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Discovering The Trent Severn Waterway, Part Four – Simcoe to Severn

Having departed our last stop at Fenelon Falls, we continue east toward Lake Simcoe. Before reaching Simcoe, there are a few more locks to go through, including the impressive Kirkfield Lift Lock. This is the second lock of it’s type on the system as well as the second highest in the world, with the one at Peterborough being the highest. You can learn more about that one in the part two of this series. Right now, enjoy this video from one of our own passages through Kirkfield to see how it works;

Just beyond the village of Gamebridge, the Trent portion of the Trent Severn Waterway meets Lake Simcoe which is, by far, the largest body of water along the system. From this point, the Small Craft Route follows a north-east path towards the Atherley Narrows and Lake Couchiching, a trip of roughly 15 miles. Although many people traveling the waterway simply pass right through Simcoe, there is a great stopover location to check out on the way.

First Stop

Lagoon City is situated just east of the small-craft route, approximately eight miles north of Gamebridge. This master planned community began with the creation of ten miles of canals and lagoons designed exclusively for all waterfront homes and condos. Also located here is Lagoon City Marina, a full service facility where transient boaters can tie up for a day, week or more. For those requiring service work or haul out, there is a 35 ton travel lift, on site mechanics and access to a complete selection of parts. They are also the first place offering mast stepping for sail boats coming off the waterway.

Lagoon City Marina

Some of the 277 boat slips at Lagoon City Marina.

Jewel of The Trent

Just north of Lake Simcoe sits one of the most popular destinations in the area; the Port of Orillia, on Lake Couchiching. With 222 transient slips, Orillia continues to live up to its reputation of welcoming boaters from near and far. More than simply a spot to tie up, the Port hosts regular events throughout the season, including boat and cottage shows, waterfront festivals and the always enjoyable ‘Christmas in June’. During that weekend long event, boats are decorated to various themes with many participating in a nighttime ‘Parade of Lights’.

Port of Orillia

Overlooking the docks at the Port of Orillia

With its quaint, old downtown situated just steps off the docks, there are endless choices of things to do and see and probably one reason that many visitors try to arrange an extended visit here. The close proximity to major highways also makes it perfect for crew changes. It’s no wonder that Orillia is called ‘The Jewel of The Trent Severn Waterway’.

Rugged Beauty

Exiting the top of Lake Couchiching, we enter the Severn section of the Trent Severn Waterway. Only three more locks lie ahead before reaching the final one at Port Severn and the end of the system.

The Severn River quickly transcends from rural countryside and gentle shorelines to a decidedly more rugged landscape, with dramatic Precambrian rock formations covered by spruce and pine trees contributing to the stunning scenery. Although this stretch can be traversed in a day, each of the locks offers its own special surroundings, so try to spend an afternoon or overnight at any or all of them.

Severn River

Cruising down the rugged Severn River on a beautiful summer day.

Swift Rapids (Lock #43) doesn’t have any road access, so it is peaceful location offers pretty tie up options both at the top & bottom. It also features the highest lift of any of the conventional locks, with the deep lock chamber dwarfing any boats making the trip through.

Next along is the famous Big Chute Marine Railway. Although not a true ‘lock’ in the orthodox sense of the word, it instead carries vessels up and over the 60 foot change in elevation by way of a massive cradle set on railway tracks. It’s quite a show to watch the big machine partially submerge to allow boats to get on for the trip. Once secured by a series of adjustable straps and blocks, boats are then ‘portaged’ over land to reach the other side. This system is the only one of its kind in North America and can carry vessels up to 100 feet long!

Big Chute Marine Railway

Loading up a boat on the Big Chute Marine Railway.

Here’s a video I put together showing us passing through Swift Rapids lock, going over the Big Chute Marine Railway and heading on to Lock #45 at Port Severn – the final lock on the system;

End of The Line

The final stop on this journey is Lock #45, at Port Severn. Beyond the public docking alongside of the lock itself, Port Severn offers a number of tie-up options for boaters, most within sight of each other. Whatever your overnight destination is, you can walk to each of a number of restaurants, ranging from a simple burger to five star fare.  If you need a break from the boat for a night or two, there are three establishments that offer rooms or suites where you can enjoy all the comforts of home, while keeping an eye on the boat!

No matter how long you spend venturing along the Trent Severn Waterway, or how many times you visit, there is sure to be a lifetime of wonderful memories. And a lifetime of longing to return to this special, historic gem.

Up Next?

I hope you will have a chance to read all four parts in this series to learn a bit more about the lovely Trent Severn Waterway.

Have look at the introduction to our ‘Cruising The Trent Severn Waterway’ video production. This 76 minute long feature is now available both as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, or a convenient digital download. Feel free to visit our site at TheWaterway.ca for more information on the video, as well as the entire Trent Severn Waterway.

