Over the last decade, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring what I would call one of the best boating areas of Ontario, we’re truly blessed in this province to have so many freshwater marine opportunities surrounding us but its extra special when you find a place that truly does have it all. This place is North Bay, Ontario and what makes it extra special is the fact that this stunning sunset city is wedged between two stunning lakes, Lake Nipissing, and Trout Lake. So, step aboard and let me take you on a written descriptive tour of the North Bay Powerboating experience so that you have all the information you need to get out on the water!
This is the official guide to powerboating in North Bay!
Geography & History
First and foremost, let’s start with some very special Geography and History recap of this area. The city of North Bay is memorable in terms of watershed dynamics as Lake Nipissing flows west through the French and Pickerel Rivers into Georgian Bay/Lake Huron while Trout Lake flows east through the Mattawa River into the Ottawa River and because of this division of watersheds, this special specimen of land was also a historic exploration trade portage landmark known as the La Vase Portage which is comprised of three portages to transfer between lakes – this route was used thousands of years ago by First Nations and Voyageurs but today is commonly used by paddle – canoe – kayak enthusiasts.
Lake Nipissing has a long and fascinating history which makes it an extraordinary boating experience. It is the fifth-largest lake in the province and covers an area of approximately 873 square kilometers (337 square miles). The lake has been inhabited by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The Anishinaabe people, including the Nipissing First Nation, have lived in the region for generations and continue to have a strong presence in the area.
European explorers first arrived in the 17th century, with French fur traders and missionaries establishing trade routes and missions in the region. Lake Nipissing played a crucial role in the fur trade as a transportation route connecting the interior of North America to the St. Lawrence River.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, logging became an important industry in the Lake Nipissing region. Timber was harvested from the surrounding forests and transported via the lake to sawmills. There was even a mine on the lake at one point and you can read more about that here in local legend Backroads Bill Steers article Newman mine.
Today you will find that North Bay is a vibrant city that offers a full-service marina as well as various maintained boat launches to access Lake Nipissing. The municipally operated sheltered marina offers docking facilities for both short-term and long-term stays, providing secure mooring options for boats of various sizes. The marina offers a range of amenities and services including in-water fuel services, pump-out services, washrooms and showers, parking, and of course secure gated access to the docks. From the marina, you can easily walk to Downtown North Bay indulging in the many restaurants and shops, or simply just stroll on over to the landmark “The Boat” for a snack or refreshment.
Lake Nipissing is a fantastic lake for recreational boating including watersports, exploration, and of course world-class fishing. The waters are known to warm up quite nicely in the summer as much of the lake is relatively shallow (20-30ft on the North Bay east side), with the vast size of the lake you must respect that conditions can change quickly when the weather rolls in or the wind picks up mid-afternoon and thus diligence is required, I also highly recommend the use of navigational maps on your boats display or app on your phone as many shoals exist throughout the lake. With proper planning on this big water, you will enjoy countless hours of fun with your family and friends, I’ve detailed below five of my favorite boating outings from North Bay for you to enjoy!
My Top 5 Lake Nipissing Boating Trips:
- Manitou Islands: Located 7km from the North Bay Marina, the Manitou Islands are a group of small islands known for their stunning natural scenery. Boaters can anchor their boats and enjoy swimming, picnicking, or playing on the stunning white sand beach.
- West Arm: The West Arm of Lake Nipissing is renowned for its tranquil beauty and abundant fishing opportunities. It is a popular spot for anglers looking to catch species such as walleye, northern pike, and bass. The scenic shoreline and calm waters make it an excellent place for boating and exploring.
- Callander Bay: Situated on the southern edge of Lake Nipissing, Callander Bay offers picturesque views and calm waters. It’s known for great fishing opportunities as well as a newly constructed lighthouse that’s worth a look.
- Sturgeon Falls: Located northwestern of North Bay, boating up the Sturgeon River is a special experience as you transition from the big open waters into a riverboat cruise, at the end you will find a marina with fuel and Twiggs for a snack.
