I often spend a bit of time examining lakes and rivers in Southern Ontario on Google Earth and during one of these searches Catfish Creek (also known as Rush Creek from what I’ve read) popped up. All I knew for sure was that the mouth of the river entered Lake Erie at Port Bruce and whatever was upstream from there was a mystery to me. I packed up my camera gear and a notepad and took the drive to Port Bruce to check it out.
Port Bruce is a popular beach going and fishing destination. The Port Bruce Provincial Park (day use only and free of charge) has a change house / washroom and there are washrooms and picnic tables at the pavilion near the pier. The spot that I put in at was near the pier along the break-wall. This put-in is for experienced paddlers only though as the water is about 1 meter below the pier and the wind and swells from the lake carry through the channel. There is an easier alternate put-in under the bridge on Imperial Road.
Once in the water and heading up the creek, you will wind your way along the marina and through various trailer parks situated along the creek. Keep an eye out for boat traffic and give a wide berth. Be sure to pay attention to fishermen and watch for their lines, especially near the Imperial Road bridge. After about 1.5km you will be past all the motorized boats and docks, this is when the river makes its change to a quiet paddle.
The creek is wide and deep at first, slowly winding its way through bush and farmland. The water is a tea colour from all the sand in the area. There is lots of wildlife to take in here, everything from frogs and turtles to cranes and herons, and a lonely River Otter that was too shy for my camera. I even spotted a Red Tailed Hawk after hearing is signature screech from overhead.
There are plenty of trees clutching desperately to the sandy banks but surprisingly not many fallen ones across the river. The ones that are down are easy to get around. After some time paddling the flat water, you will pass under the bridge on Rush Creek Line where the water starts getting shallow. The average depth goes from 4-5 feet to 1-2 feet. There were plenty of spots that my paddle started digging into the stones on the bottom of the creek. Continuing on, the water level will get downright tough, then nearly dry up all together. At my turn around spot the water was only a few inches deep. While the water level for most of the creek is kept in check by Lake Erie, the level beyond the Rush Creek Line bridge depends on the season and conditions. I could see the high water marks from the spring flooding were a good two feet above the trickle I was standing in. Come high water, the upper parts of this creek would be a wild and wet ride.
I decided that I had given the bottom of my canoe enough abuse and turned back because of the shallow water. I had made it 7 kilometers upstream from where I had started, a pretty good distance I thought, making for a 14 kilometer round trip. A perfect day paddle.
The creek was quiet and unused. The only other people I came across were a couple out in their recreational kayaks who lived in Port Bruce. It was a nice change from my usual places that can be busy at times like Deer Creek and Big Creek, which now has multiple outfitters guiding people down river several times a day in July and August.
I made the paddle back to the pier, taking more photos and videos along the way. I drew a lot of odd looks from the fishermen and trailer park residents, they must not see too many Sasquatches canoeing down the creek here. Once back in town and loaded up there are a couple of seasonal burgers-and-fries type places in Port Bruce if you’re hungry. My personal favourite is the SandCastle near the beach. I use to stop there all the time on my motorcycle… back when I could afford those toys. These days I’m happier with a paddle in my hand or a bicycle under me.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a nice day paddle that is well suited to either canoes or kayaks then Rush Creek should be on your list. Its quiet waters with no current make for a great flat water paddle. Just keep your head up and pay attention should you launch at the pier as the swells from the open lake can be huge at times. If you are an amateur paddler (or have trouble launching) consider launching from under the bridge in town. Bring a camera and a lunch to eat on the stones where the creek shallows up. Keep and eye out for that Red Tailed Hawk!
Trip Rating 4.25/5
Suitability – Canoes & Kayaks
Launch – Port Bruce Pier breakwall, GPS co-ordinates 42.655221, -81.008273. Alternate put-in at bridge over creek, GPS co-ordinates 42.661124, -81.015080
Cost – free
Distance Paddled – 14km
Time – Approx 5 hours
The Good – Free and easy to access, no crowds
The Bad – Wind and swells from the lake can make the launch tough
The Ugly – None
Be sure to check out the YouTube video of my trip: