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Paddling Home – An Epic Canoe Trip in Peterborough & the Kawarthas

man in forest

After over 30 years of living in the city of Peterborough, I moved a few minutes north to the small hamlet of Bridgenorth. I got a small place across the road from Chemong Lake and the very first morning, through my bedroom window, I heard a loon call over the calm, misty lake. I was home.

a dog in a canoe
sleeping dog

By the time I had my first-morning coffee I had unrolled maps on the kitchen table to see what possibilities lay right outside my front door. I’m a paddler, and the main ingredient that has kept me living in Peterborough & the Kawarthas all these years is the water. There’s lots of water.

A dream was formed by my second caffeine fix – a plan to paddle from the far eastern border of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park back to my home in Bridgenorth. It was all possible, to paddle and portage through the park, be lifted up through the Buckhorn Lift Lock, and then navigate the expanse of Upper Buckhorn and Chemong Lake. To end it all, I’d put in at the public launch located just across the road from my house and portage up my laneway, the same bit of landscape once used as the Native portage leading out of Chemong. How ironic. I was living on a portage.

rock island on lake in forest
small waterfall in forest

The dream became a reality last week. It was an epic trip. I brought my dog, Angel, so it wasn’t a true solo trip. She loves canoe tripping as much as I do; maybe more. The five days consisted of twenty-two portages, close to fifty kilometres of paddling, and four evenings camped out under the stars.

a tent and canoe by a lake
a sandwich and fries

Highlights of the trip were catching countless lunker bass while traveling the remote interior lakes of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park; camping on pine clad rock outcrops; running wild rapids along the Mississauga River; being flushed through the echoing chamber of the Buckhorn Lock; pitching my tent among the boaters at the Lock, watching families toast marshmallows around the campfire while humming melodies of Garth Brooks and John Denver; taking the dog and myself out to dinner at the Mainstreet Landing Restaurant picking up morning treats at my all-time favourite bakery – Buckhorn Bakery; an early, wind-free morning across Buckhorn and Chemong Lakes with a sunrise over my left shoulder and a rainbow arching across the sky on my right; and ending by portaging my canoe and gear right to my front porch – with a loon call to welcome me home once again.

I came back from my paddle across Peterborough & the Kawarthas reconnected to the place I chose long ago to live and work and then raise my daughter.

river in forest
man standing infront of lake

For someone who travels to so many other wild areas, it was refreshing to wander the woods and water in my own backyard. It reminded me how special it all is and why we all should cherish living here. Peterborough & the Kawarthas is a place rich in history, culture, dramatic wild landscapes, and lots and lots of water. It truly is a paddlers paradise!