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Trent-Severn Waterway

Nautical Distancing: How to Safely Visit the Trent-Severn Waterway in 2020

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Ask someone in Kawarthas Northumberland how their summer’s going, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you they’ve been exploring close to home. With Covid-19 precautions making long-distance travel difficult or inadvisable, we’ve never felt more fortunate to have a wealth of outdoor experiences at our fingertips.

The Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site has long been one of our top attractions, and with a few “nautical distancing” precautions, it remains a stellar choice for boaters looking for a unique and varied experience right here in Ontario. Here’s what you need to know for a safe trip down the TSW in 2020.

What Is the Trent-Severn Waterway?

For the uninitiated, the Trent-Severn Waterway is a 400km stretch connecting lakes and rivers from Port Severn at Lake Huron through to Lake Ontario at Trenton. Parks Canada stewards the Historic Site, operating and maintaining a series of locks for boaters and paddlers to navigate the entire length during the annual navigation season. 

Visitors who drive, cycle or walk in to any lockstation can enjoy open green spaces for picnics, wildlife viewing on nearby nature trails, and discovering the engineering and history on display at the locks. A large section of the waterway passes through Kawarthas Northumberland, making it an ideal way to take in the verdant landscapes of the Canadian Shield, visit small waterside towns, or drop a line in prime fishing territory. 

The TSW is such an integral part of the region several communities along the way are officially designated Trent-Severn Trail Towns. Many serve special dishes, beers, and other treats named in honour of the ‘Waterway, and boast unique attractions all their own. Campbellford for instance is home to the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge and the world’s largest toonie; Hastings offers world-class fishing and a link with the Great Trail. All nine communities are well worth a visit – see the complete list of Trail Towns here.

How Can I Visit?

The Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site reopened to visitors on June 1. Visitors can use lockage, boat launches, access points and mooring areas, as well as day-use areas, like picnic spots, green spaces, parking lots, trails and some cycling paths. Washroom facilities are open at most lockstations, and visitors are asked to practice physical distancing and wash their hands thoroughly when using all facilities.

For boaters, “touchless locking” is in effect when transiting the locks. For the safety of all, Parks Canada has asked boaters to remain on their vessel at all times during lockage, and be prepared to crew their own lines. If help is required, lock staff are equipped with boat poles and can provide assistance. Please listen to their instructions carefully. Should you need to step off your vessel in order to loop your line around the cable, they ask that you advise the lock staff so they can move to a safe distance while you do so, and that once your line is looped, you re-board your vessel and remain there for the duration of the lockage.

Canoes, kayaks, and small boats can put in and take out as needed, but permits are required to use the locks. Purchase your permit online before visiting. If purchasing a permit at a lockstation, please use cashless payment options like debit and credit card when possible.

Once you’ve arrived in town, you’re free to take advantage of any services offered during Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening, though of course you should still be mindful of any additional measures recommended by local businesses.

Nautical distancing infographic

Can I Stay Overnight?

Boaters can still moor their vessels overnight at lockstations with the purchase of an overnight mooring permit. Camping at lockstations however is limited this season to visitors arriving by boat or canoe/kayak only, at the discretion of the lockmaster on a first-come first-served basis. This means visitors who arrive by car, bike, or walking in are not permitted to stay overnight at this time. Likewise, Parks Canada’s oTENTik sites and Rustic cabin will remain closed this season to all visitors. Physical distancing is required at all times for boaters camping at Parks Canada lockstations.

Where Can I Find More Info?

Because the Covid-19 situation is constantly evolving, boaters are asked to please visit the following websites often for the latest updates before planning an excursion:

Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site COVID-19 Information Page (Local)

Parks Canada’s COVID-19 Information Page (National)

2020 Facilities and Services by Lockstation

Watch Parks Canada’s video on Nautical Distancing in action

Check out the attractions in each Trail Town along the TSW

Watch our Video

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