Balsam Lake is the highest point of the Trent Severn Waterway with an elevation on the upstream side of the Rosedale Lock of 598 ft above Lake Ontario. There are two channels through Balsam Lake to either side of Grand Island. The mail Trent Severn channel runs to the south of the island departing at the NC RGR buoy. The other two channels lead north of Grand Island to Coboconk.
Balsam Lake is the first place to stop for a swim and lunch for down bound boats since Lake Simcoe and is surrounded by cottages. The bottom of the lake is varied and provide a good home for fish which guarantees there are always a large number of boats on it. With the exception of the islands which provide some cover it is mostly open water making it a poor choice for overnight anchorage.
Balsam is approximately 8 miles long with a width of roughly 3 miles . The lake has 4 major arms with Grand Island close to its center. The upper east arm leads to the village of Coboconk. Balsam Lake can be traversed any of three channels. N marks the main Trent Severn channel used by the waterway passing south of Grand Island, directly to the canal then to Mitchell Lake en route Kirkfield lock.
ChannelNC is an alternate channel while heading west running to the north of Grand Island. The NC leading from the mouth of the Rosedale River north joins the NB channel which runs north & west of Grand Island channel joining up north of Hogg Island where the channels merge continuing north to the village of Coboconk.
Main Trent Severn Channel "N"
The main channel begins soon after leaving the Rosedale River at the NC RGR buoy where it swings south passing between Grand Island and Togo Rock at mile 159, marked by N 55 which is often awash. From her the route bends gently around the south end of Grand Island with few other obstructions and is well marked.
The channel rounds the S.E. corner of Grand Island entering the norther portion of South Bay with open water and good boating, and a marina in the South Bay portion of the lake. A line of three buoys N 56, N 58 & N 60 marks the main channel west. Nahama Lodge Marina (more below) can be accessed from this route if you have a shallower draft boat and have reserved space in advance. The channel
At the south west tip of Grand Island the channel makes a small jog northward passing between Long Point on the west shore and Greeney Island which is close off the S.W. end of Grand Island itself. The channel is marked by N 61 and N 62 passing between Grand Island and Long Point on the west side of South Bay. The channel swings towards the north across the top of West Bay then swings down through N 65 and N 66 passing N 67 off Long Point, then toward bifurcation marker NB.
You enter the canal again at roughly mile 163.5. There is a long concrete wall on both sides of the canal where self supported vessels can usually find a mooring providing they need no services. It is quiet and very pretty here. We have often made a late evening stop here once the speed demons have given up.
This is a SPEED CONTROLED ZONE. The canal has restricted width until it begins to open into the marshlands before Mitchell Lake at the county road 505 bridge which has a 25' vertical clearance. The walls of the canal are lined with rock making an error in judgement unforgiving and caution must be used when meeting approaching vessels.
We will leave the Main Trent Severn Channel here to further discuss Balsam Lake. To continue west through Mitchell Lake and on to Kirkfield Lock 36 go here.
NC Channel to Coboconk
The NC channel begins at NC RGR buoy east of the Rosedale River and crosses the east side of the lake to the Gull River leading to the village of Coboconk. As you turn northward from NC RGR you will see Delamere Island and Cherry Island blending with the Balsam Lake shoreline. You will leave both islands to the east of your course toward Coboconk. The tip of Delamere Island is marked by NC2 which has a 6' shoal just off the channel south and to the east of the marker.
As you proceed north past Delamere Island take care to pick up the marked channel between Ball and Hogg islands. CAUTION, is advised immediately off Ball Island, where the narrowing of the channel at markers NC7 & NC8. The route takes you across an underwater ridge with outcroppings of rocks and islands, that stretches from Grand Island to the main shore.
As you reach the starboard hand marker NC10 you will join the NB channel leading in from the west of Balsam Lake. There is no bifurcation mark the joining of the channels.
To reach Coboconk continue north along the channel until you are off Lightning Point and enter the Gull River which winds its way north to the village. Gull River has a number of weedy and shallow areas and you must follow the markers carefully or be prepared to spend time clearing your propellers. There is about 6' of water at a minimum in the channel to Coboconk.
There is an on the east side of Indian Point Anchorage: opposite Lightning Point as you enter the Gull River. It is sheltered by the hight trees of Indian Point but exposed to the wake of passing boats.
North West or NB Channel Balsam Lake
As you leave the Gull River headed south remember there is no bifurcation mark the joining of the channels. You will have the thickly wooded Indian Point to the west and begin to follow the shoreline of Indian Point at a discrete distance once you pass Ball Island. Watch for the NB markers for the route West where you can pick up the main channel on the west side of the lake.
As you reach markers NB5 & NB6 you should be able to see Balsam Lake Provincial Park to the north west. North Bay is pretty with good ground for anchoring and the swimming is great. Balsam Lake Provincial Park (705) 454 3324 has no transient facilities even though it has 24 slips and over 500 campsites. The facilities here are wonderful with a long sand beach and 2 nature trails. There is everything you would expect from a provincial park with outhouses, playground, picnic facilities, a snack bar and gift shop.
As there are no transient spaces you may anchoring off and use park facilities paying standard camping rates. You should stay well off shore due to submerged water intakes for the park and there is no protection and questionable holding. However you can sneak a little further north watching you depth sounder carefully as the bay rapidly looses depth becoming little more than a stump dotted marsh.
Continuing S.W. you pass between NB1 & NB2 you then join the main channel at the bifurcation marker NB located to your south. Markers N 69 and N 70 are ahead off Laidlaw Point and marking the entrance to the canal leading towards the Kirkfield Lift Lock. There is a Flashing Intermittent Red light on the canal entrance's north side.
To continue west through Mitchell Lake and on to Kirkfield Lock 36 go here.