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Paddle the Trent-Severn Waterway: Bobcaygeon

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Bobcaygeon Paddling Routes

Made famous by The Tragically Hip’s rhyme with “constellations,” Bobcaygeon rests upon three islands right at the meeting point of Sturgeon and Pigeon Lakes. These two waterbodies create the distinctive zig-zag pattern of the Kawartha Lakes section of the Trent-Severn Waterway. The Bobcaygeon lock was the first lock constructed on the Trent-Severn Waterway, over 160 years ago. This is also the most popular lock on the entire waterway.

No matter where you go in Bobcaygeon, you’re never far from water. This town loves water.  Between its bridges, beaches, parks, islands, waterfront bistros and riverside condos, this quintessential waterfront town takes full advantage of its prime position along the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Bobcaygeon is also a happening little town. It is a lovely place for enjoying a balance of both the busy, festive cottage-town atmosphere and paddling along the quieter, natural edges of town.

Finding that balance between distraction and peacefulness is important to me. I have always appreciated how traveling under your own steam (whether on foot, by bicycle, and especially by canoe) allows you to concentrate on your immediate surroundings in a way that helps quiet your mind. Something magical happens when your physical and mental efforts are in harmony during these active forms of transportation. Your whole body and spirit are united in an enhanced awareness of changes in terrain and shifts in wind. As a result, it seems like an additional bit of mental awareness opens up, enabling you to travel inwards even as you travel onwards. This type of awareness has enabled me to come up with creative solutions to otherwise sticky problems in my life without the same levels of anxiety or uncertainty that sometimes come along with that type of thinking. Paddling can be a kind of therapy for me, especially in today’s distraction-filled environments.

If you’re looking to balance the music and festivities of Bobcaygeon with some paddling, there are plenty of options to choose from. This town really is a limitless “choose your own adventure” kind of place for paddling, but here are some options to get you started.

1) From Buckeye Surf Shop to Green Bay

Route Overview

Difficulty: Easy, but be aware and respectful of power boat traffic
Distance: Approx. 2km round-trip to Green Bay, but as short or as long as you wish!
Portages: None
Shuttle Info: round-trip – no shuttle required

For canoe, kayak and standup paddle board rentals, look no further than Buckeye Surf & Snow Shop the local outdoor store and outfitters on the Main Street waterfront.  They have canoe, kayak and standup paddle board rentals. You can park your bike or vehicle and hop right into your rental craft from their riverside boardwalk and explore the waterway northeast towards Pigeon Lake from there. Of course, Buckeye staff can help you choose the right craft based on your experience and ability, and outfit you with the appropriate PFD, paddle and safety gear for your day trip.

2) From Bobcaygeon Beach Park through the Big Bob Channel

Route Overview

Difficulty: Easy, but be aware and respectful of power boat traffic
Distance: 2.5-3km (about 1 hour)
Portages: None
Shuttle Info: Round-trip – no shuttle necessary

If you’ve got your own boat and gear, then there’s no shortage of places to park and launch yourself.  To join in the thick of waterfront activity, put in at Bobcaygeon Beach Park on Park Street to the east and explore the private islands in Big Bob Channel.  Parking there is free, but tends to fill up with beachgoers on summer days.

From here, you can paddle northeast and lock through or portage Lock 32 of the Trent-Severn Waterway to access the middle of the downtown Bobcaygeon waterway.  On our last family paddle through Bobcaygeon, we popped into the Grilled Cheese Hideaway for soup, salad and some hearty grilled cheese sandwiches to fuel the afternoon’s paddle.  Pretty much everything in downtown Bobcaygeon is within a 10 minute walk of the water, so wherever you plan to paddle you can be sure to have your pick of preferred dining spots within easy reach. You’ll notice many places for canoe and kayak parking make it easy to access the shopping and snacking possibilities of Bobcaygeon.

3) From Bolton Street to the Little Bob Channel

Route Overview

Difficulty: Easy, but be aware and respectful of power boat traffic
Distance: However short or long as you wish!
Portages: None
Shuttle Info: Round-trip – no shuttle necessary

For a more remote feeling only minutes away from town, put in at another perfect canoe launch at the base of Bolton Street.  Plenty of free parking, and easy launching for solo and family paddlers opens up the southern view of undeveloped cedar forest shoreline just a couple hundred metres paddle across the Little Bob Channel.  Keep your eyes peeled for the lively bird scene in this area of the Kawartha Lakes, including great blue herons, belted king fishers and osprey.

For help planning your trip, click here to contact Kawartha Lakes Tourism.

Click here to learn more about the Trent-Severn Waterway, National Historic Site of Canada.

Unless otherwise noted, photos and video are by Justen Soule.

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