Tag Archives: Great Lakes

Discovering The Trent Severn Waterway, Part One

Have you ever guided your boat up a gigantic elevator? Rode over North America’s only marine railway? Cruised past granite formations almost as old as the earth itself? Well, have I got a boating destination for you! Discover all of these, and more, diverse boating experiences along Ontario, Canada’s historic Trent-Severn Waterway.

boats docked at Rosedale Lock

Overnight stay at Rosedale Lock, one of 44 locks along the system.

A Long Way To Go

Starting on eastern Lake Ontario at Trenton, Ontario, this fascinating inland route extends in a north-westerly direction to Port Severn where the Severn River flows into Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. A series of interconnected lakes, rivers and canals takes one through ever changing vistas that range from pastoral farmland to the rugged outcroppings of the Precambrian Shield.

Take in the wind swept pines on the Severn River, or wave to the cows as you pass almost within reach on the Talbot portion. Drop a hook in Rice Lake to catch a prize bass, walleye or muskie. Quaint towns and bustling cities provide places to tie up to, do some shopping or go for dinner – all at a speed that matches your mood.

Boaters can travel end to end, or enter from many points all along the system. Whichever direction one heads, they can find their way to the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean beyond. This makes virtually the whole world accessible from – and to –  the Trent Severn Waterway. For those of us fortunate enough to live along the waterway, this opens up access to essentially endless destinations beyond our home waters.

cruising trent severn waterway

A gorgeous morning to be cruising on the Trent Severn Waterway.

History in The Making

With an overall length of 240 miles (386 km), it features 44 locks, including the two highest lift locks in the world. Travelers can also experience two sets of flight locks and one marine railway – the only one of its kind in North America. Taking 87 years to complete, this engineering feat began way back in 1833 with construction of the first lock at the popular tourist town of Bobcaygeon.

As many of the waters are at varying elevations, a progression of locks was built over time to allow vessels to overcome these obstacles and travel the system from end to end. In fact, boaters transiting from Lake Ontario are raised a total 596 feet (182m) to the summit at Balsam Lake. From there, the descent is 262 feet (80m) back down to Georgian Bay.

Transition From The Early Years

Initially built to accommodate water powered mills and the movement of timbers cut by local logging companies, by the time the waterway was completed it’s original purpose as transportation corridor had been overshadowed by an expanding railway network, as well as the increased reliance on the automobile.  What was once a loose amalgamation of varying interests is now a unified canal system operated by Parks Canada, its importance being recognized as a designated National Historic Site Of Canada.

Boaters share this beautiful resource with local and long term cruisers, as well as cottagers, fishermen and even the occasional rental houseboat. As an integral part of the ‘America’s Great Loop’, one can swap stories with those fortunate souls making the year long journey through the American mid-west, Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Seaboard and central Great Lakes region –  with the Trent-Severn Waterway playing a vital link in that journey.

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.

In the next installment, we will explore the Trent Region and the communities from Trenton through to Peterborough.

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