Kayaking in The Kawarthas and Black Creek in Florida’s Panhandle

Since Peterborough, Ontario is considered the birthplace of the modern canoe-building industry, there’s a special connection between canoes and the Kawarthas.

Florida's Panhandle

The Canadian Canoe Museum, located in Peterborough, is lobbying to have June 26th designated as National Canoe Day in Canada. To celebrate, museum organizers convene a group at the Peterborough Lift Locks and encourage paddlers everywhere to celebrate their own canoe passions on that day. But there are plenty of other ways to celebrate canoeing from spring to fall. Rediscovering a cottage lake or taking the family on a canoeing adventure in the Kawarthas is as easy as a day trip or overnight camping outing. A great holiday for bored kids, it’s a safe bet that paddling season will end before the ideas do for beautiful lakes, creeks and rivers to discover.

Owning a cottage and canoe brings affords the opportunity to be reacquainted with the quieter corners of the lake. Imagining the canoe as a hammock on water, find a bay or bog and enjoy drifting with a good book or a pair of binoculars. Even better, do absolutely nothing but watch and listen. Do some birdwatching. Dawn and dusk glides can’t be beat for meeting new neighbours – those that fly, swim and live along the shoreline.

Many of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas in the region offer great kayaking. Wolfe Island Provincial Park (near Buckhorn), Warsaw Caves Conservation Area and Emily Provincial Park are just three local sites that offer a variety of paddling options (island hopping, river, and wetlands, respectively). There’s even canoeing in the heart of downtown Peterborough on Little Lake and a scenic creek paddle through Beavermead Park. For more remote destinations, investigate the Long Lake or Crab Lake, both near Apsley, Ontario.

Take advantage also of the Trent-Severn Waterway, the great highway system of lakes and locks that travel through the Kawarthas. Canoes now pay lock fees (depending on the length of the craft and number of locks traveled) but paddlers enjoy the option of portaging around locks, saving times as well as money.

The most exciting part of a canoe trip is in the planning, so get some maps, ask the locals, surf the web and contact Peterborough & The Kawartha Tourism to get all the information required for a day trip or overnighter in the area.

Kawartha Canoe Rentals

Florida kayaking

Wildrock Outfitters (169 Charlotte Street, Peterborough) offers long-term rentals and gear. For a spin on Little Lake in a canoe or kayak, just pop into The Boathouse along the Millenium Trail (on the river off King and Water Streets).

Remember Canoe Safety Basics

Wear life jackets and carry an extra paddle, rope, bailer, noise-maker (whistle or horn) and flashlight – all are now mandatory components of a safe boat. Keep close to the shoreline, watch the weather, and cross open channels quickly and cautiously. Practice tipping your canoe in shallow water to become familiar with its stability and learn how to right a swamped canoe.

And finally, if tempestuous weather makes canoeing unsafe, do the next best thing and visit Peterborough’s Canadian Canoe Museum, because every day is canoe day in the Kawarthas.

The Kawarthas or Kawartha Lakes refer to the lakes and region found east of Lake Simcoe, north of Lake Ontario and west towards Belleville. The city of Peterborough (approximately 1.25 hours drive from Toronto, Ontario and 2 hours from Kingston, Ontario) is known as the gateway to the Kawarthas. Many of the lake and river routes have been made navigable by the Trent-Severn Waterway which connects Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. The region is popular for cottages and recreational fishing, boating and camping.

Kayaking Black Creek in Florida’s Panhandle

Native Floridians enjoy the touch of the warm sun on their faces as they paddle slowly toward the bay. It’s springtime on Black Creek, just north of the beaches where people from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and other places far and near come to enjoy the sand, sand as white as sugar, and the emerald-green water of the beaches.

Spring Breakers

Many are students bent on getting a tan during their annual spring break. They have only one week, and they must spend every minute in the sun so they can go home with a tan. If the day is windy or cold, they spread their towels between the dunes where the wind isn’t so strong and they can be a little warmer.

It’s too bad that few SOWAL (South Walton County) visitors know the wonderful secrets of the inland waterways; the creeks and streams that wind their way through the swamps and empty their contents into the rivers that in turn pour their dark waters into the Choctawhatchee Bay and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mother Nature from a Canoe

The inland waterways have let native Walton Countians in on some of their secrets. The natives paddle lazily, breathing in the sweet smell of the ti ti tree, also called the Good Luck Tree, its white blossoms just beginning to show. They glide down the dark waterway and watch the mullet jump in front of the canoe. They see the turtles that slip quietly off the log where they were sunning as a canoe approaches. Always on the lookout for alligators, they sometimes glimpse two eyes observing them quietly just above the surface of the water.

If the kayaks are lucky, a bottle-nosed dolphin may decide to befriend them. Occasionally one of the playful mammals will surface, squeaking and whistling before splashing back into the water. Sometimes these fun-loving creatures will continue playing alongside the canoe, jumping and puffing until the canoe reaches a fork and the friendly animal decides to head for the bay. These mammals are often seen in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s quite a surprise to see them swimming in the creek.

Natives know where the osprey’s nests are, and they are careful not to disturb a family in a nest as they glide around a bend in the creek. They know that in the spring there are probably babies in that nest, and the mother osprey will not welcome their approach. In fact she may probably let them know they’re not welcome in no uncertain terms, threatening them by swooping down toward them and squawking. She’s telling them that she wants them to go away.

The oldtimers paddle quietly past the fishermen who are trying their luck close to the shore, and pull up at Opossum Island for lunch. The midday meal can be a simple as crackers, cheese, and water, but southern-fried chicken and potato salad always tastes good on a spring day on a Florida river.

When the sun starts to set and the air starts to cool, it’s time to paddle upstream to the take-out point and pull the canoe out of the water. The kayaks stretch their legs and take a moment to savor the day’s memories. They may sympathize with the poor spring breakers who are miserable from sunburn or windburn, or who are stuck in traffic along Highway 98 after hitting the outlet malls. After all, the visitors don’t know what they’ve missed on some of Florida’s beautiful inland waterways.

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