Chris and I had a day with no real plans so we decided to head out in the canoe and explore another of the routes in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. We didn't do the entire route, there wasn't enough time, but we did manage to find some nice camp sites and a potential day trip for the kids.
The route we did is known as the Serpentine Lake Route and is written up in Kevin Callan's Cottage Country Canoe Routes. I've always wanted to try this area because of the picture in the book of a water fall.
You start by heading up highway 28, to just south of Apsley, and turn onto Anstruther Lake Road. Now that the park is officially an operating park, there are a lot more signs indicating which access points are down each road, making it much easier to find your way. About 8 kilometers down that road, you'll come to the sign for the boat launch. If you get to the marina, you've gone too far.
After putting in our canoe, we realized just how much boat traffic is on Anstruther on a sunny July day. It was a little tense at times, with half a dozen boats zooming past us and multiple wakes hitting us from every side. Of course, it didn't help that we didn't know where the portage was, and we kept angling directly across the lake. I would recommend staying to the right until you pass through the narrows between the right shore and a large island, then hug closer to the left shore of the lake, but to the right of the other islands. (One of the islands has a long wall of rocks that you wouldn't be able to get around if you try to stay to the left. As it was, it was almost impossible to point yourself into the wake, and with the wind blowing against us, it felt like we were going backwards at times.
The portage is past the bigger islands, and sort of behind a jumbled pile of rocky islands. You'll see a small beach, which we had thought was the portage because we saw canoes parked there. The sign is actually about a hundred feet to the left, where there are a bunch of small docks.
Why so many docks on non-privately owned property? I didn't know either until I got to the end of the portage which takes you into Rathbun Lake. At the end of the 165 meter trail, is a small cliff where people were jumping into the water. I don't know how safe it is, not having taken the time to check the depth myself, so if you do decide to try this, always scope out the landing zone first.
Normally Chris would have taken a turn jumping, but the put in is right at the base of the jump, and our canoe being there meant all the jumpers had to wait for us to move.
The put in was a bit of a pain as well. There are some big rocks in the water, and when Chris went to put canoe in, he ended up dropping the stern onto one of them. I cringed and might have cursed a little. Just like he would have if I'd gotten a scratch on his car.
Rathbun Lake was pretty. Lots of granite cliffs rising out of the water, just like on Anstruther, but with only a few scattered cottages. Actually, that was kind of disappointing for me. I'd hoped there would be no permanent dwellings once we got past the first portage. We only saw one camp site being used, but then we were only a little way in on the route.
We paddled to a nice campsite (number 200) and had a snack, then headed out to explore a bit more. Eventually we came across the portage into North Rathbun, but decided against going any further because it was getting late.
I really wasn't looking forward to the trip back across Anstruther Lake, but by sticking to the route I described above and not going straight up the middle of the lake, it wasn't so bad. It certainly seemed to take a lot less time.
This area is pretty, and I'd enjoy camping here. I'm hopeful the further you go away from Anstruther, the less populated it would be. I don't think it would be my first choice though. Anstruther was nerve wracking for me, not to mention how exhausted I was paddling over the waves and wakes. I don't mind long paddles, but I'd much rather be paddling in quiet lakes and rivers where there aren't dozens of boats that look like they are speeding right at you.