One of the best canoe routes in Southern Ontario and only a few hours drive from home! Winding 102 km through the scenic countryside and pretty "small-town Ontario", the Main Saugeen River Canoe Route stretches from Hanover to Southampton, where it empties into Lake Huron. The trip can be completed in 3 to 4 days, with ease, but slow, portages around the three dams. Supplies can be purchased en route. Stay overnight in one of the riverside towns or camp at Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area, with its canoe launches, treed campsites and beautiful hiking trails. McBeath Conservation Area upstream of Paisley is only accessible by the river and offers a good overnight stop over. Several private campgrounds offer riverside camping, too.

Keep your eyes peeled--and your camera ready! --For the local wildlife. Deer, Great blue herons, mallards, beavers and muskrats, just to name a few, all make the river their home.

Map of Saugeen River

Saugeen River Canoe Route - Hanover to Southampton (paddle time 20-24hrs)

The Saugeen River originates in one of the highest points in Southwestern Ontario and flows through rolling scenic countryside to Lake Huron, at Southampton. Although the route cuts across agricultural land, the heavy, mixed forest along the forested riverbanks blocks most farms from view. The Main route begins at Hanover Park, ending 102 kilometers downstream at Denny's Dam, near Southampton. Although not the only paddling in the Saugeen watershed, it is the most predictable, with enough water volume to paddle throughout the driest of summers and the unsafe spring flood debris removed where it could be a hazard.

River conditions vary from broad placid sections to stretches with rapids and eddies, making sections of the Saugeen ideal for family canoeing and for learning the basics of rapid water navigation. The rapids present little difficulty, except in early spring, when water is high and fast flowing.

Portages are short, bypassing three dams. In late summer, if the water is unusually low, some shallow stretches may make navigation difficult. A number of access points and parks, providing various facilities, are located along the canoe route. Thorncrest Outfitters' shuttle makes scheduled stops at 12 on those access points, see shuttle schedule for more details. The canoeist will be able to see a variety of wildlife along the route, such as great blue herons, mallards, deer, beavers and muskrats. Sport fishing opportunities are good for bass, pike, rainbow and brown trout. Recently the musky fishery has been discovered on the Saugeen with a ministry study taking place, if you happen to catch one of these tagged Musky's please report it to the nearest Ministry of Natural Resources. Check the fishing summary regulations for specific seasons.

Canoeing conditions along the Saugeen are affected by natural processes and are undergoing continual change. This web page contains general information only and should not be regarded as a detailed guide of actual conditions you may encounter. Please remember canoeing can be a dangerous activity. Be sure to take all necessary precautions when planning your trip and wear life preservers for any boating activity.

The following description is divided into 12 sections between each of Thorncrest Outfitters Shuttle meeting points. The maps in each section will help on finding the Shuttle pick-up points where you are to meet the Shuttle, please be at your meeting point at least 10 minutes prior to your designated pick-up time. The paddling times given are only rough guideline, avid paddlers, or in higher water these times can easily be reduced.

Hanover to Maple Hill Dam (paddle time 1hrs)

Launching from the Hanover Town Park is the beginning of the Main Saugeen River Canoe Route the most frequently traveled section of the Saugeen watershed begins. Soon after leaving the Dock, the river widens and slows down as it winds its way along the outskirts of Hanover and passes underneath Highway 4.

Hanover Town Park

Just past the bridge the South Saugeen joins the main river. This tributary can also be paddled in the higher water of spring and fall however beware of sweepers and flood debris. This junction point provides a marshy habitat for many birds, animals and fish including numerous Canada Geese, mallard ducks, wood ducks, muskrats and the occasional beaver.

The river continues to wind its way through fairly dense overhanging trees until reaching the Maple Hill Dam. The portage around the dam is on the left bank of the river. There is a marked portage at the foot of a bridge that is just upriver from the dam, but it tends to be overgrown and marshy. In higher water levels you can also take out just before the bridge, portage across the road and down the lane to the base of the dam. Another choice, in low water levels, is to paddle right up to the dam on its extreme left and take out there, carrying up the gravel bank around the dam and back down for a shorter portage of about 50 meters.

Maple Hill Side Road


Maple Hill Dam to Lobies Park (paddle time 3hrs)

After putting in here, paddlers travel through more fairly calm water with some swift sections.
Once again, Canada geese and mallards are the prominent wildlife. If you're into fishing this is one of the sections to cast a line for both bass and trout. On the left bank, paddlers will notice the varying river levels marked on the vertical clay bank. At the top of the high right bank are a number of small homes and cottages. However, at river level it is quite forested and scenic. Less than an hour downstream of Maple Hill Dam, paddlers will find signs for Hoffy's campground, which is an easy put in/takeout point and a good rest stop. Just after Hoffy's the river slows to its slowest, there's no floating in this stretch. About halfway to the town of Walkerton from Maple Hill Dam, paddlers pass under a bridge from one of many Brant townships back roads. About an hour from this bridge, paddlers will reach the Walkerton power dam, an old abandoned hydroelectric dam. The chute through the dam is runnable, but use caution and common sense before attempting, especially during high water.

