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A true jewel in the crown of Ontario's Cottage Country, 3500-acre Kennisis Lake has been the prefect vacation getaway for generations of Canadian cottagers. Located in the area popularly known as the Haliburton Highlands, Kennisis Lake is the largest lake in the region and a vital part of the Trent-Severn Waterway headwaters. Although not a part of this popular boating destination, Kennisis Lake acts as a storage reservoir to keep water levels navigable in dry seasons. Nearly all of the lake's 26-mile shoreline is privately owned, but much of the surrounding area is enclosed in one of several reserves that are open for public use. Because of this, cottage visitors feel they are part of a vast wilderness bordering a pristine north-country lake. Indeed, visits from bears are not uncommon and many cottage visitors have their own 'bear-tale' to tell.
The rocky, irregular shoreline of Kennisis Lake provides excellent canoeing and kayaking scenery. Power boating, water skiing, jet-skiing and pontooning are also popular activities among lake visitors and summer residents. Many cottages along the shore are only seasonally occupied, although property owners are increasingly inclined to remodel cottages as full-time retirement homes. Winter and summer both, the view is spectacular. The lake provides many private swim docks for the pleasure of visitors. A generous assortment of waterfowl and native mammals small and large call the lakeshore home. Whitetail deer and moose are often sighted at the water's edge.
A marina is located on the south shore of the lake and functions as a neighborhood gathering spot. The Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners' Association sponsors several festivals and celebrations throughout the year, including a sailing regatta. A public boat launch is located near the marina with a second launch adjacent to the dam at the west end of the lake. To accommodate non-boat owners, the marina rents all types of watercraft - and water-skis - by the day and by the week. From kayaks to pontoons to ski boats, the marina provides nearly everything except personal watercraft. In winter, the marina becomes snowmobile headquarters, offering sales, rentals and repairs. The Kennisis Lake area is one of Cottage Country's favorite winter playgrounds with easy access to many miles of trails in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve just north of the lake.
Kennisis Lake is a favored fishing destination year round. Primarily a lake trout fishery, the lake also holds yellow perch, brook trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, largemouth bass and rock bass. Kennisis Lake is one of the most popular ice fishing lakes in the Highlands. All Ontario fishing regulations apply, and a fishing license is required of all anglers. Nearby Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve offers many miles of trails for snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking. During the summer months, the 70,000-acre reserve provides trails for mountain biking and hiking, camping areas, fishing sites, an outdoor education center, and a wolf reserve and education center. The reserve consists of forest twice cut-over and now managed as a sustainable forest demonstration site. Although open to the public, Haliburton Forest is privately owned by the forestry company and an active logging site. Not far northeast of Haliburton Forest, Algonquin Provincial Park remains one of Ontario's most popular vacation destinations.
Originally a natural lake, the outflow at Kennisis River was dammed at some point during early settlement, likely to improve shallow areas for log transport. Between 1900 and 1910, the British government took control of most of the small dams in the region and improved them. The first navigation lock on the Trent-Severn waterway was installed in 1833, improving the ancient canoe route of fur traders and natives for more modern shipping needs. Dams such as the Kennisis Dam served to balance water flow and handle snow melt and spring flooding. As the waterway is no longer used for commercial freight traffic, the entire system of dams falls under the control of Parks Canada. Just downstream from the dam, a large area of publicly-owned land houses the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Center which provides environmental and outdoor education programs. Several of the islands in Kennisis Lake are now under the control of environmental groups and available for picnicking and day use.
At the end of the lake opposite the dam, a short navigable channel of the Little Kennisis River leads to Little Kennisis Lake. The smaller lake is also a popular cottage destination and considered a vital part of the Kennisis Lake community. The smaller lake is also a favored fishery and, like Kennisis Lake, well supplied by coves, shoals and bays where the big fish hide.
Vacation rentals are numerous along Kennisis Lake - many right on the shore. A number of seasonal cottage owners offer their private residents for weekly or monthly rental. Several can be found available year-round. A few fishing lodges still exist and are just as popular as they were a generation or two ago. Some resorts exist with housekeeping cottages catering to weekly visitors and often include a canoe or rowboat for visitors' use. Several bed-and-breakfasts serve the Haliburton Highlands area, with motels located in the larger towns. Real estate is available for purchase, but is usually in the form of existing cottages as there is little undeveloped land on the lakefront. One visit is all it will take: you'll become hooked on Kennisis Lake as soon as that big lake trout is hooked on your line. Come explore Kennisis - you'll wonder why you didn't arrive years ago!
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