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10 Signature Paddling Routes on Canada’s Treasured Waterway

10 Signature Paddling Routes on Canada’s Treasured Waterway

As suggested by Insider Bretton Clark of The Land Canadian Adventures

“Can you hear it? Can you feel it? The flow of water? The flow of life within you? Its spirit moves all through Peterborough & the Kawarthas. Dip your paddle deep into time. Travel along the routes of the voyageurs in a canoe crafted by hand, the vessel that was created by the First Nations. The vessel that helped create the nation we call Canada. That we’ve honoured with its own museum.”

1.

Indian River Descent – View Map

You never paddle in the same river twice on the Indian, and it is notoriously low in the summer, but in the spring, the Indian River is navigable by canoe and kayak south from Warsaw, past highway seven, all the way to Keene and the current picks up steam, offering class 1 moving water through beautiful Carolinian lowlands.  The dams at Hope Mills and Lang Pioneer Village require portage along signed trails, with some lifting over reinforced riverbanks.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Distance: 42km one-way from Warsaw Caves Conservation Area; 12 km from Highway 7; vehicle shuttle necessary

Portages: There are two mandatory portages at the dams of Hope Mill and Lang Pioneer Village.

Put-in/Take-out: Put in at Warsaw Caves Conservation Area or Further south at Highway 7 and Pull out at Hope Mill, Lang Pioneer Village or the town of Keene.

2.

Upper Indian River – View Map

Spend a relaxing day paddling a canoe on the Indian River. It’s Canoeing 101 – flat water, current and lots of great scenery. Bring your own canoe or rent one of theirs. A trip to the village of Warsaw by canoe is just two hours out and two hours back and makes a great day trip. Or you can just amble along the river at your leisure.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Distance: 5km one way

Portages: None

Put-in/Take-out: Warsaw Caves Conservation Area and Lions Park in Warsaw.

Note: Paddlers are advised to consult the relevant maps – Topographical Maps (1:50,000) – 31 D/9 Burleigh Falls 31 D/8 Peterborough 31 D/1 Rice Lake

3.

Little Lake – View Map

In most cities it’s not often you see people walking around downtown with a canoe over their heads, Peterborough is the exception. Little Lake is an easily accessible lake located in the heart of downtown Peterborough. With multiple launches, cafes, rentals and scenic views of the downtown and if you time it perfectly live music – this route a great choice for paddlers of all skill levels.

Difficulty Level: Novice

Distance: 6.5 km loop

Portages: None

Put in/ Take-out: Beavermead Park on Ashburnham Drive, Rogers Cove on Maria Street, T-wharf by the Art Gallery on Crescent Street (parking at Del Crary Park)

4.

Nogies Creek Paddling Route – View Map

Nogies Creek flows from Bass Lake into Pigeon Lake and is fully navigable in the early spring with plenty of pullovers and several rugged portages, including a mandatory portage around a hydroelectric dam to the south of the widening.  The easiest way to experience this hidden gem is to explore the widening midway down the creek, which offers some amazing bird viewing.  There is no fishing here because it is a muskellunge sanctuary. There are many little islands worth paddling around, and a rich wetland on the eastern shore, near the only private property in the area – a hunting and snowmobiling camp.

Difficulty Level: The full descent from Bass lake to Pigeon Lake is intermediate and the small loop from put-in midway on Bass Lake Road is easy.

Distance: This route is 5km one way.

Portages: The descent requires many pullovers and 1 mandatory portage (100 m) around a dam.

Put-in/Take out: Small parking lot on the right hand side of Bass Lake Road, just south of White Valley Road.

5.

Serpentine Loop at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – View Map

This is a lovely and challenging route through the moderately remote northeast corner of the KHPP that affords opportunities for fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing, particularly beavers and water birds, as well as access 25 backcountry camping sites.  The put in is on Anstruther Lake and involves some relatively big water paddling for the park.  Bearing north leads to a quick portage (201m) into Rathbun Lake. Another short portage (164m) leads into North Rathbun, a very small and remote lake, before the largest portage (1411m) or the route into Serpentine Lake.  The next move is the paddler’s choice, as you may proceed southeast to Copper Lake, or continue due east into Anderson and the very Scenic Rock Lake before completing the circuit back to Rathbun and Anstruther Lakes via Copper. Book sites in advance on the Ontario Parks website, for around $12/night, plus a $10 reservation fee per site.

