There had been many cold canoeless days leading up to April 2nd. It felt to me, like the first true spring day all year, and there was nothing I would have rather done, than to float for a while down the mighty Saugeen. The day began early and bright, with a cool breeze and a blue sky. Both Ryan and I took separate vehicles to accommodate our river adventure. I was to follow him to access # 14 (beside the Sherk Bridge Pierson Side Rd Southampton, ON N0H 2L0, Canada), drop off his car, and then head towards our put in, which was access #10 (3455-3627 Bruce County Rd 3 Paisley, ON N0G 2N0, Canada) on the river.
Our journey to the river lead north, through well kept farms, to rolling hills carved by local tributaries. As we approached the Saugeen, the landscape had clearly been shaped by flowing water. Sandy hills swoop and dip, only to have their edges carved away by the flow of the streams and creeks. The hardiest of tree also lives here, the cedar, which clings to any manner of incline.
We reached our access around mid morning, and the river was moving very well. A week prior had seen countless quantities of rain, and the swelling river was its result. Happy we had chosen the wider and “slower” section of the river, we carried our gear to the waters edge and for the first time since November, prepared for our departure in our beloved canoe.
First Nico, then myself and finally Ryan, were quickly bobbing with the current. How wonderful it felt to be paddling again. Though a little wobbly at first, we all quickly began to stride in unison. The trees began to blur and our descent down the river began.
The Saugeen River originates from one of the highest points in Ontario, near the town of Hanover. From its origin to Lake Huron, the rivers length totals 102km. Overall the Saugeen is known as a great river for families and novice paddlers, however the conditions are different in the spring.
We also, heard the fishing in the Saugeen was decent, though it was too early in the season to test the waters ourselves. The area is said to be home to bass, pike, rainbow trout and brown trout. In addition to our underwater friends, there are many a bird and waterfowl to be found in this area, and even early in the spring! We saw Red Tail Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mallards, Golden Eyes, King Fishers, Mergansers and countless song birds, geese and swallows swooping and swerving and perching and nesting on the Saugeen.
Our plan for the day was to travel 25 km and with unbelievable ease we covered ground quite quickly, averaging 7 km an hour. We stopped along the banks a few times to snack and rest. All the while enjoying the energy of this place. Ryan and I had never paddled the Saugeen, and were pleasantly surprised at what it had to offer.
As the river began to grow in width, islands began to appear, creating the option to take any path of your liking through the waterways. It is noted that the summer months require paddlers to stay to the main channels only, but in the spring your options are endless!
The river soon returned to its original and single form, as we rounded the final bends before our takeout. By the time we reached access #14 we had only taken 4hrs to complete a 25km paddle!
As it was still surprising early in the day, I suggested we go to the town of Southhampton to check out some lighthouses and maybe grab a bite to eat. We ate a well-deserved dinner at the Walker House, and with what energy remained, we headed back home.
The day was a huge success! We were also happy to see how well marked all the accesses are on the Saugeen. I would highly recommend this river to all paddlers, who are interested in both day and overnight paddling trips. The Saugeen offers, wildlife, camping, class 1 rapids, and beautiful scenery. A definite must see for the southern Ontario paddler!!
Approximately 25 km, but it can be shortened by using access 11, 12 or 13. Each is about 5km apart.
This is a typical Southern Ontario river type trip. meaning, watch for currents in the spring, strainers and always wear a pfd.