Bois Blanc Island (Ontario)

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For the island in northern Michigan with the same name, see Bois Blanc Island (Michigan).
Bois Blanc Island, Ontario
Boblo Island
Island
Shore of Bois Blanc Island
Shore of Bois Blanc Island
Coordinates (Dance hall): 42°05′44″N 83°07′14″W / 42.09556°N 83.12056°W / 42.09556; -83.12056Coordinates: 42°05′44″N 83°07′14″W / 42.09556°N 83.12056°W / 42.09556; -83.12056
Country Canada
Province Ontario
County Essex
Waterway Detroit River
Town Amherstburg
Area
 • Total 0.425 sq mi (1.10 km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
272 acres (110 ha) = 0.425 sq mi (1.10 km2)

Bois Blanc Island, commonly called Boblo Island, is an island in the Detroit River on the Canadian side of the border and is part of Amherstburg, Ontario. The island is about 2.5 miles (4 km) long, 0.5 mile (0.8 km) wide and 272 acres (110 ha) in size.

The main north-bound shipping channel of the Detroit River currently lies between Bois Blanc Island and the Amherstburg mainland. A stone lighthouse built in 1836 on the southern tip of the island marks the historical beginning of the Detroit River navigation channel for ships traveling upriver from Lake Erie.

Bois Blanc means "White Woods," a name derived from the many birch and beech trees in the area. "Boblo" is an English corruption of the French pronunciation of the name. Several islands with the same name dot the Great Lakes, and nearly all are known as "Boblo" or "Bob-lo" by the local populations.

The island gained strategic importance when Fort Amherstburg (now Fort Malden) was built in 1796 to guard passage along the Detroit River after Detroit was turned over to the Americans. Guns from the fort could reach the island across the navigable waters and hence secured the river.

The island has minor historical footnotes as the site of a French Catholic mission for Wyandot or Huron Indians in the 18th century, as the site of headquarters for the Shawnee chief Tecumseh during the War of 1812, and as an invasion point for 60 Canadian "Patriots" on January 8, 1838 during the Upper Canada Rebellion.

Boblo Island Amusement Park[edit]

The abandoned Boblo Island Detroit Dock building in Detroit in 2010.

Bois Blanc is known regionally as the former home of the Boblo Island Amusement Park, which began operation in 1898 and closed on September 30, 1993. The Nightmare, Falling Star, Wild Mouse (ride), Sky Streak and Screamer were the signature rides.

A parking stub from Boblo Island, 1988

For more than 85 years, the park was serviced by the SS Ste. Clair and the SS Columbia.

The Boblo Island Amusement Park was famous for those two steamers, which went between Detroit and the island. A lawsuit concerning the power of the state of Michigan to prohibit racial discrimination on the ferries, Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan, 333 U.S. 28 (1948), reached the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in a notable decision construing the Commerce Clause.

During the Vietnam War, when Canada had become a safe haven for those who refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army, Boblo Island became an efficient transit point for Americans who sought refuge from prosecution. Those seeking to pass into Canada would take the boat from Detroit to Boblo and, upon arrival, would trade their return tickets with persons who had arrived on the island from Amherstburg. Those who had come from Canada took the return trip to Detroit, and those who had come from Detroit took the return trip to Amherstburg, thus arriving in Canada without having to pass through Customs at the border.

Today[edit]

The island is currently being developed as Boblo Island and Marina Resort Community by Amico Properties Limited. Boblo Island now has a community of homes and condominiums. The island is served by a private ferry.

A partial restoration of both of the steamships, Columbia and Ste. Clair, was made for a 2014 appearance in feature film Transformers 4.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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