Another option is to choose the 100-metre portage on the left bank. Care should be taken on thisportage, as the rocks can be slippery and wet. There is a good beach at the portage on river left to take a break at. After passing the dam, paddlers will encounter a few sets of small swift-water sections before settling down to a more relaxed pace as the river makes its way toward Walkerton.

Another half and hour or so of paddling brings you to the Walkerton Dam. In the fall be sure to stop on river right, just above the dam to view the spawning Salmon as they attempt to ascend the only vertical slot fish ladder this side of the Rockies. The portage for this dam is marked by a sign on the right, at the fish ladder, however the better portage route is actually on the left. It is a short carry around the dam and then back into the river again. After portaging around the dam and perhaps a stop for coffee and doughnuts at Tim Horton's, (a dock is actually provided just downstream of the dam!), paddlers travel through the town of Walkerton. Following the river banks to the left is the Saugeen River Trail it provides a nice walk through Walkerton along the river bank a provides access to many fly fishermen from here to Lobies Park, which is just past the second bridge through Walkerton. Note the sign posted on the side of the bridge. More are posted on bridges all along the canoe route. These signs usually give distances to towns, conservation areas and other bridges.

Lobies Park

Lobies Park is a municipally run campground with clean running water , flush toilets and electrical outlets at the campsites. Though not very secluded Lobies makes an excellent take-out point for a Hanover-Walkerton trip or great first night campground for multi-day trips. Downtown Walkerton is just a short walk with access to groceries, restaurants, Motels and Bed and Breakfast facilities.

Lobies park to Brant Concession 8 (paddle time 3hrs)

This is the longest section of the Saugeen River uninterrupted by bridges. With that sense of remoteness and the great swifts in this section it's a favorite among locals for floating on down the river on a hot summer day. The river winds out of Walkterton around several islands. In the spring paddlers may choose one of several channels around these scenic islands but as summer goes on it is wise to stay to the deeper main channel. In the couple km out of Walkerton the river travels through a marshy area with several overhanging trees and wildlife. the Saugeen meanders through a broad valley between densely forested hills. In places, the river actually cuts into these hills, creating tall clay-sand bluffs, which provide a home for thousands of swallows, kingfishers, and other cliff-dwelling birds. As the river carves its way throughout these bluffs, it becomes constricted, creating some of the most exciting rapids on the river. While these rapids are not difficult or dangerous, they do provide excitement to the novice and veteran paddlers alike.

Concession #8 of
Brant Township

Approaching the bridge on the Brant Concession 8, the bluffs diminish and give way to mixed farmland and forest. In this area it is possible to see deer and fox along the banks.

Brant Concession 8 to Brant Concession 10 (paddle time 2hrs)

As the Saugeen progresses toward Lake Huron, the woodlands and bluffs of the upper areas give way to the rolling farmland of the middle sections. It is common to see cattle, horses and other livestock coming down to the river for a drink. The river slowly meanders through this mixed agricultural and forested land, this mixed habitat is ideal for the deer populations in the area and therefore sittings are common. A set of power-lines crosses the river in this section. These mark the halfway point of the Hanover-Southampton portion of the Saugeen River.

Concession #10 of
Brant Township

Brant Concession 10 to Ellengowen (paddle time 3hrs)

This section ventures back in to woodlands somewhat with some spots of agricultural land. The river continues on its slow relaxed pace through several sharp bends before this section comes to an end at a steel covered bridge just outside the hamlet of Ellengowan. This spot makes for an excellent put-in point for paddlers looking for a relaxed two day trip (6 hrs per day) to Southampton as well as a nice lunch spot for those out for a day trip on the middle section of the Saugeen.

Ellengowen Bridge - Elderslie / Brant Townline

Ellengowan to Downtown Paisley (paddle time 3hrs)

The first section before Paisley passes through more mixed farm and forest. Shortly after the Ellengowan bridge is McBeath Conservation Area. McBeath is a river-access-only park that offers camping, picnicking and washroom facilities to the public by donation. McBeath is a popular overnight stop for any multi day trip. From McBeath, the river takes a winding path to Paisley,coming right up beside the town and then swinging back away before making its way into the village. The village of Paisley was settled on the Saugeen River over a century ago, and the river still remains a focal point of the town. Several canoe docks line the river as it travels through the heart of the town. One of these is the Rotary Park: a scenic campground in downtown Paisley. For those looking for a lunch break, a canoe dock is situated just bellow the restored Fire Hose Tower, before the set of bridges in Paisley. A sign has been placed at this dock giving directions to the town's many services and quaint shops.

