Davis Lock to Chaffey’s Lock to Newboro Lockstation along the Rideau Canal
4 – 6 August, 2017
This is what we were looking for. Calm, blue waters. Small forested islands. Water by day, camping by night. Meg and I had been in Ontario for almost one year to the day (arriving mid-August 2016 to Ottawa), and we had yet to really experience the best of this province – the lakes! To me, Ontario is beautiful forests mixed in with those pristine bodies of water that help you truly escape the day-to-day.
Our good friend Kate Armour’s family owns a beautiful cottage that they built in Elgin, Ontario near the Davis Lock on the Rideau. Being such a great friend, she invited us out there for the August long weekend to finally do some much overdue canoe camping. Always wanting to try it but unsure of the hefty investment of purchasing a canoe, not to mention transporting it on our two-wheel drive, pavement loving vehicle, the Suzuki Monster 2010. This was a fantastic opportunity to do some exploring. Having been to the cabin before, neither of us tire of pulling into that tree canopied, gravel driveway. Guided in by an old but freshly painted oar with “The Armour’s” carefully carved into its paddle, we arrived and took a deep breath of that fresh outdoor air.
We were instantly greeted by Kate’s parents, some of the most welcoming people we’ve ever met, and some mandatory head scratching of the resident guard dogs – Lola and Logan. Jim then excitedly showed me the planned itinerary on a plastic covered map of the surrounding lakes and locks while introducing us to his friend Mike who would be making the trip with us. Five in total, Meg and I would be navigating a canoe together to test our freshly spoken vows, while Kate and Mike crewed another and Jim pioneering his way solo. Kate arrived with her dog, Duke, and soon we were all catching up and enjoying each other’s company. After all the socializing, with everyone oriented to the ground and stomachs thoroughly stretched by some delicious food (and maybe a beer or two) – we were now ready to get some rest and hit the water come morning.
Greeted in the morning by a warm drizzle of rain, we watched the skies intently as we fueled ourselves with even more delicious food. Letting the weather subside, we took our water proofed bags, cooler, life jackets, Logan the canoeing dog and the kitchen sink down to the boats. The great thing about canoe camping is you can carry as much as you’re comfortable with. However, with the heavier winds and some whitecaps showing on the lake, Kate’s mother was kind enough to shuttle some of the load our destination by vehicle. This spared Meg and I from being weighed down. As novices we were glad to accept the help and decrease our chances of going for a swim.
Clouds parted, sun streamed down and we were on our way to Chaffey’s lock on a stunning summer day. Earthy tones were already intruding the lush green of trees as we rolled along Opinicon Lake, familiarizing ourselves with the rhythm of the waves. Never having used a locks system before, though we walked by the Rideau Canal on the way to work in Ottawa most days, we were finally initiated by the thunderous intake of water from the system as we were slowly raised to meet the waterline. Taking a short break to grab some essentials – beer for Jim’s new dry bag cooler – we paddled towards the choppier water of Indian Lake and our campsite for the evening. The current tried desperately to turn us broadside to the waves but Meg did a valiant job of keeping us facing straight ahead and therefore right side up. Passing through a narrow inlet into Newboro Lake, we pulled up to a small island to stretch our legs and have some lunch. The food on this trip was the best camping fare I’ve had in a long time thanks to Kate’s five star menu.
The respite doing everyone well, we launched our canoes, re-energized, into the water and headed into Newboro Lake. This second half of the trip seemed a bit less taxing, perhaps it was the full stomach, and before we knew it we were pulling into Newboro Lockstation. Nice and dry we quickly set up our campsite for the night as the burgers hit the grill.
Newboro is a quiet little place along the canal, oriented towards those who want the relaxed atmosphere that a couple days of fishing allows. Their small restaurant and bar was frequented by Jim as a kid and we enjoyed swapping stories with him into the evening. Later, sitting on the deck looking out onto the moon bathed lake, we had the conversations that seem to come more easily when exposed to fresh air. After the world’s problems had been solved we slipped into our sleeping bags, welcoming the enveloping warmth and drifted off.
The next day we planned to head back to Chaffey’s Lock and spend the night at the small campsite consisting of a strip of green and some picnic tables directly beside the canal. Meg and I switched it up for this leg of the trip so that I was subjected to the duties of steering our canoe. I quickly appreciated the added strain of switching sides constantly and judging the current.
It did not take too long to reach the Lock and so we had time for some solo canoeing around the area and to explore the lodge nearby. Kate’s Mom, again, brought us some supplies and dropped off Lola and Duke, because you can never have too many dogs as Meg would say.
We spent the evening talking and in Meg’s case, trying not to freeze to death. This included bringing her sleeping bag outside to put over the down jacket she was already wearing!
As the trip winded down, we took a quick detour to snake island, which was a flat sheet of rock exposed on one side of a tiny island near the Armour’s cottage. In those folds and cracks were the island’s namesake animal. A nice ending to a great trip, we made our way back to the cottage for a much appreciated soak in their hot tub. This is how you spend an August long weekend 🙂