Have you ever truly mastered a skill? Donald A. Schön was an MIT philosopher and urban planner who coined the term “reflective practitioner” to refer to a series of professions that rely on the build up of practical wisdom in order to attain excellence in their discipline. Schön suggests that teachers, politicians, and athletes exemplify this feature of reflection in action by exhibiting an instinctual prowess in their respective fields born of raw talent honed by years of experiential learning. Malcolm Gladwell helps drive this point home with his estimation of the requisite ten-thousand hours to mastery of any given practice, a statistic that has certainly led many down the path of unwieldy calculations of mastery in their own fields.
Speaking of the feeling of being so close, yet so far away, we’re so fortunate to have Nogies Creek as one of our reflective paddling spots right in our back yard; located near Highway 36 between Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon, it’s less than 45 minutes from downtown Peterborough. Our family has been fortunate enough to explore all along this waterway, which drains from Nogies Lake, south through Crystal and into the north shore of Pigeon Lake, for special day trips, wild edible paddling excursions and even just a casual dip of the paddle after a hard day’s work on our family’s nearby wilderness property.
As much as there is beauty to be seen by canoeing its length, it can be a very rugged run, with swift current in the spring, shallow levels later in the summer season, and plenty of downed trees and a few dams to halt your progress. Accordingly, for the best day paddle, we put in just upstream of where the creek opens up into a little pine-fringed lake that is a true hidden gem. You can access the put in at the Nogies Creek Canoe and Kayak Access point about 5 kms north of the highway along Bass Lake Road. There is a convenient place to park and launch your boats from a shallow gravel beach.
Immediately to the north of the put in is a wetland rich in duck life and beaver activity; it’s not too long before dead and downed trees hinder traverse. If you head south downstream, the creek wends and winds away from Bass Lake Road before the it opens up into a small lake a couple hundred meters on.
We usually head straight for a small cluster of islands due south from the mouth, keeping our eyes peeled for the eagle aerie atop an older white pine. We’ve been lucky to spot its inhabitants both in their nest, and hunting above Nogies and its environs. In the past, the tallest pines on the mainland of this area were home to a blue heron rookery, but the birds seem to have moved their nests since the arrival of the large raptors; adult herons are still a common site fishing along the riparian zone. Adding to the richness of birdlife are loons, mergansers and other ducks in their season, as well as plenty of songbirds, including the white-throated sparrow whose “oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” sings the praises of Nogies’ classic Canadian Shield setting.
After exploring the central islands, we head due east, past the orange buoys marking the dam, and after one kilometer, reach the rocky cliffs marking the eastern limit of the little lake. Here you’ll find numerous places to park your boat, and have a dip, and play at rock-climbing on the granite face of the steep shoreline. There are a few excellent jumping rocks here: please be sure to scout your landing!
On our way back, we stop at the largest island in the little lake, where there are handy canoe pullouts on both the northeast and southwest sides. We always forage for shoreline sweetgale and trailside wintergreen to make some wild edible tea, remembering not to take too much from any individual plant or area. There is much to explore on this island, including an ancient white pine whose final resting place forms a bridge over a small cove, and a traditional camp respectfully maintained with firewood and some bushcrafted furniture. The canoe becomes our picnic table when we prop the gunwales up on some of the handy logs and unpack our shorelunch while one of the group gets a fire going for tea. Please remember the woodpile.
This paddling route is part of a larger area that several local organizations are working together to protect, called Nogies Creek Waterway, an area of special conservation concern owing to its unique natural features and geology along with a host of fisheries and wildlife. That said, there is no fishing along the route detailed above, since it is a muskie breeding sanctuary. Despite the fact that their common name comes from the Oji-Cree word maashkinoozhe meaning the “monstrous” or “hideous pike”, they are an impressive fish and can put on quite a show if you happen to sneak up on them as they hunt quietly just below the surface. One time on Nogies, my partner Briagh surprised a hunting muskie with her paddle and it shot out abruptly, perpendicular to the boat, before it rounded our canoe, throwing off a wake of blue and green!
The little lake on Nogies is a perfect spot for dropping your boat in the water for an afternoon’s paddle and the four km round trip route easily makes for a 3-4 hour excursion with time for island hopping, a cool water dip and a bite to eat. Just don’t disturb the stealthily hunting muskie!
See you out there! – Bretton
DUC's work in the Kawartha Lakes region—and a partnership with Muskies Canada—is helping habitat for both ducks and fish. To date, DUC has completed 110 projects in the area! Read more: https://t.co/AaQQimrNFY #muskie #muskiefishing #fishing #wetlands #kawarthalakes #lakescugog pic.twitter.com/dxP7q34eJ4
— Ducks Unlimited CAN (@ducanada) August 22, 2018
For help planning your trip, click here to contact Peterborough & the Kawarthas 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.