Nature and Maritime History Await at Fathom Five National Marine Park


Tobermory‘s Fathom Five National Marine Park was instituted to protect and preserve the islands, waters, and shoreline of Georgian Bay. With a number of exhibits that highlight the area’s natural history as well as the seafaring history of the Upper Bruce Peninsula from 1852 to present day, it offers a fascinating look at both the ecosystem and cultural history of the area. The park includes a portion of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere, and offers a number of interpretive programs between June and September. Visit during the third weekend of August to take part in the Marine Heritage Festival, or come during the middle of winter for an intriguing look at Georgian Bay’s winter landscape.

A National Marine Conservation Area as well as a National Park, Fathom Five features a landscape of stacked cliffs and escarpments, which are also known as flowerpots; a favorite destination within the park is Flowerpot Island, which can be reached via a special glass-bottomed boat tour. Besides the flowerpot formations, the island features caves and rare plants, making it the perfect place for anyone with an interest in geology or botany to explore.

While everyone can see some of the more than twenty shipwrecks that litter the bottom of Lake Huron here in Georgian Bay while taking a glass bottom boat tour, snorkelers and scuba divers from novice to expert come here in droves to get an up close and personal look at the wrecks. Some of the park’s best wrecks include:

  • The Charles P. Minch, which was built in Ohio in 1867. The schooner was just over 47 meters long, and was carrying a load of lumber when she ran aground in 1898, and though she is scattered and broken, she is very easy to access, at depths ranging from 6 to 16 meters. Many aspects of the ship, including her massive rudder, are still easily identifiable.
  • The W.L. Wetmore, which was built in 1871, is an even bigger wreck, at just over 65 meters long. Resting in only 10 meters of water, she is easily accessible to all divers, and snorkelers can explore the upper section of the wreck with ease, as well. Not only does this shipwreck feature a massive propeller five meters across, it is still equipped with lengths of chain, deck fittings, and many other bits of rigging that make it ideal for underwater photography.
  • For seasoned divers, the wreck of the Arabia, which lies beneath 37 meters of water just off Echo Island, where she was lost in October of 1884, is a splendid wreck to explore. A barque just over 40 meters long, the Arabia was built in 1853 and is still in excellent condition, with bowsprit, windlass, and anchors on display. Water here is cold and dark, so drysuits and good lights are a must.

You’ll find camping and other accommodations near the park, plus plenty of hiking. If you’re coming to Fathom Five to dive, you will need to register at the park’s visitor center, where you will be issued a daily wristband or an annual tag. Visit between mid-May to early June to view the rare Calypso orchids and other wildflowers that bloom here, and take time to visit the tall ships and lighthouses. With something for everyone, Fathom Five and Bruce Peninsula is an outstanding place to get away from it all.

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