Friday, May 25, 2012

Exploring Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

As of May 1st, 2012, you can now book campsites at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park online, via the Ontario Parks reservations service.  Not only can you view pictures of each site, but the pop up window provides you with a bit of extra information like if the access is easy, what the swimming conditions are, is there a privy box, and is there a picnic table.

I'm really excited about this because I haven't been able to get a map of the park with campsite numbers, which makes calling in to book a campsite a little annoying.  But this wasn't the only thing I found out while looking at the Ontario Parks Reservation site.

Chris and I had hoped to camp on Sucker Lake this summer.  According to the route descriptions in Kevin Callan's books as well as online, you park at the boat launch at Catchacoma Lake, head north then portage around the small damn on Bottle Creek before paddling to Bottle lake and portaging to Sucker Lake. Now, Catchacoma is a pretty lake...but its got a lot of cottages on it, and a lot of boat traffic.  I generally don't mind, but on a busy summer day, it can get a little scary out there with so many motor boats whipping around. So when I saw that there was an access at the end of Bottle Creek where it opens into the Bottle Lake, I was very excited.  This also makes Sucker Lake a good choice for people who are looking for a quick paddle to a site rather than a longer day on the water.

At the put in at Bottle Creek
So, today we thought we'd go check out this access point, as well as some of the other ones on the west side of the park.  When we got to the Bottle Lake access point it became clear that Ontario Parks have put a lot of work into Kawartha Highlands.  There was a large parking area, a vault toilet (a very fancy one, I might add) and a short portage down to the put in. (181 meters)  There is also a notice board with a map, regulations, as well as information on filling out your permit.

It's very simple.  You make a reservation (you can call from the access point if you brought your cell phone) and will get a confirmation number.  Under the map is a box with permits inside...you fill out the form making sure your confirmation number is on it, and then tear it on the perforations.  A portion goes on your cars dash, and you keep one with you at the campsite.

Mississagua River at the take out
After checking out the put in at Bottle Creek, we pulled in at the starting point for the Missassagua River route.  We came here when the kids were little and walked around the damn.  It's a pretty spot for a picnic, with lots of rocky islands with really nice cottages.

There wasn't much there to explore though, so we headed back out to the highway and headed to the take out for this route.  After crossing the bridge, it looked like there was some kind of trail, so we followed it for a while as it followed along the river bank.

It was a nice walk over exposed Canadian Shield and moss.  There's no camping allowed here, but it's clear people have had camp fires in the past, whether while picnicking, or ignoring the camping ban.  We got as far as a small waterfall, just before the river takes a sharp turn, then headed back to the car. In all, the walk was a little less than 1km each way.

I'm really looking forward to camping here this summer and would love to hear from anyone who has experiences with Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

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