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Beausoleil Island
BeausoleilIslandCedarSprings2004.jpg
The waters between Finger Point and Thumb Point near Cedar Springs, Beausoleil Island
Beausoleil Island is located in Southern Ontario
Beausoleil Island
Beausoleil Island
Location in Southern Ontario
Geography
Location Georgian Bay
Coordinates 44°52′12″N 79°52′06″W / 44.87000°N 79.86833°W / 44.87000; -79.86833
Archipelago Thirty Thousand Islands
Length 8 km (5 mi)
Administration
Province Ontario
District Municipality District Municipality of Muskoka
Municipality Georgian Bay
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
  • Eastern Time Zone (UTC-4)


Beausoleil Island is an 8-kilometre (5.0 mi) long island in the municipality of Georgian Bay, District Municipality of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada. Located in the Thirty Thousand Islands in Georgian Bay on Lake Huron near Port Severn, it is the largest island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park and is the only place in the park where camping is allowed. Beausoleil Island is also part of the Georgian Bay Littoral (also called the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve) UNESCO Biosphere reserve.

Natural history

Beausoleil Island is one of the last refuges for the seldom-seen Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, the only snake in Ontario whose venom is potentially dangerous to humans. On sunny days, Georgian Bay's cobalt waters form a striking counterpart to the light blue of the sky, the pinkish rocks of the Canadian Shield, and the dark green of the park's famous windswept pines. The Fairy Lake and Cambrian Trails, in the north of the island, offer especially striking views of these natural features.

Northern Beausoleil Island's characteristic bedrock and wetland environment is rich in many species and is a major breeding area for amphibians, turtles and snakes. Southern Beausoleil Island's hardwood and mixed forests are good representations of regional woodland communities.

History

Beausoleil Island map
Map of the island.

Artifacts from as far back as the Middle Archaic period, 7,000 years ago, have been found, such as an Otter Creek projectile made from Onondaga chert. The remains of ancient pottery, tools, and hunting implements that have been found on Beausoleil have enabled archaeologists to determine that the island was, in all probability, used as a summer camp by early hunting and gathering cultures. These include primarily a Middle Woodland site occupied by the Point Peninsula and Saugeen groups (2,400-1,300 years ago), and the Algonkian speaking Odawa (or Ottawa) of the Late Woodland Period (600–400 years ago). Several other cultures have also left evidence of their occupation on the island.

Descendants of the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Lake Simcoe settled on Beausoleil Island in 1842. The soil on the island proved to be unsuitable for cultivation, so the band moved to the Christian Islands which had been set aside as a reserve in the 1850s. On June 5, 1856 Beausoleil and all of the other islands in Georgian Bay, except the Christian Islands, were surrendered or sold to the British Crown. The Chippewa residents of Christian Islands still identify themselves as the Beausoleil First Nation.

Beausoleil Island also played a significant role in the birth of residential camping in Ontario. Once the home of several summer camps for youth, as of 2018 two YMCA Camps still call the island home: YMCA Camp Kitchikewana (YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka) and YMCA Camp Queen Elizabeth (YMCA of Western Ontario). Former staffers at these two camps went on to become great leaders in the Canadian camping movement: Win Smith, Jack Pearse, Ron and Mickey Johnstone among them.

The island was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011.

Recreation

Beausoleil Island offers tent and cabin camping, overnight and day docking, heritage education programs, and hiking trails. Wheelchair accessible sites and reserved campsites are also available at the Cedar Spring campground.

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