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PostPosted: May 9th, 2013, 10:21 am 
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The James Auld Waterway is a canoe route across the Frontenac Axis, the southernmost part of the Canadian Shield. It starts at South Otter Lake in Frontenac Provincial Park, and travels 97km through mostly rugged shield landscape before its terminus in Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

In the mid–eighties the route was designated to become a Provincial Waterway Park. This never happened. Were there too many complications linking 2 Provincial Parks and 1 Federal Park (Rideau Canal)? Was there protest from the hundreds of private land holders along the route? There is at least one problematic private land portage and there is a shortage of campsites at the Eastern end of the route. These may have prevented the designation of a Park but they shouldn’t prevent anyone who is so inclined to paddle this route.

The James Auld Waterway follows a 2000 year old native canoe route. It is by no means a wilderness canoe route today. But, if you are looking for variety, history, gorgeous scenery and last but not least an on water beer and liquor store then you should give it a go!

A friend and I did this route in early spring to avoid cottage and Rideau Canal traffic. The Canal doesn’t open until mid-may so this really cuts down on the number of boats. We saw far fewer people than you would typically see on a trip in Algonquin Park. What follows is a photo-log of the route.


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Launching from the Boat Ramp on South Otter Lake. The first days travel was 24km through South Otter Lake, North Otter Lake, Rothwell Lake, Holleford Lake, Desert Lake, Mitchell Creek, Birch lake, Kingsford Lake, Kingsford Creek, and Devil Lake.

From the launch a 5 or 10 minute paddle brings you to your first obstacle, a culvert under Salmon Lake Road. This culvert usually involves some delicate boat shimmying and scraping to get over the Beaver dam that is in a constant state of construction inside the culvert. After this little dance you paddle out of Frontenac Park into North Otter Lake, then west through another culvert into the wetlands surrounding Rothwell and Holleford Lakes. There is one more wide beaver dam on Rothwell Lake you will have to lift over.


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Blue skies show up as we head towards Desert Lake. We were spoiled with beautiful blue skies and low winds for the next 4 days. There is a lift over the road at the south end of Desert Lake. Check out the effluence from the culverts leading into Desert Lake. Countless small Bass and Sunfish coast in the flow and perhaps feed off the nutrients coming through the pipes. You only paddle Desert Lake for a short distance before heading east into Mitchell Creek. This offers a beautiful paddle full of birds, frogs and turtles as you head back into Frontenac Park.


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Mitchell Creek where it opens up into Birch Lake.


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Birch Lake looking at the entrance to Kingsford Lake. At the top end of Kingsford Lake is a Dam and the first real portage of the trip. Here is a good time to mention one great thing about this route. It is 97km with only 4km of portaging. That’s right 4! The portage around Kingsford dam is about 800m. We were able to cut that distance in half. Water levels were high enough to run a few of the swifts downstream of the dam.


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Lower end of Kingsford Creek. The Blackflies were out. Makeshift T-shirt bug screen to keep the flies out of my partner’s hair.

Our first night we camped at Campsite 10 on Devil Lake in Frontenac Park. Not much to say about this site other than there were no people but lots of Blackflies. They had come out in the last day or two. They were not really biting but were still annoying. Smokey fire did little to keep them away. Oddly this was the only night of the trip we experienced problems with bugs.


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Marble Cliffs on Devil Lake


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Oak on the Gibson Lake Hiking Trail. There is a connection to this trail behind Campsite 10.


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Beaver dam holding up Bear Lake behind campsite 10


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Trilliums blooming in early May.

Blackflies and tired muscles put me to bed early. On the next day we planned to travel all the way to Jones Falls on the Rideau Canal. 27km through Devil Lake, Loon Lake, Mosquito Lake, Indian Lake, Opinicon Lake, and Sand Lake. We wanted to get an early start to cross Devil Lake before the winds got up. Devil is one of the largest lakes on route and has a reputation for wind. I had planned to hug the shoreline adding some distance to the day by playing safe with the still icy cold waters.


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As it turns out, we awoke to blue skies and very little wind. After a tentative start we decided to go for it and cross directly through the expanse of the middle of the lake. What minimal winds there were, pushed us across the lake to Bedford Mills.

Bedford Mills is the location of the one problematic private land portage on this route. The same caveats about permission and trespass that apply to your daily life apply here. Be courteous, ask permission, tread lightly and don’t leave any garbage behind. Beyond that, in high water, this portage is a bit intimidating.


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The portage trail head is marked by a small yellow diamond nailed to a tree. The tree is on the other side of this “Danger Open Dam” sign. The roar of the now dammed Butter Milk Falls just 30 yards further on is enough to give you pause.


