Spit Island is a small uninhabited island located in Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. It is known locally as Kate Island, after Captain James McArthur’s wife Katherine.
The island was first sighted by Europeans in 1610 by French explorer Jacques Cartier. The McArthur family, who were the last landowners on the island, cultivated grapes, and other fruit trees on the property until the early 1960s. The island was sold to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 1967 and became a nature reserve in 1972.
Spit Island is first sighted by Europeans in 1610 by French explorer Jacques Cartier. The island was later claimed by the British and then gifted to Captain James McArthur’s wife Katherine in 1787 for her use as a summer getaway. Katherine died on the property in 1834, leaving Spit Island to their three daughters who continued to live on the island until 1912.
The McArthur family cultivated grapes and other fruit trees on the property and in June 1912 towed their four-masted schooner “Justin” across Georgian Bay from Toronto to serve as a summer docked home. The ship would remain on Spit Island during July through August each year with Captain McArthur’s three daughters still residing there until they left when they were married off at age 19, 23, and only 20 years of age (Mary Jane leaving for Hong Kong); then returning after Christmas with their husbands and families.
The “Justin” was sold in 1921 to Sub-Lt S. Aiken, RN for use as a clubhouse on the Royal Naval Reserve Station at Bells Point and permanently moored there until its destruction by fire in 1948 during Hurricane Hazel (Sept 16).
Mary Helen McArthur is said to have directed the crew from her tiny house after they lost power sometime thereafter; thus ending any official ownership of Spit Island other than that of the McArthur sisters, Mary Jane being widowed in 1914 and divorced from her second husband Milne Blackwood who had four children.
Spit Island has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with cold, very wet winters and cool to mild summers. The average annual precipitation at Spit Island is 574 mm (22.9 in) and the mean maximum air temperature ranges from -4.8 C to 24 C.
The warmest month of the year is July with an average maximum temperature of 17C and January has a daily mean minimum inversion value ranging from -17C, while February’s high lows range between 3-10 °C;
The coldest month of December on record reached a height of -16C with an overnight low inversion value of -11 °C.
Food and economy
Spit Island is 96 ha that has a very dense shoreline forest consisting mostly of black spruce trees side by side with White pine, Red birch, and Maple. The erosion caused by the four rivers feeding thru the island is providing excellent habitat for many species including mixed woodlands like beavers, blueberry scrub vegetation at the highest elevations, and naturalized wetlands.
The island is dominated by a lush forest with coniferous trees interspersed with more rocky outcroppings. Higher up the land are rolling hills and further away from the shoreline become drier as they slope towards Glosli Bay which alongside Spit River drains directly into Charlotte Cove on Charlottetown’s LeMarchant Peninsula.
It is believed that the McArthur sisters, Mary Jane and Emily were both inspired by artists of their day to start decorating Spit Island quite independently with landscapes, seascapes and animals in the early 1900s. The sisters worked together but also had individual studios which can be seen on the island today.
In 1916 Emily married George Abercrombie from London England who helped greatly to develop Spit Island’s infrastructure; he was responsible for building bridges, concrete bridges, and roads that are used for hikers, cyclists, or walkers. Despite the lack of natural resources on Spit Island; the land has been donated by Mr. Abercrombie to support Spit’s cultural life with a wide range of flora including colorful flower beds tended in perpetuity.
Mostly during Spring through Fall (March until October) there is an array of birds at this location while other seasons vary depending on the amount of rainfall, however, the birds that do visit are easy to identify even if hard to see because of the forest canopy.
Spit Island is the only uninhabited island in Confederation National Park. The only visitors are hikers, cyclists, and walkers who come to enjoy the natural beauty of this secluded location. As a result, Spit Island has always been politically inactive with no representation in Parliament or Provincial government.
The first attempt to have a community on Spit was made in 1959 but due to numerous challenges such as subsidence from nearby heavy industry and lack of fresh water, it was quickly disbanded and abandoned. The next attempt to establish a settlement started in 1967 with the construction of the park facilities with the use of government funding from all three levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal).
After this failed occupation attempts were made sporadically until 1979 when four families decided that they could not wait for any more for official approval; by 1980 Spit Island was fully occupied.
Due to Spit Island’s remote location and lack of infrastructure, the only government service that is available is access to health services by boat. The nearest hospital is in Windsor which can be an hour away by water taxi. There are no police or fire services on Spit Island and any emergencies must be handled through emergency responders located in nearby communities such as Windsor or Detroit.
Currently, Spit Island is marketed as a natural attraction that offers visitors a unique experience not found anywhere else in the world. The island is home to over 50% of Canada’s migratory population of warblers and attracts birdwatchers from all over the world.
There is no public transportation available on Spit Island and visitors must rely on water taxis or private transportation to get to and from the island.
A small, uninhabited island some kilometers south of the coast of Newfoundland, Spit Island is a popular spot for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The island is also the site of a former penal colony, which operated from 1801 to 1898. The convicts, who worked in the salt pans, quarries, and lumber camps, were mainly Irishmen. The island is now a wildlife reserve and a tourist attraction.
Q: What Is The Population Of Spit Island?
A: The population of Spit Island is unknown.
Q: How Do I Get To And From Spit Island?
A: There is no public transportation available on Spit Island, visitors must rely on water taxis or private transport to get to and from the island.
Q: How Long Does It Take To Get From The Dock At St. Julien’s Harbour [The Nearest Landing Place] To Spit Island?
A: The trip takes about an hour by water taxi and is well-marked on maps. There are no bridges linking this part of the island with Labrador City, only small piers that allow boats to tie up alongside them in order for passengers or goods to be unloaded. There are also no roads on Spit Island.
Q: Which Marine Mammal Species Frequent Spit Island?
A: Seals are abundant in all their three distinct colonies, bobbing around and heading off soon after sunset when they come out to play!
Q : What Is The Status Of Fauna In This Part Of Labrador?
A: Spit Island supports large colonies of Barnacle geese