2019 year in review

2019 was another fabulous year in the water. With my intrepid gf at my side we got out in our Advanced elements inflatable kayaks 24 (Vs 19 in 2018) times including 12 new to me places resulting in new blog posts! In all 204 (Vs 137km in 2018) thoroughly enjoyable kms on our beautiful waterways. We’ve taken items off the todo list, and added new ones on! So much more still to explore around us. We’ve seen so many beautiful things while paddling, taken so many pictures and just had a blast in the great outdoors! Be sure and checkout the index to the site for a list of all of the blog posts.

Our first paddle of the year was on June 1st and last was on October 20th, ending the season at Christie lake, a chilly but beautiful paddle.

The boats are now all washed up, and put away for their well earned winter slumber!

A thanks to all my readers for joining us on our journeys! Looking forward to many more in the spring!

Christie Lake 2019 (Hamilton)

I haven’t been back to Christie lake in a while, so it seemed like a good time to revisit it. As the season get’s colder and is drawing to a close, smaller lakes/rivers are ideal places to see the fall colors. My last post on Christie Lake talked a bit about the hike/biking at Christie lake so I will refer you back to that for those details.

Since I was last at Christie lake back in 2017 they have changed how you get to Webster falls and Spencer gorge. The buses now pick you up at Christie lake. So what this has done is turned Christie lake into a parking lot. And the crowds to get in, especially in the fall when we were there were insane. it took us over 20 mins to get into the park. This has really ruined Christie lake. I really wish they would create a separate entrance for the parking for the falls. It’s a real annoyance … Moving on.

For this day we launched at the Marina pavilion and headed right for the little portage at the end of the lake and into the Spencer creek. A lot of people don’t know about, or don’t bother with this, but it leads into a nice quite, serene, natural area to paddle. The lift over is maybe 30 ft. You will need to be ready to get in and out of a very muddy water side spot, but consider it the price of admission 🙂 It’s about 1.5km (took us a leisurely 25 mins) from the pavilion over to the portage and then into the creek. In the creek the water flow is nice and gentle with lots of beautiful trees to enjoy the fall colors.

This time around, after lifting the boat over a couple of low spots (brrr the water was cold), and enduring some icky mud, we were able to get about 2.7KMs up the creek before we got to the point it was too shallow and too fast to continue. On the map you can see we got a long way up!

All in we got a good paddle in, and in spite of being chilly, we enjoyed it.

Map of the row

Difficulty: Easy with little current or wind
Distance: 8.2KM with a couple spots we had to drag the boats over
Launch spot: Marina pavilion

Nottawasaga river paddle

We were up in the area for a wedding and decided to look into a paddle while there and this one came up. I looked into a number of different ways/places to paddle and decided on this one. I ruled out Minesing wetlands when I read on their web site “The Nottawasaga River (Angus to Edenvale) is navigable however, there are significant log jams (up to a couple hundred metres in length) that may require portaging – and very slippery banks to ascend.”

Being late in the fall, we are pushing the season as it’s starting to get cold. We woke to 4 degrees so waited until it warmed up and out we went. We killed some time hiking hiking Wye Marsh which has a bird of prey show as well. They do guided canoe/kayak trips through the marsh for $8, but your not allowed to take your own boat :(.

My research had shown there were two different paddles of lengths that we were interested in. We chose an entirely downstream paddle. You could launch at Edenvale and come down, ending at Klondike park (also called Wasaga Sports park), or start at the park and paddle down into Wasaga. We decided on putting in at the Sports park. As we were putting in, there was someone taking out that had come from Edenvale and said it was a solid 3 hour paddle. Once at the park there were signs to a canoe launch so off we went. The fee was $3 to launch, and the launchpoint was a nice soft launch with a dock.

Once in the water the current was moderately strong, with some nice eddies in places. In the fall when we were there, there were plenty of anglers fly fishing, but some kind words and we were out of their way. The river side had lots of nice places to get out and enjoy a break or a snack. Other places showed some lovely high cliffs. The leaves had started to change and it was very pretty and serene, especially in the top half of the paddle.

As you get down towards Wasaga the water gets deeper and you start to encounter some fairly densely packed cottages and the occasional motor boat, being the fall, not a lot, I bet in the summer it’s much busier boat wise. There was lots of nature to be seen, herons, king fishers, turkey vultures and the like.