Please remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily posts, photos and videos, as well as hundreds of original videos on my YouTube Channel. We look forward to seeing you there

Discovering The Trent Severn Waterway, Part Three – The Kawarthas

Land of Shining Waters

Heading north from Peterborough along the canals of the Trent Severn Waterway, one enters into The Kawartha region. Derived from the First Nations Peoples language, the name ‘Kawartha’ translates to ‘Land of Shining Waters’. This is hardly surprising, as there are more than 50 lakes, rivers and waterways offering virtually endless enjoyment, both on and off your boat

Land of Shining Waters

Kawarthas – ‘Land of Shining Waters’, and it shows here, in Bobcaygeon.

Traveling through the tranquil waters of Katchewanooka Lake, through Clear and Stony Lakes and on to Buckhorn, Pigeon and Cameron Lakes, one will pass by numerous small towns, and villages, but take the time to stop in to as many as your schedule allows. Each has their own charm, with most offering all the services a traveling boater might need.

Starting at Lakefield, the municipally run Lakefield Marina (which was completely rebuilt in 2005) is situated alongside the waterway and conveniently located just steps from town. The marina also offers showers, fresh water fill up, a pump out service, as well as free Wi-Fi. If you like fishing, test your skills by dropping a hook into the clear, quick flowing water of the canal. You’ll be able to see the fish as they dance about the rocks and your lure.

Here’s a look at a gorgeous sunset from Lakefield Marina;

Not far beyond Lakefield is the community of Young’s Point. Although quite small, this village will keep you around for a few days, with lots to see and do. Besides the immaculately maintained lock (#27), there are two marinas to tie up to. One of them, Islandview Resort, has a waterfront restaurant with patio. Enjoy a quick bite, cool drink or full course dinner while watching the passing boats come and go. And while stopped at Young’s Point, be sure to drop in to historic Lockside Trading Company to glimpse their eclectic and diverse products ranging from clothing and home décor, right up to furniture.

Have a look at Islandview Resort in this video I filmed there;

One of the busiest spots on the system is at the village of Buckhorn (Lock # 31). This is in part due to the fact that, despite the town’s small size, there are a number of restaurants and pubs located close to the water’s edge.  Regular visitors rave about the Chinese food at Cody’s Inn, located in what was once a luxury fishing lodge.

Farther north, Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls are two small towns with big history. The original lock at Bobcaygeon (Lock #32) was the very first to be constructed on the system, way back in 1834. This feature became the focus of transportation for the town and many businesses grew up around it. Fast forward to today, and there remains a multitude of shops, restaurants and services within sight of the lock and canal. Transient boaters can tie up along the newly expanded canal wall for the day, or overnight. There is a full service marina, Gordon Yacht Harbour, just before the lock, which also offers transient dockage.

I captured some beautiful shots at the top side of Bobcaygeon lock, which I’ve shared in this video;

The town of Fenelon Falls was built around an old mill that was powered by the water cascading over the falls down into the Fenelon River.  The mill has long since been replaced by a small hydroelectric generating station, but the picturesque falls remain. Tie up at the bottom of the lock (#32) and enjoy the natural beauty of the falls and the cliffs of the Fenelon River. Move through the lock to the top side to discover a livelier scene where you can step off the boat and into one of the many restaurants and shops of this tourist town. Grab an ice cream and head over to the local museum, wander through downtown or go for a stroll along the waterfront walking trails.

Have your camera ready, as this location overlooking Cameron Lake offers some of the prettiest sunsets on the waterway. Have a look for yourself by watching this video;

Up Next?
In the next issue, we will conclude this series with a look at the Simcoe to Severn Regions.

Have look at the introduction to our ‘Cruising The Trent Severn Waterway’ video production. This 76 minute long feature is now available both as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, or a convenient digital download. Feel free to visit our site at TheWaterway.ca for more information on the video, as well as the entire Trent Severn Waterway.

Please remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily posts, photos and videos, as well as hundreds of original videos on my YouTube Channel. We look forward to seeing you there!

Discovering The Trent Severn Waterway, Part Two – Trenton to Peterborough

It All Starts at Trenton

On Lake Ontario’s eastern shore sits ‘Mile Zero’, the official start to the Trent Severn Waterway. Known as the ‘Gateway to The Trent Severn Waterway’, Trenton is the first Canadian port that many cruisers who are completing America’s Great Loop enter in to. Whether you are part of that year long circumnavigation of North America or a local area boater, Trenton offers a wide array of on water services, as well as ample shopping, restaurants, and professional care providers. Pretty much all of these services are located right in town, which is bisected by the Trent Canal, so one doesn’t have to venture too far off the water to get most of what might be needed.

gateway bridge, trenton

All tied up at Fraser Park Marina, right next to the Gateway Bridge.

For those who wish to stretch their legs, there are hiking and bike trails that follow right alongside the Trent Canal. Close by is Canadian Forces Base Trenton, one the largest air bases in the country. It also houses the National Air Force Museum of Canada. The museum offers free admission and features dozens of preserved war birds as well as displays of artifacts from conflicts through the years.

Getting Going

Leaving Trenton, the canal system runs north-west on its journey to Georgian Bay. Lets get the adventure going!

