Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Locks of the Trent Severn Waterway

Honestly, I found this blog post very difficult to make concise.  Our Trent-Severn Waterway trek was so unique - such as experiencing going through fourteen Locks and living for eight days in a houseboat moving each day along the Waterway.  With so much content, how do I describe all this and keep the videos under a few minutes?

The Trent Severn Waterway is one of Canada's most spectacular waterways. The Waterway stretches 240 miles from Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. My wife and I readily accepted an invitation to join our friends Linda and Dundee for a week on a houseboat on the Trent Severn Waterway.

Friends ask many questions such as, "What and where is the Trent-Severn Waterway?", “What was the houseboat like?”, “What did it feel like going through a lock?”, “How did you navigate?”, and “Did you spend all your time on the houseboat?”  I finally came to the conclusion I could only do this by breaking the trip into small videos and letting you choose for yourself which ones to view.

The waterway is an impressive chain of lakes and rivers linked by more than 40 locks and some 33 miles of excavated channels. All of the locks are situated in beautiful park-like settings and most are integrated within small and inviting villages. Indeed, the Waterway is a unique gem of Canada.
Given the extensive length of the Waterway, our timeframe of eight days, and the need to return our rented houseboat to where we picked it up at Happy Days Houseboats in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, our trip would take us through only seven of the locks as we headed from Lake Ontario and turned around after we locked through Kirkfield Lift Lock.  On our return we would repeat each of these seven locks.

The Waterway is home to two of the world’s highest hydraulic lift locks, located in Peterborough and Kirkfield.  Indeed, we locked the Kirkfield lift twice.

In addition, we visited via car four locks (Trenton, Glen Miller, Sydney and Peterborough Lift Lock). These visits gave us another perspective of the locks because at two of these locks the lock master allowed me into their lock houses to be an “associate” to work the controls to “lock in” and “lock out” the boats.  I was even told by one lock operator, “You are the oldest kid whoever assisted us!”  Indeed all the lockmasters and operators were wonderful.

 The Lock Operators – Ontario Ambassadors

The lockmasters and operators who guide and oversee the lock as your boat passes through the locks offer extraordinary assistance and indeed are ambassadors to Trent-Severn, Ontario, and certainly Canada.  The warm welcome and support we received from them in going through the locks were exceptional.

We slept on the houseboat all nights tying down seven nights in defined wall areas just outside the locks, and one night we tied to trees on Wolf Island in Lower Buckhorn Lake (The back of the boat was anchored in the lake.)

The Trent-Severn includes fixed chamber locks and hydraulic lift locks (at Peterborough and Kirkfieldtwo of the world’s highest hydraulic lift locks. Indeed, we locked the Kirkfield lift twice.)  A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on lake, river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a conventional lock is it has a fixed chamber in which the water level is lowered or raised (as is the Bobcaygeon Lock); whereas in a boat lift lock, it is the chamber itself that rises and falls (such as the Kirkfield Lift Lock). 

Navigation Aids and Tour Our Houseboat

We used navigation charts and a GPS to follow the Trent-Severn channel.

The houseboats are advertised for even novice boaters, and houseboat companies will provide you with an orientation course including hands-on demonstrations and navigation skills, followed by a checklist, before you cast off.  Personally, I would not recommend this trip for a complete boating novice without being sure at least one driver feels comfortable in big boats.

My friend Dundee is a fully qualified boater, and I have a nineteen foot deck boat.  The biggest challenge was driving and navigating our forty-foot long and fourteen-foot wide houseboat into and out of the lock areas. 

History and Specs of The Trent-Severn Waterway
Construction began in the Kawartha Lakes region in 1833 with the lock at Bobcaygeon marking its beginning. It took over 87 years to finish the entire Waterway and only until 1920 could a boat travel the whole route between Lake Ontario to Lake Huron.

The navigation channel runs a depth average of six feet from start to finish. The conventional locks vary in raising and dropping water levels, whereas the Kirkfield Lift is 49 feet and the Peterborough Lift is 65 feet.

Peaking at Balsam Lake the system takes the traveler 600 feet above Lake Ontario and 250 feet above Lake Huron’s, Georgian Bay.

Standard lock dimensions are one hundred and twenty feet long by thirty-two feet wide. The two exceptions are the Big Chute Marine Railway at one hundred feet long by twenty-four feet wide and Port Severn is only eight-four feet long and twenty-three feet wide setting the limit if you wish to traverse The Trent Severn Waterway from one end to the other.

“What Does it Feel Like Going Through a Lock?”

First, be sure read the above Seven Easy Steps for Locking Through.  Then, click on the two below videos to see what it feels like to go through the Bobcaygeon Lock and the Kirkfield Lift.

·       The Bobcaygeon Lock – a conventional lock

·       The Kirkfield Lock – a Liftlock

“Did you spend all your time on the houseboat?”

There are many places to enjoy on the Trent-Severn and I cannot possibly discuss them here.  I will, however, refer to three that are special to me.

·       The first is the Buckhorn Canoe Company. Dundee and I discovered this unique canoe building company owned and operated by Dick Persson.

Dick's company builds, restores and outfits traditional all-wood, wood-canvas canoes, and small boats. We were immediately impressed with Dick's extensive historical knowledge of restoration of old watercraft, old canoe companies, and their boat and canoe models.  His shop and showroom were museums unto themselves.

Go to Dick’s Blog and read his passion and unique perspective for the history, research, building, repair, restoration, outfitting and use of wooden canoes.

With Dick’s permission I did a brief video of his comments on the differences between the Otter Tail and Beaver Tail paddles.  Indeed, I will shortly be using an otter tail to see if I can improve my J-stroke by keeping my return stroke in the water.

·       My next "must share" is my swimming in Burleigh Falls.  I wanted so much to swim at least once on our trip, and this was my opportunity.  The below brief video has my brave five foot ledge jump into Burleigh Falls.
·       Last, I must introduce our visit to the magnificent Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.  This huge museum had exhibits and live and hands-on demonstrations of canoe and kayak building.  Embedded throughout the museum was the history of the native people and the essence of canoes and kayaks in Canada’s being. 

Click below for a brief video of special moments at the Buckhorn Canoe Company, swimming Burleigh Falls, and the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Never Say, “I wish I had locked the Trent-Severn Waterway”

The Tent-Severn Water is a wonderful and memorable experience, and now Cathy, Linda, Dundee and I will never have to say, “We wish we had house-boated the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario Canada.

More Videos and Pictures

I have many videos and pictures of the inside and outside of the houseboat.  In addition, as we went through the eight locks (twice each), I took lots of pictures and videos.  I made an effort to divide the pictures into four groups, so if you have the time, here they are:

·       Special Memories

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References to the Trent-Severn Waterway

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