CanadaNova ScotiaSouthwest
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Matthew Eldon Verge
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
50 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
2400 m
Longest Portage: 
1000 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Lots of places to put in and take out along the route.

Technical Guide: 

See the Log

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 


I have written about the route between the Mersey River system and the Medway before, but I will attempt in this to write out a clear and directive paddling guide that will guide the reader easily through the ancient route, long utilized by the Mi’Kmaq, and, later, by Europeans, and I will try to impart a sense of the history behind said route as well. I am beginning my guide at Kejimkujik Lake and ending it at Ponhook, but it will appear as obvious to the astute reader that the actual transfer from drainage system to system is much shorter. In fact, it could be categorized as only really being the portage from Carrigan Lake to Appletree Lake.
It is up to the discretion of the reader to decide how they wish to access Rossignol, and, by way of it, Carrigan Lake. If you are entering from a different means, I would advise skipping the first part of this guide and going directly down to Rossignol. I am also writing this as a three-day trip. Obviously, many people will choose to shorten or lengthen it, and I would ask that it be remembered that the real goal of this guide is to provide a way between two water-systems. I would hope that adventurers will utilize it to extend their trips.

The Mersey River Drainage:

The Mersey River is the largest drainage system in Nova Scotia. It reaches as far as Sandy Bottom Lake in Annapolis County and East to Buckshot Lake via the Shelburne River. Waters draining into it include much of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and Kejmkujik National Park. The Mersey Watershed provided transportation to the Mi’Kmaq, who would use it in conjuction with Bear River and other watesheds to bisect Nova Scotia.

The Medway River:

The Medway, while nearly on the same scale as the Mersey, is perhaps just as important historically, as it, too, supported bands of Mi’Kmaq and a thriving Salmon population. Later on, it was used to float lumber down river. It is also the outlet for the large lakes of Molega and Ponhook.

Kejmkujik – Rossignol (Day 1):

You will start your trip at the launch at Jake’s Landing. This is inside of Kejmkujik National Park, which you can access by the Number 8 Highway via Annapolis Royal or Liverpool. You may want to stop at the Visitor Interpretation Center on the way in to check on water levels and any obstacles that may have fallen across waters in the park. When my fiancé and I were last there they were very helpful.
In your canoe at Jake’s Landing, turn left and head down-river towards Kejimkujik Lake. I took a course between Bear Island and Ell Island and then headed straight for Hemlock Island, which is where the Mersey flows down into George Lake. The right channel is more open, but the water flows swifter in the left, or East channel, which is much narrower. Paddle across George Lake to the beginning of the Portage for the Eel Weir, which is located a little closer to the mouth of the river than is represented on the map.
The Eel Weir is a relatively easy run, and, though I am not qualified to judge rapids, I would guess it would be a Class I. I have done it before in a kayak easily, and on my latest trip paddled the empty canoe half-way down and easily eddied-out at a spot we chose during scouting. I advise you scout it, in which case you’ll probably decided to either run it without your gear or maybe portage.
It is not far now to Loon Lake. Explore the Northern part of Loon Lake Island to find the portage around the falls, because this one is not where it is marked on the map either. It is a quick portage, however. The alternate route is to run down the Back Passage, along the Western edge of Loon Lake Island. This is not advisable in low water, as there are some jagged rocks at the bottom. The portage is almost as quick, however, being less than 200m.
The Mersey winds its way South from Loon Lake Falls, and in high water can appear confusing as there are several long, wide flooded meadows that connect to it at this point, and ocassionaly the flow of the river can be tricky. Simply looking to see where the water is running will simplify this, however, and soon you will find yourself at the Black Rattle, a quick run of water with an ominous name, but which really isn’t dangerous at all. Watch out for some sneaky rocks, though!
You will soon come to a bridge over the Mersey, with a gatehouse on the right hand side. This belongs to Bowater, who own most of the land West of Lake Rossignol. On the left hand side you may see a couple of trailers and RVs, and occasionally a tent. This is a spring colony of fishermen, and most of them are good hearts and minds. On a trip from Annapolis Royal I was entertained by an older fellow who helped me to coffee, and his wife helped me to some pastries.
About 500m beyond the bridge there may be an obstacle across the river in the shape of an eel weir, but I have never seen it as I have always traveled during high water. Keep your eyes open, just in case.
Next we paddle into an area of drowned forest. Tall dead trunks of trees stand out of the water, and the river is quite wide. You are almost to Rossignol.
When you reach Rossignol, be careful. Every time I have paddled this lake in the evening there has been a strong chop, whether the wind seemed powerful or not. Rossignol is big, and it’s also shallow, and you can’t be careful enough. Don’t take any chances going too far from shore. The lake has its place in the folklore of Queens County, as there have been many drownings over the years.
I recommend camping for the night on Rossignol, none the less. There are several small islands between the outflow of the Mersey and the stream leading into Carrigan Lake. One small one in particular, about 800 meters West and a little South of Low Landing, offers a nice spot for a tent and a good stone beach to haul out a canoe on the North side.

