exposed by the glaciers at the end of
the last ice age
, about 11,000 years ago.
The granite rock formations and windswept Eastern White Pine are
characteristic of the islands and much of the shoreline of the bay.
The rugged beauty of the area inspired landscapes by artists of the
Group of Seven
of which is the painting by Frederick
shown below). The western part of the bay, from Collingwood
north, and including Manitoulin Island, Drummond, Cockburn and St. Josephs Island, borders
There are tens of thousands of islands in Georgian Bay.
these islands are along the east side of the bay and are
collectively known as the "Thirty Thousand Islands," including the
Manitoulin Island, lying along the northern
side of the bay, is the world's largest island in a freshwater
Trent-Severn Waterway connects
Georgian Bay to Lake
Ontario, running from Port Severn in the southeastern corner of Georgian Bay through
Simcoe into Lake Ontario near Trenton.
Nipissing drains into
it through the French
River. In October 2004, the Georgian Bay Littoral was declared a
Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Archeological records reveal an Aboriginal presence in the southern
regions of the Canadian Shield dating from 11,000 years ago.
of later paleo-Aboriginal settlements have been found on Manitoulin
Island and near Killarney, Ontario.
At the time of contact the Ojibwe
, both of whom call
Anishinaabeg), lived along the northern, eastern and western shores
of Georgian Bay. The Huron
) and Tionontati
inhabited the lands along the southern coast. Names of islands such
as "Manitoulin" (from Gitchi Manitou
the Great Spirit) and "Giant's Tomb" are indicative of the richness
of the cultural history of the area. Aboriginal communities
continue to live on their territories and practise their cultural
The first European
to visit this area was
likely the teenage interpreter trainee Étienne Brûlé
, who in 1610 was
sent to live with the Onontchataronon, an Algonquin people of the
Ottawa River, who travelled every winter to live with the
Arendarhonon people of the Huron (Wendat) confederacy at the
southern end of Georgian Bay, in the area now called Huronia. Brulé
made a return visit with the Arendarhonon in 1611, and at the same
time another young interpreter trainee, a youth remembered only as
Thomas who was employed by the French surgeon and trader Daniel
Boyer, also likely made it to Huronia, in the company of the
Onontchataronon. In 1615, Brulé's employer, the French explorer
Samuel de Champlain, made his
own visit to Georgian Bay and overwintered in Huronia.
was preceded that summer by a Récollet missionary, Joseph Le Caron,
who would live among the Huron in 1615-1616 and 1623-1624. Another
Récollet missionary, Gabriel Sagard, visited in 1623-34.
French Jesuit Jean de Brébeuf began a mission
in Huronia in 1626, and the mission fort of Sainte-Marie, Ontario's
first European settlement, followed in 1639
at what is now the town of Midland. The reconstructed Jesuit mission, Sainte-Marie
among the Hurons, is now a historic park operated by the province of
Ontario. Also nearby is the Martyrs'
Shrine, a Catholic church dedicated to the Canadian Martyrs, Jesuits who were killed
around Georgian Bay in the 17th century. Penetanguishene, also located at the southern tip of the bay near
Midland, was created as a naval base in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe.
In 1814, during the War of 1812
, one of
the battles was fought in Southern Georgian Bay. On August 17, at the
mouth of the Nottawasaga River near Wasaga Beach, the British
schooner HMS Nancy was sunk by three American vessels.
weeks later, the Nancy
was avenged when two of the
American vessels were surprised and captured by British boarding
parties in the Detour Passage.
Georgian Bay was first charted in 1815 by Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen
called it Lake Manitoulin. Captain Henry
, who made much more detailed charts of the bay,
renamed it in 1822 after King George IV
; his charts
are the basis of those in use today.
Legend of Kitchikewana
Huron legend tells of a god called Kitchikewana, who was large
enough to guard the whole of the Georgian Bay. Kitchikewana was
known for his great temper and one day, in a fit of rage, he dug a
giant hand into the ground and flung the dirt he pulled up into the
Great Lakes. Thus, the 30,000 Islands were created. The
indentations left behind by his fingers form the five bays of
Georgian Bay: Midland Bay, Penetang Bay, Hog Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and
Matchedash Bay.He then lay down to sleep and sleeps there
still as Giant's Tomb
There is a YMCA summer camp for youth
located on Beausoleil Island, in Southern Georgian Bay, named after
Kitchikewana. YMCA Camp Kitchikewana, or Kitchi for short, has been
located in Georgian Bay Islands National park for over 90 years.
Originally operated by the Midland YMCA, it is now the residential
camp for youth from the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka.
of Midland and Penetanguishene, at the southern end of the bay, are a popular site
for summer cottages, as are the many bays and islands on the
eastern shore. Collingwood, Meaford and Wasaga Beach are located at the southern end of the bay, around
Sound and Wiarton are located on the Bruce Peninsula along the
southern and southwestern shore of the bay, while Tobermory is located at the northern tip of the Bruce
Peninsula on the Main Channel. The passenger ferry
MS Chi-Cheemaun travels from
Tobermory, across the Main Channel to South
Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. Parry
Sound, the world's deepest freshwater port, is located on
the eastern shore of the bay.
Shoreline of Georgian Bay
There are communities of summer cottages on the north and east
shore and on the adjacent 30,000 Islands. These include areas
such as Cognashene, Wah Wah Taysee, Sans Souci, Pointe au Baril and Byng Inlet.
Most of these cottages are accessible only
- Ketcheson, Graham. A
Brief History of Georgian Bay.
- The Ouendat (Huron) Indian Legend of Kitchikewana
- Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume I: From the Beginning to
1800. Edited by R. Cole Harris. Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8020-2495-5
- The Archaeology of Southern Ontario To 1650. Edited by
C. Ellis and N. Ferris. London Chapter, Ontario Archaeological
Society, 1990. ISBN 0-919350-13-5
- Native Languages of the Americas
- "Ojibwe History" Shultzman, L. 2000. First Nations
Histories. Accessed: 2006-03-28.
- Shaped by the West Wind: Nature and History in Georgian
Bay. Claire Elizabeth Campbell. Vancouver: University of British
Columbia Press, 2005. ISBN 077481098X