Georgian Bay (French: Baie Georgienne) is a large bay of Lake Huron,
located entirely within Ontario, Canada. The main body of the bay lies
east of the
Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island. To its northwest is
the North Channel.
Georgian Bay is surrounded by (listed clockwise) the districts of
Manitoulin, Sudbury, Parry Sound and Muskoka, as well as the more
populous counties of Simcoe, Grey and Bruce. The Main Channel
Bruce Peninsula from
Manitoulin Island and connects
Georgian Bay to the rest of Lake Huron. The North Channel, located
Manitoulin Island and the Sudbury District, west of Killarney,
was once a popular route for steamships and is now used by a variety
of pleasure craft to travel to and from Georgian Bay.
The shores and waterways of the
Georgian Bay are the traditional
domain of the Anishinaabeg
First Nations peoples to the north and
Petun (Wyandot) to the south. The bay was thus a major
Algonquian-Huron trade route. Samuel de Champlain, the first European
to explore and map the area in 1615–1616, called it "La Mer douce"
(the calm sea), also a reference to the bay's freshwater. It was
named "Georgian Bay" (after King George IV) by Lieutenant Henry Wolsey
Bayfield of the
Royal Navy in 1822.
3 Legend of Kitchikewana
5 See also
7 External links
Main body of
Georgian Bay highlighted on the map of the Great Lakes
Georgian Bay is about 190 kilometres (120 mi) long by 80
kilometres (50 mi) wide. It covers approximately 15,000 square
kilometres (5,800 sq mi), making it nearly 80% the size of
Lake Ontario. If
Georgian Bay were considered a lake in its own
right, it would be the fourth largest lake located entirely within
Canada after Great Bear Lake,
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake and Lake Winnipeg.
Georgian Bay is part of the southern edge of the Canadian
Shield, granite bedrock exposed by the glaciers at the end of the last
ice age, about 11,000 years ago. The granite rock formations and
windswept eastern white pine are characteristic of the islands and
much of the shoreline of the bay. The rugged beauty of the area
inspired landscapes by artists of the Group of Seven. The western part
of the bay, from Collingwood north, and including Manitoulin,
Drummond, Cockburn and St. Joseph islands, borders the Niagara
Escarpment. Because of its size and narrowness of the straits joining
it with the rest of Lake Huron, which is analogous to if not as
pronounced as the separation of
Lake Huron and Lake Michigan,
Georgian Bay is sometimes called the "sixth Great Lake".
There are tens of thousands of islands in Georgian Bay. Most of these
islands are along the east side of the bay and are collectively known
as the "Thirty Thousand Islands", including the larger Parry Island.
Manitoulin Island, lying along the northern side of the bay, is the
world's largest island in a freshwater lake. The Trent–Severn
Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario, running from Port
Severn in the southeastern corner of
Georgian Bay through Lake Simcoe
Ontario near Trenton. Further north,
Lake Nipissing drains
Georgian Bay through the French River. In October 2004, the
Georgian Bay Littoral
Georgian Bay Littoral was declared a
Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Tom Thomson's Pine Island, Georgian Bay
Archaeological records reveal an Aboriginal presence in the southern
regions of the
Canadian Shield dating from 11,000 years ago. Evidence
of later Paleo-Indian settlements have been found on Manitoulin Island
and near Killarney. At the time of European contact, the
Ottawa First Nations, both of whom call themselves Anishinaabe
(plural: Anishinaabeg), lived along the northern, eastern and western
shores of Georgian Bay. The Huron (or Wendat) and Tionontati inhabited
the lands along the southern coast, having migrated from the northern
shores of Lake Ontario. Names of islands such as "Manitoulin" (from
Gitchi Manitou, the Great Spirit who left the bay as a source of life
for the first people) and "Giant's Tomb" are indicative of the
richness of the cultural history of the area. Aboriginal communities
continue to live on their territories and practise their cultural
The first European to visit this area was likely Étienne Brûlé, who
at age less than 20, in 1610 was sent to live as an interpreter
trainee with the Onontchataronon, an Algonquian people of the Ottawa
River. They travelled every winter to live with the Arendarhonon
people of the Huron (Wendat) confederacy at the southern end of
Georgian Bay, in the area now called "Huronia". Brulé returned to the
Arendarhonon the following year. At the same time another young
interpreter trainee, a youth remembered only as Thomas, who was
employed by the French surgeon and trader Daniel Boyer, also likely
made it to Huronia, in the company of the Onontchataronon, another
member of the confederacy.
In 1615, Brulé's employer, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain,
made his own visit to
Georgian Bay and overwintered in Huronia. He was
preceded that summer by a
Récollet missionary, Joseph Le Caron, who
would live among the Huron in 1615–1616 and 1623–1624. Another
Récollet missionary, Gabriel Sagard, lived there from 1623–34. The
Jean de Brébeuf
Jean de Brébeuf began a mission in Huronia in 1626. In
1639 he oversaw the building of the mission fort of Sainte-Marie,
Ontario's first European settlement, at what is now the town of
Midland. The reconstructed
Jesuit mission, Sainte-Marie among the
Hurons, is now a historic park operated by the province of Ontario.
Also nearby is the Martyrs' Shrine, a Catholic church dedicated to the
Canadian Martyrs, Jesuits who were killed during
against the Huron around
Georgian Bay in the 17th century. The Bay
appears on maps of the time as "Toronto Bay".
