Cold water paddling

As the weather warms, we naturally turn our attention to getting back in our kayaks. It will be particularly welcome for us, as my season ended early due to a broken hand back in the fall. There’s been lots of conversation on social media and lots of pics of people already on the water but it’s important to be aware of the risks … When your body hits exceptionally cold water, bad things happen. Muscles, including lungs, freeze as they adjust. Survival time is shockingly low, and dry suits are the way to go, not that I own, or want to own one. It’s well and good to say, I haven’t dumped in my boat in years, but what if … is it worth the risk. Personally, my answer is no. There’s a joke that says be sure and wear a PFD, makes finding the body in the cold water easier 😉 Make your own decisions, be safe, but make an informed decision. If you want to know temperatures in Lake Ontario have look around, for example this one reports Burlington be 5.6C as of today 4/21 so checkout what survival time looks like. And that’s all I will say on the subject.

Martindale Pond Paddle (St Catherines)

I’ve heard about this paddle for a bit and finally got around to it. When you get there there is sign that says that access to the ramp and even the pond are limited during regattas, so before you go checkout the Henley Regatta website and be sure this isn’t on one of their dates.

There’s a great launch point that’s free and has reasonable amounts of parking, there’s a dock, but it’s also possible to launch by the waterside, but it’s a challenging entry for sure.

I decided to stay away from the areas of the pond where the rowing club is, however as the sign above shows the race course goes right down the pond. If there was a race on I would avoid this area like the plague, I enjoy my peace and quiet on the water 😉

Once in the water there are three distinctively different parts to the paddle. We headed down towards the QEW going through the pond.

The pond itself can be windy and can get some small amount of chop. There’s lots of nature in the pond and the water is an interesting lighter green color. As you approach the QEW bridge (this is part two) you start to see a noticeable increase in current that just keeps increasing as you go into 12 Mile creek. In the creek the current is brisk enough that if you were to get the boat sideways and got caught on a rock or log you could be at risk of rolling the boat. There are whirlpools in the water and I can only imagine an undertow. Some care is involved. We found an inlet or two and explored them and even found a peregrine falcon regally looking for lunch 😉 We paddled as far as we wanted, the current wasn’t letting up, ~ 1KM south of the QEW bridge, so we turned around and had a nice trip down in the current!

After this we headed towards the bridge at Martindale Rd and explored Richardson’s creek. This part of the paddle is more like a swamp with lots of lilly pads and eventually the duck weed got so think that it was time to turn around. You couldn’t see what you were paddling over and we were in inflatables 😉

Nature wise we saw some great, less common birds, including the Peregrine falcon, black crowned night heron, as well as the more common great blue herons, tons of bluejays, kingfishers, eastern kingbirds, red tail hawks, amongst others, and of course lots of turtles.

In the end I enjoyed the paddle, noise from the highways was constant, as well as air canons at the wineries that never stopped, the pond has some significant abutments that make up the race channels, and with the restrictions on when you can use even the pond, in the end, there are MUCH more enjoyable paddles, for me, such as Jordan Harbour or 16 Mile creek. I won’t be in a rush to go back, but I enjoyed seeing it.

Map of the row

Summary of the row:
Start/End: launch point
Difficulty: Other than the brief section of 12 mile creek it’s a pretty easy paddle with that section requiring some caution.
Distance: ~10Km
Time: Leisurely ~4.5 hours with lots of time taking pics

Kayak Ontario also has a post on Martindale Pond

Eramosa river paddle (Guelph)

I enjoy scouting out a new to me place, planning it and then exploring. I usually have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out. I had some advance info from Adam Gatto on the Kayaking and Canoeing in Ontario group on facebook, and so with my intrepid gf and boats packed up off we went. I chose to launch at Eramosa River park. There’s lots of parking and an easy launch under Victoria Rd bridge or at the side of the river. It’s a bit of a trek from the parking lot to the river, about 150m but it’s doable. You could back down the trail with your car and cut that distance significantly, if only to drop off the boats. We chose to carry the boats.

