MUDGE BAY— Mudge Bay is an area of the North Channel filled with mystery and lore. Once the playground of celebrities and elite families, now the water holds ghostly memories of ship wrecks, tragic deaths and abandoned lodges.

“From the ‘40s to the ‘70s, Harbour Island Resort (just off of Maple Point in Kagawong) was a yachting and fishing resort for the rich and famous,” explained Old Mill Heritage Centre curator Rick Nelson. “Rumour has it that in its prime, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, singer Gene Autry, heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson all visited the lodge.”

 The Harbour Island Lodge in its heyday in the 1950s. photo credit: The Old Mill Heritage Centre
The Harbour Island Lodge in its heyday in the 1950s.
photo credit: The Old Mill Heritage Centre

“I had a woman who came into the museum last year to see the Harbour Island exhibit,” added Mr. Nelson. “She said she had been a worker out there and served Marlon Brando his meal.”

Located 20 km north of Kagawong on Lake Huron, the 12 building yachting and fishing resort has not only played host to celebrities, but some of North America’s leading executives.

“Harbour Island had been owned by a Cleveland industrial firm, the Jack and Heinz Company working on the U.S. Government contracts in WWII, who had first acquired and developed the tiny island in the harbour of Clapperton,” explains a document from the Old Mill Heritage Centre.

The firm used the island as a retreat for employees, but after the war contracts were terminated and phased out, the Jack and Heinz ‘camp’ went up for sale and was bought by the Harbour Island Yacht and Fishing Club, spearheaded by the late Captain Harold Hutchings, though the lodge went through many hands over the years.

The interior of a secondary building at Harbour Island in the 1950s.
The interior of a secondary building at Harbour Island in the 1950s.

“I used to go out there with my family 20 years ago and later by myself in my teenage years,” shared North Channel Cruise Line owner Chris Blodgett. “It was quite the place. The owner at the time, Ron Pouliot, would come up every summer with his 89 foot boat ‘Turning Point’ that was previously owned by John Wayne. He would bring this interesting group of people with nicknames like ‘Popeye’ who would stay in the cottages and try and help him keep the place going. By the ‘90s it was really starting to fall apart and he just couldn’t keep up.”

“The bottom section of the lodge was a bar, and right up until its last days if you went out there on a Friday or a Saturday night there would be 40 to 50 people there in the middle of nowhere with a ton of boats docked out front.”

“In the ’50s and ‘60s the Island was owned by a group out of the States called the Harbour Island Hunting and Fishing Club, they did a reasonable job of running the place, but I don’t think they ever really made any money from it,” he continued. “I think its real failing was not having a hydro line running out to the Island. Everything was run off a generator which must have cost a lot.”

After the lodge fell into disrepair in the ‘90s, Harbour Island made its way back into the rumour mill after a grow op was discovered on the island.

In 2006, acting off a tip, members of the Manitoulin OPP, OPP Northeast Region Emergency Response Team and OPP Drug Enforcement Section Rural Operations Team raided Harbour Island when they had reason to believe a marijuana grow op was started on there.

However, when they reached the island, no individuals were present, but 1,450 plants were found and seized, with a street value of $1,450,000.

“The police apparently found hundreds of marijuana seedlings, clones, irrigation system—it was an elaborate set up,” said Mr. Blodgett. “It was in its early stages, but no one was around. I remember just seeing rice hats everywhere. It was bizarre.”

“It was rumoured that the culprits abandoned their operation due to the poison ivy that has taken over the entire island and the operators may have unsuspectingly become riddled with rash and sickness,” continued Mr. Blodgett. “It is so thick and tall—unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Like a mutant strain. It’s almost as though it was put there intentionally to keep visitors to the island away, to let the place decay in peace swallowed up and defended by a poisonous barrier.”

Mudge Bay 9

Another Mudge Bay mystery is linked to Harbour Island, the nearby Dodge Lodge at Maple Point.

“Dodge Lodge on Maple Point is so close to Harbour Island I’m sure the Dodge family must have been frequent guests out at the Harbour Island Lodge,” said Mr. Blodgett.

Kagawong’s Maple Point is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Daniel Dodge, the heir to the Dodge family fortune, who drowned tragically in the summer of 1938 (the tragic tale was recounted in last week’s summer pages).

Mr. Dodge, while on his honeymoon at the family lodge, was playing with dynamite when he accidently exploded a stick severely injuring himself, his new bride Laurine and two caretakers.

During their transportation for medical attention via the family’s speedboat to Little Current, Mr. Dodge was tossed from the boat and drowned.

