As humans, we are responsible for preserving and protecting the natural wonders of our planet to the best of our abilities. We Ontarians are fortunate to live in a pocket of the world that is brimming with so much beauty and spectacle. It only makes sense that we set an example for others when it comes to nature preservation.
Ontario Nature has enforced a reserve system for over 55 years now, and it continues to do so today. With more than 7,000 acres of land spanning across 24 properties, they are doing their part to protect these special lands.
Ontario nature reserves are open to visitors; however, there is a strict Permitted Activities Policy that must be closely followed. Here are 14 Ontario nature reserves that are worth the drive:
Altberg Wetland Nature Reserve
Altberg Wetland Reserve is a 39-hectare, valley wetland on the South Bay on Balsam Lake. It features gentle, rolling plains that are full of unique plants and animals. Though there are no formal boardwalks or trails in the area, the reserve is sure to make any nature lover feel right at home.
Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve
Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve is a stunning natural area just north of Lion's Head in the Bruce Peninsula. The 67-hectare reserve has one of the coolest rock gardens in the province, with beautiful plants like Indian paintbrush, dwarf lake iris and purple stemmed cliffbrake are mixed into the scene. Though everyone is welcome to check out the reserve, visitors must remain on the marked trail as the rock barrens are highly sensitive to foot traffic.
Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve
Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve is part of the York Region Greening Strategy, which supports natural environments and sustainable communities. The reserve is an important habitat for several species of wildlife, so you're bound to encounter some really cool animals as you hike through it. The area is also largely forested, with huge beech, maple and hemlock trees that will surely keep you cool during the summer months.
George G. Newton Nature Reserve
George G. Newton Nature Reserve was previously a farm owned by Elizabeth G Osbaldeston, a descendant of a Huron County pioneer. At 32 hectares the area comprises of a westbound stream that cuts through forest thick and old farm fields. Visitors can rely on a 1.2 km loop trail to navigate through the beautiful property.
Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve
Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is home to perhaps the last mature hemlock forest on Lake Erie. It is also filled with a variety of trees, including yellow birch, American beech, red and sugar maples, and white ash. Unique plants like the Indian cucumber-root and Jack-in-the-pulpit can also be seen here, and songbirds can be heard throughout the area as well.
Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve
Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve is a whopping 358 hectares large. It is particularly known for its rare mature maple-beech forest and beautiful displays of wildflowers in the spring. Kinghurst is also designated as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), which makes it a special place for researchers to "take a glimpse into Ontario's natural past."
Lawson Nature Reserve
Lawson Nature Reserve has several topographical transitions, from meadows to swamps. There are about 200 plant species in the area, including the rare Virginia bugleweed, so it would definitely be a worthwhile visit for anyone who enjoys greenery.
Lost Bay Nature Reserve
Lost Bay Nature Reserve is located within the Frontenac Axis, or the southernmost part of the Canadian Shield (which forms the Thousand Islands). Since it is located in the same area as the St. Lawrence River, the reserve is home to unique and rare species, including eastern musk and snapping turtles. It's a perfect place to go nature watching and exploring.
Quarry Bay Nature Reserve
Quarry Bay Nature Reserve is 391 hectares large and houses a variety of swamps and small lakes. Huge limestone formations can also be seen traversing the shores of Lake Huron, along with stunning species of plants such as the lakeside daisy and fringed gentian.
Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve
Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve is also an ANSI designated area like the Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve, as it is "one of the best remaining examples of beach ridges, sand planes, sand dunes and swales" in Ontario. Visitors should take caution when exploring the area as there is a large diversity of wildlife, which include snapping turtles and Massasauga rattlenakes.
Stewartville Swamp Nature Reserve
Stewartville Swamp Nature Reserve is a mixed forest where you'll typically see several stunning orchids growing throughout. Although none of the orchids are rare, they are so abundant and varied that they will still take your breath away.
Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve
Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve is a 42-hectare area comprised of several rare habitats - 44 provincially rare and 33 regionally rare plant species can be found throughout. In fact, some of the trees in this reserve are over 100 years old!
Wilfred G. Crozier Nature Reserve
Wilfred G. Crozier Nature Reserve is a designated ANSI site that is dominated by eastern hemlock and other trees that are characteristic to Ontario. There are short cliffs throughout the reserve where one can get some of the most breathtaking views of the area.
Willoughby Nature Reserve
Willoughby Nature Reserve is a 48-hectare property that has a unique undulating landscape resulting from the Silver Creek river that cuts through it. A mature forest of hardwoods and softwoods dominates the area, and beautiful flowers emerge on the ground floor every spring.
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