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This is the start of the portage. In high water there is a tiny landing then a near vertical rocky climb for about 15 feet before the trail levels off. Beyond that it is a short strightforward affair putting in at a pond that leads into Loon Lake.

The portage goes around Buttermilk Falls at Bedford Mills. From the 1829 to the 1920 a mill operated here. Today the old stone Grist Mill is a private residence.


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The route carries on under Perth Road and into Loon Lake. From there heading North East looping around a long peninsula before turning back on itself and heading into Mosquito Lake. Another option would be to take short 250m (private land) portage across Leisure Point Rd. This cuts off 20 or 30 minutes of paddling.

Mosquito and Benson lakes are very shallow but pretty lakes with few cottages. Before the canal was built Benson was much smaller and Mosquito Lake didn’t exist. It was a creek that drained the west end of Newboro Lake. One of the original native paddling routes went by way of Mosquito Creek to Indian Lake. Massassauga Creek which leads from Buck Lake to Benson Lake offerse a great side trip. There is also a small private land campsite at the mouth of Massassauga Creek.


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Osprey guarding her nest on Fettercairn Island, Indian Lake.


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Indian Lake leads to Chaffey’s Locks. Just north of the lock is this old iron bridge built by the Canadian North Railway. Today it is a crossing for the Cataraqui Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail.


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Paddling under the iron bridge.

Chaffey’s Locks is a small community. Just before the Lock itself you pass Brown’s Marina that includes a general store, liquor store and beer store. Just tie up to the dock out front and pick up what you need! Chaffey’s Locks also includes some historic buildings. Lock Masters House Museum, Chaffey’s Mill, and the Opinicon hotel. All dating back to the 1800’s.


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Portaging Chaffey’s Lock.


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Chaffey’s Mill

After Chaffey’s Locks you enter Opinicon Lake for a short 1 hour paddle to Davis Lock. Alternately, you can do a side trip west towards Deadlock Bay and portage to remote Hart Lake where you will find a couple of nice campsites. Davis Lock is known as the Solitude Lock as there is no community around it and no road passing through. Given the choice I would prefer to camp at Davis Lock over Chaffey’s.


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Paddling out of Davis Lock and into Sand Lake.

Our last lake of the day was Sand Lake. We snuck through a small passage into Eel Bay avoiding the main part of Sand Lake. This is a good idea in the busy summer or when the wind is up. It didn’t really matter as there was nobody on the water and the water had been smooth like glass all day. We got to our destination for the night, Jones Falls, at 6:30pm.

Jones Falls is the Jewel of the Rideau. It is a very picturesque lock station with lots to see. 4 locks, a turning basin, historic buildings, staggering feats of engineering, Blacksmiths shop, historic hotel… Of course, at this time of year, none of it was operating or open and no one was there. After a long day of paddling I was wiped out. We set up our tents beside the lockmasters house. With a few exceptions camping is allowed at all the locks along the Rideau. You need to get a permit from the Lockmaster. I think it is $10-ish a night. I’m not exactly sure since we didn’t get a permit. The locks are not open until Mid-May and there is no self-serve permit station and no one to pay until then.


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Portaging the gates on the lower lock. The gate is about 2 feet wide and there is a 20-30 foot drop on either side. Yikes!


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Lower Lock at Jones Falls.

Today we start in Whitefish Lake and travel 23km through Morton Bay, Morton Creek, Lower Beverley Lake and Lyndhurst Creek. Whitefish Lake did not exist pre-canal. It was actually the Whitefish River and it flowed from Sand Lake above Jones Falls east to Morton Bay. This river was a crucial link in the native paddling route from the Ottawa River through to the St Lawrence.


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When you paddle through Morton Bay you are visually struck with the huge Granite mounds of Rock Dunder and Dunders Mate on your right. These are the highest points of land in the area. 200 years ago, before the canals and dams, the water level was 25 feet lower and this was a river running through a rocky gorge. You can stop at the foot of Rock Dunder and bushwhack up until your reach a trail. Follow it 275 feet to the top. Well worth the hike!


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Looking out from Rock Dunder onto Morton Bay and Whitefish Lake.

Downstream from Rock Dunder you reach Morton Dam. There is a 400 metre portage around the dam leading into Morton Creek. At this point the landscape takes on a very different appearance. Morton Creek meanders through farmland flanked by swamp trees and marsh vegetation until it opens up into Lower Beverley Lake.


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The most noticeable thing to me about Morton Creek was the abundance of fish. Large mouth Bass, Sunfish, Crappie, Burbot, Perch...

