Kejimkujik National Park is one of the best places to go canoeing in Nova Scotia. If you’re planning to visit Keji, consider exploring the park by canoe. There are several different paddle routes and backcountry campsites to choose from. Whether you’re a seasoned canoeist or novice paddler, a multi-day adventure in Keji Southern Lakes region will not disappoint.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, I had the chance to visit Keji a few times—but never stayed overnight. I was thrilled to finally plan a multi-day trip and head into Keji’s backcountry this summer. With many different lakes in the park, canoeing Keji’s flatwater can be a great family-friendly adventure. Whether you’re with a group or flying solo, I’d add Kejimkujik National Park to your list.
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Thank you to Parks Canada for providing a complimentary night’s stay at Jeremy Bay’s Campground, backcountry map, and drone permit for the footage used in this blog.
About Keji Southern Lakes
Location: Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Distance: 48 km loop
Time: 4 days
Campsites: 30, 40, 31
Lakes: George, Kejimkujik, North Cranberry, Puzzle, Cobrielle, Peskowesk, Hilchemakaar, Lower Silver, Back, Beaverskin, Peskawa, Mountain
Portages: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, N
Season: May 20 to October 30
Reservation: Yes, reservations and backcountry permit required.
Features: Keji Southern Lakes canoe route features multiple freshwater lakes in the Nova Scotian interior. You’ll find sand beaches and glacial erratic rocks throughout the park, as well as 16 backcountry campsites to choose from (most accessible by canoe or kayak only).
Keji Southern Lakes FAQ
Q. Where is Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site located?
A. Kejimkujik National Park is found in the Nova Scotian interior, about a 2-hour drive west of Halifax. Find directions to the Keji Visitor Centre on Google Maps. Keji is actually one park in two locations, with Kejimkujik Seaside on the Atlantic coast about 30 mins from the town of Liverpool.
Q. How long is the Keji Southern Lakes route?
A. Keji Southern Lakes offers a 49-km loop that includes most of the portage and lake routes available. You can also create a custom route to match your skills and desired trip length.
Q. How difficult is the Keji Southern Lakes canoe route?
A. Canoeing in the Keji Southern Lakes region is not overly difficult or technical. The paddling is almost completely flatwater and classified as easy. However, strong winds create challenging waves on the larger Peskowesk and Peskwawa lakes, requiring strong paddling techniques. Further, the number of portages required for the full loop adds to the difficulty level. Overall, I would consider the Keji Southern Lakes loop an intermediate adventure.
Q. How many portages are on the Keji Southern Lakes route?
A. The 49-km loop includes 13 different portages. However, there are 16 different portage routes in the Keji Southern Lakes region.
Q. What is the longest portage route in Keji Southern Lakes?
A. Portage E is the longest portage from Minards Bay to Mountain Lake (or vice versa). Though I suggest accessing this portage from Mountain Lake to avoid the steep incline from Minards Bay.
Q. How many days does Keji Southern Lakes take to complete?
A. I recommend four days to complete the Keji Southern Lakes loop, with plenty of time to enjoy the backcountry. Though experienced paddlers could complete this route in three days or less, those desiring a more relaxed pace may choose to paddle over five days.
Q. What advice would you give someone attempting Keji Southern Lakes?
While most of the paddling in Keji is on flat water, Keji Southern Lakes is not an easy canoe route. You’ll find multiple portages connecting two larger lakes to smaller lakes in the backcountry. You must be able to carry your canoe. Physical fitness and previous canoe tripping experience are important. Keji is an excellent place to learn canoe-tripping and backcountry camping skills, but preparation is essential. If you’re looking for a fun backcountry adventure, this could be for you!
Kejimkujik National Park History
Kejimjujik National Park isn’t just a national park. In 1995, it was also designated a National Historical Site because of over 4000 years of Mi’kmaq occupancy. Interestingly, Keji is the first national park to gain this dual status. Many of the portage and canoe routes were established by the Mi’kmaq First Nation and continue to be used today. You can also find petroglyphs (rock carvings) and other cultural landscapes that highlight the importance of the area for the Mi’kmaw peoples.