Difficulty Level: Novice

Distance: 21km return

Portages: 8, including the second longest portage (1411m) in the KHPP

Put-in/Take-out: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 5 Off Anstruther Lake Road; plentiful parking.  Accessible from Highway 28 south of Apsley.

Note: Paddlers are advised to refer to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park or appropriate topographical maps before attempting this route.

6.

Southern Ponds at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – View Map

This is a very accessible backcountry paddling trip in the small lakes of the southeast corner of the KHPP that affords opportunities for fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing, particularly beavers and water birds, as well as access to 8 backcountry camping sites.  The put in is on Coon Lake and requires a very short portage (52m) from your vehicle to the shore.  There is a longer and sometimes steep portage (664m) between Coon and Little Turtle Lake.  The portage is well signed and crosses a fire route.  Little Turtle offers some splendid swimming and bird viewing opportunities, and there are places to camp that are among the most easily accessible backcountry campsites in the park.  There are two very short portages into Adams Lake (67m) and Sawmill Lake (length depends on water level, but not more than 150m) followed by a longer portage (471m) into Shark Lake.  This portage requires sure footing on the pullout from Sawmill and crosses by a lovely creek that flows from Shark Lake. Some of the best backcountry sites are on Shark Lake, which features healthy shorelines that support a variety of reptile and amphibian species, good fishing and excellent swimming.  Book sites in advance on the Ontario Parks website, for around $12/night, plus a $10 reservation fee per site.

Difficulty Level: Novice

Distance: 8km return

Portages: 4 each way.

Put-in/Take-out: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 1 Off Coon Lake Road; plentiful parking.  Accessible from Highway 28 just north of Burleigh Falls.

Note: Paddlers are advised to refer to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park or appropriate topographical maps before attempting this route.

7.

Sucker Lake – View Map

 This is a very accessible backcountry paddling trip in the remote northwest corner of the KHPP that affords opportunities for fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing and access to 18+ backcountry camping sites.  Some of the sites are located on sandy beaches and granite-shield islands.  Book sites in advance on the Ontario Parks website, for around $12/night, plus a $10 reservation fee per site.

The put in is accessible by approximately 175 m through pine forest to Bottle Creek.  Paddle north across Bottle Creek and wend through the narrows between the creek and Bottle Lake.  This lake offers the most easily accessible overnight camping as well, although there are private property cottagers that occasionally run motorized watercraft.  A very short (87m) portage on the eastern shore of this lake takes you to Sucker Lake, which is closed to motorized boat traffic, and affords serene paddling and backcountry camping opportunities.

Difficulty Level: Novice

Distance: 4 km return trip

Portages: 2 each way

Put-in/Take-out: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 7; plentiful parking and outhouse facilities.  Accessible off Beaver Lake Road from Highway 507 between Flynns Turn and Gooderham.

Note: Paddlers are advised to refer to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park or appropriate topographical maps before attempting this route.

8.

Long Lake Loop – View Map

This is a rugged backcountry paddling trip into the interior of the park from the central eastern perimeter of the KHPP that affords opportunities for fishing, swimming and wildlife viewing, particularly beavers and water birds, as well as access to 30+ backcountry camping sites.  The put in is on Long Lake at KHPP Access Point 2 form highway 28 between Haultain and Apsley.  Paddle two km along the cliff edges and secluded island bays of Long Lake before dropping south into Buzzard Lake along a very well-trod portage (340m).  Buzzard offers some impressive cliffs as well, and there is a lovely hiking trail that connects the campsites along the western shore of the lake, and there is ample camping on this lake.   There is a longer and sometimes steep portage (684m) between Buzzard and wild and secluded Mountain Lake which offers only one backcountry site.  Another portage (680m) leads to Stoplog Lake, which has four sites spread out along its north-south axis, and boasts some interesting features to explore by canoe or kayak.

