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,
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
River Canoe Route - Hanover to Southampton (paddle
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Hanover Town Park
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.
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
Maple Hill Side Road
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Concession 10 to Ellengowen (paddle time 3hrs)
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
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
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
end of Paisley to Saugeen Concession 4
(paddle time 2hrs)
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
Saugeen Concession #4 - Turner's Bridge
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
County Road 17 to Bruce County Road 3
(paddle time 2hrs)
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
County Road 3 to Denny's Dam / Denny's Dam to Lake Huron (paddle
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
Dam to Lake Huron (paddle time 1hrs)
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
more information on
the local canoe routes post inquires on Thorncrest
Outfitters Adventure Board.
and happy paddling from all of us at Thorncrest Outfitters!