Little known to visitors because most boat tours did not pass this way, the group of islands in Chippewa Bay was once more prominent when the Chippewa Yacht Club won the Gold Cup in 1904 and defended it on their home course until 1907. Since Dark Island has been open to the public, more visitors have discovered this beautiful area.
Chippewa Bay has a rich history of hunting and fishing. In 1896 George Boldt, Frederick Bourne, Charles Englis, David Lyon and several others formed the Oak Island Fishing and Gunning Club. Bourne liked the area enough to build a massive stone Castle on Dark Island. The legacy continues today with the Chippewa Fish and Game Club. The Fish and Game Club has undertaken several notable conservation efforts that include an annual pike hatchery and the creation of local wood duck habitats. The Fish and Game Club also hosts a fantastic corn roast for the community at the end of the summer.
Like many areas in the Thousand Islands, Chippewa Bay is awash in natural beauty. It was a magnet for the Painter Frederic Remington. He maintained a camp that he called Ingleneuk on Tamagami Island. His studio can still be seen on the Channel side of the Island. Local Artist Michael Ringer has done a lovely painting of the studio in winter. Remington used the Chippewa landscape for quite a few paintings including “Howl of the Weather.” The Frederic Remington Art Museum is down river from Chippewa Bay in Ogdensburg, NY. The museum has an excellent collection of sculptures, paintings and memorabilia.
You can’t think of Chippewa Bay without thinking of boating. From the era of steam yachts to the inception of the Gold Cup, fantastic boats of all types have plied the waters there. The shoal infested waters in the Bay have turned out generations of skilled and knowledgeable pilots. Three of the finest examples of Steam Yacht Houses in the Thousand Islands can be found in Chippewa. Dark Island, Scow Island and Wyanoke all have structure with massive entrance ports that could accommodate steamers with smokestacks. There is usually a tall funnel inside that can be lowered down onto the stack venting the wood or coal smoke to the outside. In recent years, the Chippewa Yacht Club has hosted a regatta for vintage race boats. The boats run over a portion of the Chippewa Yacht Club’s 1904 Gold Cup course. The winning racer takes home the Thousand Islands Cup until the next year’s race.
Fittingly, Chippewa Bay is home to the Chippewa Bay Maritime Museum. This is one of the true cultural gems of the Thousand Islands. Be sure to call first for opening hours but it is filled with immaculately restored vintage boats, motors, island artifacts and hunting and fishing tackle. A walk through this museum will bring you right back to life on the River one hundred years ago.
The New York State parks system maintains a nice State Park on Cedar Island. It is easily accessible from one of several boat launches in the Bay. Over night camping is allowed at a posted rate.
By John Kunz, Chippewa Bay
John Kunz and his wife Kelly are summer residents of Chippewa Bay. They winter in Watertown, NY. Along with their three sons, they enjoy the River on a four-season basis - Sailing, Rock Climbing and Skijoring. In October 2018, John wrote about the Thousand Islands Cup. Be sure to see this one. Also, in February 2016, John took us Skijoring in the Thousand Islands. Read that article again, so you are ready for Winter 2021!
And... drum roll... be sure to see articles by John Kunz and the Thousand Islands Cup Races. (2020 Race article)