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A perfect destination to savor the character of the Rideau Lake District is Bobs and Crow Lakes. Located 50 miles north of Kingston, Ontario, the two lakes function as water storage for the popular Rideau Canal system. But Bobs and Crow lakes have their own identity separate from the well-known waterway. The two lakes, joined by a short channel, have been a preferred 'cottage country' destination for generations of seasonal visitors. The lakes host many private cottages and camps along their miles of rocky shoreline, but they are distant enough from neighbors to keep their scenic north woods atmosphere, replete with a variety of birds and mammals. Bobs Lake in particular is dotted with small uninhabited islands, and both contain myriad bays, coves and wetlands along the margins that offer a wealth of fishing opportunities. The Rideau Canal system is the destination of boaters who want to travel for miles; Bobs and Crow Lake attracts those who want to stay awhile and enjoy the solitude.
Generations of visitors return to the same camp year after year, introducing new family members to the joys of a chilly dip at dawn, chasing frogs in the grass along the shore, and taking leisurely afternoon boat excursions to explore the lakes. The size of the lakes is conducive to all types of water sports such as water skiing, personal watercraft, tubing, sailing, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. Quiet country roads are perfect for bicycling and hiking. Some cottages and camps have developed sandy-bottomed swim areas, while others anchor swim platforms suitable for diving offshore in the deeper water. This is the place where busy city-dwellers come to let golden sunsets and the call of the loon wash away the stress of too much civilization. Here, children learn to swim, to fish, to observe the local wildlife quietly, and to go to bed tired but happy. New friends and old are visited by boat. Bobs and Crow Lakes are a true community joined in their love of the lakes and the cottage lifestyle. More and more of these seasonal residents are choosing to retire here, leading to a growth of larger year-round homes along the rocky shore.
Only about 10% of the shoreline is Crown land. There is a solitary public boat ramp on Crow Lake. Most visiting fishermen arrive with a reservation at one of the nearly 20 resort camps located on the lakes. Most resorts will arrange use of a boat and motor for a reasonable fee, and several sell gas to all comers. Some provide guide service as well. Bobs Lake has several basins with different habitats, remnants of four separate lakes that once existed, so it is helpful to have a local experienced angler along who knows where the fish are hiding. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, rock bass, northern pike, bluegill, black crappie, walleye and lake trout all have their own types of feeding areas in the 7,776-acre lake. The Greater Bobs and Crow Lakes Association has carefully monitored water quality and the condition of the fishery. Occasionally, fry are stocked but the majority of the fish caught were bred within the two lakes and surrounding streams themselves. Crow Lake, with 1,076 acres, is generally deeper and supports a good population of lake trout, with lesser populations found in some Bobs Lake bays.
The Provincial Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) considers Bobs and Crow Lakes as one water body with nine segregated basins; Crow Lake, Crow Bay, Buck Bay, Green Bay, Mud Bay, Mill Bay, Long Bay, Eastern Bobs Basin, and Western Bobs Basin. Most of the shoreline of Bobs Lake is privately owned. Crow Lake, however, has several parcels of public land which are ideal for hiking and enjoying the abundant wildlife. One area of public land on Bobs Lake of particular interest to wildlife admirers is Michaels Creek Marsh, which contains nearly 80 acres of wild rice, a significant heron rookery, spawning habitat for bass and northern pike and osprey, bald eagles, bluebills and ringneck ducks along with many migratory birds in season. Other northern wildlife seen in the area - some commonly, others rarely - include white tail deer, black bear, northern river otter, muskrat, coyote, red fox, porcupine, occasional eastern wolf, moose, lynx and bobcat. Elk have been released in the area but have yet to be sighted. Some lands are open for hunting in season, and ice fishing is popular in winter. Winter residents and visitors also enjoy snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snow sledding.
The Bobs and Crow Lakes area was home to several groups of native people prior to the arrival of European trappers. Crows Lake has always had a large number of their namesake birds in residence near the shore, but the origin of the name for Bobs Lake is questionable. It appears from historical records that the lake was named for someone named Bob - but no one can agree on exactly who Bob was! Several people named Bob are recorded in historical records for the area, but the mystery remains. The two lakes were once at least five lakes among the headwaters of the Tay River. A small dam for milling purposes was first built across the river outlet at Bolingbroke in 1821. After the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832, logging became a major draw to the area. As is common, once the hardwoods were logged out, farmers arrived to try to make a living from the thin soils of the area. Crops were not very successful, which is probably somewhat fortunate, given what happened next. In 1870, the dam was enlarged to provide a reliable water reservoir to feed the Rideau Canal system downstream during dry seasons.
The dam was intended to raise the water level about 24 inches. Instead, the water level eventually rose 15 to 18 feet, flooding most of the lower-lying land, inundating all of the wetlands and forming one large sprawling lake from the four smaller lakes that were originally there. Locals hurried to harvest what timber remained, but the sudden change in water acidity from the submerged timber raised the acidity of the water to very high levels for several years, destroying the fishery. A few years later, Mother Nature had performed her miracles and the water regained the correct quality to support many fish within the much larger lake. As Bobs Lake was now equal in altitude to Crow Lake, navigation between the two by small boat became possible, except in the fall when water levels are lowered. New wetlands became established around the new shoreline, and local wildlife thrived in their new home. The Rideau Canal System under the authority of Parks Canada controls the water levels and attempts to keep winter and summer levels within about five feet of variance for the benefit of all. The Tay River (originally called Pike Creek) is not suitable for most boats in the upper reaches but is very popular for canoeing and kayaking expeditions.
Vacation lodgings are plentiful on Bobs and Crow Lakes; the only concern is to make reservations well in advance due to the popular nature of many of the camps. A campground exists along Crow Lake, and a number of private cottages and camping areas are usually available as weekly or monthly rentals on both lakes. There are no major hotels nearby, but the town of Westport on Upper Rideau Lake is only 20 miles to the east and offers several bed-and-breakfast establishments, along with antique shops, local shopping and, of course, more cottage resorts. One small inn exists at Sharbot Lake, about 10 miles west of Crow Lake. Real estate is available around both lakes, both as existing housing and as buildable lots on the lakeshore. So, why not come spend a week or longer at Bobs and Crow Lakes? The family anglers will love wetting a line in an attempt to entice the lakes' walleye or bass into the creel. As for children, there simply won't be enough hours in the day for them to explore and enjoy life at the lovely pristine lakes. Come to Bobs and Crow Lakes and enjoy nature as it should be. The lake trout are waiting.
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