Kejimkujik National Park is Nova Scotia’s paddling paradise, with a great system of lakes and the province’s only Dark Sky Reserve, only a 2-hour drive from Halifax. Well-maintained portages and campsites allow paddlers to retrace routes used by Mi’kmaw peoples for thousands of years. Keji offers copious flat water routes, challenging the more advanced trippers with some lengthy portages while also offering no-portage routes around Keji lake for beginners.
Starting Point: Jake’s Landing in Kejimkujik National Park
Ending Point: Jake’s Landing in Kejimkujik National Park
Total Distance: 35 km
Duration: 2 days / 1 night (though it would be best to do it in 3 days / 2 nights)
Difficulty: Intermediate (due to long portages)
Trip Completed: September 2015
Located in Kejimkujik National Park, via the main campground entrance. A 2-hour drive from Halifax, in Southwestern Nova Scotia. Caledonia (18km away) is the closest town to the park where you can find basic amenities.
Traditional Territory: This route in the Kawartha Highlands is located on the traditional territory of the Mi’kma’ki and Wabanaki Confederacy (source).
Maps & Resources
Map: Topographic map by Government of Canada. The map can be viewed and downloaded / printed as a PDF here.
Campsite Reservations: Campsites can be booked via the Parks Canada Portal. You will need to book the specific campsite you want, the sites are currently $25.04 per night.
Permits: Permits can be booked on the Parks Canada Reservation Portal by choosing Backcountry Camping, then Kejimkujik. You must pick up your permit at the Visitor’s Center and return it at the end of your trip. If you need to pick up/drop off your permit outside Visitor Center hours just give them a call before your trip to arrange for permit pick up/drop off (902-682-2772).
Outfitters & Shuttles
The Keji Outfitters is located at Jake’s Landing, the starting point! You can rent canoes, kayaks and camping equipment. They also offer complete outfitting packages which include all you need for a backcountry trip, even meals and snacks. Additionally, they provide shuttle services, although none will be needed for this specific loop. Check out their website www.whynotadventure.ca for all their services and to book.
Day 1: Keji Lake to Lower Silver Lake – via Hilchemakaar Lake (17 km)
In September of 2015, I set off on a quick weekend canoe trip with three friends, to one of Nova Scotia’s paddling gems. Just a 2-hour drive from Halifax, Kejimkujik National Park was the perfect destination for us, four university students, already needing a break from school (it was only September!). We booked a last-minute site, contacted the outfitters at Jake’s Landing and we were all set to go in a few hours.
We left Halifax early in the morning because we had a long day ahead of us. We booked one of the further sites, feeling very ambitious to explore as much as possible.
After arriving at the park we picked up our permit at the Visitor’s Center and checked in at Jake’s Landing. The outfitters were very friendly and, because it was late September, it was not busy at all. They were very surprised with our campsite choice (site 30), because it was a tad far for a one-nighter, but we assured them we like the challenge.
We set off across Keji Lake, had a beautiful sunny day and barely any wind. On a windy day, Keji Lake can be a brutal paddle. There are lots of islands to explore on Keji Lake making it a very scenic part of the trip, however, navigating it can be tricky.
After 8 km we reached our first portage that would lead to North Cranberry Lake. The portages throughout Kejimkujik National Park are marked alphabetically and campsites are marked numerically.
Portage A (1.20 km) connects Keji Lake to North Cranberry Lake, it is not very difficult but has some rolling terrain. A lot of the longer portages throughout the park, such as Portage A, have canoe rests provided at start/end and sometimes throughout the portage, so you can take a break from the carrying without placing your canoe on the ground.
For those that haven’t come across these before, canoe rests are wooden stands that you can place the bow of your canoe on and step out from underneath it to take a break or easily pick it up.
The remaining five lakes were all small compared to Keji Lake, without any obstacles and lots of nice spots to stop for lunch or just enjoy the view. After leaving Keji Lake you travel the route in the following order:
- North Cranberry Lake to Puzzle Lake – via Portage B (0.12 km) which crosses Fire Tower Rd
- Puzzle Lake to Cobrielle Lake – via Portage C (0.40 km, steep near the end, when approaching Cobrielle Lake)
- Cobrielle Lake to Peskowesk Lake – via Portage D (0.64 km)
- Canoe Rest
- Peskowesk Lake to Hilchemakaar Lake – via Portage G (0.80 km)
- Canoe Rest
- Hilchemakaar Lake to Lower Silver Lake – via Portage H (0.20 km)
Campsite: Campsite 30 is at the end of Portage H, on the shore of Lower Silver Lake. All campsites have a tent pad, fire pit, outhouse, bear cables for hanging food and a firewood box. This campsite also had a picnic table. This allows for very comfortable backcountry camping and is good for first-time campers. The warm September day made for excellent swimming right from the shore of our campsite. The campsite is located at the end of a portage but is the only site in the cluster of lakes in the southern part of the park so unless someone is exploring these lakes during the day you shouldn’t see much traffic.
Day 2: Lower Silver Lake to Keji Lake – via Back Lake (18km)
Instead of retracing our step back to Keji lake, we decided to make this trip a loop and return via Back lake. This route option has a long portage near the end of the day (Portage E – 2.30 km) so if you would like to avoid it you can go back the way you came on Day 1. There are also a few alternate route options that I will list below if you’d like to paddle a slightly different route to avoid the long portage.
Our group decided to do the full loop and I am glad we did as Back lake ended up being my favourite spot of the trip. We left Campsite 30 and paddled the route in the following order:
- Lower Silver Lake to Back Lake – via Portage I (0.20 km)
- Back Lack to Peskowesk Lake – via Portage J (1.20 km) which joins up with the Liberty Lake trail for a portion
- Canoe rest
- Peskowesk Lake to Mountain Lake – via Portage F (0.62 km)
- Canoe rest
- Mountain Lake to Kejimkujik Lake – via Portage E (2.30 km)
- Canoe rests throughout
- Steep climb from Fire Tower Rd to Minard’s Bay
Alternate Route Option 1: For those wanting to see more lakes but still wanting to avoid Portage E, you can return via Back lake but once you reach Peskowesk lake you head East to Portage D leading into Cobrielle lake, instead of taking Portage E into Mountain Lake. This will make for a slightly longer day but is a great option for those that make this into a 3 day/ 2night trip.
Alternate Route Option 2: Another way to bypass Portage E is to return via Back Lake all the way to Mountain lake, but instead of taking Portage E you can head East and connect with Cobrielle Lake, paddling past Campsite 26. Again, this will make for a longer trip but great for a 3-day route, with Campsite 26 or 27 being a good 2nd night option.
Campsite: If you choose to make this a 2-night trip there are many campsite options on Peskowesk Lake, Mountain Lake or Cobrielle Lake for your 2nd night.
Exploring Keji NP via canoe is an excellent way to see what Nova Scotia’s backcountry has to offer. The only regret is that we didn’t make this a longer trip. I would suggest doing this route in 3 days / 2 nights so you have time to do some more exploring. Although sometimes the weekend is all you have, and if you are ambitious enough Campsite 30 is a great site to choose!
Agata works for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, spending all her free time outdoors, travelling and browsing maps to plan future trips. Canoe is her preferred method of transportation and she will most likely be carrying a box of wine in her food barrel.