Penetanguishene, the location of an
Ojibwe village located at the
southern tip of the bay near present-day Midland, was developed as a
naval base in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of
Upper Canada. In 1814, during the
War of 1812
War of 1812 between Great Britain
and the United States, one of the battles was fought in southern
Georgian Bay. On August 17, at the mouth of the
Nottawasaga River near
Wasaga Beach, the British schooner HMS Nancy was sunk by three
American vessels. Several weeks later, Nancy was avenged when British
boarding parties in the De Tour Passage surprised and captured two of
the three American vessels.
The first nautical charts of
Georgian Bay were made in 1815 by Captain
William Fitzwilliam Owen, who called it Lake Manitoulin. Captain Henry
Bayfield, who made more detailed charts of the bay, renamed it in 1822
after King George IV. His charts are the basis for those in use today.
Canadian Hydrographic Service
Canadian Hydrographic Service traces its history back to 1883,
when it was originally established as the
Georgian Bay Survey, tasked
with charting and improving knowledge of the bay after a steamship
wrecked there the previous year, killing 150 of its passengers.
Over the years, 32 lighthouses were built on Georgian Bay. Six of them
were designed with limestone towers; these were built in the 1850s and
are known collectively as the Imperial Towers. Some of the 32 can be
toured by the public, some cannot, and some are accessible only by
tour boats or private boat.
Legend of Kitchikewana
The waters between Finger Point and Thumb Point near Cedar Springs,
Wyandot legend tells of a god called Kitchikewana, who was large
enough to guard the whole of the Georgian Bay. Kitchikewana was known
for his great temper, and his tribe decided the best way to calm him
was with a wife. They held a grand celebration, and many women came.
Kitchikewana met a woman named Wanakita here. He decided that this was
the woman he wanted to marry, and started planning the wedding
immediately after she left. But when she was invited back, she told
Kitchikewana that she was already engaged. Enraged, Kitchikewana
destroyed all the decorations, running to one end of Beausoleil Island
and grabbing a large ball of earth. Running to the other end, he
tossed it into the Great Lakes. Thus, the 30,000 Islands were created.
The indentations left behind by his fingers form the five bays of
Georgian Bay: Midland Bay, Penetang Bay, Hog Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and
Matchedash Bay. He then lay down to sleep and sleeps there still as
Giant's Tomb Island.
The town of
Penetanguishene now has a large statue of Kitchikewana on
its main street. There is a
YMCA summer camp for youth located on
Beausoleil Island, in southern Georgian Bay, named after
YMCA Camp Kitchikewana, or Kitchi for short, has
been located in
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Georgian Bay Islands National Park since 1919.
Originally operated by the Midland YMCA, it is now the residential
camp for youth from the
YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka.
Shoreline of Georgian Bay
Sunset over Georgian Bay
Owen Sound is the largest city on the bay, long having served as a
shipping and rail depot for the Upper Great Lakes. The towns of
Midland, Penetanguishene, Port Severn, and Honey Harbour are at the
southeastern end of the bay and are popular sites for summer cottages,
as are the many bays and islands on the eastern coast. Collingwood,
Wasaga Beach are located at the southern end of the bay,
around Nottawasaga Bay. Owen Sound, Wiarton, and Lion's Head are
located on the
Bruce Peninsula along the southern and southwestern
shores of the bay, while Tobermory is located at the northern tip of
Bruce Peninsula on the Main Channel. The passenger ferry
MS Chi-Cheemaun travels from Tobermory across the Main Channel to
South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. Parry Sound, the world's deepest
freshwater port, is located on the eastern shore of
There are communities of summer cottages on the north and east shore
and on the adjacent 30,000 Islands. These include areas such as
Cognashene, Wah Wah Taysee, Sans Souci, Pointe au Baril and Byng
Inlet. Most of these cottages are accessible only by water.
Reed's dump beach on
Georgian Bay near the campsite
Christian Island (Ontario)
Royal eponyms in Canada
True North II
^ Matthews, Geoffrey J. (1987). Harris, Cole R., ed. Historical Atlas
of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
^ Ketcheson, Graham. A Brief History of
Georgian Bay Archived
2004-07-08 at the Wayback Machine..
Georgian Bay (bay, Ontario, Canada) - Encyclopædia Britannica.
Britannica.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
Georgian Bay - definition of
Georgian Bay by the Free Online
Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia. Thefreedictionary.com.
Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
^ "Nearly as large as Lake Ontario, it is one of the world's great
bodies of fresh water."
Great Lakes Sensitivity to Climatic Forcing: Hydrological Models
Archived 2010-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.." NOAA, 2006.
^ Barry, James P. (1995) . Georgian Bay: The Sixth Great Lake.
Boston Mills Press. ISBN 978-1-55046-172-5.
^ "Lighthouse Tour". Visit Georgian Bay.
Georgian Bay Destination
Development Partnership. 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
^ The Ouendat (Huron) Indian Legend of Kitchikewana Archived
2007-10-21 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "Overnight Camp" Archived 2010-03-08 at the Wayback Machine. on the
YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka website
Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume I: From the Beginning to 1800.
Edited by R. Cole Harris. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.
The Archaeology of Southern
Ontario To 1650. Edited by C. Ellis and N.
Ferris. London Chapter,
Ontario Archaeological Society, 1990.
Native Languages of the Americas
Ojibwe History" Shultzman, L. 2000.
First Nations Histories.
Shaped by the West Wind: Nature and History in Georgian Bay. Claire
Elizabeth Campbell. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press,
2005. ISBN 0-7748-1098-X
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Georgian Bay.
"Georgian Bay". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.).
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