Lock #6 at Frankford lies only a few miles north of Trenton, but offers a good rest stop for those who might be ‘doing the locks’ for the first time. Keep in mind that the locks at the start of the system are of the old, manual style and passing through them may take anywhere from three to five hours, depending on traffic. With that in mind, a nice break may be in order by the time you get to the top of Lock #6.

Lock #6 at Frankford

Lock #6 at Frankford offers electrical shore power hookups + showers are available.

If you do decide to stop over for the night, there is hydro electric shore power available at the topside – one of only three locks on the entire system offering power connections. Needing a shower? You’re in luck here as well. The small municipal park adjacent to the lock has some camping spots and the showers provided are available for use by boaters. There is also a small grocery store just a stone’s throw away and the town’s business district is roughly a 20-30 minute walk away. Not too bad for a small village that is seemingly stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

Boaters’ Washrooms

A quick note on washrooms; every lock provides clean and bright washrooms. They have basic services, including flush toilets and large wash basins. Parks Canada (the operators of the system) is slowly introducing boater’s showers at some locations, with more expected in the coming navigation seasons. The washrooms are open to the public during operating (navigation) hours, but are locked at night. Boaters who have paid for their overnight mooring pass are given a key code to access the washrooms after the staff has left for the evening.

typical lock station

A typical lock station along the Trent Severn Waterway, complete with clean washrooms.

Onward and Upward

The village of Campbellford is next, providing a welcome stopover for a night or two. Serviced tie ups run along the main mooring wall, which forms part of the tree lined Old Mill Park. Downtown shops are steps away and give visitors a taste of small town Ontario at its finest.

And speaking of tastes, don’t miss a chance to drop in to Doohers Bakery. Their pastries and other goodies are renowned by travelers from across the country – and they even have a gluten free selection for those who prefer. After enjoying the heavenly treats, work off those calories with a walk or bike ride over to the 300′ long suspension bridge that spans the Ranney Gorge, located right next to Lock #12.

Old Mill Park, Campbellford

The long tie up wall at the Old Mill Park in Campbellford.

A Big Lake

After leaving Campbellford, the next community one comes to is the Village of Hastings. For those wishing to overnight here, there is a long tie up wall on the north side of the Trent River, immediately past Lock #18. This is a convenient place to stop if needing provisions, as a grocery store, LCBO liquor store and Beer Store are all within steps. As with most of the locks though, there is no shore power or water. For those amenities, there is the Hastings Village Marina, just across the river.

Hastings Village Marina

Hastings Village Marina offers excellent transient services for visiting and seasonal boaters.

When departing Hastings, it’s a short run westward to Rice Lake. The second largest body of water on the system, Rice Lake has a number of small marinas and resorts that cater to boats of all sizes. Renown for the great fishing, travelers through here are sure to see numerous fishing boats plying the waters.

Generally open and well marked, the Small Craft Route does present one hazard that boaters must be aware of ahead of time, that of an old railway cribbing that sits just below the surface. Although shown on the nautical charts and marked with two floating buoys, the safe passage through this obstruction is all too often missed by unwary navigators, so be cautious in the area.

Have a look at this ‘Waterway Tip’ I posted on my YouTube Channel, talking about what to look for;

Up And Away

Nearing the west part of Rice Lake brings us to the entrance for the Otonabee River, which winds it’s way northward. Although there are few marked speed restriction zones along here, one should respect the property owners on both sides of this waterway and watch their wake! Even though you may get the urge to run it quick, I’d highly recommend taking it slow to take in the natural surroundings.

Cruising onm the Otonabee River

Taking it easy on the Otonabee River.

Farther along, the city of Peterborough welcomes boaters with a giant, in water fountain at the approach to the municipally run marina.  If you are after some live entertainment, the adjacent Del Crary Park hosts free concerts in the band shell every Wednesday and Saturday night through July and August. Grab a lawn chair and enjoy the free shows in the park, or listen to the music right from your boat :-)

I have some video of our entrance into Peterborough Marina. sorry it was a cloudy afternoon when we made this visit, but at least you see what it looks like;


This city of 80,000 can provide everything you may need and is home to the highest hydraulic lift lock in North America. The century old structure effortlessly and quietly raises and lowers boats 65 feet. A real thrill for first time users!

You can get a better sense of how the Peterborough Lift Lock works by watching this video I recently captured there;

Trent University, with its campuses straddling both shores of the Trent River, a free local zoo, miles of walking trails and downtown located only a short stroll from the marina make Peterborough a popular destination.

Next Up?

In the next installment, we will explore the communities and lakes in heart of the Kawarthas, known as the ‘Land of Shining Waters’.

Have look at the introduction to our ‘Cruising The Trent Severn Waterway’ video production. This 76 minute long feature is now available both as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, or a convenient digital download. Feel free to visit our site at TheWaterway.ca for more information on the video, as well as the entire Trent Severn Waterway.

Please remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily posts, photos and videos, as well as hundreds of original videos on my YouTube Channel. We look forward to seeing you there!