View Trip Ideas
Destinations Things To Do

Canadian Canoe Culture

Paddle the Trent-Severn Waterway: Peterborough

WRITTEN BY:
Bretton's' Profile Picture

Peterborough Paddling Routes

1) Little Lake Circuit

Route Overview

Difficulty: Novice
Distance: 3.5km  round-trip
Portages: None
Shuttle Info: Not necessary

2) Peterborough to Lakefield

Route Overview

Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 15km
Portages: None, unless you portage around locks
Shuttle Info: Approx. 30 minutes or less. Parking in Lakefield on River Road near the Service Ontario Lot, or adjacent to the Canoe and Paddle Pub. By bicycle, take the Rotary Greenway Trail (16km, approx. 55 mins.)

Canoe Culture

Peterborough: Canoe City

From the globe-traversing outriggers of the South Pacific to Amazonian dugouts to the birchbark craft of Turtle Island, the canoe is a fascinating example of convergent cultural evolution: in many isolated cases around the world a very similar design of craft has emerged to answer the question of the most beautiful and efficient way to navigate the regional waterscapes.

While paddling cultures may have developed independently all around the globe, designs for the original modern recreational canoes were brought to life in the early 1900s right here in Peterborough. More than a century later, this city’s canoe culture still continues to flourish.

Peterborough is home to the Canadian Canoe Museum, the world’s largest collection of canoes and paddlecraft. Peterborough plays host to an array of annual events and exciting clubs that highlight how important the canoe is to the spirit of the city.  Our waters boast the Peterborough Canoe and Kayak Club, PTBO SUP lessons and yoga, and several outfitters and rental centers to help get you on the water.

Peterborough’s Little Lake also hosts racing competitions, including the perennially competitive dragon boat festival and the recently-launched Kawartha Paddle Quest.  We’ve even taken paddling to new heights with our annual Lock & Paddle event, which celebrates national canoe day each June by inviting paddlers from near and far to take a 60 foot climb in the enormous tubs of the world’s highest hydraulic liftlock right here on the Trent-Severn Waterway. From spring to fall, we’ve got on-water activity locked down!

Little Lake: Equipment & Espresso

Dropping in has never been easier than in Peterborough, with at least four waterfront parks to choose from.  In the north east, you can start and finish your paddling excursion from Millenium Park where Peddle and Paddle provide canoes and Kayaks, and Peterborough SUP runs intro and yoga classes on this sheltered stretch of the Otonabee.  Follow waterfowl and herons along the shoreline and keep an eye peeled for painted turtles sunning on the limestone and fallen logs.  The Silver Bean presides over this lovely river bend like a little cottage in the city, and serves up delectable pastries soups and sandwiches, along with espresso, iced coffee and your favourite Kawartha Dairy flavours.

Little Lake is another beautiful paddling oasis in the city, and features an impressive jet-powered fountain that makes for a refreshing destination in the summer months.  The falling spray can be strong even from quite a distance, and feels like paddling in a torrential rainfall!

From the southwest, launch your boat off the point of Del Crary Park and enjoy the maritime flavour of our city’s marina to the west and the colourful waterfront homes to the south.  Also, as you can imagine, I believe there’s no better way to connect with our region’s natural heritage than by canoe, but paddling here offers a cultural experience as well, since the launch is adjacent to The Art Gallery of Peterborough, as well as the Peterborough MusicFest bandshell (home to free summer concerts).  I’ve always enjoyed the idea of taking in a concert from the seat of a canoe: perhaps this season we’ll make it come true!

The eastern shore of Little Lake is traversed by the Trans Canada Trail,  whose multi-use route wends and winds through our region connecting two of Peterborough’s municipal park gems.  With its long sandy shoreline, and multiple volleyball pitches, Beavermead Park is Peterborough’s best beach party setting.  Rogers Cove is Peterborough’s East City gem on the Trans Canada Trail and boasts a host of amenities for folks of all ages.  Bring your boats, bikes and bathing suits to take full advantage of all the outdoor activity options at either of these festive shoreline parks.

We like to start any visit with an hour-long circuit around Little Lake, with a pause at one of the other parks for a snack, returning to the put in for a picnic and chill session.  After warming the kids up at the playground, we like to cool off in the shallows by the shore, or hit the Rogers Cove splash pad and then explore the stretch of Trans Canada Trail by bicycle. There are no rental facilities at the municipal parks, but both Peddle ‘n’ Paddle and Wild Rock Outfitters are not far away – they can help you make use of the land and water trails available.

The Route to Lakefield

For a more challenging day on the water, connect two communities along the Trent-Severn Waterway with a paddle north to the town of Lakefield. This paddling route gives you the real flavour of traveling along Canada’s celebrated waterway and passes through some beautiful Saint Lawrence Lowlands waterscapes of cedars of mixed deciduous and cedar forest perched on limestone.  It’s a very pleasant 15 km stretch of canal and Otonabee River that traverses seven lock stations, numbered 20-26, including the aforementioned world-famous Peterborough Liftlocks and Visitor’s Centre.

Whenever I pop into the Trent-Severn Waterway Visitors Centre, I always take a moment to enjoy their collection of Ontario amphibians and reptiles, and have a look at their maps of the waterway.  The site also includes historical and natural interpretation exhibits, a Parks Canada gift shop and restroom facilities.

The lock stations further north provide infrastructure designed to enable paddlers to either lock through or portage to continue their route.  Parks Canada was encouraged by the surge of Canada 150-related paddling activity along its waterways, and for 2018 offered a 50% discount on lockage fees for paddlecraft to continue to foster active transportation along the Trent-Severn Waterway and other systems in Ontario and Quebec.

Green space around Trent University’s waterfront campus affords a charming shorelunch site, and the river flow through this section can get a bit quick – sometimes a break here is nice! But our family trips usually push onwards for a stop by Lock 24 to check out the island campsites replete with oTENTiks and perhaps go for dip among the natural cedar shoreline upstream from the lock station.  From there, it’s only another 45 minutes to the Lakefield Lock 26, and I never paddle into that town without stopping at the auspiciously-named Canoe and Paddle Pub to swap stories and enjoy their delicious fare and a cold one on the patio.  There’s a safe place to park and lock your boats along the Lakefield Trail on the east bank just north of the pub.

In the spirit of great trails, I’ll offer the possibility of returning to Peterborough by bicycle along the Rotary Greenway Trail.  The ride should take just under an hour and help wake up your legs after a solid five-hour paddle: just be sure your bike fits safely in your canoe before committing to this type of shuttle!

The Land at the Base of the Rapids

Whether you’re paddling an inflatable kayak, a standup paddleboard or perhaps even an original Peterborough Canoe Company cedar strip boat, you’ll find a city and wider region, that welcomes paddlers and cherishes its canoeing cultural heritage.  Nogojiwanong is the Anishnaabe name for the area of Peterborough, and it means “the land at the base of the rapids,” and while that whitewater may have been tamed by the locks, the city’s interconnectedness with the canoe and the water lives on.

See you on the water! – Bretton

Bretton's' Profile Picture
WRITTEN BY:

Explore

Follow Us: