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The Rankin River Canoe Route

Due to downed trees this route is considered very difficult possibly unnavigable.


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Please note - low water levels and a number of fallen trees have made this route particularly hard. Thorncrest Outfitters does not recommend this river system for paddling but the information below is for historic record.

The Rankin River provides a leisurely 18 kilometre trip from Sky Lake to Sauble Falls Provincial Park. The route winds through a chain of shallow, weedy lakes bordered by wet woodlands and marsh. A control dam is located on the lower reaches of the river to maintain water levels. Below the dam, the Rankin assumes a well defined river channel. Two short sections of rapids are encountered, which must be lined or portaged in times of low water.

Wildlife viewing opportunities are good. Various species such as common loon, black tem, wood duck, painted turtle, and beaver can often be observed. Sports fishing opportunities are also good for bass, pike, pickerel and perch. Rainbow and brown trout, and salmon species occur in the lower Rankin during their respective spring and fall spawning runs. Check the fishing regulations summary for specific seasons.

Canoeing conditions along the Rankin River are affected by natural processes and undergo continual change. This information is of a general nature only and should not be considered as a detailed guide of the actual conditions you may encounter. Remember that canoeing can be a dangerous activity. Be sure to take the necessary precautions when planning your trip. Detailed river topographical map may be purchased from some Thorncrest Outfitters.

The Route


Total Time: 5-7 hours Distance: 18 km
Note: The times listed are typical for mid-summer. Actual times will vary according to the canoeist's ability and water conditions.

By Section:

First Section: 7 kilometers - 2 hours
Access and parking for the start of this route is on the South side of Red Bay-Mar Road. The river leads to Isaac Lake and eventually to Bruce County Road 13 through shallow waters rich in aquatic plants. Parking, picnic and toilet facilities are provided at the Isaac Lake Access Point and at the old bridge on Bruce County Road 13.

Second Section - Bruce Rd 13 To Rankin Dam

7 kilometres - 2 hours
The river soon leads to Boat Lake, a lake to be reckoned with on windy days. Flooded woodland at both ends of the lake tells the story of higher water levels since completion of the dam. A marker at the southern end of the lake indicates the outlet of the Rankin River. From this point, the river meanders through flooded woodland to the Rankin Dam.

Section Three - Rankin Dam to Sauble Falls

4 kilometres - 1.5 hours
Below the dam, the river follows a narrow, shallow channel. Sand dunes of former glacial Lake Algonquin provide well drained soils for the heavy mixed forest flanking the route. Evidence of beaver activity is encountered as often several dams are present. During times of low water two sets of rapids must be lined or portaged. Saw logs, remnants of timbering years ago, are visible on the bottom. Biting insects can often be a problem in this section. Sauble Falls is located just downstream from the confluence of the Rankin and Sauble Rivers. Exit on the left bank upstream from the bridge.

Read on...


Located at the waist of the Bruce Peninsula, sections of the present day canoe route were utilized for hundreds of years by Indians traveling between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Missionaries and early settlers also used the route to avoid the long, perilous journey by water around the Bruce Peninsula. Lumbering reached the area in the 1860's. Square timber and saw logs were floated down the Rankin River to Lake Huron. Twenty years later, the steamer "Water Witch" towed rafts of saw logs from Sky, Isaac, and Boat Lakes towards the mill at Sauble Falls. In an attempt to reclaim possible agricultural land, a 1921 drainage project was abandoned when the soil was found to be unworkable. In 1961, the Sauble Valley Conservation Authority constructed a dam on the lower Rankin River to control the wildly fluctuating lake levels and to restore the valuable wetland habitat for increased wildlife potential.


Camping along the canoe route is encouraged only at Sauble Falls Provincial Park. In addition, several private campgrounds are located nearby


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Updated January 2015
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