paddling along the tay

Saturday morning, we put our canoe in the Tay River at Last Duel Park in Perth. And yes, there really was a duel at that site back in 1833 — and yup, somebody died. You can read more about the duel and see a map of the town on this page. The park with the boat launch area and docks are located at the spot indicated by the symbol of a picnic table.

Leaving the launch area, we paddled downstream past the quiet campground maintained by the village. Once past, the river flows between forested banks with small bays and side channels filled with waterlilies and large colonies of Pickerel weed. Kingfishers darted from tree to tree ahead of us, and an Osprey could be seen diving from the tallest trees in one of the side channels. A Great Blue Heron watched us for several moments before flying further downstream.

On the north side of the river, the shoreline is covered with chunks of dredged rocks in some sections as this route was once a canal that connected the village of Perth to the rest of the Rideau Canal system between Kingston and Ottawa. A little over 3 kilometers downstream from the put-in, the river opens into a vast cattail marsh with a marked boat channel winding through its midst. The shallow waters to either side of the channel are almost completely covered with lilypads. Out on the marsh we watched an Osprey hunting from a perch atop an old duck-hunting blind. Gulls were diving at some form of prey around the lilypads. The many clouds over Tay Marsh were a wonderful sight. We paddled about 2 kilometers further into the Marsh before turning around to paddle back to the put-in. Of particular interest on this trip were dozens of tandem pairs of Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) dragonflies with females laying eggs — probably the greatest concentration of this species we’ve yet seen.

Canoe notes: Last Duel Park is located on the east edge of Perth on the south side of Hwy 43. Put-in is at the government docks beside the parking lot. Launch from either docks or the boat launch ramp. Boat traffic along the canal is usually light. There’s a speed limit in the canal section — more or less adhered to by boaters — but be prepared for the possibility of large wakes from boats driven by the occasional ignorant moron (we met one yesterday). We usually keep to the south bank as the trees and bushes overhang that side and it’s shallower. Power boats tend to stick to the north bank. On the south side of the river, there are open side channels and bays which are interesting to paddle through. Close to the end of the canal, the water becomes very shallow in the side channels. There’s a “last chance” to re-enter the main channel just before you reach a stone house on the shore. If you proceed beyond that point, the side channel is usually too shallow to paddle through to rejoin the main channel. Once in the marsh, the water is very open, so be prepared for faster boat traffic along the marked channel. However, the water is quite shallow to either side of the channel, and mostly navigable by canoe, so it’s not necessary to remain in the busy zone. The Marsh is a popular spot for hunters in duck season, so this trip is best left for other times of the year.

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5 Responses to “paddling along the tay”

  1. Wayne Says:

    The clouds are great, and look! A horizon! Been a long time since I’ve seen a horizon!

    Looks like quite an extensive wetland you’ve got there.

    How many species of dragonflies have you counted in that area?

  2. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, the clouds were great and it’s a wonderful place to see them as there are very few trees. I just checked the topo map, and it shows that the marsh is roughly 10 square kilometers – a large central area and then some irregular extensions reaching out to a nearby lake. There are a few large marshes in the same general area, but not all of them are navigable. We’ve had the canoe into most of the ones that you can access that way.
    Hmm… let’s see… species of dragonflies counted in that area — I guess that, if we were to do a real “count” it might be very high, but instead, I’ll just say that the most common species we’ve encountered there are quite a few of the Skimmer species — Widow, Twelve-spot, Slaty, Chalk-fronted Corporal, Common WhiteTail. We saw most of those on Saturday. Then there were all of those Calico Pennants. We almost always see some mosaic darners — probably Aeshna canadensis — and Common Green Darner, Eastern Pondhawks, and a lot of Sympetrums. All pretty standard fare around similar bodies of water in this region.

  3. robin andrea Says:

    That is such a beautiful place to paddle. It really looks so serene, and the water very calm. I like that. How lucky to see an osprey out there. Too bad, though, about the morons. That sub-species of human is truly in abundance everywhere.

  4. Randa Says:

    The gentleman who lost the duel was my husband’s Great great great great great uncle.

    I’m not kidding.

  5. burning silo Says:

    Randa – Wow… now what are the odds of that?!