Aerial view of the Trent-Severn Waterway near Lakefield

Nautical Distancing: How to Safely Visit the Trent-Severn Waterway in 2021

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 still 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 2021.

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 May 28. 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, 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 Ontario’s reopening stage, though of course you should still be mindful of any additional measures recommended by local businesses.

Please be aware of the following official regulations:

  • Lockage: Boaters are expected to be in full care and control of their vessels and to maintain 2 metres distance from staff and other boaters at all times during lockage. Mask use is mandatory within 2 metres of staff or visitors. Boaters requiring assistance with lockage must identify their concerns to lockstaff prior to entering the chamber. Boaters must at all times follow instructions from lockstaff who are always readily available to ensure a safe and efficient experience for all visitors.
  • Mask Mandatory for Service: Mask use is mandatory for visitors in situations where they will be within 2 meters of Parks Canada team members or other visitors, including if they require assistance when locking through. Masks are also required for the use of washrooms at lock stations and during sales transactions.
  • Maintain Social Distancing: Visitors must respect the safety of others at all times by maintaining their distance from other visitors and Parks Canada team members. Please respect the roped-off areas on the lock walls that provide a safe working space for our staff.
  • No Large Gatherings: Gatherings that are not consistent with provincial COVID-19 restrictions are prohibited on Parks Canada lands along the Trent-Severn Waterway.
  • Use Cashless Payment: For the purchase of permits, please use cashless payment whenever possible.
Nautical distancing infographic

Can I Stay Overnight?

Boaters can still moor their vessels overnight at lockstations with the purchase of an overnight mooring permit. However, as regulations are updated regularly, it is best to check Parks Canada’s accommodations page for the latest info. At the time of writing:

  • Reservable camping (lock 8 & lock 35), camping for cyclists and hikers, oTENTiks, and the cabin at Rosedale on the Trent-Severn Waterway will be available effective June 18, 2021.
  • Oasis at Meyers (lock 9) and Hagues Reach (lock 10) will be available effective July 1.
  • Unfortunately, as a result of COVID-19 mitigations, group camping and drive-up camping will not be offered on the Trent-Severn Waterway until further notice.

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)

2021 Facilities and Services by Lockstation

Hours of Operation

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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