From here, the route opens up to paddler’s choice, leading to either the shallow and beaver-active Crane Creek to the north, or Turtle Lake via a long portage (993m) to the west.  Both routes lead to Cherry Lake and Triangle Lake, a pair of contiguous charming interior lakes with some great opportunities for viewing large raptors.  From Triangle, there is a long portage (1280m) into Cox Lake, a lake in which none of the backcountry campsites is bad! On the return to Long Lake, there is a small portage (30m) around a small chute between Cox and a marshy creek.  The creek is characterized by beaver activity and often requires several pull overs in all water levels.  One more easy portage (150m) leads into the cottagey Loucks Lake which is contiguous with Long Lake returns to the put in.  There is a lodge at the parking lot which offers provisions and equipment and cabin rentals. Book sites in advance on the Ontario Parks website, for around $12/night, plus a $10 reservation fee per site.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Distance: 18-22 km return loop

Portages: 4

Put-in/Take-out: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 1 Off Coon Lake Road; plentiful parking.  Accessible from Highway 28 just north of Burleigh Falls.

Note: Paddlers are advised to refer to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park or appropriate topographical maps before attempting this route.

9.

Mississauga River at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – View Map

This whitewater paddling route is easy to access at the top and the end, but difficult to exit from the middle of the course: commit to a long paddling day, or an overnight on one of the six backcountry camping sites in order to complete it safely. Even though it is close to the highway, it feels very remote, and plunges through the granite gorges of the southwest corner of the KHPP affording opportunities for challenging class 1 and 2 moving water.  Many rapids can be run in the high water of spring, and are almost always accompanied by short to medium length portages. There are a few mandatory portages around falls and around a dam.  All rapids should be scouted from the shore before running, and necessary precaution should be taken, including pfds and helmets.  Book sites in advance on the Ontario Parks website, for around $12/person/night, plus a $10 reservation fee per site.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Distance: 21km one way; vehicle shuttle required

Portages: 18

Put-in: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 8 Off Mississauga Dam Road in the southwest corner of Mississauga Lake; plentiful parking.  Accessible from Highway 36 between Flynns Turn and Catchacoma.

Take-out: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park Access Point 9 off Highway 36 just north of Buckhorn; plentiful parking and a nearby hiking trail. The river continues to the south and drains into Lower Buckhorn Lake.

Note: Paddlers are advised to refer to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park or appropriate topographical maps before attempting this route.

10a.

Eels Creek Paddling Route – Haultain to Northey’s Bay – View Map

This paddling route perfectly characterizes paddling in the land between: each bend in the river offers a different perspective on the landscape alternating between massive willows overhanging the limestone banks, and massive eastern white pine stands fringing granite shorelines.  It is also a historic paddling route and has been navigated for centuries as part of the approach to the nearby Teaching Rocks at Petroglyphs Provincial Park, and as part of Samuel de Champlain’s Route through the Kawarthas over 400 years ago.

This route can be paddled in one direction and requires some experience with paddling in moving water. In the spring, there are two runnable rapids: the first is a double ledge with a dogleg to river right.  The very short (20m) portage is on river left. The second is only runnable in highwater, and is a series of three ledges with a line that arcs to river right. The short portage (50m) is on river right.  Also, there are many little riffles and chutes that require some precision to navigate.  All rapids should be scouted from shore before running, and all necessary precaution taken including pfds and helmets.

The approach to High Falls is audible before it is visible, and there is a granite cove that allows for easy disembarkation.  The portage trail (162m) is not formally signed, and may be confusing as you climb the rocky headland from the pullout. High Falls is a famous camping spot and offers some absolutely stunning scenery, fishing and swimming opportunities for explorers.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Distance: 7km

Portages: 3 in summer, fewer in the spring. Longest portage is 162m over high falls.  Depending on water levels, beaver activity and downed trees, there may be additional pullovers and other occasions to step out of the canoe or kayak.

Put-in: Bridge at Haultain (Hwy 28), parking for three vehicles, and a steep bank reinforced with rebar. Rebar poles may scratch your boat!

Take-out: Bridge at Northey’s Bay Road (Highways 56 – MNR Parking Lot)

10b.

Eels Creek Paddling Route – Northey’s Bay to High Falls Return – View Map

This route can be paddled upstream from the MNR parking lot and requires some experience with paddling in moving water as there are riffles and chutes that will require pullovers against the current, and precise maneuvering on the return trip. Watch for (and portage around High Falls). High Falls is a famous camping spot and offers some absolutely stunning scenery, fishing and swimming opportunities for explorers.

County Route Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Distance: 4km return trip

Portages:  none; two pullovers may be necessary

Put-in: Bridge at Haultain (Hwy 28)

Take-out: Bridge at Northey’s Bay Road (Highways 56 – MNR Parking Lot)


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