Read more: Your Complete Guide to the Bagwa Canoe Route in Saskatchewan
Keji Southern Lakes Map
Keji Southern Lakes Distances
Here are the approximate paddle distances for this Keji Southern Lakes route.
|0||Eel Weir/Mersey River Bridge|
|16||Site 30 – Lower Silver Lake||2 tent pads, outhouse toilet, fire pit, bear hang|
|30||Site 40 – Peskawa Lake||2 tent pads, outhouse toilet, fire pit, bear hang|
|39||Site 31 – Peskowesk Lake||2 tent pads, outhouse toilet, fire pit, bear hang|
|48||Eel Weir/Mersey River Bridge|
Here are the portage distances for Keji Southern Lakes. Portages M, O, and P are not required for this canoe route.
|A||1.2||Dry, rolling terrain. Canoe rest provided.|
|B||0.12||Over low ridge. Crosses the Fire Tower Rd.|
|C||0.4||Over a gradual rise. Short, steep section at Cobrielle Lake end.|
|D||0.64||Dry, rolling terrain. Canoe rest provided.|
|E||2.3||Longest portage. Steep climb from Minards Bay to Fire Tower Rd. Canoe rests provided.|
|F||0.62||Over rolling terrain. Canoe rest provided.|
|G||0.8||Peskowesk end of this carry is hidden in a cove. Canoe rests provided.|
|H||0.2||Over low ridge.|
|I||0.2||Over low ridge.|
|J||1.2||Follows Liberty Lake Trail for some distance. Canoe rests provided.|
|K||0.4||Steep climb from Peskowesk Lake.|
|L||0.4||Fairly level terrain.|
|M||0.2||Over low ridge. Canoe rest provided.|
|N||0.8||Two separate carries. One short carry around bridge, the other longer over gentle, sloping terrain. Rocky area. Canoe rest provided.|
|O||0.8||Gently sloping terrain. Canoe rest provided.|
|P||0.2||Gently sloping terrain.|
If you’re looking for more information on paddling distances, check out Friends of Keji Canoeing Distance Tables to plan your canoe trip.
Keji Reservations—Kejimkujik Camping Options
Kejimkujik backcountry camping has grown in popularity over the past few years. If you’re planning a Keji canoe trip, book your sites early to avoid disappointment. I reserved all of my backcountry campsites as soon as reservations opened in February, yet was still unable to snag an island site. Luckily, my plan B worked out!
Book Keji backcountry sites through Parks Canada’s online reservation system or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). When you arrive at Keji, you must register at the Visitor Centre and return your permit at the end of your trip.
Note: Keji reservations opened on February 17, 2022 and will likely open around the same time next year. Don’t wait too long to book your campsites. Know what sites you want and have a few different options in mind.
Canoe Rentals and Shuttles
Don’t have your own canoe? No problem! Whynot Adventure provides canoe and gear rentals right in Kejimkujik National Park. We brought our own boat but rented a couple of dry bag backpacks. These backpacks made portaging much more manageable. You can book your rental online and pick up gear at Jakes Landing. Many visitors plan one or two-night canoe trips, so reserving in advance is the best option in peak season.
If you’re bringing one vehicle and need a shuttle, arrange with Whynot Adventure in advance. We didn’t require a shuttle as we returned to Eel Weir, but it might be needed if you start at Jakes Landing and finish at Eel Weir (or vice versa).
Directions to Kejimkujik National Park
Kejimkujik National Park is located in the Nova Scotia interior, not too far from the village of Caledonia and about 166 km from Halifax. If you’re coming from the city, take Highway 103 through Mahone Bay and then turn right onto Highway 8 in South Brookfield. Continue through Kempt to find the park entrance on your left. Find directions on Google Maps.
Tip: Kejimkujik is one site in two different locations in southern Nova Scotia. For this trip, you’ll want to head to Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (not Kejimkujik Seaside).
