|Petrie Island beach on a quiet day|
3000 years ago Algonquin and Iroquoian peoples probably used this as a fishing area and no doubt the early explorers and fur traders from Europe camped here in the old days. Captain Petrie, a mid 19th century leader of the Cumberland community, had the first road between Ottawa and Montreal constructed in 1850, and gave his name to the island. Before the Carillon dam between Hawkesbury and Montreal in 1962-64, many long, wide, sand beaches existed on the banks of the Ottawa. Petrie Island, still full of sand today, used to have four cottages. A fire in 1900 destroyed over 3000 buildings in Hull and Ottawa and some residents camped here while their homes were being rebuilt. In the 1950’s portion of the Island was used as a rubbish dump. The National Capital Commission purchased the Islands in 1983 for preservation of the wetlands and five years later the Province of Ontario designated it as a significant area of scientific interest: a Class 1 wetlands area. Over 130 different kinds of birds have been spotted here and it's the home of many rare plants as well.
At the eastern end is Stuemer Beach and Stuemer Park, a reference to the Stuemer family who sailed around the world from here (in 1997) and back to here (in 2001) on their boat Northern Magic. When the voyage was over, the mother, Diane, who had been sending regular dispatches to the Ottawa Citizen, reporting on their progress, published these in a book, but sad to say she died shortly afterwards (in 2003).
I see that the Friends of Petrie Island website has been updated, with an impressive list of what recreations are available there, on the Activities page. Go to the Bait and Tackle shop at Ozile's Marina, and you can rent a pedal boat, a kayak or a boat for fishing expeditions. From the lifeguards' office you could also rent a volleyball net. Personally I'd avoid this area at weekends to stay clear of the crowds; most of the facilities are open on weekdays too during midsummer and on the beach lifeguards are on duty every day from noon till 7p.m.