Once in the water you can head east or west. When we were there the current and depth for most of it were not an issue. The water is a minerally dark brown, a nice change from the muddy rivers we sometimes run. To the east you will come across an old ghetto style railway bridge you can easily get under.

This particular section of the paddle is quite pretty with lots of nature. Turtles everywhere, great blue herons, cedar waxwings, and even a green heron or two that are less common.

In this section of the river there are some industrial noises as well as an airport, Guelph AirPark flying some old planes. So not quite serene, but nice none the less.

There’s an old falling down bridge you can slip past

but then you come upon a set of rapids. You could drag your boat over it, it seemed to get a little deeper, but then I could see another shallow rapid, so from what I can tell this is as far as you can get in this section of the river easily. This was about 2 Km from where we launched.

So at this point we headed back to the launch spot, had some lunch and then we were ready to head for the second half of the journey, heading west to explore. This part of the trip had a surprisingly smaller amount of nature. Still a lovely paddle. We headed over to where the Speed River and the Eramosa river meet in a bit of a T shape, about 4KM from the launch point. At this point is the iconic Boat House which has a nice patio, and an ice cream shop. There’s even a small dock you could take out, go get an ice cream and carry on your journey. To the North on this T shape you go under a very pretty covered bridge that is part of a recreational trail that runs mostly parallel to the river.

Past this bridge heading North you quickly run into a shallow rapid that your not really going much further than.

So we came back down to the Boat house and explored to the west. You pass under a couple bridges, one being an older pretty stone bridge and then you run into a dam. So in this section, that’s again as far as your going.

Overall map:

Map of the row

If you take along some walking shoes there’s a lovely trail to explore, sadly we were out of time.

Difficulty: easy gentle paddle
Distance: 10.1km
Time: a leisurely ~3.5 hours
Start/End: Eramosa River park

Guelph Lake paddle

We haven’t been back to Guelph lake in a while so we decided to go back. Last time we were there was in Oct 2018 on a cool and windy day, so to be there in the summer was a nice treat … I had done some research and had hoped to be able to find an alternate place to launch to avoid the COVID crowds that have been plaguing the conservation areas. The lake, from a kayaking point of view, dies in the North East end at Wellington County Rd 124, but on this end what you have is a rocky edge, and all along the rd are no parking signs, so this is just not happening. (View from the water at HWY 124)

In some areas there even are warnings about it being a tow away zone and no public access such as at the end of Kane Hill Rd. So this was bust … I looked into Guelph Community Boating club but their web site is pretty clear “Gate is locked at all times. Code is needed for entry.” oh and if that didn’t give it away “PRIVATE SITE LOCATED ON BEAUTIFUL GUELPH LAKE”. So that’s also a bust … Further to the South west end people were commenting about launching by the side of Victoria Rd, but this is where the Dam is so your not getting in the lake from here either.

So with that in mind we headed back to the launch site inside Guelph Lake conservation area. We had about a 10 minute delay getting in, and they are limiting access, so get there early. We got there around 10, the person at the gate said by 12 they are at capacity and not letting anyone new in. There were OPP there enforcing and controlling access. Once in head for the launching ramp at Guelph rowing club. The ramp is a nice concrete pad with some distance to the more busy areas of the park allowing social distancing to be possible while you launch. As always, once in the water, social distancing is not an issue. This is a BIG lake, obviously NOT great lakes big …

Once launched we headed towards the end into a pretty good head wind, funny it was windy last time too … This is a reasonably deep lake, but there wasn’t much in terms of chop, just a head wind of around 20KM/h.

Along the way we saw a good amount of nature from sand pipers playing along the shore, great blue herons, a green heron, a lesser yellow legs, Canada geese, king fishers, caspian terns and much more. Quite a nice paddle.

For the most part there are no motor boats on the lake, but lots of fishermen. We saw lots of large fish in the shallows and jumping out of the water, but mostly, sad, unsuccessful, hungry fishermen 🙂 For some reason both the OPP and Guelph Fire and rescue were using there large, noisy, fast, and big boats but they seem to be doing not much of anything, well other than making waves and noise. As lakes go, authorities aside, this is a nice quiet lake.

While there, if you take along a snack, there’s a hiking trail and some mountain biking as well …

We did ~ 3.5 hours 9.8KM and went from the launch spot all the way to the end where you can not go any further. There are inlets you can explore as well, and that’s actually where we saw probably 6 or more Great Blue Herons and some of the large fish in the shallows.

Map of the row

Difficulty: Easy other than wind, not boats, little chop
Distance: we did 9.8KM but you can add a little more of less if you preferred.
Start/End: Guelph rowing club inside Guelph Lake conservation area

Sauble River

I’d previously done research on Gre Bruce Paddling guide and thought I’d had a plan, but when we got there we found the access point on Side Rd 15, that was also on was a treacherous carry as well as no parking. No it’s always possible I misunderstood the access point, we drove down what appeared to be someone’s driveway, and there were lots of signs saying no trespassing and so I gave up and went back to a backup plan. We had planned to go downstream from Side Rd 15 all the way to Rankin Bridge Rd. We dropped a bike at Rankin, but when we failed at Side Rd 15 Rankin became the plan.

So we launched at where Rankin river and Sauble River meet, about 1/2 a KM above the Sauble falls where you will find a simple river side launch with some free parking 8-10 cars. It’s worth noting that Rankin river is NOT even on Google maps. So the L shaped Sauble River is all you can key off for this location. Go Paddle does not have this launch spot, but I have requested it be added, so hopefully soon.

We first went down stream to the edge of the falls and then headed up stream. The current is light here, and it’s hard to notice up from downstream. The water is relatively clean here and throughout the paddle the water is quite deep with no bottoming on the section we did. There was moderate amounts of wild life on the paddle with a green heron, tons of turtles, red wing black birds, turkey vultures and the like. We didn’t see any muskrats, mink or otters on our paddle. There were no down trees in the section we paddled.

This was a lovely, serene, quiet paddle where we saw next to no one on the path. It was nice and quiet so you could enjoy and embrace the sounds of nature!

Map of the row

Difficulty: Easy gentle paddle
Distance: We did 8.3KM but you can add more. The distance to Side Rd 15 would be ~ 10KM each way, but you can probably even go further.
Time: We did a leisurely 3.5 hours
Start/End: Rankin bridge Rd access point

Beaver River (Collingwood) Access point 1-2

I’ve had Beaver river on the todo list for a while now and finally got around to it. I’d done enough research on it from the Bruce paddling guide. So off we went. This particular paddle is one of three ways you can do this area. Access point 1 to 2, from 2 go upstream (towards access point 1) and then back downstream, or from access point 2 to 3. Free Spirit Tours who rents boats and SUPs, is currently operating out of Access point 2 and sends people upstream, so this section of it can get busy. They have put KM markers at 1-4 KMs for their renters to know how far up they’ve gone.

I decided what we would do is drop a bike off and lock it up at Access point 2 and then drive to Access point 1 and paddle down, then ride back to get the car and this worked out quite well, and the ride back is quite doable. With Free Spirit here, the bike is pretty safe.

Access point 1 is marked on the road as you approach it, but the entrance looks more like someone’s driveway. It’s a little rough, and rustic but it’s passable even for a car with low ground clearance like mine.

There’s moderate amounts of parking here, but there was a summer camp being run out of here making it moderately busy.

The launch point is a simple river side launch with no dock or amenities. The side of the river, here and throughout the ride is QUITE sticky, mud so be prepared.

This section of the river meanders, and twists a lot, making the distance and time seem LONG. There are very few bridges you encounter and in places you get far enough from the roads that you hear nothing but the sounds of nature, quite serene. Once in the river your pretty much committed to the full ride so be prepared, take water, and a nibble, although there really was no where to take out. When we were there the deer flies and mosquitoes were active so bug spray was REALLY helpful. On the trip down there was only one tree down we had to get out and go around. This is where the mosquitoes began to feast on us despite bug spray. Your gonna want to get in and out as quickly as possible trying not so slip on the muck. The tree down was about 1/2 an hour, or 1.3Km down from Access point 1.

The river itself is a typical muddy, but clean body of water that is positively teaming with nature although it was more in the second half than the first. It’s a fairly narrow river, and you find yourself navigating around downed trees.

