Day Paddle / Trip Report: Cootes Paradise and the Hamilton Harbour

My partner in crime, Wide Open Willie, and I loaded the canoe on the roof of my truck and tossed his kayak in the back.  We hit the road with Hamilton in our sights and arrived at Princess Point before long.  Upon arrival it was obvious that the water level of Lake Ontario was still very high, as the dock was partially submerged.  The day started out calm and overcast but the sun broke through as we paddled out towards the west end of the Cootes Paradise pond.  We spotted lots of wildlife from snakes and turtles basking in the sun, to Cormorants diving for fish, and a Red Tailed Hawk keeping a watchful eye from above.

 

 

Aside from the wonderful show of wildlife, the views across the bay were beautiful.  We took some more photos and worked our way to the marsh at the west end.  The wind was starting to pick up so we decided to float in the breeze back towards the inlet to the Hamilton Harbour.

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The view across Cootes Paradise

A lift over of a rock wall and we were paddling down the narrow channel into the Harbour.  While at the lift over, it really hit up just how high the lake level was as at one point we were floating over the asphalt of the walking path that goes along the east shore of the Cootes Paradise pond.

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High water levels
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Passing under the highway

A short paddle under the highway and railroad overpasses and we had made it into the Hamilton Harbour.  We decided to try to find a river, Grindstone Creek, that feeds into Lake Ontario and work our way up it to keep out of the wind.  We worked our way along the North shore of the Harbour looking for it to no avail (we later discovered that we had passed it early on) and even did a short portage over a rock spit.  We ended up paddling quite far into the Harbour and the water was getting very rough.

 

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Entering the Hamilton Harbour

We finally decided that our search efforts were in vain and it was time to turn back.  We began our paddle into the wind across the harbour, at times it felt as if we were barely moving.  At one point we actually had to tandem up in the canoe and tow the kayak by a rope to make progress.  The wind kept picking up and the chop increased, splashing some waves over the bow of the canoe.  I don’t have much experience on big open water like this but we managed to make it back to Cootes without dumping the boats.

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Map of our travels.

We arrived back at Princess Point in a state of sheer exhaustion from fighting the wind across the bay, our bodies sore and Willie’s sun burnt knees as red as a coke can.  We slowly loaded up our gear and boats and headed on our way home.  We decided that next time we would keep out of the harbour and the wind, or bring a sea kayak along.

Trip Details

Launch – Princess Point, GPS co-ordinates 43.274200, -79.896499

Cost – $5 parking for the entire day

Distance Paddled – Approx. 14km

Time – Approx 4 hours

The Good – Beautiful scenery and wildlife in Cootes Paradise

The Bad – Lots of dead fish and gross smells in the Hamilton Harbour

The Ugly – The wind nearly killed us.  Go on a calm day.

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