Throughout the years many have reported strange occurrences and a ghost resembling the former Mr. Dodge haunting Maple Point.

The Mudge Bay waters have claimed others into her depths in later years.

“In the 1960s, a boat hit a sandbar out in the bay,” explained Mr. Nelson. “The family underestimated the damage and the boat sank killing the people aboard including two children. The pulpit at St. John’s the Evangelist Anglican Church is made out the boat in memory of those lost.”

The church also holds a Blessing of the Boats Marine Service annually, with this year’s service falling this Sunday, July 19 at 9 am.

To learn more about the history and mysteries of Mudge Bay (and hear more stories), book a tour from the North Channel Cruise Line who will be hosting two tours this summer on the topic.

The tours, held Sunday, July 19, with sailing times from 2 to 5 pm or 6:30 to 9:30 pm, will begin with a walk through the Marine Museum in Kagawong, followed by a tour aboard the Grand Heron, departing from the Kagawong Marina and sailing into Mudge Bay and visiting Harbour Island.

Both tours will be narrated by Mr. Nelson. The afternoon cruise will include a barbecue lunch, while the evening cruise will see a catered dinner from the Anchor Inn.

There will also be a second Mudge Bay Mysteries dinner cruise held on Saturday, August 22 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

North Channel Cruise Line has a great lineup of tours this season for every interest and budget.

There will be trips to Killarney on July 15, July 22, August 5, August 12, August 26, September 2 and September 9 from 9:50 am to 5 pm.

The eight-hour boat tours depart from Little Current, travelling to Killarney where it docks at 1 pm for the two hour stop over. The tour includes a buffet lunch aboard the Grand Heron.

The Baie Fine Fjord Cruises will be held on July 29, August 19 and August 30, sailing from 10:50 am to 5 pm.

The six hour tour departs from Little Current, sailing the rich rugged shore to the world famous Baie Fine Fjord inside of Killarney Provincial Park. The tour also includes a buffet lunch.

Benjamin Island Cruises sail on August 9, 23 and September 5, departing from Little Current at 11 am and returning to the port at 5 pm and includes a buffet lunch.

Harbour Island from the air in the 1960s.
Harbour Island from the air in the 1960s.

A voyage to Gore Bay via the Benjamin Islands will be held on July 25 from 11:30 am to 5 pm.

This one-way tour will depart from Little Current, travelling through the Benjamin Islands to Gore Bay, just in time for the Harbour Day’s Festival Weekend fish fry and dance.

There will be bus options for those wishing to return to eastern Manitoulin after the fish fry or a late bus after the dance.

Also during the Harbour Day Festival Weekend, there will be a Gore Bay evening Tour on July 25 from 8 to 10:30 pm, departing from Gore Bay and returning in time to attend the evening dance after taking in the bluffs that line the Gore Bay harbour, Janet Head Lighthouse and evening sunset.

The Darch Island Beach cruise will sail from Gore Bay on July 26 from 12 to 6 pm.

The afternoon cruise will include lunch and the opportunity to enjoy the soft sand lake bottom and beach of Darch Island.

On Haweater Weekend in Little Current there will be a Rock the Boat afternoon on August 2 from 2 to 5 pm and a 19 plus Rock the Boat fireworks party on August 2 from 8 to 11 pm. The Toronto band Hotwax Meltdown will be providing live entertainment for both amazing party cruises.

During the weekend of August 14-15, North Channel Cruise Lines will be setting sail for Spanish’s Rock and Roar weekend. The inclusive package will include a cruise from Little Current, up the Wabuno Channel, along the shoes of Croker, Benjamin and Fox Islands and through the Little Detroit passage to the Spanish Marina on August 14, departing at 12 pm. Lunch will be included on Friday before guests disembark the boat and set up at the festival campsite and enjoy the concert with performers such as Sass Jordon and Platinum Blond.

The Grand Heron will return festivalgoers to Little Current on Sunday morning, leaving Spanish at 10 am, with brunch as the boat makes its way back to Manitoulin and an early afternoon barbecue.

There will also be tours during the Rock and Roar Weekend in Spanish on August 15 from 11 am to 1:30 pm and again from 2 to 4:30 pm.

Concluding the season will be Fall Colours Tours on October 3, 10 and 17 from 11 am to 2:30 pm, departing from Little Current and taking cruisers through the Swing Bridge, passing the Strawberry Island Lighthouse and down the east side of Strawberry Island to the top of Sheguiandah Bay.

For more information about the Mudge Bay Mysteries cruise, or any of North Channel Cruise Line’s other cruises this season, and to book, visit www.northchanneltours.

com or call  1-800-268-8222.