Trent- Severn Canada


We left Trenton Marina Sunday morning at 8:30 to make the first lock that opens at 9:00.   The sun is shining for the first time this morning after waking up to rain for almost a week.  We are hoping to go through 12 locks today and end up at Campbellford tonight.  When we were heading for the lock we met “The Lower Place” they were in front of us and the lock tender put us through with them.  So we traveled through the next 12 locks with them.   Johnny and Liz from Anchor Down unfortunately had to wait for the next lock.  They did catch up to us when we docked at Campbellford.

Samuel Champlain was the first European to Travel the network of inland waters from Georgian Bay to the Bay of Quinte with Hurons in 1615.  It was this same route that would later be canalized and become the Trent-Severn Waterway.  The Trent-Severn waterway is a long canal route connecting Lake Ontario at Trenton to Lake Huron at Port Severn.   Unlike the Erie Canal that was completed in only 8 years it took 90 years to complete the Trent-Severn.  As early at 1780 the Canadians started to look for a good route to transport men and supplies from the northern region of Canada to the southern border, that was free of possible military intervention by Americans.   By the early 1800 men were moving supplies and goods using boats and portages on the many fresh water lakes in what is now Southwest Ontario.   The first lock was constructed on the Trent Severn in 1833 and construction of three additional locks began.  When the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 broke out this put a halt on the construction until 1875 when the Canadian Government said that more locks were needed.  From 1896 to 1904 the government expanded the lock system to include five locks from Peterborough to Lakefield.  The final section was greatly delayed by World War I, with the link to Trenton opening in 1918, followed by the link to Georgian Bay in early 1920.  The first complete transit of the waterway was made by the motor launch Irene on July 20, 1920 that left Trenton and arrived in Port Severn.  With Irene becoming the first vessel to complete the trip.  When the canal was finally completed it failed to have a major impact on the economy of the regions it was built to serve.  Ships plying the Great lakes had grown much larger than the canal could handle and the railways that originally connected to the canal now took most of its freight.  In the years that it took to build the canal the railways had further developed their improved service which influenced settlement patterns.  Its scenic meandering route has been called “one of the fines interconnected systems of navigation in the world.”  The Trent-Severn Waterway starts at Trenton which is 243 feet above sea level.  For the first 35 locks we will be locking up and eventually reach the high water point at Balsam Lake at 840 feet above sea level.  From that point it is a steady decline as we work our way to Port Severn.  The Trent Severn Waterway is actually the correct name for the waterway between Trenton and Port Severn and is made up by a number of canals and locks connecting lakes and rivers.  There are 45 locks, including 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the severn.   The system also includes 39 swing bridges and 160 dams and control structures that manage the water level for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers.

The Trent- Severn system is still in service and maintains and operated by the national park service.  It’s now used for tourism and by recreational boaters.  The Trent- Severn also forms a major portion of the Great Loop.   It is open for navigation from May until October, while its shore lands and bridges are open year-round.  All of the canals in Canada charge for use of the Locks except for this year they are free because of their 150 year celebration.

Waiting for the lock is different on the Trent-Severn then we are used to on the Mississippi River.  When we approach each lock you will see a stretch of wall or dock painted blue.  This blue line is the area where we will tie up and wait to go through the lock.  The order you are tied up is supposed to be the order you lock through.

The only lock that respond to a VHF radio is lock 1.  We have to tell the lock tender our plans and they call ahead and alert the bridges and locks of our approach.   The bridge tenders are usually very observant and generally have been alerted by the previous lock or bridge that you passed through that you are coming.  We found most of the locks were opened and waiting for us.

In general all of the locks on the Trent-Severn waterway are manually operated except for the first lock that is operated hydraulically.  The lock tender walks the controls around in a circle turning a gear mechanism to open or close the lock gates and the water valves.  Locks on the Trent-Severn have rubber coated steel cables secured to the lock wall at both the top and bottom.  I put a line around the cable having one end tied to the boat and hold on to the other.  Then I let the line slide up the cable as the water rises and keeps the boat firmly against the lock wall.

Dockage or as the Canadians call it “mooring” we have three options.  Anchor out, tie to a lock wall, or stay in a marina.  Most of the marinas on the Trent Severn are small and cater to local boats.  So our best bet is to plan on spending most nights on the Trent Severn tied to a lock wall or town dock with occasional marina stops.  Some of the lock walls and most of the town dock walls have electric and are safe and comfortable.

All along the waterway channel there are meandering rivers and no wake zones and give way to long stretches of open water.  Most of the locks have stunningly beautiful landscape with picnic benches and places to grill.  The lock tenders are very friendly and want to know where you came from, how long you have been traveling, and will answer any questions you may have.  These pictures don’t show you how absolutely beautiful the Trent-Severn is.

Before Lock 7 Glen Ross there is an area of the waterway named Danger narrows that is appropriately named.  There is a lot of rock and debris just outside the channel at this point.  We’ll be Ok if we watch our charts and stay in the channel its well-marked.  Glen Ross lock is known for its terraced flower beds and is a popular fishing spot.  Lock 7 has a bridge right after the lock doors that opens at the same time as the lock.  Once we cleared the bridge there is a wall that you can tie to and then we passed a railroad swing bridge that I doubt has been closed for many years left in the open position.


