Paddling Route: Sparrow Lake to Big Chute Marine Railway

Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site

Northern region 2-day route

On this beautiful and scenic 2-day paddling adventure on the Severn River, you will have the opportunity to stay overnight at Lock 43, Swift Rapids: the deepest single chambered lock on the system only accessible by boat

Route information

  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Total distance: 28 km total; one way
    • Day 1 - Sparrow Lake to L43 Swift Rapids – 14.5 km
    • Day 2 - L43 Swift Rapids to L44 Big Chute – 13.5 km
  • Time to paddle: 2 days; 6 to 8 hours total
    • Day 1 - 3 to 4 hours
    • Day 2 - 3 to 4 hours
  • Number of locks encountered: 2
  • Environment: Lakes and open waters; sheltered Severn River
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
  • Natural shoreline at Franklin Park on Sparrow Lake
    Location: 1615 Kilworthy Rd, Kilworthy, ON
Other locations to put-in nearby:
Take-out locations
  • Natural shoreline at Lock 44 - Big Chute Marine Railway
    Location: 7000 Upper Big Chute Rd, Coldwater, ON
Other locations to take-out nearby:
  • Riverhouse Restaurant (upper Big Chute Rd)
  • Severn Falls Marina & Metal Works Inc.
Night 1

Tent camping is available at most lockstations on a first-come, first-served basis, at the discretion of the lockmaster. Only campsites at Lock 8 can be reserved in advance.

Learn more about camping at lockstations

Paddling directions

  1. From Franklin Park, follow the right shore and follow the buoys until you enter the Severn River
  2. Follow the channel until you see Lock 43 - Swift Rapids
  3. Follow the river to Lock 44 - Big Chute


Lockage is recommended for several locks along this route. Portaging may be difficult.

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

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 Sparrow Lake to Big Chute
  • Preferable wind conditions are from the east (tail wind)
  • Avoid north and south winds (cross winds); west winds (head-wind)


  • Strong winds at certain sections along the Severn river with wider openings
  • 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 of lock stations. There are a few waterfront dining options along the way.

Points of interest

  • Lock 43 - Swift Rapids
    • Deepest conventional lock on the system (47 feet)
    • Several good swimming spots
    • A remote location, not accessible by car
    • Stick close to the shore and explore coves/inlets
  • Tea Lake (south to the Severn River)
  • Lock 44 Big Chute Marine Railway

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.

Parks Canada places nearby
Parks Canada on Youtube
Videos by others

Other routes you might like…

Date modified :