Ontario Travel Guides

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Waterway Guides

Where to: Dock, Shop, Wine,
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Ontario Travel Gudies
Trent-Severn Waterway

Welcome to the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 240 mile/386 km heritage canal network managed by Parks Canada that glides across central Ontario linking Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. A series of lakes, rivers, man-made canals and locks meshed together by feats of engineering brilliance creating one of the worldís most outstanding fresh-water cruising regions.

It didnít happen overnight. In fact, it was some 87 years in the making, lots of interruptions and likely the longest construction job in Canadian history. The end result is nothing short of spectacular!

First conceived as a commercial waterway to open up the pre-confederation interior of Upper Canada to prosperity, a lack of funding, a rebellion, a world war and the advent of train transport killed that dream. By the time the first motor launch cruised through the waterway in 1920, the vision of the Trent-Severn as a viable commercial route for moving goods to market was passĀE

The good news is that the waterway has evolved into a unique tourism Mecca. Sort of a heritage water theme park complete with one-of-a-kind massive 100-year-old boat lifts plus a mountain climbing electric-powered boat railway cart for the rides of a lifetime. Blend these marine contraptions with stunning scenery, historic and friendly ports of call, a host of annual waterside special events, cultural attractions, welcoming First Nations communities, fine eateries, shoptill-you-drop opportunities plus great fishing and youíve got a glimpse of what the Trent-Severn is offering.

The waterway can easily be explored by those arriving in land yachts too, renting charter houseboats is really fun or enjoying the many boat cruises available at key points of historical and scenic interest.

Visitors have found the Trent-Severn irresistible for centuries. Back in the early 1600s French explorer Samuel de Champlain paddled the still untamed waterway by canoe with his native guides. Guess he was the first official tourist although he was really on a working trip. My how things have changed!

Please take time to plan a cruise using the information resources offered throughout this coverage. Now letís visit some of the waterway Ports Of Call and see whatís cooking.

Campbellford

Heading upstream from Trenton, the Trent River winds lazily through rolling farm countryside. The first main community is Campbellford in Trent-Hills. Boaters are welcomed at the Chamber-of-CommerceĖmanaged ďalongsideĀEdocking facility at Old Mill Park in the heart of town. The town offers good restaurants, shopping and restocking provisions are close at hand. For crew with a sweet tooth the Worldís Finest Chocolate Factory Store is a short hike away. Thereís a movie theatre and just on the town outskirts is the Westben Arts Festival Theatre. Here on a farm, visitors enjoy musical concerts in a specially created timber frame barn all summer long. Its massive roll-away doors and walls allow music to waft over the adjoining meadow where those who prefer outdoor seating can gather. What an experience. Campbellford is also home to the Gigantic Two Dollar Coin honoring local artist Brent Townsend who designed Canadaís famed ďTwoonieĀEtwo dollar coin.

Hastings

Further along, waterway explorers will find this historic community that straddles the river near the mouth of Rice Lake, touted as one of Ontarioís top-producing pickerel and bass lakes. This Trent-Hills village offers boaters the convenience of the recently developed Hastings Village Marina complex with ample visitor slips that even include pump out service: no need to move the boat here. The village is walker friendly with all amenities close at hand. Take time to walk east on Front Street and find the 1870s stone mill that speaks of the villageís busy waterfront past. Then just ahead is the Red Tail Paddle Company factory in another old mill property. Their computer driven etching machine will turn out a tremendous souvenir paddle depicting anything you can dream up to commemorate your voyage.

Peterborough

After running Rice Lake and steering up the Otonabee River, boaters will find historic Peterborough and the cityís welcoming marina on Little Lake in beautiful Del Crary Park. Watch for the Centennial Fountain shooting its 250-foot-high water spout in the middle of the lake. This is a full-service marine centre and a main stopover port for those plying the Trent-Severn. Be sure to call ahead for docking reservations. Itís also the site of the annual Little Lake Musicfest open-air concert series offered ďfreeĀEevery Wednesday and Saturday night throughout the summer. This is a great place to spend a few days relaxing and visiting all of the cityís historic and cultural points of interest. Thereís the Canadian Canoe Museum showcasing the worldís most comprehensive collection of canoes and other small watercraft. Although production halted in the 1960s, this city was home to the famous Peterborough Canoe Company whose quality handcrafted cedar strip canoes and pleasure boats were shipped worldwide for more than 100 years. Donít miss Millennium Walk at King and Water Streets. It provides a welcoming waterfall and display telling the history and culture of the Kawarthaís from First Nation roots to river ecology and industrial heritage.