We saw a ton of Great egrets and kingdishers, as well as sand pipers, great blue herons amongst other things.

The take out point at Access point 2 is another muddy river side access with no amenities.

This paddle ended up being a LOT longer than I had anticipated taking us 4:18 mins and turned out to be 11.5KMs, all downstream. The current for the most part was moderate and there were no eddies or swifts, with only occasional winds.

Map of the row.

The bike ride back was 1/2 an hour, 9.5KMs, but relatively easy with one larger hill.

Map of the ride back.

Summary of the row:
Difficulty: Easy, down stream all the way
Distance: 11.5KM
Time: just under 4.5KM
Start: Beaver River access point 1
End: Beaver River access point 2 with a bike ride to get back

Speed river in Guelph

Every now and then I go off script and try something different, ya this is one of those. Looking on I’d seen a launch point here but I wondered if maybe there might be one closer to the trails so I drove over to Royal recreational trail and scoped it out. Sure enough there was a moderate carry of the boats with lots of parking on the street by the path. It’s fairly shallow but our boats don’t need a lot of draft so we decided to give it a go.

My original intention was to go a little west down stream and then come back up stream and checkout the other launch point. The further we got downstream we encountered a number of fast moving eddies and shallow points and our path was set, we were heading downstream. I had no idea how far we could go, or where we’d get out but off we went. It was peaceful and quiet with no one anywhere around, just you and nature. We went past Crane Park and this was the first people we saw … they were playing with their kids/dogs in the water. This is just downstream of the Guelph wastewater treatment plant and there were definitely odors consistent with it, not sure I’d have my kids in the water but heh …

The amount of nature in this section is incredible, it’s part of a bird sanctuary and I’ve never seen so many kingfishers, and sand pipers, and they are not use to people AT ALL, very skittish. We also saw great blue herons, green herons, and beneath the water is a healthy number of good sized crayfish. Really quite impressive.

Further along you come upon the first signs of development in Riverbend Park. It’s amazing a river in the center of such a developed area that is largely pristine. People in the park were all super friendly and chatty as we paddled on by. I don’t think they are use to seeing too many people on this section, which is just fine by me.

The path is not without it’s challenges, you bottom out regularly and we had to get out of the boat a number of times during the paddle to get over shallow spots. There were no down trees blocking the path at all and the current in places was quite brisk, FUN!

It’s surprising how few bridges, and roads there are over this river, leaving more and more to a feeling of pristine nature.

We eventually pulled up a map and found a major road at Wellington RD 32 crossing the river and figured there would be a place to take out there, and sure enough there was. It’s a simple river side point but there are stairs to make it easy to get up to the road. I hadn’t planned a one way trip down, so we simply hailed an Uber back to our car, only cost $20 and the fellow even allowed us to throw our inflatables in the back of the car! There really weren’t much if any points prior to this one could have pulled out.

All in all it was fun paddle, but if your concerned with scratching you boat, or if your patience isn’t good, meh this WON’T be the paddle for you!

Map of the row.

Difficulty: Moderate, the swifts and eddies could be challenging if you got sideways into a rock. Some patience required to get out and pull the boat over shallows, but in pretty much all places it was shallow enough to stand. The current in places was brisk enough that paddling upstream in this section would have been challenging given the depth. Little to no wind.
Distance: ~8KM
Time: Leisurely 3.5 hours
Start: Royal Recreational Trail at the end of Municipal St
End: Wellington Rd 32 across from Visser RV trails.

