After Bruce Peninsula National Park, we had our second encounter with ancient cedar trees in this park. Cedar trees grow all along the banks of the Eramosa River, including through Rockwood Conservation Area. Some cedars that cling to the limestone cliffs are as old as 500 years. Some are very small due to the shallow, nutrient-poor soil. Trunks of older trees on cliff faces have a signature J-shape.
We saw a flock of turkeys and were surprised by their presence. We knew that turkeys have made a comeback in Grand River region, but were not aware that they can be found here. They were eradicated from this area, the province and many states by 1909 due to unregulated hunting and the loss of native forests that were cleared for agriculture.
Eastern wild turkeys from several states including Missouri, New Jersey and Tennessee were released at 15 sites in the Grand River watershed between 1986 and 2002. This was carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the National Wild Turkey Federation, an American organization with several local chapters.
Another geological feature that we observed at the park were potholes. The conservation area has over 200 potholes that vary in size and diameter.
The potholes were created during the retreat of the glacier. Pieces of stone — mostly hard granite from the Canadian Shield had been carried along by the glacier. They got caught up in fast-moving meltwater. They swirled in the whirlpools, ground away the softer limestone, and eventually left large round potholes in the rocks.
An important geological feature that we observed in the park were caves. Our earlier experience with caves had been at Bruce Peninsula National Park. The cave system is one of the most extensive ones in Ontario and includes stalactites, columns and flowstone. The conservation area has a network of 12 caves.
Rockwood’s caves were formed as the Winconsin glacier melted. The power of the fast-moving meltwater streamed down from the glacier, wearing away softer stone and creating cracks. These cracks turned into tunnels and then over time, became caves.
Rockwood has a unique geological history that has left it with glacial bluffs, potholes and caves. The glacial bluffs were formed during the most recent ice age, which ended 11,000 to 16,000 years ago and range from five to 30 metres deep and seven to 200 meters wide.
A visit to Rockwood allowed us to travel back 410 million years in geological time when this world was completely different. Rockwood and most of southern Ontario was covered with a tropical inland sea 410 million years ago. Over millions of years, the bodies of various molluscs piled up, eventually turning into some of the limestone cliffs that are up to 36 metres tall.
Tens of thousands of years ago the climate in this area began to change. The polar ice caps began to grow and instead of being covered by a tropical sea, this area was covered by the Wisconsin glacier that was a kilometre thick over Rockwood. Finally about 16,000 years ago the ice in this area began to retreat. Lots of fast-moving meltwater streamed down from the glacier, cutting into cracks in the limestone and forming whirl pools. The cracks turned into tunnels and caves around Rockwood. Pieces of stone — mostly hard granite — swirled in the whirlpools. They ground the softer limestone, leaving potholes.
About 10,000 years ago, the giant glacier was gone. Our modern ecosystems began to develop. First lichens appeared on the land and algae on the water. Together, they formed the fi rst moss. Then ferns evolved, followed by grasses, wild flowers, shrubs and eventually soft
wood. Each of these plants as they arrived on the scene began sending their spores and seeds out on the wind. The lichens were the fi rst. Their spores were picked up in air currents and dropped into the potholes.
We accessed the Gilbert MacIntyre Memorial Trails from the beach. The terrain in the Rockwood Conservation Area had high cliffs and steep slopes. Therefore, we had to be very careful for nobody could afford a sprained ankle. On that hot late June day, all of us were sweating like crazy. With water bottles in abundance, we pushed on stopping every now and then to admire unique geological or natural phenomena.
The trails have been developed to provide a safe journey through this unique and sensitive ecosystem. We exercised caution with the children in the group to stay on the trial.
In May of 1999, the Gilbert MacIntyre and Son Funeral Home and Chapel, together with the Grand River Conservation Foundation, formally launched the Family Memorial Area and Memorial Trail program.
From the parking lot located on the historic Rockwood Woolen Mill ruins, visitors cross the rustic bridge over the Eramosa River, and pass the tumbling waters of the upper mill dam.
Picnic tables are scattered throughout the conservation area. Although the Park brochure stated that open fires are not permitted for safety reasons, we saw barbeque facilities provided in one area that were being used by visitors. Of course, our interest was too much on hiking, kayaking and canoeing. We used one set of picnic tables for day long hiking and canoeing trips.
There is a large sandy beach, which was fully used by toddlers in the entourage. The area marked by buoys provides a shallower area for swimming. The beach is not patrolled, so parents or guardians must keep a close watch on children at all times.
