Until recently I’d never heard of the Caddy Lake Tunnels, let alone the fact that there is a 169 km (105 mile) round-trip canoe loop that starts on Caddy Lake in eastern Manitoba. For those of you short on time, the tunnels can be canoed as part of a day trip from Winnipeg.

The tunnels are located in Whiteshell Provincial Park, near the Manitoba – Ontario border. They were blasted through solid granite rock when the railways were built, somewhere around the turn of the twentieth century.

There are two tunnels, about three miles apart. I have been told that in some years when the water levels are really high, especially in the second tunnel, you have to portage the canoe or be prepared to lean way back and pull yourself along the tunnels with your hands. Fortunately, this past weekend, we had lots of head-space.

We rented a canoe for the day from Green Bay Resort, located right on Caddy Lake. The beauty of this is you leave right from their beach.

After our recent canoeing trip in the Northwest Territories, where we were buffeted by waves on a couple of the days, I figured this paddling would be a piece of cake. WRONG. The wind was blowing really hard and we had a lightweight aluminum canoe that was very hard to control. Crossing Caddy Lake on the way out turned out to be the toughest part of the whole day.

"Canoeing down Caddy Lake - in the only calm section of the lake"

Canoeing down Caddy Lake – in the only calm section of the lake


The approach to the first of the Caddy Lake tunnels in Whiteshell Provincial Park

The first of the Caddy Lake tunnels"

The first of the Caddy Lake tunnels

"The first of the Caddy Lake tunnels"

Coming through the tunnels

"Paddling into Cross Lake"

Paddling into South Cross Lake

You're in Canadian Shield country with all of its lovely red/pink/white granite

You’re in Canadian Shield country with all of its lovely red/pink/white granite

What its like canoeing after Caddy Lake

After crossing Caddy Lake, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue if the winds were going to keep blowing. But once you reach South Cross Lake, there are lots of little headlands you can duck in behind so the paddling is way easier. This is also where you’ll find some campsites – available on a first come, first served basis. Some are probably heavily used, but all that we saw were very pretty.

"Paddling towards the second set of tunnels"

Paddling towards the second set of tunnels

"Heading through the second tunnel into South Cross Lake"

Heading through the second tunnel

The suggested paddling time to reach the second tunnel is three hours. We did it in about 2.5 hours, even with the wind. At our turn around point, just after we got through the second  tunnel, we both wished we had more time to explore further. North Cross Lake is reportedly a beautiful lake – and the swimming is excellent.

"Our lunch spot - looking towards the entrance to North Cross Lake"

Our lunch spot – looking towards the entrance to North Cross Lake

I was a little antsy about our return paddle as I figured the wind would be in our face and it would take three plus hours to get back (and we had a flight to catch and some photo ID that John had forgotten at the previous B&B to pick up). Fortunately the wind died down to almost nothing, but we did get caught in a downpour for about 45 minutes. Still, I’d take the rain over the wind any day.

Over the course of our paddle we saw one muskrat, a turtle, numerous loons and many different types of ducks. Bugs were non-existent.

"Heading through the second tunnel"

This is what the second tunnel looks like on the return to South Cross Lake

"Looking towards Caddy Lake from the second tunnel"

Looking towards South Cross Lake from the second tunnel

"Heading into Caddy Lake"

Heading back into Caddy Lake

"Amazing skies over Caddy Lake"

Amazing skies over Caddy Lake after the rainstorm

We were back on the beach in two hours, so I guess all the paddling we’ve done this summer has paid dividends.

This is a great day’s outing and perfect for families as well. If you’re not rushed for time, you could certainly paddle further than we did – providing you have the canoe back by 6 PM when the canoe rental part of Green Bay Resorts closes.

Where to stay near Caddy Lake

On a side note, I’d like to recommend a stay at The Firefly B&B, just a few kilometers away from Rennie, and about 30 minutes from Caddy Lake. Your hosts, Doug and Patti, are some of the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet. John and I were invited to join them for dinner on the deck – homemade thin crust pizza and a peach cobbler dessert. Their excuse was that they had a new outdoor pizza oven to try. The next morning we were also treated to fresh bagels from the pizza oven. I didn’t want to leave.

"The view from the deck at The Firefly B&B near Rennie, Manitoba"

The view from the deck at The Firefly B&B near Rennie, Manitoba

"Peach cobbler out of the pizza oven"

Peach cobbler out of the pizza oven

The Caddy Lake area of Whiteshell Provincial Park is well worth a visit. I loved the landscape and would happily return for a longer trip. I can also recommend the cross-country skiing in the park.

Canoeing the Caddy Lake Tunnels in Whiteshell Provincial Park

Have you visited Whiteshell Provincial Park?

A big thank you to Travel Manitoba for help with some of this trip.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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