Distance: 8km (2-3 hours)
Portages: 100m at the put-in
Shuttle Info: one-way trip – shuttle required
Distance: 2.5-3km (about 1 hour)
Shuttle Info: One-way; shuttle required
I recently came across a clever design that superimposed a public transit network map over the Trent-Severn Waterway. In the same way the TTC subway map is separated into various routes, this metaphorical map includes such lines the “Scugog Connector” and the “Kawartha Line.” While there’s a tongue and cheek element to this map, the possibilities it suggests are real, especially in the case of towns like Lakefield.
When I used to live between Lakefield and Young’s Point and worked for Trent University, as soon as navigation was open for paddlecraft, I commuted to work by canoe several times a month. The two-hour paddle and portage south through several Douro locks provided a great workout and gave me a chance to reflect on my students, prepare lessons and make plans for other projects.
Lakefield, Ontario, is brimming with natural and cultural heritage with which to connect by canoe, or whatever paddle craft floats your boat! It sits at the transition point where Lake Katchewanooka becomes the mighty Otonabee River, and it’s home to one of the best beaches around.
My favourite way to arrive is by water either from the north or the south. From the north, put in at Young’s Point Lock27 station, and follow the light current under the bridge to begin your 7-8 km paddle to the town of Lakefield.
There’s paid parking in a Parks Canada lot just past the Young’s Point General Store, and our family sometimes parks on the other side as well, near the Old Bridge Inn where we make a quick portage across the beautiful pedestrian bridge. Either way, head just downstream of the lock station and look for a small rocky crescent of shoreline that is amenable to canoe and kayak launch.
Before we dip a paddle, you should know that Adventure Outfitters at Eighth Line and the Buckhorn Highway is your one-stop-shop for paddling gear if you’ve left yours at home. They design and build all their paddlecraft right in the Kawarthas and offer a rental fleet of their Paluski canoes and kayaks, as well as standup paddleboards. Of course they provide safety gear, pfds and paddles, and even offer a trailering service to various local put ins for an extra fee.
Now, before you launch, you should read up on the storied past of the area so you’ll have an idea of the heartbreaking significance of Polly Cow, the daughter of the infamous “Handsome” Jack Cow, to the first small family of islands you paddle past. Jack Cow was a powerful hunter and trapper on this land in the early 1800s. He’s remembered for his fierce reputation and extraordinary stature, as well as his undying affection for his youngest daughter, Polly. Shortly after Polly turned 16, her healthy complexion paled and she began to ail from a terrible fever. No treatments could save her, and the Cow family mourned her loss. When she passed, her father and his friends made a birchbark vessel which they paddled through Stony Lake, down Clear and around the rapids at Youngs Point to the peaceful trio of islands at the northern tip of Katchewanooka. On the smallest of these grew a Balsam Fir that inspired Jack, and it became his beloved daughter’s final resting place. He cleared all trees and foliage from around her gravesite to create a clear path for her to reach the water and enjoy her island home in the evenings. He sat for her until the lake began to freeze, and he could no longer make his daily pilgrimage.
There are plenty of options for exploring along this route. You can hug the western shoreline after the put-in, and explore the wilder cedar shoreline zone. Or take in the alternately cozy and colossal cottages lining the eastern shore, or do a bit of both, with an island stopover in between.
If you’re only out for a quick paddle dip, there are other options in and around Lakefield as well. Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush helped put this Trent-Severn town on the map with its tales of her adopted homeland and the rivers and lakes that run through it, so it’s appropriate that another natural place to put in for a paddle is directly adjacent to her old homestead at the end of Stenner Road, not far from Lakeside Cottages.
Newly Launched paddlers are greeted with three inline islands, belonging to Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog First Nations, to explore and weave in and around. The first and largest island hosts an eagle’s aerie atop the skeleton of an old white pine: keep your eyes peeled and ears piqued for its awesome presence, and for the osprey also. Play in the elevated current between the islands as this southern section of Lake Katchewanooka begins to take on more of the qualities of the Otonabee River.
From here, you can head directly to town in about 2kms or take your time to explore the wetlands of the lake’s southwestern bays.
Popular pullouts include the sandy Lakefield Beach and Campground or the Lakefield Marina, on either side of Gordonstoun Island. If you’re feeling spry, continue paddling through town, hugging river left and pull out near the boardwalk at the base of Burnham Street: you’ll have to hoist your boats up over the limestone retaining wall, but there’s no better way to get to the Canoe and Paddle Pub!
Indeed all of our canoe trips in town culminate there to compare notes with fellow paddlers, enjoy traditional English pub fare and sample their newest craft brews. Just remember, unless you’re planning to stay the night at the Village Inn, you’ll need a responsible driver to complete the shuttle back to the Stenner Road or Young’s Point put in!
See you out there! – Bretton
To discover more local paddling routes & for help planning your trip to Peterborough, click here to connect with Peterborough & The Kawarthas Tourism
Unless otherwise noted, photos by Justen Soule.