Amherst Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about an island in Ontario, Canada. For the island in Nunavut, see Amherst Island (Nunavut).
Amherst Island
Amherst Island.JPG
Location Lake Ontario
Coordinates 44°08′38″N 76°43′18″W / 44.1438°N 76.7216°W / 44.1438; -76.7216Coordinates: 44°08′38″N 76°43′18″W / 44.1438°N 76.7216°W / 44.1438; -76.7216
Area 70 km2 (27 sq mi)
Length 20 km (12 mi)
Width 7 km (4.3 mi)
Province Ontario
County Lennox and Addington
Township Loyalist township
Population 450
Density 6.43 /km2 (16.65 /sq mi)

Amherst Island is located in Lake Ontario, 10 kilometres (6 mi) west of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Contrary to popular perception, Amherst Island is not one of the Thousand Islands.[1][2] The island is part of Loyalist Township in Lennox and Addington County. Amherst Island is located about 3 kilometres (2 mi) offshore from the rest of Loyalist Township and is serviced by an automobile and truck ferry from Millhaven. The island measures over 20 kilometres (12 mi) in length from Bluff Point in the southwest to Amherst Bar in the northeast and over 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) at its widest point across. The island is about 70 square kilometres (27 sq mi) in size and is one of the largest islands in the Great Lakes.

The Amherst Island archipelago also includes: Nut Island, Grape Island and the Brother Islands. These small islands cover over 6,700 hectares (16,500 acres) or about 66 square kilometres (25 sq mi). Nut Island is the largest of the islands that immediately surround Amherst Island and is about 610 metres (2,000 ft) off the Amherst Island coast between Amherst Bay and Long Point Bay. Grape Island is located about 300 metres (1,000 ft) off the Amherst Island coast, and can be easily seen from shore. The Brother Islands are situated between Amherst Island and the Lemoine Point Conservation Area in Kingston, Ontario.


Amherst Island was known by the French as Isle Tonti, after Henri de Tonty, who accompanied La Salle during his explorations. The island was later settled by United Empire Loyalists and renamed Amherst Island in 1792 by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in honour of Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, who was commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. At the same time, he named the archipelago for the victorious Generals at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham: Wolfe Island, this one, Howe Island, Carleton Island and Gage Island. The last is now known as Simcoe Island.[citation needed]

Amherst Island was farmed for generations by Irish tenants who rented from a British Lord through his manager, and many of the current residents of the island are descendants of those early settlers.[citation needed]


Amherst Island ferry, the Frontenac II.

The two main communities on Amherst Island are Stella and Emerald. Stella is the major hamlet, where the ferry docks are, and lends its name also as the postal outlet name for the island. Emerald is a collection of four houses and a church towards the west end of the island.

The island is accessible from the mainland only by water or air. A ferry service, carrying cars and people, connects the hamlet of Stella on the island with Millhaven on the mainland. The ferry, M/V Frontenac II, runs 365 days a year, with a crossing time of about 20 minutes.[3] The ferry service is run by Loyalist Township. The toll ferry operates between Millhaven (on the mainland) and Stella (on Amherst Island). As of June, 2012 the toll is $9 for a return trip ticket on a standard car or light truck. There is a nominal charge for bicycles and motorcycles while walk-on passengers are free.[4] The ferry service is run by Loyalist Township.

The resident population of about 450 people doubles during the summer months. The Amherst Island Public School doubles as a community centre for Amherst Island during non-regular school hours.[5]

The motor vessel Frontenac II is a ferry on Lake Ontario, that runs from Millhaven, Ontario to Amherst Island.

Island Radio 92.1 FM[edit]

A volunteer community radio station, Island Radio CJAI, began broadcasting on April 1, 2006, originally on 93.7 FM. Previously licensed as a developmental community radio station, CJAI changed frequency to 92.1 FM in October 2007 following the licensing of a new radio station on the adjacent 93.5 frequency in Kingston, and was granted a permanent license on December 6, 2007. It now operates as a 250-watt class B community broadcast undertaking. It is a 100% volunteer operated station, and is concerned with the preservation of the Amherst Island way of life, accurate and timely information reporting, and the promotion of Canadian musical talent.

