The Grand River in Winter

Exploring the Grand River is not just for the warm months of the year. After a recent snowstorm I headed out to Fergus, Elora and West Montrose on a cold Sunday morning, to view the river in its winter coat.

First stop: Fergus, built of stone by Scottish immigrants to the area. Without the leafy green of summer, the lichen-crusted limestone banks of the river stood out, set off by some red berries and a frozen miniature waterfall.

Between Elora and Fergus, the Wellington County Museum and Archives overlooks the Grand River. This is the oldest remaining “House of Industry and Refuge” building in Canada, otherwise known as the dreaded 19th century “workhouse”.

My next stop was Elora, another quaint stone village built by Scottish immigrants. The Elora Mill Hotel and Spa, built in a former grist mill, towers over the river and presides over the village. In summer, the town bustles with tourists, but today it was almost deserted except for a few people walking their children and dogs. The Elora Mill has harnessed the power of the river in partnership with Shaman Power, building a new green hydro station on the footprint of an old power station, tying the mill to both the past and the future.

A reminder of the old industrial past of Elora can be seen on the banks of the river, opposite the mill. Converted to black and white, the photograph of the old foundry seems timeless.

At my next stop downstream from Elora, these red berries overlooking the river caught my eye.

Balsam Grove Parochial School is a century-old one-room schoolhouse, still in use.

The West Montrose Covered Bridge is the star of any visit to the Grand River in Waterloo Region. It is photogenic in any season, but a mantle of snow sets off the dark red timbers.

As I stopped beside the bridge a group of local Mennonites drove past in their horse drawn buggies.

Beside the bridge stands a beautifully preserved old stone cottage.

My final stop was at the one-lane buggy bridge in Conestogo. Here a large group of Canada Geese and mallards were feeding in the river, oblivious to the ice.

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