Paisley Down Town


Downtown Paisley to North end of Paisley (paddle time 1hrs)

Proceeding past this dock and under the bridge, paddlers will note the Teeswater River flowing over a dam and joining the Saugeen. Imagine this same perspective when the Queens Bush was becoming settled with families floating all their possessions on wooden rafts down the river to this same junction of the two rivers. Shortly downstream, the North Saugeen also joins the main River. The Teeswater and the North Saugeen are great tributaries to paddle in the high water of spring. Observant paddlers will notice a dike that encircles half the town. That dike shows just how high the river can get! Finally upon exiting Paisley, paddlers will pass under Bruce county Road 3 and come to an popular canoe launch at the north end of Paisley.

Paisley - North End

North end of Paisley to Saugeen Concession 4
(paddle time 2hrs)

After leaving this canoe launch behind, the Saugeen picks up speed slightly and winds its way down to the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area. Through this trip, paddlers will notice the river's
banks becoming progressively higher until they peak at about 100-115 ft. at the Saugeen Bluffs.
The Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area is a good place to spend the night or just have a lunch
break. The Conservation Area offers several canoe launch sites beside the river for canoe trippers for a reasonable fee. The sites book fast during the Summer Season, so reservations are
recommended. After leaving the conservation area, the high bluffs descend back to smaller banks in a forested setting. Within 45 minutes of leaving the park, paddlers will reach a one-lane iron bridge referred to by locals as 'Turner's Bridge' on which Saugeen Concession 4 crosses the Saugeen. The canoe launch is located on the left-hand side of the river directly under the bridge.

Saugeen Concession #4 - Turner's Bridge

Saugeen Concession 4 to Bruce Road County Road 17
(paddle time 2hrs)

This Canoe launch is popular with those looking for a good five to six-hour day trip ending at Denny's Dam in Southampton. Further downstream, the river is braided by sandy, treed islands, which are the remnants of a former delta. These islands dot this section of the river and help create some exciting small rapids. Try some of the alternate routes through these islands for sense of adventure. The banks are lined with family farms dating back to the mid-1800. A paddle of about two hours brings the paddlers to the next bridge that holds Bruce County Road 17. The canoe launch parking lot is found on the right side of the river.

County Road #17 - Thede's Bridge

Bruce County Road 17 to Bruce County Road 3
(paddle time 2hrs)

This is perhaps the most popular starting point for day tripping on the Saugeen River. A trip from
here lasts about four hours with time to stop for lunch. From the bridge, the river almost enters Port Elgin. Look for the town's water tower and other tall buildings before the river turns you back towards Southampton. A few very large forested islands sit along this section. About halfway through, Mill Creek empties into the Saugeen, making a hotspot for anglers. Near the end of this portion, the right bank rises to become a tree-lined cliff a kilometer so before the next bridge.

County Road #3 - Shanks Bridge


Bruce County Road 3 to Denny's Dam / Denny's Dam to Lake Huron (paddle time 2hrs)

At the canoe launch at Bruce Road 3, one can see the past and present come together. The old one-lane iron bridge, which used to carry the road over the river, sits at rest while its modern cousin now supports the large traffic volume that passes over this section of the Saugeen. The old bridge is still safe for pedestrian traffic and affords some scenic views of the river ahead. This section of the river, one of the most scenic, takes about two hours to paddle. Rapids start to appear as the banks progressively rise to heights of 150 ft. The rapids located on this stretch of the Saugeen are numerous, but small and safe. Although there is one set of very exciting rapids that will give even the most experienced paddlers a fulfilling adrenalin rush. After which, the river slows and bends more and more. It almost becomes an oxbow in style before it finally reaches Denny's dam. The take-out point is on the left bank just above the dam. There are washroom facilities and ample parking space located here, as the area just below the dam is very popular with anglers.

Denny's Dam

Denny's Dam to Lake Huron (paddle time 1hrs)

After Denny's Dam, the Saugeen River travels through two sets of rapids; the most challenging of the Main Saugeen, then lazily empties into Lake Huron in the hometown of Thorncrest Outfitters, Southampton. These two sets of rapids, accessible from the north side of the river at Fisherman's park, are just big enough to form holes, standing waves and sharp eddy lines. For the inspiring whitewater paddlers this is a good spot to practice your technique in easy class two rapids. From Denny's Dam to the mouth of the river is about an hour's paddle very easy and laid back. Once paddlers reach the mouth of the harbor, they can paddle left to the large flagpole at the base of High St. From here it is a short walk up High St to downtown Southampton where we are located. About a mile offshore lies Chantry Island, great spot to paddle to on a calm day on the lake.

Saugeen River Mouth - Southampton

For more information on the local canoe routes post inquires on Thorncrest Outfitters Adventure Board.

Enjoy, and happy paddling from all of us at Thorncrest Outfitters!

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Updated January 2003
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