The Trent-Severn Waterway is a scenic 386 km stretch connecting Lake Ontario to Lake Huron. A National Historic Site of Canada, the Waterway naturally has a storied past, but today serves as a recreational attraction to the boaters, paddlers, cyclists, and other visitors drawn to explore its scenic, meandering route. Nestled along its length are a series of charming communities known as the Trent-Severn Trail Towns – in this post we’ll look at Kawartha Lakes’ Bobcaygeon.
There’s a solid chance most Canadians have heard of Bobcaygeon. The town loaned its name to a classic Tragically Hip song, and featured prominently in Gord Downie’s wistful lyrics. History buffs will know Bobcaygeon for a different reason, as the site of the first lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway, built in 1833 to link Sturgeon and Pigeon lakes. The community grew initially around the logging trade, and now serves as a hub for the surrounding cottage country.
Lush landscapes in and around town, combined with modern amenities like free wifi at the locks, have made Bobcaygeon’s Lock 32 one of the most popular along the entire Trent-Severn Waterway. If you’re not passing through in a craft of your own, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are available for rent. Trail Town Friendly business Happy Days Houseboats is located just outside town, offering one of the most comfortable and relaxing ways to explore the TSW (you’ll need to act quickly to secure a houseboat rental, though – they book up quickly every year).
Whether you’re passing through the canal or arriving by land, take the time to explore downtown. The main street offers more patios than some towns twice the size, including the colourful, funky Kawartha Coffee Co., whose Bobcaygeon Constellation mural serves as a local landmark. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re also in the right place. Kawartha Dairy headquarters is in Bobcaygeon, so you’ll have no trouble finding ice cream on a hot day. A shady, sandy beach perfect for kids is a short walk away.
Despite the contemporary conveniences, Bobcaygeon is in touch with its past. Visit the Boyd Heritage Museum to learn more about the legacy of “Lumber King” Mossom Boyd. Nearby, Kawartha Settlers Village provides an immersive take on the region’s early days, with over twenty historic buildings housing artifacts from 1830-1935. You don’t have to stop at a museum to appreciate the history, though. A 1921 swing bridge sits right in the middle of town. Time it right and you might see the Lockmaster open it to allow a large boat passage.
If you’re travelling by water, consider making the trip out to Big Boyd/Chiminis Island. The largest undeveloped island in the Kawarthas is home to walking trails and makes a popular picnic spot for canoeists. If you’re on foot, Gamiing Nature Centre is just outside town and offers trails and educational outdoor programming.
Bobcaygeon sits right in the middle of the nine Trail Towns along the TSW, and exemplifies what makes these communities unique. History, culture, and natural splendor combine here to make each visit varied and rewarding.