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Driving Ontario’s Big Chute Marine Railway

By ALINA SEAGAL

Big Chute dam (Photo: Yulia Rabinovich)

It is one of the most picturesque drives in southern Ontario, yet very few know about the winding road to Big Chute Marine Railway north of Port Severn, two hours from Toronto. On this route, you’ll see Ontario at its best while passing stunning views of marshes, rocky formations, lakes, islands and thick forests, ending up at the railway boat lift at Lock 44 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, the only inclined-plane boat lift left in North America.

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Roadside Attractions

1. Finding spots to admire the scenery is simple—these are peppered along the route. Keep a lookout for the bridge on White Falls Road (Route 34), a good place to stop for a short hike through the area, fishing or a dip in Six Mile Lake. But remember to check currents and stay safe. Bass and pike fishing is particularly good around here between spring and fall.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Beavers, white-tailed deer, red foxes and black bears live here—pay particular attention around the lakes on White Falls Road, 4 km away from Highway 400. Ninety-one species of birds have also been spotted around the nearby Six Mile Lake. Watch for the wood thrush, pileated woodpeckers, great blue herons, turkey vultures and loons.

Big Chute boat lift (Photo: Yulia Rabinovich)

3. At the end of White Falls Road, explore the area around the Big Chute lift, where boats are hauled over the hill. The only still-operating marine railway in North America, the lift transports boats between water levels through the lock via an inclined plane. Spacious picnic grounds are available to the general public across from the dam that transforms into a spectacular ravine when emptied. It’s a great place to relax on the grass.

4. The Trent-Severn Waterway, a national historic site, stretches through the cottage country between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. The waterway has 44 locks in total, including Big Chute and ending at Port Severn. When you reach the boat lift, contemplate the history of this canal, travelled by Europeans in 1600s and used to transport lumber in the 1800s.

Trent-Severn Waterway near Big Chute (Photo: John Vetterli)

Get out on the water of the Trent-Severn Waterway by calling ahead to rent a boat from Big Chute Marina Ltd. (you can even take your boat through the lock via the Big Chute lift) or getting jet skis for a day from the Honey Harbour Boat Club.

5. To complete your day-long adventure, take the Upper Big Chute Road all the way to the village of Coldwater. Go fishing or kayaking, or just relax with a meal. If a trip has no value for you without some golfing, hit the Bonaire Golf Course on the edge of the town.

With More Time

7. The nearby Six Mile Lake Provincial Park and campgrounds has three sandy beaches with buoyed areas for family-friendly swimming.

30,000 Island tour in Parry Sound (Photo: Ehricht/Ontario Tourism)

8. About an hour away, Parry Sound is home of the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, celebrating one of the greatest Canadian hockey players. Must-try 30,000 Island boat tours leave from here twice per day during the busy season; be sure to reserve in advance.

9. Try this drive during a multi-day getaway to stunning nearby destinations: Georgian Bay Island National Park, Killbear Provincial Park (near Parry Sound), Collingwood or the towns and lakes in the Muskoka region.

Next: What to pack, where to eat and where to sleep »

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One response to “Driving Ontario’s Big Chute Marine Railway”

  1. Susan says:

    how do I get a map of marine raiiway road trip? Map not coming up on site.

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