Finding the Boat Launch
For this canoe route, start at Eel Weir by the Mersey River bridge. From the park entrance, drive about 11 km on the Kejimkujik Main Parkway until reaching a parking area, past the turn-off to Jakes Landing. Continue down Eel Weir Rd for 8 km until the bridge—this is where the road ends. The boat launch is to the right of the bridge. Prepare to take 30 minutes for this trip. You’ll also find picnic tables, an outhouse toilet, and a parking lot for your vehicle.
4-Day Keji Southern Lakes Itinerary (+ More Options!)
We chose to paddle Keji Southern Lakes for 4 days/3 nights. There are plenty of shorter route options, though this full loop allowed us to experience a lot of Keji’s backcountry. Depending on campsite availability, you can spend as much or as little time as you should like.
Here is my recommended 4-day paddle loop in Keji Southern Lakes:
Day 1: Eel Weir to Lower Silver Lake (Site 30) – 17 KM
Day 2: Lower Silver Lake to Peskawa Lake (Site 40) – 13 KM
Day 3: Peskawa Lake to Peskowesk Lake (Site 31) – 9 KM
Day 4: Peskowesk Lake to Eel Weir – 10 KM
Find out more about our day-to-day experience by reading Keji Southern Lakes: 4 Days of Canoeing in Nova Scotia (coming soon) or by watching our Keji Southern Lakes Trip Video.
Here are some more Keji Southern Lakes itineraries:
2-day paddle (beginner):
Day 1: Eel Weir to Cobrielle Lake (Site 27 or 26)
Day 2: Cobrielle Lake to Eel Weir (via Mountain Lake)
Start at Eel Weir, paddle up to Minards Bay, and take Portage A onto North Cranberry Lake. Then take Portage B onto Puzzle Lake and Portage C onto Cobrielle Lake. Camp at site 27 or 26. The next day, paddle up Mountain Lake and take the 2.3-km Portage E back to Minards Bay, and then paddle back to Eel Weir.
2-day paddle (challenge):
Day 1: Eel Weir to Lower Silver Lake (Site 30)
Day 2: Lower Silver Lake to Eel Weir
Start at Eel Weir, paddle up to Minards Bay, and take Portage A onto North Cranberry Lake. Then take Portage B onto Puzzle Lake, Portage C onto Cobrielle Lake, Portage D onto Peskowesk Lake, and Portage G onto Hitchemakaar Lake. Take the short Portage H to reach Campsite 30 at Lower Silver Lake. On day two, take Portage I followed by Portage J back onto Peskowesk. Finally, take Portage F and then Portage E to Minards Bay and then paddle back to Eel Weir.
3-day paddle (challenge):
Day 1: Eel Weir to Lower Silver Lake (Site 30)
Day 2: Lower Silver Lake to Peskawa Lake (Site 40 or 38)
Day 3: Peskawa Lake to Eel Weir
Start at Eel Weir, paddle up to Minards Bay, and take Portage A onto North Cranberry Lake. Then take Portage B onto Puzzle Lake, Portage C onto Cobrielle Lake, Portage D onto Peskowesk Lake, and Portage G onto Hitchemakaar Lake. Take the short Portage H to reach Campsite 30 at Lower Silver Lake. The next day, take Portage I followed by Portage J back onto Peskowesk Lake and then the short Portage K and Portage L onto Peskawa Lake. Camp at site 40 or 38. On day three, take Portage N onto Peskowesk and paddle down the lake to Portage F. Take Portage F and then Portage E onto Minards Bay and then paddle to Eel Weir.
3-day paddle (islands):
Day 1: Eel Weir to Peskowesk Lake (Site 29)
Day 2: Site 29 to Île de l’Orignal (Site 32)
Day 3: Île de l’Orignal to Eel Weir
Start at Eel Weir, paddle up to Minards Bay, and take Portage A onto North Cranberry Lake. Then take Portage B onto Puzzle Lake, Portage C onto Cobrielle Lake, and Portage D onto Peskowesk Lake. Camp at Campsite 29. The next day, paddle up Peskowesk Lake and camp at Île de l’Orignal. Finally, take Portage F and then Portage E back to Minards Bay and paddle to Eel Weir on day three.
