WCA Review of channels during current low water

By Jeremy Gawen & Bill Bialkowski

8 March, 2013


West Carling is covered by Canada Hydrographic Service, Small-Craft Nautical Chart 2003 Sheet 1 of 3, which shows Twin Sisters Island on the left, and Rose Island on the right. The chart misses the south half of Franklin Island however.


The 2004 version of the chart shows depths in feet. Depths greater than 6 feet are coloured in white, while shallower depths are in blue. Depths are all relative to chart datum which for Lake Huron is 176.0 metres above sea level (at mouth of St. Lawrence River). For the month of January, 2013, the monthly average dipped down to 175.57m (ASL) and beat the all-time record low of 175.58m (ASL) established in March, 1964. 175.57 is 16.9 inches below chart datum, while 175.58m is 16.5 inches below chart datum. Both of these amounts are about 1.3 feet. That means that where the chart says the depth is 6 feet, it now is only 4.7 feet.

General Caution: when navigating in official buoyed channels the depths are supposed to be 6 feet or greater, which now means that sections of such channels may by only 4.7 feet. Whereas this is sufficient for most power boats, many sail boats draw 5 feet or more. Mariners should exercise extra caution even in buoyed channels while the waters remain low.

Having a working depth sounder is recommended. Remember when the water turns brown, it’s probably too shallow!

West Carling Channels

1) Silver Birch Bay (Unofficial WCA name: 45deg 26min, N, 80 deg 22 min W)

All entrances to Silver Birch Bay are extremely shallow with many chart depths of only one foot. It may be impossible to navigate into the Bay.





2) Sand Bay (45deg 26min, N, 80 deg 21 min W)

The west entrance into Sand Bay near Lee Is has deep water ( 9 feet, now 7.7). The east entrance between Sunnyside Island and Tenant Pt. is treacherous with 5 feet showing (now only 3.7) – extreme caution needed.

3) Dillon Cove Marina (45deg 25.8 min, N, 80 deg 19.9 min W)

Extreme caution is need at Dillon Cove. The ‘gas dock’ is near the letter ‘D’ and depths are about 4 feet (now 2.7).



4) Shebeshakong Bay (45deg 25.5 min, N, 80 deg 19. min W). Depths here are so shallow that navigating in a canoe may not be possible.

5) Bull’s Eye Channel & Savage Rock’s. Many people take the Bull’s Eye passage inside Savage Rocks to get to Henrietta Point and beyond, on the west side of Franklyn Island. If you stay in the centre of this channel the depths there are typically 17 feet (now 15), and should be OK.

6) West side of Franklin Island. Extra caution is needed on the outer side of Franklin

7) Shebeshakong Channel – from Dillon to Remmie Bay on the east side of Franklin Island. The channel appears quite passible with all depths in the white (6 feet or more- hence 4.7 feet or more). Caution is requited at all t=times especially near buoys, and especially for sailboats.

8) Snug Run – channel from Buoys AC1/AC2 at north end of Snug Island east bound and then south bound around Snug Island. This channel is estimated to have about 2 feet only as shown in the focus circle and is likely impassable.

9) Snug Harbour. The entrances to Snug Harbour via the North Gap and South Gap are generally fine with deep water. However, proceeding into the marina and restaurant there is a nasty shallow patch between Tucker’s cottage on the North shore and Glenn Parr’s cottage on the South shore. The chart insert shows a depth of 5 feet (now 3.7), although staying closer to the south shore may increase this to 6 feet (now 4.7) – as shown in the red focus circle. Ophir channel between the mainland and Bon Air Is. is essentially closed.

10) Bon Air – Ketcheson Channel. This is the buoyed channel on the way south beside Bon Air Is. towards Fitzgerald Bay and onwards to Canoe Channel. It is generally clear, with one note of caution – (see in red focus circle) between red Buoys A24 & A22, there is a 5 foot shoal (now only 3.7 feet) that must be avoided by staying on the west side of the channel.

11) Jane Island to Canoe Channel to Jacknife. The buoyed channel on the east side of Jane Island through Buoys A16, 15 & A14 is precarious due to the shallow spot near Buoy A14. This shows 6 feet (now 4.7) as shown in the focus circle. This side of Jane Island may prove to be ‘dicy’. The west side of Jane (Buoys P17, P18) is fine. If on the way to Canoe Channel and in doubt, avoid the east passage and take the west passage. Canoe channel and Jacknife have adequate water.

12) Entrance to Killbear Marina The entrance to Killbear Marina is marked by Buoys AH1, aH3 & AH4, all of which lie on the 6 foot line (now 4.7 feet). Killbear Marina operator reported depth between AH3/4 and the main dock of 5.8 feet in September (4.5). Care should be exercised entering Killbear Marina, especially for sail boats.

13) Rose Island Channel. The west entrance to the Rose Island Channel past Pell Island is very dicey, as it passes between a 4 foot shoal (Now 2.7) and a 2 foot shoal (now 0.7 feet). Even though the chart shoes ‘white water’ between these two shoals indicating that 6 feet are available (now 4.7), extreme caution is needed. In contrast, the east entrance to Rose Channel shows 67 feet off the east end of Rose Island, but with a very shallow shoal just to the south. As long as one hugs the Rose Island shore, there should be no problem.