5 Fun Facts about Manitoulin Island
As of 2016, Manitoulin island is home to 13,255 full time residents - but that number greatly increases during the summer months when tourists and camp-goers arrive for the good weather. The name means "spirit island" in the Ojibwe language of Anishinaabemowin. And for many people, that's exactly what it is. It's a spiritual place where one can admire the raw beauty and carefully preserved culture of the island. There is a rich expanse of history and local pride embedded in the land of Manitoulin island. Here are just a few interesting facts about the place we call home.
1. Manitoulin island is the largest freshwater island in the world
With an area of 2766 sq. km, Manitoulin holds the title for the largest island surrounded by freshwater. However, an island in Brazil called Marajó island has tried to dispute this claim—Marajó island is indeed about 20 times the size of Manitoulin, but the bodies of the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River meet along the northeast coastline of the island, resulting in water that is not entirely fresh. With that settled, Manitoulin is still the reigning champion!
2. Manitoulin is home to the prehistoric archeological site of Sheguiandah
In 1951, archeologist Thomas E. Lee discovered that Sheguiandah was home to ancient artifacts and tools that date back to the Paleo-Indian period—that’s at the end of the last Ice Age, almost 12,000 years ago! His team found many tools and weapons that early Aboriginal people crafted out of quartzite. In 1954, it was declared a National Historic Site of Canada, protecting the quartzite knoll and the town of Sheguiandah itself.
3. Manitoulin has 108 freshwater lakes
What gets even more interesting, is that some of these lakes have their own islands as well—and those islands have ponds within them. When you think about it, Manitoulin is a great big nesting doll of islands and water. One of our more unique lakes is called Nameless Lake—it prohibits all gas-powered vehicles, and all buildings in view of the water must be painted earth toned colours. These measures are in place to preserve the rural values that so many people dismiss in favour of overdeveloping.
4. The Little Current Swing Bridge was built in 1913
When the Canadian Pacific Railway took over control of the bridge in 1930, they decided that it was to remain OPEN at all times to allow marine traffic to pass through, except when a train needed to go over. Now, almost 100 years later, the bridge is heavily used by road vehicle traffic—it is the only land link to the island.
5. Manitoulin is home to many historical lighthouses
One of the oldest and most protected lighthouses on the island is the Strawberry island lighthouse. It was built in 1881, and it represents the growing economy of the lumber, fishing, and shipping industries at the time. It was built to ensure safe passage through a narrow section of the North Channel. And it's still used today, remaining an important symbol of the area for people travelling the waters.
There you have it. 5 facts you may or may not have known before about the wondrous and legendary Manitoulin island. If there's any piece of advice I'll leave you with, it's this: make sure to avoid the Swing Bridge on the hour - 15 minutes can feel like a looong time.