Read more: Keji Southern Lakes: 4 Days of Canoeing in Nova Scotia (coming soon)
Keji Backcountry Map
I was very impressed with the high-quality Keji backcountry map and wouldn’t paddle without one. While the map is waterproof, I use this SealLine map case for extra protection. You can find the map online (click here) to plan your trip, but I suggest buying a hard copy at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre. Thank you to Parks Canada for providing a complimentary map for this trip!
Canoe Trip Packing List
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping bag liner
- Rain jacket
- Water filter
- Water bottle
- Bug spray
- Jetboil stove & fuel
- Bowls & spork
- Biodegradable soap & scrub
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- Map & compass
- Sat comm device
- Powerbank & charger cables
- 2 70-litre dry bags
- 2 10-litre dry bags
- First aid kit
- Down jacket
- Bear spray
- Car key
- DSLR camera
- An extra paddle
- Painter chord
- Bilge pump
- Throw bag
- Pilot knife (attached to PFD)
- Waterproof flashlight
- Yoke pad
Backcountry Meals in Kejimkujik National Park
Our 4-day meal plan is relatively straightforward. For breakfasts, we alternate between instant oatmeal and instant potatoes with bacon bits and cheese. Lunches are generally something easy like wraps with peanut butter, honey, hummus, or whatever else we want. Beef jerky is a good pick-me-up in the middle of the day, too. Then for supper, we tend to bring freeze-dried meals for the convenience factor, though I’d like to start dehydrating my own meals. Of course, we bring chocolate and other snacks, too. What do you eat in the backcountry?
Keji Backcountry Campgrounds are very well-equipped with bear hangs. Use the pulley system to keep your food up high and away from your tent. We use a dry bag (like this one) to keep everything nice and dry.
Read more: 3-Day Milk River Canoe Trip in Alberta—The Ultimate Guide
Toilets in Kejimkujik National Park
Each backcountry campsite in Keji has an outhouse toilet. Though if nature calls elsewhere, dig a hole about six inches deep and 70 steps away from water sources, trails, and campsites. Pack out any toilet paper or bring it to the outhouse at your campsite.
Backcountry Camping in the Rain
We got really lucky on this trip. It only rained on our last day! In Nova Scotia, the weather can change on a dime, so it’s always best to bring a lightweight tarp with you. Similarly, a rain jacket and waterproof pants will help keep you warm, dry and happy when inclement weather rolls in.
Backcountry Safety in Kejimkujik National Park
Wind and waves can make paddling on the larger lakes quite difficult. Depending on the conditions, you may need to extend your stay until the weather clears. Be prepared to add additional time to your trip. Further, paddlers should have canoe and navigation skills before attempting this route.
Bring and wear your personal floatation device (PFD). Make sure your canoe is equipped with necessary safety equipment, including a signalling device (whistle), throw rope bag, painter rope, bilge pump, and an extra paddle. Find out more at Transport Canada.
Have you taken a wilderness first aid course? Emergency rescues are not always easy or timely in the backcountry. I highly suggest learning wildness first aid and bringing a first aid kit on your trip.
Tip: Always leave your trip plan with someone you trust. Your trip plan should include when and where you’re going (including campsites) and when you plan to return. Bringing a satellite communications device can allow you to communicate with your contact if your trip plans change.
Wildlife in Kejimkujik National Park
We are visitors in the backcountry. If you’re lucky, you’ll see several different kinds of wildlife and enjoy the beauty in the wilderness. We saw an eagle and more loons than I can count, plus several other creatures going about their day-to-day. Remember, never feed wildlife and give them lots of space.
Kejimkujik National Park is bear country. Black bears roam freely and are generally afraid of humans. However, they will also take opportunities to eat human food from garbages or messy campsites. Once their natural human fear fades, they continue to seek out food in backpacks, coolers, etc. These bears are often terminated due to human mistakes. Keep all of your food and trash stored properly and help keep bears and other wildlife wild. Not a bad idea to carry bear spray, just in case.
Keji Southern Lakes Canoe Trip Video
Are you planning a canoe trip to Kejimkujik National Park? Did you find this guide useful? Let me know in the comments below.
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