The upper portion of the paddle was definitely nicer, and I bet the run from Edenvale would have been a better choice, less cottages etc.

We ended our paddle at the water’s edge by the bridge where Mosley crosses the river, conveniently right beside McDonalds. We could have continued down into Wasaga (another 6KM), but at that point we were tired and cold. We hailed an Uber for a drive back to our car. All in all this was a nice paddle and the fall colors were just getting started!

Map of the row.

Oh, by the way, we stayed at Bluebird Meadows BNB which was outstanding. Gourmet breakfasts, lovely country home, super comfortable!

Difficulty: Pretty easy, just watch for rocks sticking up in the eddies that could get you sideways
Distance: We did 10.4KM, you could add another 6KM easily and go tot he mouth of the river
Time: We did it in a leisurely 2hr 45min
Start: Klondike park (also called Wasaga Sports park)
End: McDonalds where Mosley crosses the river

Toronto Island Paddle!

Ahhh … At last! This one has been on my todo for a long time. A lot of people launch at Cherry Beach but this didn’t appeal to me, for whatever reason what interested me, not that I have a perfect explanation for it, was on the west end of the island. So I had seen a previous post on facebook that said you could easily launch at Harborfront Kayak and Canoe rentals so we set about checking it out. The folks at Harborfront Canoe and Kayak center were unbelievably helpful. They even pulled by boat (after asking) right up on the dock when I got back. To find them head down to the end of Rees st and they have a nice smooth dock ready for you to launch and take out on. I have to admit, I was skeptical, but it really was more than I could have hoped for. We chose a weekday to avoid busy traffic. Parking was literally across the street and only cost $20 even on a weekday, which I was forewarned about. I have no issue with it, it is downtown Toronto.

Ok so it’s worth starting by talking about Toronto harbor. It’s a VERY busy place with lots of big boats, not the least of which is the ferry. It is a federally controlled harbor, meaning you need a harbor pilots license to operate in it … kayaks are exempted (I am pretty certain). It’s worth noting that Toronto Marine police operate out of this location so it’s worth insuring you have all of your safety list on board. I hadn’t bothered with a throw rope, but grabbed one off Amazon to avoid any hassles.

It’s next worth noting there is an exclusion zone around the airport marked clearly by large white buoys. Violating this space and the fine could be as high as $10K. And yes, I asked, that includes kayaks.

The trip across the harbor is the most challenging part of this trip. Not a chance that ferries are moving for you, there’s lots of tourist boats, and as much as sail boats under power do not have the right away, the problem with being dead right, is your still dead. Waves can come at you from any direction in the harbor, so keep an eye, and as always, hit larger waves at 90 degrees. It took us about 20 mins to cross the harbor and make our way over to the island. Inside the island itself it is super sheltered so even on windy days you can easily explore the inner island areas.

We went all the way down and even into trout pond, but frankly there wasn’t a lot in trout pond. This part of the island is super quiet with the least amount of boat traffic. There are MANY yacht clubs on the island, but by going on a weekday this was a non issue for us. This was a pretty peaceful journey with the exception of the almost constant sound of airplanes, but heh this is downtown Toronto. The views of downtown Toronto from the island are amazing.

The trip down inside the island was amazing and there were lots of places to stop by the waterside for a break or snack. We packed a lunch and stopped inside trout pond and had a bite.

Nature wise we saw some herons, lots of king fishers, turtles and the like. Not as nature filled as I had hoped but still good. I highly recommend you check this out when you can.

In 3.5 hours, and 10.6KM we only hit about half of what we could have done, the whole east end left unexplored. It’s worth noting the paddle back across the harbor will take a good deal of energy so be sure and leave enough gas in the tank. Although, I guess, worst case you could hire a water taxi to take you have but how humiliating would that be?

Map of the row

Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced due to the harbor, waves, and boat traffic
Length: It’s 1.2Km from Harborfront to the island and the same back. So then it’s up to you. We did 10.6KM
Time: We did it in about 3.5 hours, but this was a leisurely pace.
Launch Spot: Harborfront Kayak and Canoe

16 Mile Creek Jordan

There are three bodies of water all pretty close to each other in Niagara, Jordan Harbor, 15 Mile Pond, and 16 Mile Pond/Creek. I’ve done the other two and hated 15 Mile pond so was turned off of 16 Mile, but decided to go check it out anyway.

