Kejimkujik is a National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada (often called “Keji” for short). It is separated into two areas: the main park, located in the interior of the province, and the smaller Kejimkujik Seaside Park, located on the Atlantic coast.
The main park is a designated National Historic Site of Canada, established as a National Park in 1968. The park gets its name from Kejimkujik Lake, which is a Mi’kmaq word meaning “tired muscles” – a reference to the effort it took to canoe across the lake.
Keji has many brooks, rivers and lakes making it an ideal place for canoeing and kayaking. Native people have been using the canoe routes here for thousands of years and they are still in use today.
My first canoe trip was in Keji Park. I had never taken paddling lessons but just learned as we went along. We paddled across Kejimkujik Lake and camped in an old lean-to on one of the islands. It was wonderful! We slept out in the open under a very starry sky.
Another memorable experience happened one beautiful autumn day when my husband and I decided to take a short paddle to one of the islands on Keji Lake. It was sunny and warm, and when we reached the island, we decided to have a picnic. While we sat enjoying the peace and quiet under the red and yellow maples, the wind suddenly picked up and it turned really cold. It started to snow! We were OK with that and started a small bonfire to warm up a bit. Because of the wind, we decided that we’d better head back sooner than planned.
Once we started back across the lake, we realized that it was a bit windier than we thought. The waves got bigger as we reached open water. Scared the canoe would tip over if we went side-on to the waves, we had to keep paddling until we reached shore. Needless to say, I have never paddled so hard and so fast in all my life! Our hands almost frozen, we made it back to the mainland safely but it was a very exhausting and scary paddle. It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change.
There are many routes to follow in the park, from short day trips to backcountry trips that can take days. A good place to begin paddling in Keji is a one to two hour day trip from Jake’s Landing, paddling up the peaceful Mersey River. You’ll see red maples, turtles, frogs and water lilies, great blue herons, and maybe even a beaver. This trip is excellent for those with little canoeing experience.
From the Visitor Centre, you can launch your canoe from the dock and take a short, leisurely trip up another section of the Mersey River. While exploring this stillwater, be on the lookout for muskrats, snapping turtles, ducks, loons, and deer. Red-winged blackbirds are also common here in the summer.
Big Dam Lake is another option, but you have to portage from the parking lot to the launching area. The entire lakeshore is forested, and you will see large stands of pine and hemlock plus many hardwood trees. The lake is divided into two halves and makes for a good two to three hour paddle.
Besides the many self-guided tours, there are guided canoe trips as well. You can bring your own canoe or you can rent one at the park. Whichever way you go, whatever route you take, you will enjoy experiencing the simplicity and tranquility of travelling by canoe at Kejimkujik National Park.
Be safe and happy paddling!