The Kawarthas are home to hundreds of lakes. In addition to a reputation as a fishing hotspot, these lakes are a key component of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Most of the southern lakes are an integral part of the locks and canals system. While not in the navigation route, the many northern lakes are ‘feeder lakes’ with their water flowing into the Trent system.
Trent Severn Waterway
The Trent-Severn Waterway is a national historic site of Canada. It stretches 386 km from Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte to Georgian Bay. After almost a century of construction it was completed in 1920. The historic locks and canals passageway has been named, “one of the finest interconnected systems of navigation in the world.” Many American ‘loopers,’ travelling the Great Loop from Florida, are greeted on the Waterway. A very popular means for families to enjoy the waterway is to rent a houseboat. Lock stations of the Trent-Severn are also favourites of those travelling by car.
Lakes on the Waterway
Those who traverse the Bay of Quinte, Trent River and Rice Lake will arrive in Peterborough with the anticipation of locking through the Peterborough Lift Lock. With a lift of 19.8m, it gives boaters the thrill of riding the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world.
Travelling north on the Otonabee River the locks of Nassau Mills, Otonabee, Douro and Sawer Creek will be navigated to reach the scenic Village of Lakefield – the perfect place to moor for a night or two to shop, enjoy a chef prepared meal or gather at the local pub.
Lake Katchewanooka, with its family friendly cottage resorts, leads to the lock at Young’s Point – a tiny hamlet, but a favourite of shoppers. From Clear Lake boaters enter the aptly named Stony Lake with over one thousand islands – from tiny shoals to large enough to accommodate cottages. Fairy Island even has its own private lake. A number of quality resorts can be found on Stony Lake as well as some of the most exceptional restaurants in the Kawarthas. Then there’s the glass house, the public Quarry Bay beach and the island with St. Peter’s on the Rock; a church that is over 100 years old.
Next are the locks at Burleigh Falls and Lovesick Lake. The rapids at Burleigh are enjoyed by kayaking enthusiasts and it is also a popular shore dive site. Anglers abound and the distinct geology of the area attracts artists and photographers to capture its beauty. A canoe ladder portage has been built at Lovesick. There is also foot access from this lock to the little known Wolf Island Provincial Park. Being a non-operating Park, hiking trails are the only facilities available.
Slip into Deer Bay if in need of some fine country lakeside dining. When travelling Lower Buckhorn Lake, be sure to stop at one of Canada’s largest retail art galleries. If you arrive in Buckhorn during one of the festivals or events planned by the Community Centre, you are in for a real treat – craft shows to dinner theatre to a fish fry and more! Some would say the best pizza anywhere can be found in this tiny Hamlet, along with necessities.
Deer Bay, Lower Buckhorn and (Upper) Buckhorn Lake have several cottage resorts from which to choose for those who prefer a land based holiday. On (Upper) Buckhorn Lake stop to enjoy a few hours on the greens. There’s boat access at an award-winning 18 hole, 72 par course. The Waterway passes through Curve Lake First Nation. Dock at Coppaway Point for a few minutes walk to the renowned Whetung Ojibwa Centre for fine art, handcrafts and a small museum. The fishing is great on this lake as it is in Chemong Lake. Chemong isn’t on the Trent-Severn navigation route, but connects to the south. It’s not hard to find a variety of habitats; underwater structures, weed beds and rock shoals, just where the fish like to hide. Chemong is a popular choice for ice fishing and it is also host to the long standing Polar Plunge.
Gannon’s Narrows is the route to Pigeon Lake which is another fishing hotspot and home to some standing cottage resorts. The Gannon’s Narrows Conservation Area features a hiking trail along the shore, a mixed forest and pond. From Pigeon it’s on to Sturgeon, Cameron, Balsam and the Talbot River to Lake Simcoe. There begins the Severn part of the Waterway to Georgian Bay. Navigating the entire system will take seven or eight days; however, could be longer depending on your vessel and number of stops you take to explore.
Northern Feeder Lakes
Water from many of the lakes to the north of the Trent-Severn Waterway ensure that the system remains navigable throughout the season. Most of these are home to many family cottages. Big Cedar, Long, Jack, Chandos, Anstruther, Gold, Mississauga and Catchacoma, a sampling, can access marinas for gas and supplies.
Access points to Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park can be found on: Long, Gold, Anstruther, Mississaugua, Wolf, Catchacoma, and Beaver Lakes. While there are many family cottages on these lakes, canoe routes with portages lead to smaller lakes without motorboats and/or cottages. At over 34,000 hectares Kawartha Highlands is the largest park in the province south of Algonquin. The 100+ campsites are boat access only, providing a taste of wilderness canoeing, close to southern Ontario.