Kayak Ontario’s post on 16 Mile creek was a great starting point for this trip. For us, it’s a bit of a drive so I wanted to make it a longer paddle, so my first question was, can you get into the lake from the creek? The answer is yes, with a short portage, like 20 feet maybe, so VERY doable.

The launch spot is a dock at the side of South service Rd. The big problem with this is parking, which in spite of being a paved shoulder there actually are signs saying no parking, which people seem to just ignore? This is right beside someone’s property so I can only imagine they are none too impressed.

An alternative would be to go to Charles Daley Park and then you can launch on the side of the beach. This is where I will launch next time, and yes, there will be a next time, we enjoyed the paddle. I bet this is a super beautiful paddle once the leaves start to turn …

So my intrepid paddling partner in crime had not seen the derelict at Jordan Harbor so I pulled out my phone and using RunGPS I was able to easily see the distance to the wreck, 3.26KM right along the shore. So we set about … portaged the boats into the lake and off we went. The shoreline of lake Ontario here is a mix of steep banks, and an assortment of break waters most made of old construction waste, with the occasional accessible spot. On the day we were paddling the weather was threatening all day, so given this is a great lake I was concerned what if the lake blew up quickly, being so close to shore I knew we could just hit the beach somewhere so this seemed super doable. To get over to the wreck, in mildly choppy water, with some wind, took about an hour. Frankly if your just going to see the wreck, launch at Jordan Harbour, it’s much closer. But where’s the fun in that 🙂

Once over and back from the wreck we explored 16 mile pond. To the bottom of the creek it’s about 2.7Km which we did in under an hour. The water is smooth, somewhat dirty, and it’s surprising how quickly the noise from the QEW faded. Being the fall, there were CONSTANT sounds of air cannons going off from the vineyards. A sad distraction to what would otherwise be a peaceful and serene paddle. There’s a good amount of nature, we saw black crowned night herons, great blue herons, TONS of cormorants and others.

The cormorants are really taking it over and your hard pressed to find a tree without one in it. If your paddling near the shore watch out or your likely to get pooped on 🙂 It’s no where near as bad as Cootes … yet.

The wind can pickup and as you can see in the map above, it’s pretty much a straight body of water so there will be nowhere to break the wind.

All in all this is a lovely, somewhat relaxing paddle. By adding in the lake we were able to get in a SIGNIFICANT (for us) paddle.

Map of the row

Summary of the paddle:
Difficulty: The lake part depends on weather so plan ahead and be careful. The Pond itself is quite easy/beginner
Length: We did 14.9KM by adding the lake pond itself would be under 6KM
Time: We did 4hr 31 mins, the pond itself would be well under 2 hours.
Launch spot: Don’t launch were we did, head for Charles Daley Park

Oxbow in Brantford

I’ve heard a lot about this paddle from a number of sources Kayak Ontario, as well as the Hamilton Kayak club on facebook. This is a LONG paddle so you need a reasonable amount of time and flexibility to make it happen, which has been the sole impediment to date. From start to finish, even without including travel time to/from it took us over 5 hours. So I set about my usual level of planning. We drove in and went directly to the place we were going to take out. This let me mark the spot on my Garmin fenix 5 as well as on Google maps. This paddle in unique in that you launch, paddle down stream all the way (and a LONG way), get to your end point and you have a small walk back to get your car, but, it’s worth noting, once in, your committed to the trip. Trying to end it early is not going to be easy.

So we start at the launch point. It was very well described in Kayak Ontario’s post. There is a large parking lot under the bridge and a simple shore side launch. This is called Cockshutt Bridge River access and is open from April 1st to Dec 1st according to signs. It’s located here. It’s free to launch, and parking is free.

And your underway. The paddle is all down stream. There are occasional eddies but overall this is a gentle easy paddle. Paying attention to the water will help you avoid bottoming. I bottomed only once in the entire paddle and it was because I stopped paying attention.

The river is reasonably clean, somewhat muddy but quite quiet. In a lot of places your far enough from roads to hear nothing but the sounds of nature. In spite of the parking lot having a number of cars in it, we saw few if any other paddlers, really quite amazing. There was occasional noise from trains, and motorcycles in places but for the most part, quite serene.

