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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’ Coboconk.

Visit Coboconk and you may not immediately realize you’re standing at a point of national significance. The town is positioned at Canada’s Fresh Water Summit – the highest body of water in the country from which a seaworthy vessel can circumnavigate the world. It’s a distinction shared only by the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River, and Kelheim, Bavaria, Germany. Coboconk celebrates its status every year with the Summit Festival, offering food, live music, and special events by the wharf.

Two people study the Fresh Water Summit sign in Coboconk

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the fresh water, of course, whether you’re there for a day trip or embarking on a global voyage. If you’re headed down the Trent-Severn Waterway you’ll pass through nearby Lock 36 at Kirkfield, home of the second highest hydraulic lift lock after Peterborough. From there you’ll reach Balsam Lake, with its excellent fishing opportunities. Pike, muskie, walleye, perch, bluegill, and crappie are found in abundance, among other species.

Even if you don’t feel like casting a line, Balsam Lake Provincial Park is a regional highlight. The wide, sandy beach is perfect for kids, camping options range from trailer-ready drive up sites to secluded walk-in sites, and day hiking trails abound. Continuing up the lake on the way to Coboconk you’ll pass Indian Point Provincial Park, home to one of the longest undeveloped shorelines in Kawartha Lakes.

Around Indian Point Balsam Lake narrows into the Gull River, and there are two easily accessible put ins for canoeists looking to explore. These scenic waterways provided inspiration for painter J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the founding members of the Group of Seven. You can find more info on these easy and rewarding paddles in our Gull River and Coboconk guide.

If you’re exploring the area on foot, Carden Alvar Natural Area can provide you with a unique experience. This globally rare ecosystem is officially designated an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, meaning attentive birdwatchers will be treated to fascinating species like the bobolink and loggerhead shrike.

View of downtown street in Coboconk

Don’t be too quick to head out of town, though – there’s plenty to see there as well. Coboconk boasts Canada’s smallest jail, and while that status is contested by Tweed, Creemore, and other towns, there’s no denying the 1884 jail is diminutive. Originally used to lock up rowdy lumberjacks who’d overindulged, the space is now a craft shop. Five minutes from town is Windmill Point Alpaca Farm, which offers visitors the chance to meet and learn about these curious, friendly animals (appointments necessary – please call ahead). If you’re feeling peckish, dining options are plentiful. The Pattie House Smokin’ Barbeque, for instance, serves a hearty burger on its cozy patio.

Affectionately named Coby by locals, Coboconk is more than just a town with a charming name. Deep Ontario history, rich ecosystems, and a unique claim to fame combine here to make this Trail Town well worth a visit.


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