Morton Creek empties into Beverley Lake. A large lake with the potential for rough water. The west arm and north shore of the Lake are beautiful. The main body of the lake, on the other hand, has too much cottage build up to be anything more than just a lake to pass through. The lake empties out through Lyndhurst Creek, another lowland marshy creek.

One problem with the James Auld Waterway is the lack of campsites between Jones Falls and Charleston Lake. All of the land bordering the lakes on route is privately owned. For the most part public lodging alternatives consist of B & B’s or private campgrounds. If this is not your thing there are some well-established bush campsites along the route. I will not mention exactly where these sites are as that is a sure fire way to see “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs go up. We were not aware of any of these campsites before embarking on our trip and had no problem finding them.


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Surprise surprise, big lake, sunny day, water like glass. Not sure what I did to deserve this?


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Asking the Canoe-Ukshuk in Lower Beverley Lake for directions.


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Early morning view from our campsite in the Lower Beverley Lake area.

Fourth and final day of the trip, 23km through Lyndhurst Lake, Lyndhurst Creek, Singleton Lake, Red Horse Lake and Charleston Lake. We were both up and about at 6:30 today. A quick discussion and we decided to head to town for breakfast!


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Mid-way through the portage to Lyndhurst Lake you can park your canoes out front of The Corner Grill in Lyndhurst. Open at 6:00am for breakfast. Highly recommended! Huge portions, great food and, of course, the attention and friendly conversation that comes to strangers carrying canoes through small town Ontario.

After breakfast we carried on portaging through town to the small canoe launch on Lyndhurst Lake. A short paddle across this lake takes you back into Lyndhurst Creek. After 2 1/2km or so, the creek opens up into Singleton Lake. Here we faced the first winds of the trip as a strong south west wind blew across the shallow lake. I brought along a kayak paddle to help fight headwinds. This short 1km stretch was the only time I needed it. After passing through Singleton the route does a Zig-Zag and you find yourself paddling in a north east direction down the Long Reach of Red Horse Lake.


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With the wind pushing us the whole way we topped out at 10km/hr.

I like Red Horse Lake. It’s a clean, clear, cold-water lake with massive cliffs on the east side and four distinct long bays. By cottage country standards it is relatively remote. North of the cliffs on the east side of the lake is the last portage of the route. A slightly hilly and rocky 500m carry into Charleston Lake.


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Launching on Charleston Lake


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Charleston is another clear cold water lake. We paddled through a maze of islands as we passed through the lake. It is a beautiful but heavily cottaged lake. We stopped in at Slim Bay to look for the Native Pictograph that is supposed to be there but didn’t find anything. It was 11km from the Red Horse Portage to Boat House Cove where the James Auld marker is and then back around the point to the car campground where our ride would pick us up.

I highly recommend this route to anyone looking for something a little different in Southern Ontario. I would much prefer this route to paddling the Rideau. We did it in 4 days. But, I live in the area and have paddled many of these waters. I recommend taking a day or two extra to do some fishing, take some side trips, or soak up the history along the route.


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PostPosted: May 11th, 2013, 10:33 am 
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Hey Martin, most enjoyable to see pix on the water after all that time spent frozen in. I've been spending time near home mostly myself and may check out the area east, never been there. Cheers!

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PostPosted: June 9th, 2013, 1:06 pm 
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Hello MartinG: Nice report. I have never tripped in that area. It's nice to see what the James Auld Waterway has to offer. Thanks for sharring.

Take care,
Cousin Pete

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PostPosted: August 3rd, 2015, 6:38 pm 
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Martin, thanks for the detailed report.

Has anyone done this route recently? A friend and I plan to paddle it later this month, and I'm wondering if we need to be concerned about the portage over private property at Bedford Mills. If there is a portage sign, it must be expected that people will use the portage.

Thanks
John


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PostPosted: August 5th, 2015, 10:15 am 
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Nice report, thanks for posting! That picture of the 2 canoes in the parking space in front of The Corner Grill is classic!


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PostPosted: August 17th, 2015, 8:13 am 
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Thanks John(s)!

I don't know anyone else who has done the whole route. I have heard anecdotal stories of people using the Bedford Mills portage. Likewise I have heard there is less friction between the current land owner and the previous one who more or less put an end to the route back in the 80's. Hearsay, I know.

The portage is about 15-20 feet straight up from the water. Then it follows a well worn trail for 40 yards or so when it hits a small road. Does a U-turn and and goes down the road to the pond which leads on to the rest of the route. You are not going through any developed land or past any house. I wouldn't really worry about it. Just be very considerate of the property, no garbage etc...

