Experience Killarney

The Municipality of Killarney stretches from Baie Fine and Frazer Bay in the west to the French, Pickerel, and Key Rivers in the east. Its boundaries are included within the districts of Manitoulin, Sudbury and Parry Sound and its 1,578 square kilometres encompass a large area of natural forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, bays, and rivers. For those who love the rugged wilderness, sport fishing, camping, kayaking and other outdoor activities, the place to be is anywhere in the Municipality of Killarney.

The village of Killarney is situated on the North Channel of Georgian Bay (in Lake Huron) in the province of Ontario, Canada. For many years, the village was known as Shebahonaning, an Ojibwe name meaning "safe passage".

The Native peoples who hunted, fished, and trapped here lived on what was to become a well-traveled route for the voyageurs and explorers of France and England. Fur trade posts were built along the Georgian Bay, with the Killarney post established on June 28th, 1820, by Etienne Augustin Rocbert de la Morandiere. His wife, Josephte Sai-sai-go-no-kwe (“woman of the falling snow") was a member of the Odawa Nation (the traders) and was born in the U.S. state of Michigan. Several First Nations families of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi Nations settled permanently in the village and their descendants remain here today.

When and why the place name Shebahonaning was changed to Killarney is unknown. Lady Dufferin, wife of the Governor-General of Canada, has often been credited with the name change, but the passage in her journal which describes their stop in Killarney is dated 1874 -- almost twenty years after the Post Office had replaced the Shebahonaning postal stamp with one reading Killarney.

With no road access until 1962, water was for many years the only route of travel for village residents and visitors. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the community was serviced regularly by steamships that carried passengers and freight to various locations on Georgian Bay and through the North Channel area. Fur trading, logging, commercial fishing, mining and tourism all played a major role at one time or another in the local economy. Today, Killarney village has a small population of permanent residents (about 399 persons) whose livelihood relies mainly on the mining and tourism industries.

The Township of Rutherford and George Island was incorporated in 1929. The Municipality of Killarney came into existence on January 1, 1999, when the Township of Rutherford and George Island amalgamated with the unorganized townships of Killarney, Hansen, Goshen, Sale, Attlee, Kilpatrick, Struthers, Allen and Travers as well as portions of the unorganized townships of Bigwood, Humboldt and Carlyle, and the Unsurveyed Territory. Several islands annexed from the municipality of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands were added to the Municipality in 2001. [click here for a map]

The French River, often considered the dividing line between Northern and Southern Ontario, flows through the Municipality and empties into Georgian Bay. Once a major transportation route for the fur trade, it is rich in history and was designated a Canadian Heritage River in 1986. A small group of permanent residents live along Hartley Bay Road, which follows the northern bank of the French River westward to Hartley Bay and its large group of cottagers.

The Key River is the southern boundary of the Municipality, and empties into Georgian Bay approximately 13 km from Highway 69, which is its closest point of road access. Iron ore was shipped out of the Key River area beginning in the early 1900s. Commercial fishing was booming around the same time, and together these economic activities earned the Key Harbour a link to the Trans Canada rail line. For many years, logging was also an important industry in the area. Eventually the need for a commercial harbour no longer existed. Now a well-known cottage and tourism area, the Key River’s beauty is enjoyed by countless people who travel its waters.

The Municipality of Killarney is more than twice as large as the geographical area of the City of Toronto and contains two provincial parks - Killarney and French River - within its boundaries. Our population increases significantly during the summer. People come back to their cottages on our numerous lakes, rivers, and bays, and over 100,000 boaters, campers, hikers, and other tourists visit various areas of the Municipality.