Some of us rented out pedal boats and enjoyed it too.
Since our interest was in canoeing and kayaking in the Eramosa River, that is exactly where we started from immediately after establishing the mini-camp. Towering limestone cliffs, caves and glacial potholes, including one of the world's largest, are a few of the natural wonders that we observed on both sides of the river as we pedaled. The beauty of the surroundings can only be described by pictures.
Couple of us had their kayaks flipped which they were able to haul on the rocky banks with great difficulty. The take was that kayaks had much narrower base than what a regular sit on top kayak has. This made the kayaks unstable.
We rented canoes and kayaks from the beach kiosk and started our journey at the nearby beach and paddled upstream through small back bays and up to the waterfall created from the upper mill pond and its dam.
Canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals are available daily in July and August (weather permitting). Hours are Monday to Wednesday from 11:00 am to 5:30 p.m. and Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Visiting Guelph with your dog? Spend some time exercising your dog at any of Guelph's 6 off-leash areas.
I've tried 2 so far:
John Gamble Park (Ward 6 - south of access road leading to Shadybrook Cres.) -- a long strip of land that used to be an old road. You're likely to meet other dogs and dog owners here, so it's a good place for socializing. The off-leash area sits between the Hanlon Expressway and Preservation Park, a large forest with many trails (the forest is an on-leash area).
Crane Park (Ward 6 - at College and Stone Road)
Quiet trail right next to a babbling brook that connects to the Speed River. Also forested area with trails next to the river.
This dog park is not in Guelph, but it's well worth the 20 minute drive from Guelph to the east end of Waterloo. Address: 185 Bridge Street
Waterloo, Ontario Website: http://www.city.waterloo.on.ca/Facilities/BechtelPark/index.html
5 acres of fenced-in land. Double gated. Popular spot. Lots of dogs and dog owners to socialize with. A forest with lots of on-leash trails available right beside the dog park.
We visited this lake in early spring by accident and were fully rewarded for our exploration by sight of a pair of Ospreys and their nest (see picture 1).
There's a lot of room for recreation at this 1,608 hectares ( 3,971 acres) conservation area created with the construction of the Guelph Lake dam in 1974 (picture 2). A newly developed concert area with a unique living roof is on an island in the middle of the lake.
There are two beaches and non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake. It is home to a sailing club and there's excellent fishing (see picture).
The lake is located at 7743 Conservation Dr., RR 4, Guelph, ON N1H 6J1.
We have been frequent visitors to this conservation area, which is well known in the region for its campgrounds, tubing, kayaking, and hiking trails.
The Elora Gorge is one of the most beautiful and spectacular natural area in the Grand River valley. The Grand River rushes through the gorge, which has 22-metre high cliffs. Riverside trails (with safety barriers) and scenic overlooks provide hikers with stunning views of the water far below where kayakers and tubers make their way through the rapids.
Please note that warning signs are posted throughout the conservation area regarding safety around the gorge. Exercise caution during your visit, and stay on the trails. Stay away from the edge of the gorge and do not climb over the fences.
The Area is located at 7400 Wellington County Rd. 21, Box 356, Elora, ON N0B 1S0.
For details, please visit my pages on Elora. This conservation area with a wide range of adventure activities deserves a full page.
The Arboretum spans 165 hectares (408 acres) with 8.2 km of signed trails. Observed at The Arboretum are 38 species of mammals, 188 species of birds, 39 species of butterflies, 18 herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) and 1,700 species of trees and shrubs. Almost every tree and shrub indigenous to southern Ontario is growing at The Arboretum.
A great place for a peaceful and educational walk. I especially like to share this walk with my human friend (on-leash).
Cycling/hiking trails - there are several trails that most people would never know about. I only found out about them after living in Guelph during the summertime.
1. Trail leaves off east side of Watson Rd between Stone Rd and Arkell Rd. Just look for cars parked on the east side. Nice hike (about 1 hour) beside the river and then up through forest.
2. Guelph Lake conservation trails - go up to Guelph Lake - they'll help you out from there :)
3. Royal Recreation Trails - throughout the city of Guelph - check out the website for trail routes (http://www.city.guelph.on.ca/document.cfm?category=208)
4. Can't remember the name of this one - but if you drive east along Arkell Rd past Watson Rd. you'll find the parking lot on the right side (about 1 km past Watson). It's a nice hour hike through woods and up some hills.