Little Kennisis Run


          There is a magic river deep in the Alquonqin Highlands in Haliburton County. Flowing out of Big Hawk Lake at the end of a sideroad that parallels the river all the way, the Little Kennisis River, known locally as the Bubbling Hawk, rushes and dawdles - depending on the season and the MNR - into Halls Lake, one of the deepest fresh water lakes in Ontario.

          At the beginning of the river, where it leaves Big Hawk Lake, is a historic log chute, one of only a very few left from the logging days of Ontario and Quebec. Logs were floated on Big Hawk Lake until they could be pushed into the chute, where they began their journey to Stouffer's Mill, about half way down the river's course. Three years ago, this battered chute was restored, and it now occupies the central place in a park built to showcase its history. Walking paths and picnic tables make the visit to this history compelling, as compelling as the booming sound that the river makes there as it leaves the lake. Cross the bridge over the chute, where you can look closely into its roaring spray, and you can begin a steep climb that turns into one of the most spectacular hiking trails of the county - the Crests of  Kennisis, part of an interconnecting trail system of Haliburton County.. If you have all day, you can walk right to Stanhope on the North Shore Road, and many do. The views and the trail itself wrap you in beauty and in the life of the land at every step in every season.

          The Little Kennisis River is famous for something else in this area. With both its bubbling rapids and its slow meandering, tubers of all ages, shapes and experience - not to speak of their tube conveyances - make for the river almost every day of summer. It offers civilized choices: the rapids are bumpy but not dangerous, and if you still don't want to chance them, you can start below where they end and just give yourself up to the river's pace. An hour and twenty-minutes - faster on a high-river day - takes you right into Halls Lake. Truck-tire tubes, large, handled speedboat tubes, fancy plastic loungers with arm holes for your refreshment - they all float down the river. Refreshment can be anything from water, coffee and pop to beer trailing along on a string under the tube to keep it cool. People float down carrying their dogs and children, and once we saw in infant in arms.

          Whole camps bring their guests to tube the Little Kennisis. Once we were lounging on our dock (and by now you know that we live on this river's bank) when we heard giggles and screams indicating a large group floating down towards us. Indeed, it was a group of thirty- five Koreans from a close-by camp, few of whom could speak English, and they were experiencing something unheard of in their culture. They were excited and scared, and as they came close to us, many of them floated into the significant eddy that adorns our corner. We spent a pleasant afternoon standing waist-deep in the water, swinging tubes back out into the current so that they could continue onto the bridge, where a camp employee was picking them up. No English needed!

          But what is it that makes me call the river magic? Living here all year round, we are especially grateful that the Little Kennisis River is too shallow to accommodate motorized water conveyances. Canoes and kayaks (including our own) adorn the river in three seasons (and we have been known to kayak on Christmas Eve), but motorboats, jet skis, and - above all - pontoon boats find it impossible to explore very far up our river. Not that, every now and then, someone doesn't try to see how far they can come up the river from the lake. Most of the time, however, the river is low enough to prevent these adventurers. And when it's really high and rushing; i.e., when the Ministry of Natural resources has removed a few logs from the log chute bridge to increase the flow - there is always the bridge just below us to prevent motorized vehicles from chugging upstream. For the Little Kennisis is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, a controlled river providing water to the locks of that system to the south of us. One of the advantages of that is, for canoeists and lately kayakers, a long trip can take you down our river and through the systems of connected rivers and lakes right to the waterway itself.

          Still, the magic? Here are some astounding experiences of living on the Little Kennisis River. Every spring there are pairs of nesting ducks - wood ducks, black ducks, mergansers and American mergansers in their snow white feathers, buffleheads - who mate and raise their young on our river. We hear the mating loudly on spring evenings, as we hear the frogs - heralds of environmental health - praising and welcoming spring. We also have a pair of American Bitterns nesting close to where we live, and a variety of hawks soaring overhead. Grouse, wild turkeys in their dozens, owls of many varieties make the forests home.  One spring we encountered a nesting loon, right on the river's edge, who grew accustomed to our reassuring voices every day. So accustomed, that when the two babies were born and she took them out on the water, she allowed us to come within a few feet of them without diving away.  Seeing mink, beaver and otter,  weasel, fox and fisher is an everyday occurrence. Deer come to drink, and bear cross the river frequently in their active seasons. Recently we had cougar sightings - a young male, seven feet long - before the MNR tagged and removed him to a more northern location.  Most of these sightings occur when you are here for a long period of time, not occasional visits. We know enough to respect their ownership of this land and have never had a problem with any wild animal.

          In this technological age, is this not magic enough - to dwell in peace, season after season, with these creatures who share their land with us, and grace us with their presence? Some days we are breathless with the privilege of living thus in the magic of life on the Little Kennisis River.

                                         (published in"Sideroads of Haliburton", spring, 2008)