Kagawong is a small town, located at the base of a bay along the northern shore of Manitoulin Island. The red-roofed building in the center of the image above is the city marina office. The few slips offered are behind the breakwater to the left of the building. The bay opens north and the breakwater is much needed in a strong northerly wind.
The black-roofed building to the left of the marina is an interesting and quite different church - more later. The building on the other side of the street from the marina is the general store and the one to the left is the old hotel. The lighthouse on the right is a working lighthouse.
The general store is still functioning, but only barely. A wide variety of products are available, from 2 kinds of motor oil to 2 kinds of breakfast cereal, but each was only four packages deep. When we visited, no one else was there, not even the proprietor. They live upstairs and might have been at lunch. Laid back retailing. The little addition on the left with the mismatched architecture is the post office. The millstone sitting by the steps is an important part of the town's history.
Just up the street is the old hotel, closed for many years. It has been purchased by someone wishing to restore it. A few projects were completed in 2016, but no work had been accomplished this year and no one in town had information on the future of the hotel. It would be a great loss for the hotel not to be saved, but it is also difficult to envision a successful business plan for a town that has no business travelers and a short tourist season.
There is a church on the bay, right on the waterfront. For the most part, it looks like traditional church architecture of the time period. There is a hint of a difference in the ship's wheel mounted above the entrance.
And, a ship's wheel on the church sign. What is going on here?
It is a nautical-themed church, with a wooden boat bow section used as the pulpit. For a church that was built in a town with an economy based on the waterfront and fishing, appropriate architecture.
The view through the stained glass windows is of the marina. Last Dance can be seen at the dock.
Another block up the street is the most prosperous business in Kagawong - the chocolate shop. Who would have thought that in a tiny town with almost no traffic, a chocolate shop would attract all the business? It does. Chocolates made fresh on site and a variety of European jams and jellies seem to attract a large number of people. Interesting town, Kagawong.
Turn at the chocolate shop and another block along the waterfront is an old stone building sitting next to a stream. Much of the history of Kagawong centers on this building and lives there today. The first big industry to land in the North Channel, after fishing, was the timber industry. This stone structure was built near the end of the 19th century to be a pulp mill. They made wood pulp out of the spruce trees, which was shipped wet to Chicago where it was turned into paper for the Sears Roebuck catalog. That ended with the depression, after which a generator was installed to be run by the water power. It generated all of the electricity for Manitoulin Island. It was operated as a generating plant until 1961 when the power company closed the plant and provided all the electricity to the island from large mainland generating plants. It sat vacant for 30 years. Then a group of community members refurbished the building to become a museum on the first floor and an art studio on the second. It was a most successful transition.
The old generator sits outside on the property as a part of the historical display. It is interesting that this one generator, powered by the flow of the stream, could provide electricity for the entire island.
The community group more recently moved this log homestead to the mill property to house the overflow of exhibits that were developed.
The town's phone system was once operated by this small switchboard. How communication was made by mail and by phone are displayed in the log house.
The museum floor of the mill is filled with displays depicting the activities of the local people and economic activities. A detailed exhibit fills a large space dedicated to the best known family in town history, although they were only summer people - the Dodge family, of motor car fame. There is still a mystery unsolved in the family.
Across from the power plant, a number of hiking trails begin along the river, gravel trails varying in difficulty and a paved trail.
The paved trail has a variety of kids activities designed for different age groups. For the older kids, there is even an over-sized chess set.
Natural beauty is all along the gravel trail that runs along the river. It is an improved trail, smooth and wide, much different from the challenging trails along the north shore, but still interesting and beautiful.
This trail is also adorned with artists sculptures. There are bronze deer in the woods and a turtle peers out of this rock at those who hike by.
A fish sculpture seems at home placed in the river.
The end goal of the hike is to reach Bridal Veil Falls - a moving piece of natural art. The smaller fall is not evident in drier years. These falls were once much grander with many times over volumes of water. Today, most of the water is diverted to a canal on the other side of the road to power an electric generator in a nondescript building. Allowing the water to first fall over the cliffs would reduce its potential energy.
This view better illustrates how the falls got their name.
Kagawong is a tiny town, but is engaging and active for visitors.