The cityís main shopping and entertainment district is just a short walk from the marina. Here, the city has invested in considerable streetscaping to encourage development of interesting bistros and sidewalk dining opportunities. Many eateries offer nightly musical entertainment. Two downtown venues offer live theatre and concerts too.

Next, its time to weigh anchor and head north to explore the popular Kawartha Lakes region. Before reaching Lakefield there are six locks to pass through including the amazing Peterborough Lift Lock. This engineering marvel is the highest of its kind in the world, vertically lifting and lowering vessels in dual steel chambers (bath tubs) 65 feet. The Lift Lock site includes a fascinating interpretive centre, displays and theatre telling the waterway story.

For further information visit www.peterboroughmarina.com.

Lakefield

Lakefield Marina, dubbed the Friendliest Little Port on the Trent-Severn, has undergone a $1 million makeover and expansion and is the main docking centre for visiting boaters. Nestled in the heart of the village, everything is within easy walking distance. Marina guests can explore the main street shopping district and find great hospitality offered at the Village Inn and several special bistros and cafťs. The gateway to the Kawartha Lakes, Lakefield is proud of its literary heritage and is described as the ďcradle of Canadian literatureĀE In the early 1830s, sisters Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill quilled books about life in the early Canadian wilderness, now considered classics. Bookworms of all ages enjoy the annual Lakefield Literary Festival. The community also hosts the annual Jazz, Art and Craft Festival on the banks of the Otonabee River close to the marina. The tiny stone church on Queen Street, built in 1854, serves as a museum telling Lakefieldís history as does the pioneer graveyard out back. In the mid-1800s steam trains puffed the first tourists into Lakefield who then traveled by steamboats to their cottage properties and luxury resorts before roads opened up the Kawarthas. The historic waiting station still sits next to the water beside the marina in Isabel Morris Park awaiting your discovery.

For further information visit www.lakefieldmarina.com.

Young's Point

Spend some time here. See the monument beside the Lock building telling about the Young family that settled here in 1825 and launched the areaís foremost steamboat building and shipping industryóa real little empire in those days. Visit the old Young family homestead by the lock, now the home of Lockside Trading Company, the biggest country store in the Kawarthas and an award winning tourist attraction. This quaint hamlet offers great patio dining at Islandview Marina and Resort where boats from around the world drift quietly by just an arms length away. Across the old steel bridge built in 1887, visitors will find the Old Bridge Inn offering fine dining and welcoming waterside patio. For provisions, thereís Youngís Point General Store offering wines, liquors, beer plus a good selection of bait and tackle needed to catch the excellent game fish that are found in the Kawarthas.

Stony Lake

With more islands than the famed 1000 Islands region of the St. Lawrence, Stony offers fantastic scenery and welcoming resorts dating back to the 1860's. Today, these islands incorporate marinas that allow visiting boaters to enjoy resort life at its best. One of the premier destinations is Viamede Resort on Stonyís north shore. This historic waterfront resort is aptly titled ďthe Grand Lady of the Kawarthas.ĀEBoaters can step ashore and enjoy all the amenities offered at Viamede including three dining experiences: casual dining in the main lodge, pub fare in the Boathouse Pub, and fine dining at the Inn at Mount Julian, featuring a seven course tasting menu and 100 wines in the cellar. Viamedeís new owner Ben Samann and crew are dedicated to making your visit a memorable event, but remember this is a popular boater destination and make advance docking reservations by calling 1-800-461-1946. Boaters wanting to stay ďparkedĀEand still explore Stonyís outstanding scenery can select a variety of nautical rental options from the resortís marinaóeverything from personal watercraft to kayaks. This is the spot to linger awhile and enjoy a dip in the pool or a stress relieving spa experience after hiking the resortís nature trails or arranging a side trip to Petroglyphs Park ĀEthe site of the largest concentration of Native rock carvings in Canada, dating back 500 to 1000 years.

