Created in 1833 as a logging transport route from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay, the 45-lock Trent Severn Waterway now provides the passageway for some 10,000 pleasure boats. And if you join the dots on a map, it also offers an incredibly scenic (albeit long at 385 kilometres) driving route.
At one end near Georgian Bay, the Port Severn Marine Railway is an engineering marvel well worth checking out.
A rail system pulls large vessels up and down an 18-metre slope between the Severn River and Gloucester Pool.
The scenery is spectacular as well, with steep gorges, rapids and marshes, and chances are good of spotting beavers, muskrats and blue herons.
At the other end, Peterborough’s Lock 21 boasts the world’s highest hydraulic boatlift, which simultaneously drops an upper chamber and raises a lower one — a staggering 19.8 meters. It’s easy to view from terra firma, especially with Peterborough city traffic being routed through a tunnel at the base of the dam.
Be forewarned, however, that the place is allegedly haunted by three ghosts. Although the visitor centre may not confirm the spectral hangers-on, they do offer some good exhibits chronicling the waterway’s construction.
The locks are numbered (trentsevern.com) and driving along the picturesque Otonabee River will take you past locks 23 to 27, before arriving at Burleigh Falls.
This lock is unique for the amount of dynamite required to blast through the Canadian Shield. And overlooking the locks, the 100-year-old Burleigh Falls Lodge provides a charming rustic place to stay.
Nearby is Petroglyphs Provincial Park where you can hike through wetlands and forests, and view aboriginal petroglyphs of turtles, snakes, humans, birds, all carved out of white marble rock at least 900 years ago.
Buckhorn is lock No. 30, and the largest of the system holding back approximately 12,000 hectares of water. Poised on the tip of the peninsula between Buckhhorn and Chemong Lakes, is the village of Curve Lake, home to 2000 Mississauga Objibwas. It’s from these First Nations people that the district of Kawartha got its name – an Anglicized version of the Anishhinaabe name Kawataegummaung. Curve Lake is also home to Whetung Gallery, and its incredible handcarved totem poles, and other First Nations crafts. (whetung.com)
Michael Whetung, who lives in Curve Lake and whose ancestors settled in the area in 1806, says the spectacular shift in scenery around Buckhorn is because “it’s just about where the glaciers came to a grinding halt.
“On the north side, it’s precambrian shield. On my side, it’s soil and limestone.”