Notable islanders[edit]

Native islanders include Harry Raymond Fleming (1892–1942), Canadian MP for Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and English-born artist Daniel Fowler (1810–94), who immigrated to Amherst Island in 1843 and remained there until his death. Fowler stated in his autobiography: "I found a sufficient variety of subjects on the island, along with shore and inland, and never went away on any sketching trip." Inspired by the Island's bucolic landscape, flora and fauna, Daniel Fowler was considered by his peers as "one of the fathers of Canadian Art". The house he lived in during his final years still exists on the north shore of the Island. A plaque commemorates the site.


Amherst Island is internationally recognized for concentrations of wintering hawks and owls and is home to the famous Owl Woods nature reserve. Up to 10 species of owls have been recorded during a single winter. short-eared owls, long-eared owls and great horned owls are among the resident bird population. Visitors from the far and near north - snowy owls, saw-whet owls, and the rare boreal owl as well as eastern screech owls and barred owls – add to the owl population during late fall and winter. Both red-tailed hawks and rough-legged hawks are usually present, and there are annual sightings of bald eagles, peregrine falcons and turkey vultures.

Amherst Island is internationally known as an Important Bird Area and a key migratory location for birds; this fact has caused some concern for those wary of the proposed industrial wind turbine project slated to be built on the island.

The island is noted for farming, particularly of sheep of which there are several thousand on the island. The island's roads, built long ago, have little automobile traffic making the island an excellent locale for cycling, especially on the gravel and dirt roads that hug the shores of Lake Ontario. The island has warm moderate summers, cold brisk winters and steady lake winds most of the year.

"Islands of Life", a report published in 2010 by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, ranks Amherst Island second in biodiversity significance among the islands of northeast Lake Ontario; second only in significance to its larger neighbour, Wolfe Island.[6]

Wind farm turbine development[edit]

Steady lake winds, especially in winter, make some people believe that the island is an ideal potential location for wind turbines. Several companies have expressed interest in developing industrial wind turbine projects on the island. After initial assessment two firms have withdrawn; one is still pursuing this action, encouraged by residents who have signed leases for wind farm turbines to be sited on their lands.

Some island residents are opposed to the project, raising concerns that the proposed 32 to 37 51-story wind turbines will have a negative impact on the heritage tourism economy, both on the island and in local mainland communities, as well as on migratory bird, bat and butterfly populations.[7] Several groups of residents have formed as a result of the proposals. The island landowners who have agreed to host turbines on their land have formed Citizens of Amherst Island for Renewable Energy (CAIRE). Those opposed to wind power development on the island have formed the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI) and a coordinated sister group, SaveAI. In January 2012, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture asked the Ontario government to put a moratorium on all wind turbine projects until the health effects of this project and other issues have been properly assessed.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ FIELD TRIP GUIDE: GEOLOGY OF THE KINGSTON AREA 80th Meeting of Eastern Section of the Seismological Society of America at Queen’s University, Kingston ON Canada, October 5, 2008
  2. ^ White, James (1910) Place-Names in the Thousand Islands. Government Printing Bureau.
  3. ^ "Amherst Island Ferry". Loyalist Township. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Amherst Island Ferry Service". Amherst Island. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Amherst Island Public School". Community Information Centre of Ottawa. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Islands of Life: A Biodiversity and Conservation Atlas of the Great Lakes Islands" (PDF). Nature Conservancy of Canada. p. 143. 
  7. ^ Schram, Alena (March 28, 2013). "Turbine foes left to twist in the wind". Financial Post. 
  8. ^ Blackwell, Richard (January 20, 2012). "Ontario farm group calls for halt to wind power development". The Globe and Mail. 

External links[edit]