Paddling Route: Balsam Lake to Lake Simcoe

Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site

Northern region 2-day route

On this two-day paddling trip, starting at Balsam Lake, the summit of the Trent-Severn Waterway, paddle all the way to Lake Simcoe, where you can enjoy a celebratory swim.

Route information

  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Total one-way distance: 32 km
    • Day 1 – Balsam Lake to Kirkfield - 13.5 km
    • Day 2 – Kirkfield to Lake Simcoe - 18.5 km
  • Time to paddle: 2 days; 7.5 to 8.5 hours total
    • Day 1 - 3 to 4.5 hours
    • Day 2 - 4.5 to 6 hours
  • Number of locks encountered: 6
  • Environment: Lakes, canals and rivers
For shorter versions of this route, use alternate put-in and take-out locations

Facilities and services available along this route:

  • Lockage (required)
  • symbol for accessible washrooms Accessible washrooms
  • symbol for potable water Potable water
  • symbol for information kiosk Information
  • symbol for picnic area Picnic area
  • symbol for camping Camping


Some lockstation facilities and services have changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and could affect your visit. Please visit our COVID-19 information page for more details when planning your trip.

Plan your trip

This is a one-way route that requires a personal shuttle to or from the put-in and take-out locations. Plan accordingly.

Put-in locations 3
  • Small rest area with natural shoreline
    Location: Balsam Lake Dr. and Blanchards Rd.
Other locations to put-in nearby:
Take-out locations 2
Other locations to take-out nearby:
Kirkfield Lift Lock
Phone number (705) 438 - 3126
  • Tent camping

Tent camping is available at most lockstations on a first-come, first-served basis, at the discretion of the lockmaster. Phone ahead to lockstation for availability. Only campsites at Lock 8 and Lock 35 can be reserved in advance.

Learn more about camping at lockstations

Paddling directions

  1. Take a right from the launch point and follow the shore towards the canal
  2. Enter the canal
  3. When you exit the canal, follow the navigational channel towards the bridge
  4. Once passed under the bridge, you will be on Mitchell Lake. Take a right and paddle along the shoreline of Mitchell Lake
  5. Take a right and enter the canal
  6. Follow the canal to the Kirkfield Lift Lock
  7. Once you exit the canal, stick to the left (south) shore of Canal Lake towards the arc bridge
  8. Pass under the bridge and continue following the left shore
  9. At the end of the lake, enter the Talbot River
  10. Keep following the river and the canal passing through all the locks all the way to Lake Simcoe


Lockage is required for some locks along this route. Portaging may be difficult or not possible.

Lockage is the process of raising or lowering boats and paddlecraft into connecting sections of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Lockage takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. During seasonal Hours of Operation, paddlers can lock through any Parks Canada lock with the purchase of a valid lockage permit. Permits may be purchased upon arrival, or in advance online or by phone.

Locks along this route 6

The status of facilities and services at lockstations listed below are subject to change throughout the navigation season. Please visit our 2021 Facilities and Services page for up-to-date status by lockstation.

Wind conditions

  • The water flows from Balsam Lake to Lake Simcoe
  • Preferable wind conditions are from the east and north east (tail wind)
  • Avoid southwest winds (head wind); northwest and southeast winds (cross winds) especially for when crossing lakes


  • Strong winds on open lakes (Canal, Mitchell, Balsam, Simcoe); waves can get high
  • Watch for powerboats and their wake

Avoid dams

Watch for dams at the following locations and be sure to navigate away from them:

Tourism information

Nearby communities and services

There are no towns or villages within walking distance along this route

Points of interest

  • Kirkfield Lift Lock
  • Rest area on Mitchell Lake

Regional tourism

The following regional tourism experts can help guide you towards great local experiences and businesses in the areas along this route. Visit their websites when planning your trip.

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