Travelling often requires early departures, so it was with some acceptance that we pulled out of the big city well before sunrise on Saturday of the long weekend. Loaded with bikes and all our ride supplies to keep 35 cyclists hydrated, energized and bikes in good running order on the tour, we hit cruise control for eastern Ontario and our 1000 Islands St. Lawrence River Ride start location in Gananoque.
In various states of caffeination we pulled out of town shortly after 10am, and soon joined the off-road trail heading east paralleling the 1000 Islands Parkway.
It was a real pleasure to ride this newly paved and flat 30km stretch, made all the more special with a strong tail wind on our backs. Easily hitting speeds of 35km+ per hour, we had to hit the brakes for island look outs, the hamlet of Rockport, numerous river crossings and vistas. A picnic lunch at Mallorytown Landing proved ideal, with all the amenities on site at Thousand Islands National Park visitor centre. With the last 10km following town roads, it wasn’t late in the day before we arrived in downtown Brockville, leaving plenty of time to explore the busy high street, and boater’s haven along the waterfront. Our overnight accommodations at the Super 8, located just 2km east of town, and right on the route, were well positioned and a perfect place to enjoy the evening, outdoor pool and our group social.
Feeling bright and energized after a proper sleep, we gathered for a ride brief just before 9am, placing luggage into the support truck and rode out en mass. The group soon fanned out into smaller groups and different paces, with many pulling over to enjoy some of the stops and views along the way. Can’t say there are too many occasions when a 10am ice cream is called for, but it was well worth the treat at the pretty patio rest stop in Prescott at Katarina’s Coffee Shop. Not far east of Prescott, many riders chose to check out Fort Wellington and the Battle of the Windmill, both national historic sites. Others chose to slow down to read the many plaques and memorials scattered along the route commemorating the War of 1812, or stop at the newly opened King’s Lock Craft Distillery and Windmill Brewery for tastings. Still following the well signed Waterfront Trail, the 55km ride on day 2 had us riding on Highway 2, a quieter route favoured by holiday makers and polite vehicles that gave us a wide berth in passing on segments where there were little or no paved shoulders.
With river views taking top rank for scenery, we were continuously amazed at the homes and cottages along the route. The limestone century houses were stunning, varied in style and grandiose. Equally as fascinating were the well-tended gardens and overflowing flower beds, framed by mile after mile of neatly cut grass and evidence of endless hours of ride on lawn mower time. Morrisburg is no slouch on the immaculate river side home front, as this pretty little town has its share of waterfront wonders. Before hitting the McIntosh Country Inn to the east of town, a few riders were distracted by a beach side beer tent and lured further a stray to a nearby winery, Stone Crop Acres that kindly delivered boxes of wine, and riders too, by van right back to the door of the hotel.
Touted as the best ride day of the 3, on our final day we were keen to get going and enjoy a leisurely pace towards Cornwall. With just 9km of road riding soon under our belts, the remaining 37km following off-road trails lived up to and surpassed expectations. Our first stop, the Crysler Memorial sits a top of a high grassy knoll that makes this strategically located site of the 1813 battlefield extra special. Nearby the Upper Canada Village, lured a number of riders into an authentic experience of life in the 1800’s. Pedalling onwards, the paved trail turned to hard packed gravel for an easy-to-ride 5km, through the western reach of the Upper Canada Bird Migratory Sanctuary. The trail goes through lushly tree covered forest and crosses marshy bogs, perfect habitats for birds of all kinds and the deer spotted trotting across our way.
The pièce de résistance, and most anticipated ride section of the day was following the Long Sault Parkway and St. Lawrence Parks roadway that strings together what was once mainland and is now a series of 11 islands. Immaculately kept, the parkland has many pull-in picnic areas, camping zones, beaches and scenic rest stops along with boat rentals from Milles Roches, for water explorers. Just 3km east, the Lost Villages Museum should be a mandatory stop for all first timers, to learn about the intriguing history of area and the villages purposely flooded underwater in the late 1950’s, to make way for hydro projects and seaworthy ships.
Riding into Cornwall, the delightful off-road trail continues making for a most pleasant entrance into this eastern Ontario city. Parkland follows old and new canals, and passes by the RH Saunders Generating Station, the second largest hydro dam in the province. The bicycle friendly visitor centre overlooking the dam is an ideal spot to learn more about the second largest hydro dam in the province, fill up water bottles at the handy outdoor fill station and marvel at this looming man-made structure. The final few kilometres flew by as we rolled into downtown Cornwall, the terminus of our weekend ride, meeting up with group, our support and luggage truck and bus ride back to start at the well located Cornwall Civic Complex, in Lamoureux Park.
The 1000 Islands St. Lawrence River Ride was a big success, our group was wowed by the scenery of along the Waterfront Trail between Gananoque and Cornwall, and judging by how fast this Ontario By Bike ride and small group tour sold out, this route will most certainly be offered again in future years.
To plan your own ride, make use of our ride itinerary, with all stops and accommodations listed. Download HERE. Or visit: rideaug2017
To join us on an Ontario By Bike Ride and small group tour visit: rides
Digital Route Maps: visit www.ridewithgps.com/routes/18910907
Print Maps for Download: Gananoque to Brockville & Brockville to Cornwall
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