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The Kawartha watershed is a unique landscape that holds vast wetlands, and long meandering rivers that flow to and from big lakes along the Trent-Severn Waterway. Agriculture thrives on rich soils and clean water, picturesque rural communities dot the landscape, and conservation and natural areas protect significant natural heritage. All of our programs and services support the protection of this unique watershed in Ontario.

Find out more about the watershed using the tabs below the map.


The Kawartha Watershed is made up of smaller drainage areas called subwatersheds. Click on the subwatershed on the map and follow the link. It will take you to maps, report card grades, data, links, and ways to help improve and protect your local environment. Or, select a subwatershed using the drop-down menu:

Map of the Kawartha Watershed

Download a PDF map

  • Benefits of a healthy watershed
  • Natural features and land use
  • Wetlands
  • Water flows and levels
  • Climate change
  • Learn more about watersheds

Benefits of a healthy watershed

Water and related natural resources have value—for our economy, the environment, and for people.

Economic health

  • Supplies water for agriculture, industry and households
  • Helps manage drought and prevent or reduce costly impacts associated with flooding and climate change
  • Contributes to tourism, fisheries, forestry, agriculture, and mining industries
  • Creates a desirable area for business investment, and a great place to work and raise a family

Ecological health

  • Conserves water
  • Promotes streamflow
  • Supports sustainable streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources
  • Enables healthy soil for crops and livestock
  • Provides habitat for wildlife and plants

Human health

  • Provides safe drinking water
  • Provides food
  • Enables us to adapt to the impacts of climate change more easily by cooling the air and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provides natural areas for people to keep active and recharge their batteries.

Natural features and land use

The Kawartha watershed is 2,563 square kilometers in size, stretching from the Canadian shield in the north to the Oak Ridges Moraine in the south. The area comprises the following natural features and land uses:

  • 46% agriculture
  • 22% forest
  • 13% lakes
  • 13% wetland
    • 55 Provincially Significant Wetlands
    • 49 Locally Significant Wetlands
  • 6% built-up/urban

Local wetlands

  Map of the wetlands in the Kawartha Conservation watershed
  Kawartha wetlands map
  Click here for a large map

Within our 2,563 km2 watershed, over 359 km2 are wetlands (approximately 14% of the total area). This includes 55 Provincially Significant Wetlands and 49 Locally Significant Wetlands.

They provide many important ecological services that help keep our environment and communities healthy, and local economy vibrant. Some of their main functions include the following:

  • Improve water quality in lakes and rivers
  • Reduce flooding and flood damage
  • Stop erosion
  • Recharge groundwater
  • Provide wildlife habitat
  • Keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Wetlands: Workhorses of Our Watersheds

Find out more about the importance of Ontario’s wetlands and their benefits, how wetlands contribute to Ontario’s economy, and what currently threatens the wetlands we have left through this interactive animation:

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fact sheets

Download the following fact sheets for detailed information about wetlands:

Ducks Unlimited Canada website

Find detailed information about wetlands, habitat reports, and how to get involved in protecting wetlands:

Additional Links

Water flows and levels

The direction of water flow across the watershed

Water that moves across the Kawartha watershed flows to Pigeon Lake. On the south side of the watershed, the Oak Ridges Moraine causes water to flow northward into Lake Scugog and Pigeon Lake. The water in Lake Scugog continues north into Sturgeon Lake via the Scugog River.

On the north end of the watershed, water flows off of the Canadian Shield from the Gull and Burnt rivers into Balsam and Cameron lakes. A small amount flows into the Lake Simcoe watershed through Balsam Lake, with the majority of water flowing over Fenelon Falls into Sturgeon Lake. 

Water from Sturgeon Lake flows into Pigeon Lake, along with the water from Nogies Creek. All of this water flows through the rest of the Kawartha Lakes to the east into the Trent River, emptying into Lake Ontario.

Water level management

Ontario Waterways, operated by Parks Canada, influences water levels in our watershed using four locks and water control structures. Ontario Waterways manages lake levels to minimize flooding and provide adequate water depth for boating and recreation.

Climate Change

Climate change impacts our water resources and the effects are expected to escalate as we move into the future.

This Climate Change Strategy is our response to this uneasy challenge. Building on our mandate, our responsibilities and our expertise, Kawartha Conservation is embracing climate change as another challenge to be addressed in watershed management. We recognize that it is critical to incorporate climate change adaptation into existing policies and programs, and prioritize actions that have co-benefits for mitigation and adaptation.

Climate Change Strategy

This background paper presents a framework for a Kawartha Conservation Climate Change Strategy and is based on extensive literature research.

Climate Change - A Challenge and Opportunity

Additional Climate Change Documents and Resources:

Click here for climate change documents in the Conservation Ontario library.

Learn more about watersheds

Watershed Connections CD ROM

Watershed Connections cd cover

Watershed Connections is an animated CD ROM that introduces watersheds and how they work. It shows the key concepts around watershed characterizations, presents the importance of stewardship activities, and provides information on Conservation Authorities' role in integrated watershed management, including Source Water Protection.

Watersheds 101 Website

 Watersheds 101 banner

View a collection of tools and resources compiled by Conservation Ontario at

Programs and Services


 Flood Forecasting and Warning

24/7 monitoring and warning about the potential for flooding


Sturgeon Lake shoreline

 Lake and Environmental Management Planning

Science-based plans for protecting lakes and watersheds


Lindsay water tower

 Drinking Water Source Protection

Maintaining a clean supply of water to municipal drinking water systems


Monitoring water flow

 Watershed Monitoring

Scientific research and monitoring of water quality and quantity, and related natural features


2013 Watershed Report Card

 Watershed Report Cards

Assessments of watershed health based on various environmental indicators



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