Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Canoeing the North Saugeen

We canoed down the North Saugeen, from McCullough Lake to Mooresburg the other day.  It's our favourite river around here, narrow, forested, and feeling like you're in the wild.  And this spring it had suffered a major flood.

Here we are at the small public access point on McCullough Lake, getting organized to head out.  This is just downstream (west) from the village of Williamsford on Hwy. 6, where a major flood this spring danaged buildings, and closed the highway.  It was two extremely heavy rainfalls, on Mar. 28th and 31st that did it.

All that flood drained down this river, so we were expecting to find evidence of it as we paddled, leaving McCullough Lake underneath these big culverts.  We've paddled this route twice before, so we had some basis for comparison.

We soon ran into evidence of the flood - bits of docks mostly I think.  I had heard that many of the cottages around the lake were flooded to some extent.

There were numerous new gravel bars as the current had moved the gravel around, changing the channel in places.  We were wearing our water shoes, expecting to have to get out in the shallow spots.

And get out we did, especially in the first kilometre downstream from the lake.  We were out wading about 7 or 8 times, which is really no problem if you are expecting it and plan for it.   You need your bow and stern ropes in this situation, or the canoe is quickly sideways!

The fun of this river is that the channel is quite narrow in places, with some interesting riffles that you actually have to steer carefully through.  Nothing that could be called proper rapids, but enough to keep you alert and make it enjoyable.

There were an incredible number of dead trees leaning in from the banks.  Looking downstream, it frequently looked just like a jungle of branches.  Only when you got close could you see how to thread your way around them.  This is the low bridge that surprises you by having cross-linked cables about a foot under the concrete, forcing you to duck down very low indeed as you glide under.

Besides the gravel bars, the channel was a mixture of fine bare gravel, and heavy growth of acquatic plants.  Looking into the afternoon light, it was hard to pick out the deeper channel, and a few times we got stuck in the plant growth.

But apart from all that, this river is a really nice paddle, assuming you know how to handle a canoe (the person in the bow really has the more important job, by watching which way to go for the deep enough water, and watching for rocks or logs).

Perhaps the best feature of the river is how clear the water is.  For southern Ontario rivers, usually flowing through farmland, this is incredible.  I don't know if there's a single farm field upstream that reaches the banks of the river.  It flows entirely through forest and wetland.

Before we knew it, we reached the 4th bridge, and were finished.  We enjoy this river so much we'll happily do it every year.  Note for the future - paddle the last two weeks of June, in hopes of slightly deeper water.

Linking to:


  1. The clarity of the river really is astonishing. Serene and beautiful shots.

  2. You are an adventurous soul to take on that river after the flood. The water is beautiful though!

  3. Ah, yes, less portage, more paddling.

  4. That looked like an interesting canoe trip. Lots to look out for navigating, as well scenery.

  5. Boy that as an interesting paddle. Lots of stuff to look out for but fun to see. the water is so clear.

  6. Thanks for the virtual paddle FG. Lovely idea.

  7. Lovely paddle day thanks for the tour.
    The Nith River here is great for paddling, but kinda shallow in places right now as well.

  8. That was an interesting trip. I have gone down rivers finding new paths and getting stuck in a dead end and having to find a way to turn around and find a new way. Makes for a special day though.

  9. Thanks for taking me along on your paddle. I enjoyed it and never did have to get my feet wet. :-)

  10. Looks like you had to negotiate a lot of downed trees and debris from the flood. Always makes for an interesting trip!

  11. That's incredibly clear water. Thanks for this fun adventure.

  12. Love those days of paddling. You have a lovely place to paddle. You had some maneuvering to do this time.