Paddling Burlington Bay/Hamilton harbour from Lasalle

We haven’t done this particular body of water before so we thought we’d give it a try on a bright, warm sunny, slightly windy day! We launched from Lasalle Community Marina, which is closed for 2020 due to COVID. When we got there large concrete block blocked entrance to the launching ramp so we simply chose to launch on the side of the water, it was unclear whether it was closed just to trailers or kayaks too. It was an easy launch, no problem with lots of parking in the marina. The launch point is here … I’ve heard this body of water referred to as Hamilton Harbour or Burlington Bay … On this day the wind was blowing 30KM from the east so I chose to head into the wind so that our trip back would be easier with the wind behind our back. I planned to make my way all the way over to the edge of Cootes Paradise and checkout the fish way while I was there, more on that in a bit. On the very west end you can even paddle into Grindstone Creek and on into Royal Botanical Gardens if you chose to … we didn’t. The water is a little on the dirty side down by Lasalle with lots of grass and some odor off the water but all in all not bad. The houses on the water side are breath taking, with one fellow even owning his own sea plane. Ah how the other half live …

A fair amount of the shoreline is a bit of a mess with concrete filled, rusting old barrels being used as erosion control. A shame really but what can you do …

This is a piece of water that can get a little windy, and a little choppy, nothing like a great lake perse, but still … You need to keep it in mind and preserve enough energy for the trip back. The water is reasonably deep compared to the rivers we more often frequent.

There can be great lake freighters in the water, as well as power boats and jet skis, so some caution is needed but really it was a pretty quiet paddle. We chose to stay away from the industrial side of the bay, where Stelco/Dofasco are, nothing over there that interest me.

Down the very end is a fish way, a pathway to control the fish in and out of Cootes Paradise. You can paddle to the edge of Cootes, but if you want to go over into Cootes you have a small portage to do from the fish way.

It’s worth noting, there are ongoing issues with ecoli to do with raw sewage discharge from the City of Hamilton into Cootes paradise. So if you decide to go into the fish way be sure and clean thoroughly when you get back. They even tell you at Lasalle to keep your pets out of the water, it isn’t safe. Nuff said on this one.

The water is teaming with nature from Great blue herons, turkey vultures, king fishers, osprey, lots of turtles, you name it. The wind was a nice cooling challenge on the way down and great on our backs on the way up. All in all a lovely paddle.

After your done you can go for a short walk in Lasalle Park or head over to Hendrie Valley in RBG for a hike … You can also go into downtown Burlington and have a pint on one of the many patios!

We did about 10KM in a little over 3.5 hours at a leisurely pace, enjoying the wildlife as we went.

Map of the row

Difficulty: Moderate with some wind, some chop and some depth
Distance: 10 KM to the edge of Cootes
Time: Leisurely 3.5 hours
Start/end: Lasalle Marina

Humber River and Toronto Adventure rentals

We have two friends that wanted to try out kayaking for the first time, so I pointed them at Toronto adventures. My overall thoughts of the experience that I shared with them … “Our guests that had rentals found your staff to be efficient, organized, focused, and extremely helpful especially when it came to getting a newbie into the boat. Staff were wearing masks, and being VERY COVID aware, including sanitizing the boats in between use. We also launched with our own boats at your location and were delighted at how helpful, cordeal and welcoming your staff were. I really can’t say enough, I will definitely HIGHLY recommend your staff, very well done. I’ve added a Google review as well. Thank you and compliments to your staff! Absolutely perfect!” If your looking for a place close to downtown Toronto with gentle water, very little motor boats and need rentals this is THE place to go. The rentals aren’t the newest but they are good boats, well maintained. They provide everything you need. Be sure and bring along some water, hat, sunscreen, water shoes, towels, and a change of clothes.

The launch site for Toronto Adventures is a gentle river side entry.

It’s kind neat to paddle under the subway!

We proceeded up the river a short distance to see the Mill and it’s lovely bridge, then down the Humber. You really can’t go up much further anyway, it becomes shallow and there are a number of concrete water breaks in your way. In most places the water, while muddy, is shallow enough to stand.

So close to Toronto it’s amazing how much wild life there is in this river, we saw Great egrets, swallows, cormorants, mallards to name just a few:

While the Humber is by no means a fast moving body of water, there is a current, and with wind, especially for new paddlers, the trip up will take a bit longer than the trip down, so if you have rented be sure and leave enough time to get back.

If your not doing rentals, I don’t recommend launching here, I would highly recommend you check out my previous post on the Humber.

Map of the row.

Difficulty: Beginner, gentle on the way down, a little more energy on the way back up
Time: We did just under 2 hours limited by the rentals
Distance: A leisurely 5KM
Launch point: Toronto adventures