Before the city was known as Peterborough, the area was called Nogojiwanong meaning “place at the end of rapids” in Ojibway. Water has always been a pivotal part of this area’s identity so what better way to experience it than by paddling! There is no shortage of amazing spots to get on the water in Peterborough & the Kawarthas. Whether you’re looking to meander along rivers, explore vast bodies of water or enjoy a unique paddling experience you can only find here, this Peterborough kayaking guide will steer you in the right direction!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Top Peterborough Kayaking Spots
It should be noted that my experiences kayaking in Peterborough & the Kawarthas have been from one launch point. A number of the routes on this list can be further explored if you have a shuttle or a friend to park in another location so you can cover more ground. As you can see though, it isn’t necessary and plenty of fun can still be had even if you have to paddle back to where you started!
Trent Severn Waterway Lift Lock 21
Launch Site Address: Beavermead Park, 2011 Ashburnham Dr, Peterborough, ON K9L 1P8 [map]
This is easily the quirkiest and coolest Peterborough kayaking experience. Actually, it’s probably one of the coolest spots to go kayaking in Ontario!
Make your way up the Trent Severn Waterway, launching from Little Lake in the heart of Peterborough. You’ll first experience Lock 20 as Parks Canada staff hand-crank the lock doors to raise the water! Hold onto the rope on the side as the water level rises before continuing through the lock.
INSIDER TIP: The ropes on the side can be very slimy so bring a bungee cord which you can connect to your kayak and wrap around the rope!
While there can be a bit of a current in the spring months, summer and fall make for a leisurely paddle. Take your time and enjoy the experience as you float directly under numerous bridges until you reach the crown jewel of the waterway – Peterborough Lift Lock 21. Time to ride the world’s highest hydraulic lift lock in your kayak! You’ll be raised 65 feet into the air in less than five minutes. To top it off, you can paddle freely inside the lock bucket so be sure to make your way to the edge and catch some of the views below. It’s one wild ride!
It sounds intimidating at first but the greatest thing about paddling the Peterborough Lift Lock is that it’s very straightforward. There’s no way you can get lost since you’re just following the Trent Severn Waterway! Plus being able to feel the sheer force of Lock 21 from your kayak is just incredible. It’s honestly one of my favourite experiences kayaking in Peterborough Ontario.
If you’re looking to tackle this with your own kayak or canoe, you will need to obtain a lockage pass. The cost is based on the number of days you wish to paddle the locks as well as the length of your vessel. Rates can be found on their website and the permit can be purchased online here.
Another option is to rent a kayak from Liftlock Paddle Co as they have a number of kayaks equipped with a seasonal lockage pass. Their rates are extremely reasonable and have all the gear you need for a fantastic afternoon of paddling the Trent Severn Waterway! Just make sure to reserve in advance as their rentals often sell out, especially in the peak summer months.
How many cities can you think of where you can launch your kayak right from the heart of downtown? Probably not many, but this is certainly the case in Peterborough!
An area where the Otonabee River expands, this is a great spot for kayakers of all skill levels who are looking to enjoy a leisurely paddle. There are a number of routes you can take depending on how much time you have to explore. Make your way past Millenium Park to the Hunter Street Bridge as you paddle under the train bridge at Jackson Creek. Meander along Meade Creek and circumvent the Beavermead Campground. If you’re paddling on one of those scorching summer days, head over to Little Lake Fountain and enjoy the mist to cool down! Take a look at this map for more ideas on where to paddle on Little Lake.
What I love most about paddling Little Lake is that its ease of accessibility means you can decide to paddle on a dime. This is exactly what I did during my first visit to Peterborough as I grabbed my kayak and launched from the ramp beside the Art Gallery of Peterborough. Since I was staying at the Holiday Inn Peterborough, I was on the water in a matter of minutes – and it meant I had just enough time to catch the sunset!
This is also a fantastic spot to paddle if you don’t have your own kayak or canoe as you have a number of rental options here. You can rent and launch from the Beavermead Campground or you can rent once again from the Liftlock Paddle Co. It’s also easy to enjoy both paddling Lift Lock 21 and Little Lake in the same adventure if you’re looking to spend a full day on the water!
Stellar Spots to Paddle in The Kawarthas
While it’s easy to find great kayaking in Peterborough, The Kawarthas is home to a number of additional paddling opportunities that you’ll want to keep on your radar.
Indian River in Keene
Launch Site Address: Public Boat Launch at 3331 County Rd 2, Keene, ON K0L 2G0 [map]
Head to the quaint village of Keene where you can enjoy some beautiful paddling on the Indian River. If you’re a fan of calm ramblings then you’ll want to head upstream to explore every little tributary of this waterway. It’s easy to do a few smaller loops as you watch for local wildlife. I personally paddled this by launching from Honey Cove during my stay in this little slice of glamping paradise. My launch was a little tricky as they currently don’t have a dock (but one’s in the works!) however you can launch from the public boat launch on the southern side of County Road 2 using the address above.
You can also head with the current as you make your way to Rice Lake. The world is your oyster here as there is plenty of open water to enjoy along with various islands scattered throughout. Rice Lake is known for the prominence of wild rice or manoomin, an important food source for the local Indigenous communities of Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations. Much of this shoreline where you access Rice Lake is Hiawatha First Nation territory so remember that you are a guest in these waters and treat the area with respect.
There is an option to paddle the Indian River as far as the Warsaw Caves. However, you will need a shuttle or second vehicle to do this as there’s a lot of ground to cover. It also requires portaging around the dams at Hope Mills and Lang Pioneer Village so be prepared to do a little lifting if you choose this route!
Eels Creek near Harcourt
Launch Site Address: MNR Parking Lot on Northeys Bay Rd, Harcourt, ON K0L 2H0 [map]
Eels Creek is of great significance as it’s part of the traditional paddling route Indigenous communities have utilized to access the Teaching Rocks (Kinoomaagewaabkong) at Petroglyphs Provincial Park since time immemorial.
In all honesty though, it’s hard not to feel like this place has special significance even if you paddled it without knowing this fact. The landscape of the shoreline is breathtaking as it morphs from the smooth hills of the Canadian Shield into a forested wonderland of willows and eastern white pines.
You have a few options for paddling at Eels Creek but experience in paddling through moving water is a necessity, especially if you’re paddling alone. One route is from Highway 28 near Haultain Bay to the bridge at Highway 56 for a distance of 7 kilometres. Follow the winding river downstream where you will be met with some portages around beautiful natural wonders such as High Falls. In the spring, the rapids are runnable so helmets and additional safety equipment are recommended.
Another option is to paddle from Highway 56 upstream from the above launch point location to High Falls. There are a few small alcoves where you can paddle under tree branches and see what life lies beneath the surface of the water. If you’re adventurous, there is a portage around High Falls to continue heading upstream. However, I was content enjoying High Falls from its base and then turning around to paddle the edges of the river.
Squirrel Creek Conservation Area in Fraserville
Launch Site Address: 2520 Wallace Point Rd, Fraserville, ON K0L 1V0 [map]
You’ll find another stellar paddling destination just 20 minutes south of downtown Peterborough. Squirrel Creek Conservation Area is a free conservation area where visitors can enjoy a public beach as well as a free public boat launch.
Whether you choose to head north in the direction of Peterborough or south towards Rice Lake, paddlers will be treated to overhanging willow trees, a plethora of wildlife and numerous offshoots perfect for enjoying brilliant reflections. Head downstream to enjoy the calm waters of Squirrel Creek, away from any boat traffic utilizing the main artery of the Otonobee River.
This is a brilliant spot to catch golden hour as the reflections are absolutely incredible. Make sure you keep an eye on the time though as it’s easy to get caught up in all the beauty as the sun sets!
More Places to Go Kayaking in Peterborough & the Kawarthas
There are only so many hours in a day and with so many paddling opportunities to be had in Peterborough & the Kawarthas, I can only tackle so many! If you’ve already tackled all the routes above or are just looking for some more ideas of where to go, check out these recommendations for kayaking in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – If you’re a little more experienced and looking for those pristine views with little to no people, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is the place to go. There’s a reason why half of the area’s ten signature paddling routes are in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park!
John Street Beach in Buckhorn – Located near Lock 31 of the Trent Severn Waterway, paddle along exposed sections of the Canadian Shield right along the adorable town of Buckhorn. There is plenty of shoreline to explore and you can always head north up the lock for even more adventuring.
Selwyn Beach in Lakefield – Explore the northern section of Chemong Lake by launching from the public boat launch just south of the Selwyn Beach Conservation Area. Explore through numerous tall grasses and paddle across the lake to enjoy views of the Curve Lake Pow Wow Grounds from the water!
Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough – Okay so this is a launch point we still have to wait for as construction is ongoing for the brand new museum but can you think of a better place to start your journey?! Not only will you be able to launch your kayak from the museum property but there will also be guided tours on Voyageur canoes for another way to experience Peterborough from the water.
Things to Know When Kayaking in Peterborough
Now that you’re ready to get out on the water, it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared for your Peterborough kayaking adventure. Here are some things to know before getting out on the water.
Safety First, Always!
Having all the safety gear necessary to be out on the water is a must. At the bare minimum, a Transport Canada approved life jacket (aka PFD or personal flotation device, there will be a tag inside indicating such), a buoyant tow rope which is typically found in a throw bag (in case of rescue) that’s at least 15 feet long, a manual bailer that can be either a bucket or pump, and a whistle that works in water are necessary. These items are mandatory in order to legally use your kayak in Canada.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Paddling
Never go out to a destination without a friend or family member knowing where you are. There are plenty of lakes and rivers to explore and accidents can happen!
It’s also a great idea to have the app What3Words on your cellular device. This way if you do run into any trouble or get lost, emergency responders can easily find you by this unique grid system that identifies your exact location.
Check the Weather Before You Leave
The weather can change on a dime and when paddling in larger bodies of water, this can lead to a quick change in conditions. Make sure to look at the weather in Peterborough & the Kawarthas for the day before departing for your kayaking adventure.
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This post is brought to you in partnership with Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism. While I was compensated for my time, all of the content and opinions here are honest and speak to my personal experience!