A Flippin’ Good Time Paddling at Charleston Lake Provincial Park

About Charleston Lake Provincial Park:

“The park occupies 23.53 square kilometres in the Frontenac Axis region, a southern extension of the Canadian Shield. Charleston Lake offers many opportunities for paddle sport enthusiasts. Paddlers can explore the lake’s 75 km of shoreline and numerous bays and coves.”

“Portions of Running’s Bay and Slim Bay are designated motorboat-free, which enhances the paddling opportunities for our visitors. Sea kayaking has become increasingly popular on the lake as it lends well to this type of vessel.”

“The park has two portages available for paddlers. One leads to Killenbeck Lake, and the other to Redhorse Lake. This provides paddlers with an extra challenge and an opportunity to improve their portaging skills. Both Killenbeck and Redhorse are excellent paddling destinations as well, so visitors have access to three lakes for paddling.”

A Calm Morning

I’m sure that the water isn’t always this calm at Charleston Lake, but it’s the kind of weather my mom and I were waiting for. The only ripples on the glassy reflection came from our kayaks and the paddles dipping through the surface. There was not a breeze to be felt.

Gliding past the rocks, we admired the amazing shoreline, mirrored in the water.

“Turtle Rock”

We didn’t notice the turtles at first, but then we saw a nice and sunny spot that these reptiles chose to warm up on this summer morning.

We had no intention of disturbing the Painted Turtles, so we kept a respectable distance, relying on a wildlife lens to bring them closer.

The Flowers

South of Whitefish Island in Running Bay is a wetlands habitat teeming with life. There was a stunning array of wildflowers and wildlife above and below the water. I may have said this before, but gliding through lily pads makes me feel like I’m paddling through a Monet painting come to life.

More Turtles… and Dragonflies

Floating deadwood provides the perfect spot in the bay for more turtles to sun themselves – and for dragonflies to test their patience. Had we stayed to watch long enough, I’m sure we’d have seen a turtle devour a dragonfly.


According to Birds Canada, loons (with baby chicks) are great indicators that the lake ecosystem is healthy.

“The Common Loon breeds on lakes throughout most of mainland Canada. Adults are long-lived (>20 years in the wild), typically return to the same breeding territory year after year, and feed their young almost exclusively with fish from the nesting lake.”

“Loons are connected to most animals in their nesting lake because of their high position in the food chain. Every time an individual animal eats another one, pollutants, if present, can increase or biomagnify. When the pollutants finally reach loons, the final link in the chain, they are at their highest concentrations.

These characteristics make the Common Loon a powerful indicator of lake health, especially in relation to mercury pollution and acid precipitation.”

Birds Canada

The Canadian Shield

Some portions of our paddle on Charleston Lake were next to the rock face of the Canadian Shield. I loved seeing all the rock’s textures and colours and how the tree roots were clinging to the edges and cracks.

Beached near the Slim Bay Bridge

We took a midday break on some rocks near the rest area on the Tallow Rock trail and floating bridge. This was our last moment of calm before the double dip.

A Lesson in Safety

Shortly after getting back on the water, my mother flipped her kayak, trying to turn around in the kayak (instead of turning the kayak around) for our selfie.

We found out that the bulkhead of her kayak wasn’t sealed, and only the tip of the nose remained afloat. All our essentials were safe in my dry bag, and her sandals were buoyant. What a relief!

I towed her and the submerged kayak to shore with difficulty. We were not near the cliffs; otherwise, this could have been a scarier situation, but the fun didn’t end there! I bailed out her kayak, helped my mom relaunch, and then got back on the water.

The last three shots of the day.

Adrenaline was still pumping through me, so I tried to show my mom how to recover from a tipping kayak WITHOUT SECURING MY CAMERA IN THE DRY BAG.

2 seconds into my attempt, I flipped, bobbed back up, sputtering water, and SO THANKFUL I was wearing a lifejacket. I’d tipped into a shallow bay with a tangle of plant life growing out of the cold, unstable muck that felt like quicksand sucking me down. 

Thankfully, I’d attached a floaty bobber to my camera, so it didn’t sink or get lost in the muck and seaweed, but it was no longer working. Water dripped out from the battery slot. I cursed my amateur ways.

On a side note, I waited four months for the camera to dry out properly and be able to turn it on. After I had the SD card slot repaired, my camera was working as normal again.

It turns out that my kayak didn’t have sealed bulkheads either, so dragging this waterlogged kayak back to the rocks wasn’t easy, but I slowly swam it to shore.

The only thing I lost to the murk was my towel.

I was properly humbled and feeling a little defeated, and we both decided not to press our luck and head back to the beach where we launched.

I still flashback to when everything went sideways, and I can’t emphasize enough how water safety is of the utmost importance! Wear your life jacket!

? Charleston Lake Provincial Park, Ontario
? Lands of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga (Haudenosaunee), Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Mississauga, Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin), and Wendake-Nionwentsïo.

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More Paddling Adventures

Paddling on the Napanee River
Paddling at Mew Lake

#notsponsored – Exploring Charleston Lake Provincial Park had been on my #wishlist for long enough! My mom had hiked there before but never kayaked, so we both agreed it was time to paddle the lake! As luck would have it, shortly after our decision, we were presented with a perfect sunny day and a light breeze as the midday summer sun shone down on us. These are the photos I captured – up until the point I tipped my kayak and soaked the camera.