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 Northumberland County’s Campbellford.
If you’ve ever admired photos of Northumberland County, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Campbellford. The remarkable Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge is 300 feet long, hovering 30 feet above the Trent River with a commanding view of Ranney Falls. The bridge is one entry point to Ferris Provincial Park, a beautifully wooded natural area that’s home to vibrantly coloured foliage in the fall and densely packed with wildflowers in the spring. Town proper lies on either side of the Trent just north of the gorge. Seen from on high or from the water, Campbellford has a postcard-pretty charm.
At the time of this writing the suspension bridge is closed due to Covid-19 precautions, but you can still access Ferris Park’s 10 km of winding forest and riverside trails. You can also make use of Trent-Severn Waterway locks 11, 12, and 13, and the verdant picnic areas nearby. Venture into town, and you’ll find an unconventional monument in Old Mill Park, where the world’s largest toonie stands proudly by the river. The sculpture is a tribute to local artist Brent Townsend, who designed the coin’s polar bear iconography.
The toonie is visible from the main bridge that connects the two banks of the Trent. Explore the streets on either side, and you’ll be treated to stately Victorian homes and heritage buildings. Centrally located downtown is Dooher’s Bakery, downright legendary for its donuts. Dooher’s won the title “Sweetest Bakery in Canada” two years running in a competition between over 1,200 bakeries.
Campbellford also distinguishes itself in the culinary department with the Empire Cheese Co-op. Empire has taken home multiple awards from the Royal Winter Fair for their outstanding selection of cheeses. Good things come in threes, so might want to take home some local beers from nearby Church-Key Brewing Company. This craft brewery is housed in a former Methodist Church and incorporates local ingredients into their refreshing ales.
Just outside town, the Westben Centre for Connection and Creativity Through Music has long been a destination for arts lovers. Known for its timber-frame barn performance venue, Westben offers rural calm, terrific acoustics, and top-notch performers. In 2017, founders Donna Bennett and Brian Finley received the order of Canada for their contributions to the arts. Although the pandemic led to the cancellation of live performances in 2020, Westben continued its mission by launching their Digital Concerts at the Barn initiative.
True to its Trent-Severn Trail Town status, Campbellford is also an extremely rewarding destination for canoeists, boaters, and cyclists. Paddlers should check out this route for a breezy daytrip that will give you easy access to many of the attractions above. If you’re locking through in a larger craft, you’ll get to experience flight locks, a two-step feat of engineering that’ll give you an impressive vantage on the Ranney Gorge Cliffs.
Cyclists might go all in and visit two Trail Towns in one day, following the Great Trail between Hastings and Campbellford. See here for more cycling opportunities. However you prefer to get around, do stop in at B & C Variety for a Trail Town Chocolicious Cone.
Campbellford’s spot along the Trent-Severn Waterway means it’s ideally situated for a small-town welcome or an outdoor exploration. Satisfy your curiosity with a visit to one of the destinations above, or plan your own route through this laidback Trail Town community.