We saw a reasonable amount of nature from a deer by the shore, the usual shore birds, lots of turkey vultures over head, tons of king fishers, TONS of turtles, the occasional heron and the like.

As the river winded and meandered down there were times the wind was in your back and other times it was in your face, but at no time was it even remotely challenging. As usual approach the eddies at right angles to avoid being rolled.

We stopped by the shore for a lovely relaxing picnic lunch to give us a break and just enjoy the day. Given the length of this paddle carrying along a snack is a good idea (signed captain obvious) 🙂 The shore is quite thick heavy clay but you can easily find places for a break. As always be aware of your surroundings and watch out for toxic plants, but we saw NO giant hogsweed or wild parsnip. I’m sure poison ivy etc are present.

Having prescouted the end, and adding it to google maps and my Fenix 5 I knew where we were taking out, here. It’s a point just off Newport Rd before you get to the bridge. From the water it’s marked by a large rock. The bridge is the first bridge over pass you encounter on your way back. Miss it and well you’re in for an adventure. There’s a small winding trail back up to the rd.

Once back out it’s a short walk back to the car and no need for two cars. Not the most pleasant walk but easily doable.

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable paddle. It takes some planning and some time management to make room for it, but well worth it. We really enjoyed it! While the first time we’ve done this paddle … it won’t be our last … we’ll be back!

Map of the row
Map of the walk back

Difficulty: Easy when we did it
Distance: 15KM
Time: 3 Hr 51 mins moving time + breaks
Launch spot: here
Take out spot: here

Luther marsh

We had read about Luther marsh and we super curious. It sounded like a perfect place for us, a possible chance to see a sandhill crane, lots of birds, paddling and hiking! So I set about planning. Luther marsh has some VERY significant “rules” around it’s use. From the web site: “Non-motorized watercraft including canoes, kayaks and rowboats are allowed starting July 31” … then “After Sept. 1, interior roads open to motor vehicles and motorboats are permitted. There are four marked boat launches. Boaters should be cautious because Luther Lake is shallow, weedy and full of stumps. Winds can create dangerous conditions. Keep all safety equipment current. Maximum 25 HP.” Ok so I guess I really want to be there sometime between July 31st and Sept 1st, got it. So we made that happen.

Luther marsh is BIG. At it’s widest spot it’s 4KM wide, and if you were to traverse the oustide of the marsh you’d have to paddle 18KM. When we got there the access to the North launch was closed, and we were obeying the rules so we launched at the main launching ramp which is just to the left after you go through the gate, follow the boat launch signs. The gate is not manned so make sure you have a pen, cash, and know where your going. They also would like you to fill out a boat access form which are there, or you can download it from the web site and prefill it out. The link on web site for a map of the place is broken, I’ve reported it, hopefully they fix it. For now here’s my map for you.

The main launch spot is sort of a soft sandy launch with 4 official parking spots. We luckily got a spot. Littered around the place, sadly, are shotgun shells, a reminder that this is an active hunting ground. “Hunters can go after geese, waterfowl, deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and rabbits/hares”. There were also beer bottles, broken glass and the like at the launch spot so be careful.

Once in the water it’s quite clear, albeit shallow and weedy. There are lots of stumps sticking up as is common in reservoirs like this so be sure to take care. I’ve been told there are also places where construction materials including rebar are sticking up. We were in inflatables so kept our eyes open.

The sheer size of the place means that it can get quite windy, surprisingly so. And unluckily for us, the day we were there it was quite windy, making paddling across the open water “energetic”. When the wind is at your back it’s easy to enjoy and forget that you will need to paddle against that same wind on the way back (signed captain obvious). Looking at our track you can see, we barely scratched the surface of what it can offer.

While there we saw a lot of egrets, a few great blue herons, a few terns, kingfishers, but sadly no sandhill cranes. Where we paddled, we were surprised at how few birds we had seen.

Map of the row

Overall this is a nice paddle, in clean water, peaceful and serene. Once done we decided to checkout one of the hiking trails over to the lookout. The trail is really more intended for cars/bikes, honestly I’d skip it next time around.

Map of the hike

Difficulty: If the wind is high it’s challenging, otherwise it’s a gentle easy paddle
Distance: We wimped out and only did 8.4KM tuckered out by the wind
Time: 2hr 42 mins
Start/End: Main launching ramp.