Carrigan Lake – 2nd Christopher Lake (Day 2)

If you really wanted to, you could push right through into Ponhook today. Because we were going at an easy pace, my fiancé and I only went as far as 2nd Christopher. To begin with, you’re going to have to find your way into Lacey Bay. Sounds easy, but if you’re not paying attention you may find your way into Gaspar Bay. Don’t turn left prematurely.
There are two ways into Carrigan Lake. One is a small bay at grid reference 044 335, the other a brook a little further down the shore, at about 046 335. The small bay entails a quick portage, the brook a quick line-up. Brittany and I decided to line up the brook instead of unpacking all of our gear and re-packing it. It was a bit rocky, but very short. We also met a man at the brook fishing, with his wife, and by the trout he had I would say it probably isn’t a bad fishing hole. A log down at the top of the run was a bit tricky to get under.
Carrigan lake is a lovely paddle. Its length and curves give it a what’s-around-the-next-corner kind of excitement. At the most Eastern end of the lake you will find a a low, swampy tributary, and about 25m to the left of that there is an excellent campsite and the beginning of the portage into Appletree Lake.
The portage is about one kilometer, and it winds through the woods, through a chopping, and up a steep hill to a road. Follow the road to the left (you may want to mark where you exited the portage trail, as by this point it is hard to follow) and when you can see the lake through the trees on your right and the road takes a sharp turn to the left, it’s time to crash through the trees down a steep incline and find yourself (hopefully) at another campsite and a place to put your canoe in. The portage can be hard to find at times, but has been marked with orange flagging tape to help you find your way.
Congratulations! You’ve left the Mersey Watershed and entered the Medway.
Paddle to the North end of Appletree Lake and find the swampy stream. Follow this until you get to a quick little rocky run, which you can line down, and then hop back in and paddle to the road. You’ll have to get out here and carry down the road to the right, until you get to a cabin where you can put back in the water. The little stretch of still water leading out to Telfer Lake is prime turtle country, and I’ve seen big snappers and some painted turtles along here before.
Also, a warning: The area around the Christopher Lakes is inhabited by Poison Sumac. A few years ago I was kayaking through here with a friend who got into this, and it left a nasty mess on his leg. He thought he was bit by a spider at the time.
Paddle North-East and under the bridge at the end of Telfer Lake. Make sure the water is low enough that you can get under it, or, like my fiancé and I, you may get stuck underneath, pushing the canoe down into the water with your hands on the bridge, and trying to pull the canoe forward and out the other side. Also watch out for the strainer after the bridge, a large live tree that you may be able to paddle around if the water was high enough that you had to carry over the bridge.
When you make it past the tree, paddle down the Stillwater until you find the run on your left-hand side. This is a tricky spot to get out of without damaging your boat or ankles, but the portage is there on the left hand side, and it is a pretty quick carry down into Fourth Christopher Lake. There is also a nice campsite at the end of the portage, and I haven’t spent nearly as many blissful evenings there as I would have liked to. Several come to mind frying trout and eels on hot coals from a good wood fire.
Now paddle across Fourth Christopher and down the Stillwater brook on the North side. You will go through a series of little runs and stillwaters that will eventually spit you out into 3rd Christopher Lake. Paddle straight out across this, paying attention to your map to make sure you round the peninsula at the correct point and continue on down into Laurel Lake. There is a little swift narrow spot between 3rd Christopher and Laurel Lake called The Gilmore, where you may care to drop a hook if so inclined.
At the other end of Laurel Lake you will find another run that must be portaged, and the portage route is on the right hand side. Be careful not to roll an ankle on the rocks at the bottom of the portage. Now load up your gear and paddle about a hundred meters or so downstream and you should find your campsite on the right hand, or South, bank of the stream, where the rock is a bit steep.

2nd Christopher Lake to Ponhook (Day 3):

If you decided to do the trip like Brittany and I and take your time, then you are waking up today on 2nd Christopher Lake, on its Western end. You are going to paddle out of the brook you are in and travel basically NE across the lake, take out at the boat ramp, and carry across the campground to put in at 1st Christopher. I would strongly advise letting the authorities that be know of your intentions, unless there is nobody home. You may be able to get some fresh water from one of the campground taps, too. This is Hibernia, property of the Nova Scotia Guides Association, and they are generally very hospitable people.
You’ll find the brook from 1st Christopher into Cameron Lake at the NE side of 1st Christopher. Paddle up the brook a little way and you will come to the remains of an old stone dam or bridge that is busted through the middle. Take out and carry along the right hand side of this, and then turn left at the road you come to. Carry down the road, through a gate, and put in at the picnic site on the other side. You will paddle under a bridge and come out onto Cameron Lake. That was your last Portage.
Now paddle down Cameron Lake, sticking to the shore on your left, and turn North into St. Mary’s Bay at the end of it, then round the point of land to your right and paddle down the long narrow channel with the cabins on either side. At the bottom turn left and you’re in Ponhook. Congratulations, you’ve done it!
Brittany and I paddled to the other end of the Lake, slept on an island by Labelle Brook, and got picked up at the bridge there the next day. There are numerous other pick-up points around the Lake. Another option to being picked up would be trying to go up the Wildcat River into Molega, or up Labelle Brook and into Beaverdam Lake, portage into Black Rattle Lake, and then down the brook and into Molega. I haven’t done either of these yet, but when I do I will post them.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Kejmikujik Lake” Series A791, Map 21 A/6 “Bridgewater” Series A791, Map 21 A/7
Special Comments: 

Beware of Poison Sumac in the Christopher Lakes chain.

This route's main goal is linking the Mersey Watershed with the Medway Watershed.

This is a great route for beginners who are considering a longer trip. It has a bit of rapids, some river travel, some wide open lake travel, and everything you may encounter on a longer trip.