Edwards Studios & Art Gallery is an independently owned and operated family art gallery located along the North Shore of Kagawong, Manitoulin Island. The Art Gallery was established in 1996 by Richard and Barbara Edwards. After moving to Kagawong in 1993, Richard and Barbara worked from their home studios until they transformed the upper story of the historical Old Mill into a working studio and art gallery. The Art Gallery showcases many local artists work from Manitoulin Island and surrounding areas. The gallery is open to the public from May Long Weekend to Thanksgiving weekend. All original handcrafted works of art, paintings, original serigraphs, etching, pottery, stained glass, hot glass, carving, batik on silk, jewelry, clothing, textile art and custom framing.
We offer a variety of maritime services on the waters around Manitoulin. From the Killarney region to the western reaches of the North Channel – our events program is comprised of Regularly Scheduled Adventures offered to the public. Our public events calendar is then carefully woven in with a busy private charter and motor coach agenda.
Our signature tour offerings are comprised of main feature tours operated weekly in the summer and each one is quite diverse from the others. The main tours are known as “Sunset Dinner Cruise” – all with quality live entertainment aboard, “The Benjamin Islands“, “Baie Fine Fjord” and “Voyage to Killarney” adventures. In addition to these events, we are often create unique theme and seasonal offerings such as our Country Fest Songwriter Showcase and numerous dates with top notch live entertainment. From pirate parties to fall colours, we regularly add new events to keep our product range dynamic.
1 Water St West, Box 596
Little Current, On, P0P 1K0
Island community museums are filled to bursting with mementos of collective histories, gathered by dedicated volunteers and local families keen to foster appreciation of their area’s past. Kagawong’s Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum collections are housed in the former pulp mill, built of stone in 1925 at the edge of Mudge Bay to process the products of the booming logging industry; the atmospheric limestone enclave with its soaring ceilings and tall windows is a perfect showcase for the Billings Township memorabilia contained within.
Curators, by and large, are an enthusiastic lot and Rick Nelson, the Kagawong Museum’s curator, is a prime example of the kind of fervor that marks a successful collection. Quick to praise Billings council’s museum board volunteers’ initiatives and hard work, Mr. Nelson has been the face of the museum for the last 10 years, greeting visitors and orienting them to the treasures awaiting.
Immediately upon entering, the sound and images emanating from a film on the Indigenous origins of Manitoulin Island grounds the museum experience in earliest inhabitation. Further on, a little room holds the delicate line drawings of talented local artist Jenna Carter, each featuring one of the many intact historical structures within the village of Kagawong, with an accompanying map that describes the genesis of all the buildings–for a walkabout later. In the corner, a 1930s wooden radio cabinet plays WWII broadcasts, surrounded by sepia toned photos of local men and women who contributed to the efforts of both World Wars, their uniforms, medals and stories now behind glass.
A highlight in this section is the story of Don Freeborn, the Chapleau-born Manitoulin resident who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Lancaster Bomber pilot, attached to Britain’s Royal Air Force during WWII. His log book on exhibit documents his successful mission to bomb Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the mountains of Bavaria. Next to his father’s log book is the log of Peter Clarke, the son Don Freeborn did not know, until the end of his life, he had fathered in England during the war, and who also had a distinguished military career in Afghanistan, Burma and undercover elsewhere for the British Special Forces. The uniforms of father and son are displayed crisply side by side.
Early settlers to the area, the Graham, Gray, Thompson, McGuiness and Lloyd clans, are posed in the stiff attire and settings of late 19th century photographs. New this year is the realistic recreation of a blacksmith’s shop from the days when horses were essential to settlers’ daily lives. The boat building activities of the Berry family are displayed in authentic period examples of their fine work for over a hundred years, renowned for the sturdy construction of commercial fishing boats, timber tugs and launches powered by steam boilers. Still located in Kagawong and operated by Oliver Newlands, great-grandson of founder Oliver Berry, Berry Boats carries on the family boat building tradition today.
One of Rick Nelson’s favorite museum exhibits recounts the tragedy of the scion of Detroit’s Dodge automobile empire, Danny Dodge, who, in 1938, suffered grave wounds in a spectacular dynamite blast at his Dodge Lodge in Kagawong, then drowned on a desperate rescue mission to Little Current by boat with his wife. Married just 14 days to “Gore Bay beauty” Laurine MacDonald, a romance and fantasy wedding that were trumpeted in local and US media, the unfortunate Mr. Dodge died at 21 but was destined to live on in local legend.
The 80th anniversary of the accident will be commemorated by the Old Mill Heritage Centre on Thursday, August 9 in the annual History Day presentations at 3:30 and 7:30 pm. Each presentation features two parts: a talk by guest speakers on the founding Henry brothers and their role in the birth of Kagawong will be followed by the story of the gripping disaster at Dodge Lodge.