Lock 8 to Lock 9 the Trent Severn waterway runs east of the natural watercourses.  Lock 9 Meyers is isolated and quiet with room for overnight mooring.  It has a park and picnic tables and the overall area is picturesque.  Meyers lock is one of the original locks constructed in 1914.  The lock house served as the lock masters home and office.  Between lock 9 & 10 our course follows Haig’s Reach this will be our first encounter with the old cribs used in logging days to control booms on their way down stream.  Loggers placed these cribs in the waterway as long as 100 years ago.  Today their presence is marked by red and green day marks signifying the edge of the channel.

Lock 11&12 Ranney falls are our first set of flight locks.  In flight locks when we comes out of one lock it is actually entering the next lock.  There is only one door between the two locks.  These are typically constructed where a large lift must be achieved in a short distance.  We will be going through Lock 16&17 which are also flight locks.

On Sunday we went through 12 locks with our first one at 9:00 and our last at 5:00.  We are now tied to a Campbellford City dock wall where we will stay for two nights.  We were greeted by other loopers, TranquillityIII, SeaQuest, Overtime, Satori, and some we had not met yet.  We had dock tails with them in the Old Mill Park where we are all docked.  They will all be leaving in the morning and we will stay for two days.

Campbellford is a small town in Ontario, Canada which lies midway between Toronto and Ottawa.  It is situated on both the Trent Severn Waterway and the trans Canada trail.  Campbellford settlement began in the township of Seymour on the Trent River in the early 1830s.  At that time Lieutenant Colonel Robert Campbell and his brother, Major David Campbell received crown grants and purchased 2800 acres of land in the area.  This became the nucleus of settlement on both sides of the Trent River at a shallow area known as Campbell’s Ford.  By 1876 the settlement had grown so the village of Campbellford became a separate municipality.  By 1906 the population had increased sufficient that it was incorporated as a town.  Once very wealthy it is still know today for its many fine Victorian homes.

The town is home to a Brewery (Church-Key), a chocolate factory (Blommer Chocolate) previously World’s Finest Chocolate, which we went to.  We bought some candy and when we left asked if we could tour their chocolate factory next door.  To our surprise they are not affiliated and the candy we just bought came from Chicago Il.  We all had a good laugh about this.  Campbellford has one of eastern Ontario’s few remaining rural cheese factories (Empire Cheese).  The first Empire Cheese factory was built-in 1870 then years later a second factory was built which burned in 1952 and a third one was built-in 1953.  We didn’t tour the factory as it was to far out-of-town for us to walk to.   We were told to make sure and stop at Dooher’s Bakery the best around however it was closed on Monday.

Located in Old Mill Park where we are docked is the present two dollar coin built-in 2001.  The” Toonie” as Canadians have named it features the image of an adult polar bear in early summer on an ice floe.  The Canadian Mint proclaimed Campbellford the home of the two dollar coin in 1997.  The most famous bear in Canada the one stated on Toonie  has turned ten and been named Churchill.

Today Monday July 3rd is Liz (Anchor Down) birthday and we get to help her celebrate on this nice sunny day.  We all walked across the bridge to the chocolate store where we got our chocolate fix and then had lunch a APOLLOs Pizza where we had pizza, chicken wings, and beer.  Kent bought a child’s sleigh that he carried a mile back to the boat.  Liz I hope you had a great birthday as we ended the day with dock tails on our boat.

Tuesday is another beautiful day on the Trent Severn we only have 6 locks to go through today and plan on staying at Hastings village Marina tonight.  The water was so calm and the scenery was breath-taking again.  There are a lot of winding turns and as we got close to the locks a fair bit of turbulence.  As we left Lock 14 Crowe Bay the dam creates what appears to be a daily wide lake with cottages close by.  Today for the first three locks we had to switch back and forth on which side we would tie up on.  In several of the locks we had a small boat rafted to us as no room in the lock for them.


This is Lock 15 Healey Falls the water was fast and beautiful to watch as it crosses the rock ledges.  But as pretty as it looks it creates a lot of turbulence as we were heading into the lock.

In this area we saw homes on islands with their only access to land is by boat.  Beautiful landscape and water falls off in the distance.  I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoy taking them.

More pictures of the beautiful view we had as we navigate the Trent-Severn today.  In this area after lock 15 we had a winding S pattern we followed for 12 miles with many homes and cottages along the way.  I don’t know what this statue stands for but I thought it was worth a picture.

We have now navigated 51 miles and gone through 18 locks.  We have seen some beautiful scenery and met some of the nicest lock tenders with the biggest smiles and warm greetings.  This was lock 18 at Hastings where they open the lock doors and then they have to turn the bridge for us to continue.


We are now at Hastings village marina and amalgamated village of Trent Hills, Northumberland County.  It is on the Trent River in what is considered to be Ontario’s “cottage country” and known as the “The Hub of the Trent”.   The Fowlds family had a large influence on the village of Hastings in its early history.  Henry Fowlds bought and renamed the settlement of crooks rapids to Hastings.  He named the village after Lady Flora Hastings, a boyhood acquaintance.


Kent and Johnny already found the restaurant with the ribs.  They had to try them out it was nice of them to save two for Liz and I. We will be only spending one night here and leaving in the morning for Peterborough with only one lock but over thirty miles to navigate.

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