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Rice Lake is a 24,748-acre lake located in south-eastern Ontario, southeast of the city of Peterborough and north of Cobourg. The beautiful lake is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, which flows into the lake through the Otonabee River and out via the Trent River. Nearly 20 miles long by just over three miles wide, Rice Lake was named for the wild rice stands which used to grow in the shallow water along the shoreline. During the construction of the Waterway, which raised the level of the lake, most of the wild rice areas were washed away. Today the shoreline is home to many lakefront accommodations offering visitors unlimited use of the lake and surrounding area.
Against the backdrop of the scenic Ontario outdoors, Rice Lake is an attractive tourist area, most famous for its fishing. Rice Lake claims to be the lake with the most fish in all of Ontario. Because the lake is rather shallow (the maximum depth is only 26 feet), weed beds and mudflats are abundant and attest to the lake's great fertility. Schools of panfish abound in the shallow waters and provide food for the highly sought-after predatory fish. Rice Lake is infamous for its muskie with some fish tipping the scales at 30 pounds, although 10 to 15 pound muskie are more common. Largemouth bass and walleye also share the lake, and several professional bass tournaments are held annually on Rice Lake. Shore anglers are likely to catch crappie, perch, smallmouth bass, bluegill and possibly carp.
Rice Lake is sometimes included in the glacial chain of Kawartha Lakes, but geologically, it differs from its neighboring lakes. Rice Lake's origin is actually pre-glacial which makes it one of the oldest bodies of water in the region.
The shoreline of Rice Lake is heavily developed with resorts, cottages, inns, bed and breakfasts and all kinds of vacation rentals and real estate. Most accommodations cater to anglers and offer docks, boat launches, and boat rentals. For the recreational vehicle and camping enthusiast, campgrounds with all the amenities can be found around the lake. Those just visiting for the day will find public boat launches located in the towns of Bewdley and Roseneath.
Paddlers will find a number of enchanting islands, also called drumlins, on Rice Lake. Also of interest are the remains of the Cobourg and Peterborough Railway which once crossed the water. Completed in 1854, a railroad bridge crossed the lake from Harwood to Hiawatha. During a particularly hard winter, thick layers of ice damaged the bridge beyond repair, and it was closed within six years. Sections of the railway bed are still visible on the lake. Rice Lake boat cruises also navigate around the islands offering visitors scenic and informational tours. For water sports enthusiasts, watercraft rentals of all kinds are available from local marinas. Swimmers, boaters, snorkelers, and divers all share the pristine waters of the lake.
Golfers visiting Rice Lake can enjoy a choice of multiple golf courses ranging from challenging to relaxing, all with spectacular views. Great hiking and cycling opportunities can be found within the provincial and conservation parks that surround the lake. A scenic driving tour through the rolling hillside is a great way to visit the many historic villages in the area where artisan studios, antique shops and specialty outlets await tourists. The village of Bewdley sits on the western end of the lake, and the town of Hastings sits on the east.
On the northern shore of Rice Lake, visitors can tour the Serpent Mounds Park which is owned and operated by the Hiawatha First Nation. The park contains nine burial mound enclosed graves of ancient people who lived in the area more than 2,000 years ago. Other places of interest include the Native Reserves of Alderville and Hiawatha and the communities of Roseneath, Bailieboro, Gores Landing and Harwood. The early Mississauga name for Rice Lake was Pem-e-dash-cou tay-ang or Lake of the Burning Plains. This name refers to the hunting grounds on the southern shore where the Mississaugas burned the vegetation each spring to encourage a type of grass favored by deer.
Wildlife on the shores of Rice Lake include white-tailed deer, moose and even elk have been spotted close by. Muskrats, beavers, fishers and minks share the area as well. For bird lovers, keep an eye open for bald eagles, osprey, blue heron, loon, woodpeckers or any of the other dozens of birds that make their home near the lake. Large flocks of geese, ducks, and wading birds visit the lake throughout the year.
With inviting waters that can accommodate fishing, swimming, and boating, Rice Lake is a great place to enjoy a relaxing day. Sample some fine local cuisine, shop for that unique souvenir of your travels, or cast your line and wait for that big one to bite. Just 50 miles east of Toronto, Rice Lake is the ultimate destination for any type of water oriented activity.
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