Another ‘ghost story’ depicted in the museum and endlessly fascinating to Mr. Nelson is the one about Harbour Island. Off the coast of Kagawong and nestled in a bay of Clapperton Island, the 30-acre island was home to a luxurious resort in the 40s, 50s and 60s that berthed the yachts of Hollywood stars and hosted the likes of Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and countless sports figures and business tycoons. Clippings of the goings-on of the celebrity guests cover the wall near photos of the resort in its heyday; underneath is a photo of the sad state of the resort today. “There’s a happy ending!” crows Mr. Nelson as we gaze at the overgrown site and the derelict mid-century modern building. “The new owner of Harbour Island is a descendant of the original owners who is committed to restoring the property to its former glory. The Museum may consider perhaps partnering on a ‘living museum’ concept down the road.”
To whet the appetite for such a restoration project, the Mudge Bay Mystery Tour, a partnership between the Museum and North Channel Cruise Line, will lift anchor on Saturday, August 25 from Kagawong for a two-hour cruise to Harbour Island with dinner, bar and curator Rick Nelson’s onboard “stories and slides” of the famed resort’s past grandeur.
After a tour of the Museum, pause at the Billings Connections Trail Interactive Map on the wall by reception. In English, French and Ojibwe languages, the map shows the locations of historical plaques in the village and of the outdoor sculpture sites commissioned as a Truth and Reconciliation project in partnership with 4Elements and Billings Township “to highlight the local heritage and history of Anishinaabeg and settler residents.” A pocket-sized map is available to take on an exploration that continues well beyond the Museum’s steps.
Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally.
Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine.
Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.
The Bridal Veil Falls trail system is located in Kagawong. Although there is access to the trail system at Bridal Veil Falls, which is adjacent to Hwy 540, there are much safer and roomier parking options in the lower hamlet of Kagawong, including at the Park Center and in the vicinity of the river mouth. Park in lower Kagawong and enjoy the river trail system/falls on foot – you get the best of both worlds! The lower village includes other points of interest, and both the upper and lower village have unique shops. Note that the Bridal Veil Falls trail system is also part of the new Billings Connections Trail and includes access to several of the new public sculptures and heritage plaques installed as part of the Billings Canada 150 project.
You may wish to bring:
Tips from a Local
Some of the longer hikes on Manitoulin can take hours to complete. Pack some trail snacks in reusable containers to keep your energy up and make sure to not leave any scraps on the trail.
NORTH CAHNNEL—The North Channel is defined by Manitoulin Island: this famous waterway is, similar to Georgian Bay, a part of Lake Huron but if there was no Manitoulin Island, there would be no North Channel.
The North Channel of Lake Huron, to give it its proper moniker, is an extension of the St. Mary’s River, the outflow from Lake Superior to Lake Huron at the “Twin Soos” in Ontario and Michigan, not too far to the west.
It is much broader, longer and interesting than the St. Mary’s River, but the two are connected in that way that water likes to flow downhill.
On its eastern end, find the historic and picturesque village and Port of Killarney (in 2020 celebrating 200 years as a community) on the Killarney Channel which, in turn, flows into Collins Inlet and then it’s all Georgian Bay.
The majority of Manitoulin Island’s port communities are on the North Channel: Little Current, Kagawong, Gore Bay and Meldrum Bay. From late spring through fall each year, their docks, marinas and shipwright shops cater to cruising clientele. These are both sail and powerboat enthusiasts, in craft of all sizes, who are drawn to the North Channel because, well, they consider it the finest cruising grounds in the world.
While that may seem like a larger-than-life claim, consider also that Manitoulin Island itself is the largest Island in fresh water in the world, so the area can lay claim to double superlatives, courtesy of Mother Nature.
This fine cruising is the result of a number of factors but the primary one is the hundreds of islands that are not only picturesque but provide the challenges to navigation that sailors enjoy. Among them there are literally thousands of sheltered natural harbours that invite holidaying mariners to drop anchor, have a shore lunch, explore a bit, stay a while.
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These islands are primarily Crown (i.e. public) lands. The ones that aren’t are easily identified by the fact that someone will have built a cottage (camp, as they say in Northern Ontario) somewhere on them.
For more than a decade now, North Channel sailors have been drawn into an even closer community by means of the Cruisers’ Net, a morning VHF signal broadcast on Channel 71 daily in July and August beginning at 9 am.
Roy Eaton, himself a veteran North Channel sailor, is the instigator of this useful service but also the voice behind the mic who daily provides bits of useful national and international news, relays important (sometimes urgent) messages to, among and from mariners, weather reports and more. Roy Eaton broadcasts from the second floor of the Anchor Inn Hotel in downtown Little Current and, on most days, he is surrounded by boaters in port who come up to say hello to him, and to one another, in person. Mr. Eaton receives thousands of call-ins each summer.
A port is a pleasant, and often necessary, place for boaters to occasionally visit and the North Channel, on both its Manitoulin and North Shore coasts, is home to a number of them so the mariner, while enjoying the rugged splendour of the Channel’s granite and sometimes quartzite features, is never too far from the services of a marine community.
Manitoulin’s North Channel communities have already been named. They are all well-established towns and each one has its own charm and culture.
