Trent-Severn Waterway

After a few days’ stay in Port Trenton, we embarked July 12 on our transit of the historic waterway. The Trent-Severn Waterway has an interesting history in the development of the Canadian frontier. This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, and fees for the Waterway have been waived.  The Waterway, all the facilities involved and the locks themselves are part of and maintained by Parks Canada. Mooring is permitted along most of the locks; fees for mooring are reasonable, and a seasonal mooring permit is available, and in our case will be a significant savings. We registered for our lock pass and paid for our mooring permit at Lock 1, where the park staff brought a card reader to the boat as we were locking and we slipped our card into the reader, and in a minute we received our passes and were on our way.

The locks are classed as heritage structures, so they’re a working historic structure. They are typically manned by lock tenders with assistance from college students who have intern or summer employment arrangements since the locks only operate May 19 to October 9. The majority of the locks are hand operated, using much of the original 1900’s equipment. The busier locks have been mechanized with hydraulic powered equipment and remote operation. There were several periods where the locks were modernized, enlarged, or upgraded over the years, and they are maintained to modern day standards for the  most part.

Locking is an interesting experience and can be somewhat physical, but the pace is relaxed and the lock staff is helpful, friendly, and accommodating.  There’s no pressure to make it to a particular destination, if someplace looks interesting, we stop. Some days we’ll make 20 miles, some days less. It’s a unique cruising experience!


We’re accustomed to dealing with current, but the currents we’re encountering along the Trent-Severn are a bit different. The areas near the dams are interesting; with the high flow rates related to the heavy rains and generally high water levels throughout the area, the dams are releasing higher than normal amounts of water, and that translates to higher flow and stronger current. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s not been a problem. While our full keel provides quite a bit of longitudinal stability, it presents a wide target for currents that broadside us. It makes for interesting steering corrections when we transit an area of strong cross-currents, like when outflow from a dam crosses or enters the channel at close to perpendicular. The boat gets “squirmy” as it responds to those lateral forces. The areas of strong current are visible on the surface of the water, but it can be hard to judge how strong and just how much anticipatory correction to apply before entering the cross current. Nothing alarming, but it’s certainly interesting!

We traveled a whopping 6.8 miles and transited 6 locks the first day, overnighting at Frankford, Lock 6. The following day, July 13, we traveled almost 3 times the distance and stopped over at Campbellford.

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