Presqu'ile Provincial Park - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
This area is another section of limestone shoreline like that seen on the Bruce Peninsula and elsewhere around the Great Lakes. The park is located on a tombolo (an island that has become linked to the mainland by a sand- or gravel bar). The northern leg of the park consists of a sandbar with a long beach on one side and marshes on the other. The park is known as one of the best birding places in Ontario. Like other peninsulas around the Great Lakes, it acts as a collector for migrating birds, and the marshes on the east side attract a lot of migrating waterfowl. More than 320 species of birds have been seen within the park, and more than 120 nest there. There is also a (nonoperating) lighthouse in the park and a variety of landscapes: open fields, marshes, sand dunes, and the cedar forest that grows on the limestone rock found on the south side of the peninsula.
Trip Highlights: Good scenery, lighthouse, good bird watching.
Beginner: 5-mile trip from Calf Pasture Point to Presqu'ile Point and back, or a 4-mile trip to the marshes and back.
Intermediate: 16-mile paddle from Calf Pasture Point to Owen Point and back.
Trip Duration: Part to full day.
Navigation Aids: Canadian topographic maps: Trenton (31C/H) or 30 N/13 at 1:50,000. Alternatively you can probably get by with the park map.
Cautions: Exposure to west and south winds and motorboat traffic; currents may be present near Presqu'ile and Owen Points.
Trip Planning: If bird watching is your goal, you will need to decide what you would most like to see: Waterfowl start arriving in February and March, songbirds in April. The gulls, cormorants, terns, and herons that nest on the islands instead of passing through will be around for the summer. Although ice is less of a problem on the eastern Great Lakes, March and April are definitely wet suit/dry suit months. The park offers a number of birding activities-from workshops to periodic bird counts and waterfowl viewing festivals. Contact the park office at (613) 475-4324 for more information. The park has several hundred campsites for those who want to overnight at the park and is the only provincial park in the area to be open for camping year- round. Due to shoals and the rock shoreline around the southern side of the peninsula and the potential for currents around Owen and Presqu'ile Points, this would be a poor choice for a rough-weather paddle. We experienced some rather strong currents (for the Great Lakes, anyway) around Gull and High Bluff Islands in only moderate winds. Check the marine forecast before starting your paddle.
Launch Site: From Highway 401, take Highway 30 south to Brighton, then take Highway 2 west from the center of town. The turnoff for the park road is only a few blocks from the Highway 2/30 intersection and is marked with a provincial park sign. Turn south onto the park road and follow it through a residential neighborhood to the park gate. You will need to stop at the gate and get a permit; pick up a park map while you are there. Continue down the park road to the Calf Pasture turnoff and drive east to the end of the road. There is a picnic area with outhouses and a boat launching area. You could also launch from any of the cobble beaches along the south side of the peninsula, but these beaches are difficult to deal with in any kind of surf. The beaches can be steep in some areas, and the lake bottom close to shore is a flat rock shelf, not the place to land in rough weather.
Put in at Calf Pasture and paddle southeast along the shore. The land between Calf Pasture Point and Presqu'ile Point is private and lined with residential homes. Sidetrip: If you're looking for waterfowl or a short and quiet paddle, take a tour of the marshes by paddling west along the shore until you reach the grassy areas. The total distance to the marshes and back to Calf Pasture Point is about 4.0 miles.
The park land starts just before Presqu'ile Point. Look for the white, eight-sided lighthouse at the point. The original glass cupola is gone, leaving the tower with a flat top. There is a visitor center there, and if the seas are calm around the point, you can land on the cobble beach and get out for a look around. Those who are just visiting the lighthouse should paddle back to Calf Pasture Point by the same route. Others should continue around the point and paddle west along the south side of the peninsula. Caution: Wait for calm weather before paddling the next part of the route. Most of the shoreline offers poor landing in anything but flat water, and strong winds can cause currents around Presqu'ile and Owen Points.
There is a park road running along the shore with group camping and day-use/picnic areas.
Turn and follow the shoreline as it curves a little to the north. The campgrounds are located along this section of shore. The beaches are gravel to cobble and can be used for a break in calm weather.
At Owen Point you have choice of turning around and going back the way you came, or you can continue north to visit the sand beaches before you return (but please don't paddle in the swimming area). Sidetrip: High Bluff and Gull Islands are off limits during nesting season (March 10-September 30), but if you are paddling after nesting season, you can include a circuit of the islands. There seem to be blinds set up on the island, probably for observing birds. A good variety nest on the island, including ring-billed gulls, double-breasted cormorants, herring gulls, terns, and even black-crowned night herons. If the birds are nesting, please don't disturb them by getting too close-bring a pair of binoculars and view them from a distance. In the early nineteenth century, the Speedy was lost off High Bluff Island, with no survivors. There are extensive shoals around the island, so stay well away from the shore in any kind of rough weather.
Where to Eat & Where to Stay
Restaurants & Lodging:
For a list of accommodations and restaurants in the Brighton area, contact the Bay of Quinte Tourist Council at (613) 962-4597. camping There are almost 400 sites within the park, but reservations are recommended during the summer. To make a reservation, call the park at (613) 475-2204.
Excerpted from Guide to Sea Kayaking on Lakes Superior & Michigan: The Best Day Trips and Tours by William Newmanm et. al. with permission from Falcon Publishing.
Help support Paddling.net, purchase this book from the Paddling.net Store.
Great Products from the Buyers' Guide: