Canoeing Black River in Prince Edward County
After our energetic bike ride the day before, Bob and I looked for a place to launch our canoe the following morning. When driving through the community of Black River, glimpses of the wide, calm waterway captured our interest.
Next, we spotted Cabin Fever Kayak perched on the bank of Black River. An inquiry was made, and Tim, the friendly owner, welcomed us to launch our canoe from his dock the next day. A modest fee was agreed upon for the privilege, and our vehicle would be in a safe location during our absence.
Preferring to be the “leaders of the pack”, Bob and I made a point to get an early start in hopes of seeing some wildlife.
There was much to be appreciated at Cabin Fever Kayak not the least of which were the heritage buildings housing the business. I’m one who really appreciates antiques and relics, and the buildings exuded plenty of character.
Tim was making good use of the space in the structures that once housed the original Black River Cheese Factory.
Bob portaged the canoe from our car to the dock while I ferried all the other gear including life jackets, cameras, and our picnic lunch.
Towering trees cast deep shade over us as we got organized, but it promised to be a hot day.
Although I was intrigued by the artifacts on display and whimsical features added as decor to the exterior of the buildings, I would investigate those later.
Without delay, Bob and I got away from the dock at 8:30 a.m. sharp! No one else had yet showed up to rent or launch a vessel.
Sunshine on that July morning soon bathed our skin in golden light as we paddled toward the opposite bank of Black River.
Conditions were perfect for a smooth, peaceful paddle up the river towards Milford.
Winding lazily alongside farm fields and forests, Black River extends 6 kilometres to the one-time mill town. Milford hosted grist mills and saw mills both of which were powered by Black River.
Looking at the river now, it is hard to imagine that at one time, ships and schooners made passage on it between Milford and Lake Ontario.
Dredging took place in the 1800s using teams of horses and dredging bars to deepen the river to 8 feet. This allowed schooners, steamers and scows built in Milford to be floated downriver.
Powering our canoe was easy for the first while, perhaps 3 kilometres, but then vegetation started to choke the channel. It was a trick maneuvering through the dense mats that extended deep into the water.
Thankfully, the river’s current carved a narrow path through the centre of some of the masses of pond lilies. We were constantly having to change direction.
Pulled up and moored at shore was a derelict fishing boat.
We wondered if it still is pressed into service on Lake Ontario on rare occasions.
Periodically, Bob and I would let the canoe float on the current while we tried to pick out a bird singing in the rushes. Marsh Wrens competed with Common Yellowthroats filling the air with melodious song.
The usual sightings were made of an Osprey and Great Blue Heron.
Even as we tracked the flights of these birds, stalwart Pine Trees lining the shore reminded us of the great stands of forests that once edged the Black River. They had been cleared to make way for a road.
The 100-foot long logs were ferried downriver on barges to ships waiting on Lake Ontario. They were destined for masts on schooners built in England.
Soon, the dark brown head of a rodent was seen swimming in front of us. It turned out to be a Muskrat that ducked beneath the waves before we could snap a photo. Making for a better subject to photograph were Midland Painted Turtles basking in the sun.
Bob and I meandered leisurely upstream zigzagging from points of interest on one side of the river to the other as we saw fit.
A few sparse stems of Common Bladderwort poked from the water.
This carnivorous plant probably was contributing to the tangle of stems obstructing our passage. It spreads by creeping along the bottom of waterways where it is found.
The further upstream that Bob and I paddled, the more clogged the river became. Forcing the paddles down through the dense vegetation was difficult enough, but then trying to pull the paddle and make headway became near impossible.
We were forced to turn back even though Milford was within striking distance, about another kilometre.
Bob and I were not daunted by this and continued to scan in earnest for wildlife. We were delighted to spot a Green Heron fishing from a sunken tree branch. It took flight almost immediately and soared along the shore looking for a new hunting spot.
Needing to stretch our legs for a few minutes, Bob and I pulled in at a small crescent-shaped bit of sand.
All property along Black River is privately owned, so we spent a short time limbering up before making a stab at the last stretch of river.
As soon as we stepped from the canoe, we were amazed at the scores of frogs hopping in every direction.
We had to tread lightly for fear of stepping on one. Big ones and little ones alike were trying to get out of our way.
It was pretty much smooth sailing as we paddled towards the landing. No other boaters had yet crossed our path and it was nigh on lunchtime. With the canoe secured to the roof rack and everything returned to our car, Bob and I set up shop in the shade to eat our picnic lunch. The next stop of the day was blueberry picking at one of the many farms dotting the countryside in Prince Edward County.
Frame To Frame – Jean and Bob