From the main dock, Stony Lakes Cruises offers a great lake tour and informative commentary of life and times on Stony. The ship has evening dinner tours and dancing under the stars if your after deck canít handle it.

Buckhorn

This hamlet has one of the busiest Locks on the Trent-Severn. Itís home to the annual Buckhorn Fine Art Festival and SaleĖone of longest running and most successful professional art shows in North America. This event attracts thousands of guests and buyers who enjoy the art, demonstrations, plus food and wine tasting.

Leaving Buckhorn for Bobcaygeon offers a scenic cruise and the opportunity to visit Curve Lake First Nation on the way. From the community dock itís just a short walk to the Whetung Ojibwa Centre heralded as having the most spectacular collection of aboriginal art and crafts in Canada. A small museum display also tells of the history of native life at Curve Lake with handiwork and artifacts from bygone years.

Bobcaygeon

This is where the Trent-Severn Waterway all began in 1833 when the canalís first lock was built here to serve the communityís bustling lumber industry. Itís one of the Kawarthaís hot spots so boat traffic in the narrow entrance channel can get hectic. Thereís lots of wall space to tie up, plus new floating docks to accommodate more boats. Gordon Yacht Harbor offers a full-service marina and overnight docks too. All the villageís dining, shopping and cultural attractions are just a short walk from dockside. The old Boyd Lumber Companyís office hosts the tourist information office, the Boyd Heritage Museum and Amy Cosh Art Gallery. Visit the historic Kawartha Settlerís Village a great 10 acre site featuring restored pioneer buildings, attractions and special events. On a hot summerís day be sure to visit the Kawartha Dairyís ever popular ice cream stand.

Fenelon Falls

From Bobcaygeon, boaters can travel the Scugog River to Lindsay or press on to discover Fenelon Falls. Explore Fenelonís specialty shops or sample the fine food offerings in several quaint bistros and restaurants close to the waterside. Maryboro Lodge Museum showcases pioneer and Native artifacts dating from the mid-1800s.

From Fenelon, itís a short cruise to Rosedale and its well-equipped marine service centres. Balsam Lake lies beyond giving access to the Village of Coboconk. Itís a bit off the beaten track but with quaint spots like the Patti House Hotel, a popular watering hole since 1873, itís worth a visit.

At Kirkfield boaters encounter the waterwayís second lift lock From here itís all downhill to Port Severn and Georgian Bay. This is the canalís summit. At Gamebridge Lock boaters should check weather conditions before crossing Lake Simcoe to head for Orillia. Simcoe can blow up quickly!

Orillia

On the west bank of Lake Couchiching after passing Atherley Narrows, boaters are welcomed to the Port of Orillia marina. This is one of the most popular and busiest boating centres on the Trent-Severn. Surrounded by parkland, the marina is a staging point for major waterfront events and entertainment. Downtown Orillia shopping district just up from the marina has plenty to keep visitors busy. Lots of eateries and entertainment abound, including fine performances at the historic Orillia Opera House. For gambling fun or Las Vegas style shows catch the free shuttle to nearby Casino Rama situated at the Rama First Nation community.

The final leg of the TSW journey is one of the most beautiful. The rugged scenery ahead is truly breathtaking. Through Lake Couchiching and Sparrow Lake, the waterway enters the Severn River and meanders onto yet another unique locking experienceóBig Chute Marine Railway, (Lock 44). Here, the first marine railway was built in 1917. The new carriage came into service in 1977. Boats enter the carriage and slings tighten to keep vessels level and secure. Electric winches operate cables that raise and lower the mobile lock. Itís a 58-foot drop into Gloucester Pool. What a ride!

Port Severn

A short cruise to Port Severn brings boaters to this friendly harbour and Lock 45. Major marinas and upscale resorts dot the waterfront above and below the lock. This bustling little community offers great docking, an opportunity to stock up on provisions or enjoy some good dining opportunities ashore.

Itís the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway line. Welcome to the adventures that await cruising the waters of Southern Georgian Bay and beyond. But thatís for another time.