Sailing on the Severn..

Standing on the dock looking out over the Severn River, I can see white birch trees, dark green firs and pines growing tall over craggy glacial formed granite rocks. There are unspoiled peaceful inlets where the reflections of trees on the clear water and the yodel like call of the loon magically makes me feel instantly more tranquil than I already am. Stunning properties line the water’s edge, boats of various sizes cruise the waters where people wave to them from docks sitting on Adirondack chairs with beers in hand. Jet-ski’s and water skiers whizz by, while kids splash around on inflatables near the shore line – this is serious Muskoka cottage country!

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This last weekend, we have been thoroughly spoilt staying with Nancy and Len Biggart in their beautiful home on the River Severn in lower Ontario. We had met their son Jesse and girlfriend Kelly earlier in the year in Puerto Escondido, so through the power of Facebook messenger a weekend was arranged to visit during our trip in Canada.

Arriving in the dark on Thursday evening I totally fell in love with their home, I was probably a bit excitable on the tour with far too many oohs and aahs. In the morning I woke to a beautiful view. Len and Nancy have built their home with great care, love and hard work to be able to share cottage life for all the family.

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It was a little cloudy on the Friday but this didn’t spoil our fun. Captain Len took us on a cruise up river for the day.

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The Trent -Severn waterway river system runs from Trenton in Lake Ontario over a 386km stretch northwest to Port Severn in Georgian Bay. The historic river was once used to transport furs and lumber, in places it’s so huge we easily mistook it for a lake. Along the river we saw small cabins and huge multimillion Dollar properties that are a far cry from the ‘cottage’ name tag.

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45 locks including a marine railway have been built through the waterway to allow boats to navigate the change in water levels over the landscape.

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Number 43 is Swift Rapids Lock, which is the deepest single chambered lock on the waterway. An impressive set of lock doors were revealed as the water emptied from the chamber and our boat is gradually dropped down by 47ft. It was a bit scary thinking how much water the gates hold as the boats lower in the chamber!

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Next stop was to Waubic’s, this family run restaurant is only accessible by boat and we were told served great fish n chips! It didn’t disappoint especially as the owner originates from Manchester. We sipped pints and ate great home cooked food on the dock.

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Fully stuffed we clambered back in the boat to cruise further up river where we saw something which was pretty amazing.

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At the Big Chute Marine Railway, boaters are transported in a huge open carriage from one side of the River Severn down a steep incline of 17.7 metres by an amazing engineering system of motors, cables and rails thereby avoiding the rocky rapids.

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Boats steer into the carriage, they are then secured from underneath by cradle straps. Once secure the carriage moves up out of the water over rails across highway 17, descending steeply down the rail tracks until the carriage releases the boats once again into the river.

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The first marine railway was built in 1917 allowing boats to navigate this large natural obstacle where fast flowing river water runs through the Big Chute hydroelectricity generating station.

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Big Chute has been rebuilt over the years allowing greater capacity and expansion, which allows boats of up to 100ft to be maneuvered. The marine railway has remained in operation over the years rather than building a deep lock such as Swift Rapids. The over road railway system from high river to low river prevents any sea parasites spreading to the northwest great lakes which could potentially devastate the fishing industry.

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Once we had watched a few boats travelling up and down, we headed back to our starting point on the river through the Swift Rapid lock again only this time being raised in the water chamber!

Back at the family home it was time for drinks and a plate of delicious homemade lasagna.

It was such a fun day and we got to experience outdoor cottage life all over again on a sunny Saturday !

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