- The French River: If you have the weather on your side and the power to make it across from North Bay its 30km (17 nautical miles) to the mouth of the French River, from here you can explore countless bays and passes, rugged Canadian shield topography, beautiful boat access only cottages and deep water.
For those without access to their own boat or who are unsure about being the captain consider singing up to be a skipper on the legendary Chief Commanda II which is docked at the North Bay Waterfront at the end of the pier in the Marina!
Trout Lake is a significant and picturesque lake located in North Bay, Ontario, and is one of my favorite lakes to spend the day boating on. The Lake holds both recreational and ecological importance and serves as a prominent feature within the city of North Bay as it covers an area of approximately 17 square kilometers (6.6 square miles). The maximum depth of Trout Lake reaches a stunning 100 meters (330 feet). The depth contributes to the clarity and quality of the lake’s water, which is known for its excellent visibility. These deep and clear waters are home to landlocked Atlantic Salmon which naturally produce in Four Mile Creek, other species of fish include Lake Trout, Large & Smallmouth Bass, Musky, Pike, Walleye, and various pan or bait fish.
Trout Lake is dotted with beautiful homes and cottages within the bays and passes making for scenic boating experiences, popular on the lake is Camp Island which has a rich history of its own. Today the island is managed by the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority and is a popular spot for relaxing and camping, the southeast side of the island has a massive sandbar and beach along with a quiet cove that is known as an unofficial meeting place for recreational boaters on sunny days, this sandbar is a fantastic place for families and young children as the water, for the most part, is less than knee deep near shore.
Average Joes Restaurant located directly on Trout Lake also holds the annual Boatapalooza on-water concert where boaters gather to enjoy live music that is played from the dock, the restaurant also will deliver food directly to your boat, home, or cottage by personal watercraft.
Trout Lake is extra special as connects urban North Bay with wild Northern Ontario and by boating on this lake you have the ability to get it away from it all by heading east down the lake along a very historic route that is part of the Mattawa River, this route will take you into Turtle Lake which is a relatively small lake but very peaceful with only one heritage cottage on the lake. It’s of special note that boating from Trout Lake to Turtle Lake is a feast for the eyes, the rugged landscape of Canadian shield mixed with massive white pines is a natural work of art, if you’ve never experienced boating from Trout in Turtle it’s a must-do, however, do use caution as well as a navigational chart aid as there are rocks and shoals present so you must know where you are going. I’ve detailed below five of my favorite day-trip Trout Lake itineraries.
My Top 5 Trout Lake Boating Trips:
- Camp Island, head out onto the lake for a nice cruise then find your way to Camp Island for a relaxing afternoon on the sandbar, make sure to pack a picnic.
- Four Mile Bay, it’s always special to trim up and head through the shallow channel into Four Mile Bay, an opportunity to gaze up to the North at the massive escarpment.
- Did you know the hit TV show “The Lake” was filmed on Trout Lake, head to the south side of the lake approximately halfway down and see if you can spot a few landmarks?
- To Turtle Lake, as noted this is a must-do trip that is old as time but never gets old, in fact, I think I visit every time I hit the waters of Trout Lake – take note of the plaque in the pass between.
- Average Joes, The Portage, or The Green Store – if you’re hungry for great eats or just want to treat the family to a delicious ice cream cone then dock the boat and spend some time on dry land, the cuisine is fabulous.
On Water Fuel
North Bay Area Lake Nipissing Powerboat Launches
- North Bay Marina
- Sunset Park Boat Launch
- Champlain Park Boat Launch
- Callander Bay Boat Launch
North Bay Area Trout Lake Powerboat Launches
- Trout Lake Boat Launch at Olmsted Beach
- Macpherson Drive Boat Launch
- Trappers Joes Live Bait Launch
- Peninsula Road Boat Launch
We look forward to seeing you out on the water in North Bay!