These Manitoulin port towns and their North Shore counterparts have not only a vested but, in fact, an historical interest in serving and servicing the yachts that play in the North Channel together with their captains and crews. All of these communities were established from the water well before the roads were built (remember the port of Killarney is almost 200 years old and it had no road access until the mid-1960s!)
The docks that lined (and still line) their waterfronts were the means by which people and goods arrived at and left these communities, so their primary orientation remains very strongly to their waterfronts.
In Little Current, Killarney, Kagawong and Meldrum Bay, the traditional business district faces the dock and the water.
Gore Bay is slightly different in that the waterfront street isn’t the main business street, which it parallels. (That long-ago decision gave Gore Bay the chance to have businesses on both sides of its main street, an opportunity that was denied to those other port towns that chose to build their businesses directly facing their waterfronts.)
Each of these towns is continually upgrading its waterfront infrastructure in order to better serve the yachting community whether individual boaters and their craft are transients, headed the next day to the next port or are “seasonals” who lease a berth in a public or private marina for the season and venture out for North Channel adventures, and to visit other ports, as often as they are able.
On the North Shore side of the North Channel, the ports and marinas can be found at Spanish, Blind River, Richard’s Landing and Hilton Beach (both of these last ports are on the westerly St. Joseph’s Island) and at Thessalon.
As noted, the Port of Killarney anchors the North Channel on the east and the Port of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on the west.
For boaters who are also anglers, the North Channel is a giant fishing hole where every game species is there for the catching, together with sturgeon, a protected, endangered and non-game species.
Every species has its own habitat, of course, but yachting fisher people can down-rig for salmon and lake trout and look for bass near shoals, pickerel (walleye), pike, perch and muskellunge (muskie) at their appropriate depths and also set their lines and bait deep for whitefish.
Pleasure boaters exploring the North Channel can expect to see a Great Lakes cruise ship, heading east or west and hosting 200 or more passengers from all over North America, Europe and beyond who have chosen to enjoy the magic of this famous waterway from this elevated perspective with dinner and drinks always nearby.
The Port of Little Current is the only Manitoulin North Channel community where these ships dock enroute to their turnaround destinations of Chicago and Toronto.They also dock at the Canadian Soo. Just like pleasure boaters, the cruise ships coming or going from Little Current must wait for the iconic swing bridge to open (to ‘swing’ on its central pedestal) and so leave motorists to watch as craft of every size pass through the North Channel at its narrowest point.
The North Channel has some boutique features for the exploring yachters: Baie Fine northeast of Killarney, the Mississagi Straits that divide Manitoulin at its most westerly from neighbouring Cockburn Island (also a part of the District of Manitoulin) and where French explorer and adventurer LaSalle’s ship Griffon was quite possibly smashed into kindling against far Western Manitoulin’s rocks and shoals over 300 years ago. That particular mystery is ongoing although the old Mississagi Lighthouse, built right at Manitoulin’s western tip 140 years ago, still warns mariners about the same dangers that likely met La Salle’s ill-fated ship. Other lighthouses along the North Channel are at Strawberry Island just east of the Little Current swing bridge, a range lighthouse in Kagawong and the Janet Head lighthouse near the Gore Bay harbour as well as the Killarney lighthouse.
In addition to food, fuel, medical needs (there are full-service hospitals in Little Current and Blind River with 24-hour emergency service, and medical clinics in Killarney, Gore Bay, Thessalon, and Richard’s Landing) and all the shopping required to make any vacation voyage a pleasant one, there are two large shipyards in Little Current: Harbour Vue Marina and Boyle’s Marina and in Gore Bay, Fogal Marine Services provides service to yachters. There are boatyards in Killarney and Sault Ste. Marie.
But a yachter need not come with his/her own boat. Canadian Yacht Charters (CYC) in Gore Bay leases sail and power craft, both crewed and bare-boat, to accommodate boatless folks wanting a taste of the North Channel’s grandeur.
Another favourite destination, and a mid-point in the long reach of the North Channel, is the Benjamin Islands: quartz outcrops that nature painted a unique hue. It’s a natural gathering spot for boaters and a destination that veteran and novice boaters alike tend to work into their itineraries.
In fact, you can enjoy the North Channel for most of a day strictly as a passenger aboard Le Grand Héron, the North Channel Cruise Line’s spacious, licensed cruise boat that makes scheduled sightseeing trips all summer long throughout the week. One goes to Killarney, another to the Benjamin Islands, another to Baie Fine and there are several special events as well. Little Current is the home port for Le Grand Héron.
Just as it was and is for Indigenous people who have canoed the North Channel for thousands of years, for the Voyageurs during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries who used huge freight canoes to carry trade goods west from Montreal and furs back from the west and north to Montreal, the North Channel is a useful east-west waterway for the modern-day yachter; one that also happens to present incomparable natural beauty, all services required for the boating community and the opportunity to become, even for an occasional season, part of the fraternity/sorority of boaters for whom the North Channel is one of the most special places on earth.
The North Cannel Marine Tourism Council officially represents the waterway and the public and private sectors that provide service to its mariners. Please contact them at www.thenorthchannel.ca.