There is no good alternative. I wouldn't let it stop you from trying the route


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PostPosted: August 24th, 2015, 5:30 pm 
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Martin, thanks for the update. I have also heard from a paddler who did this route this past spring and had no problems at Bedford Mills.


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PostPosted: October 4th, 2017, 2:44 pm 
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We were a group of 4, completed this route Sept 21-25, 2017.

All pretty much as per Martin's post. Minor notes follow in the hopes they will be help to future paddlers on this route:

Day 1
Left Ottawa about 8am, met paddling partner at Charleston Lake Boat Cove @ 10:30 am.
Left one car and returned with canoe to frontenac to meet other pair. Lunch ready and on water at Frontenac Park Office by 1pm.
Pretty much flat out paddle with a short swim and snack and got into site Frontenac site 10 on Devil Lake just before dark @ 7pm.

Day 2:
Early start, on water at 8:30.
No problem, with the portage. Met a car at Bedford Mills rd - they noted we shouldn't paddle towards the Mill for photos. Owner very much likes his privacy. Note, messy take out and put in at this local.
Again, full on paddle with just a short break and arrived Chaffey's around 2:00. Nice spot for lunch, nap, ice cream and a walk about.
Back on the water at 4:00. Short swim at Davis Lock and then arrived Jones Falls about 6pm and set up at bottom lock.
We had called ahead and found the cafe / breakfast spot in Lyndhurst (as per Martin's note) had closed a few years back. So, after dinner, wandered over bridge to Hotel Kenney for a pint.

Day 3:
Returned to Hotel Kenney for the full breakfast ($8!) which sounded better than oatmeal. Back in the canoes by 8:30 for another long day.
Decided if we wanted to be in our beds at a decent time Sunday evening, we would need to skip Rock Dunder and keep moving on. Note - if you do plan to scale up the Rock, you know need a pass (volunteers are very vigilant). This can be obtained at Hotel Kenny for about $10.
Uneventful trip through Morton Creek and into Lower beverly where we had a good swim on South shore.
Long paddle through Lower Beverley and stopped for lunch about 1 pm on the small but pretty island outcrop at the mouth of Lyndhurst Creek.
Back in the saddle by 2:00 and arrived Lyndhurst about 45 mins later.

Important message - DO NOT FOLLOW THE PORTAGE TO THE CREEK IMMEDIATELY BELOW THE BRIDGE (aka Sucker Portage). Emptying into 'Sucker Bay' we quickly realized this should be named 'Sucker Creek'. Our efforts to save a few minutes were humbly punished before we lined, waded and lifted through dirty water and waste strewn rocks until we arrived at the portage proper.

Another 40 or so minutes found us in Singleton Lake where we found a terrific camp site @ 5:00 pm. As noted by Martin, ample camping locations on Lyndhurst creek, Singleton Lake and in the arm bending around to the start of Long reach. Terrific night under the stars!

Day 4.
Underway again at 7:30 am.
All very impressed by Long reach and Red Horse Lake. A real beauty!
Arrived the Portage to Charleston lake about 9 am.
Took a long break and swim, then back underway about 10.
Charleston Lake is pretty, but too many boats (who don't manage their wake) and too many cottages.
Arrived Boat Cove about 12:30.
Quickly loaded the two canoes on the car left on day 1 and then returned to Frontenac (with a short chip-truck stop on the way).
Reloaded into remaining cars at Frontenac and everyone on their way about 2:30.
Arrived home in Ottawa about 5pm. Torontonians arrived there closer to 6.

Summary:

Highly recommended! Absolutely fantastic route!
But, its flat out movement for four three FULL and one half paddling days. Four very full, dawn to dusk days with travel from Ottawa thrown in. And we had absolutely prime and still weather. very hot, with hardly a breeze. If we had run into bad luck and a North East Breeze, I don't think we would have finished in the allotted time and probably would have had to suspend the trip at Lyndhurtst.

If we had an extra day , I would have stopped earlier Day 1 and before Devil Lake, then stayed night of Day 2 at Davis Lock. Would have made Rock Dunder on Day 3, which likely means having to then camp closer to Beverley Lake on night 3 (looks like a good spot near the lower bridge well into Morton Creek), then night 4 in Charleston Lake with short paddle to finish on Day 5.


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2018, 8:44 pm 
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#RobotMaster64 How did I miss this! Great trip! I'm glad you enjoyed the route. It is a good one. Hotel Kenney for beer and for breakfast sounds like a great call!


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PostPosted: January 12th, 2018, 9:27 pm 
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Great job Martin. Way to turn a no into a yes, and help keep the route alive.

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