Muddied but Unbowed!
Map 1 Dunnville: 10.6 km mostly on our bicycles
Most of the trail from Dunnville to Lake Erie is along the towpath beside the old Feeder Canal, built to take water from the Grand River to the Welland Canal system. We assumed that this would be bike-able. After leaving Dunnville along the busy main road, the GVT soon moved onto the towpath. Part of the towpath consists of coarse gravel private lanes leading to houses. The rest is a dirt track that has been badly chewed up by ATVs. Some of the mud-holes were so deep that they had become little frog ponds and the trail was barely passable on foot. However, we managed to ride parts of it and drag our bikes across the worst sections.
Along the way we passed remnants of the old canal, including a rusting lock.
The trail finishes in Port Maitland, where the Feeder Canal enters the Grand River. This was formerly a busy fishing port but is now a derelict industrial shipping terminal. Here again are reminders of the area’s rich history. The original massive lock is still in place, without the lock mechanism. A cairn explains that this was the site of the first naval depot on Lake Erie, built in 1814 to protect from the risk of invasion from the United States.
The southern terminus of the Grand Valley Trail is an unimposing cairn in a small park beside the Grand River. Unfortunately, access to the lake is blocked by a private cottage development. We had to settle for a view of the lighthouses and Lake Erie in the distance.
Fortunately, there is a side trail of the GVT through nearby Rock Point Provincial Park, which is on the shores of Lake Erie. We were able to complete our journey at the lake.
Mission Accomplished! We have hiked or biked the entire Grand Valley Trail from Alton to Lake Erie, all 279 km. What is next? There are many other trails in the Grand River watershed. We are currently mapping the entire Trans Canada Trail as it passes through the watershed and connects us with the Waterfront Trail. Next year we plan to start canoeing downstream from Elora.
We are a lot fitter than we were in April when we started our journey. We have learned a lot about the history, geography and ecology of the area in which we live. By moving at a human pace we have become more connected to the land under our feet. We have developed an appreciation for well-maintained and well-marked hiking and biking trails and better understand the challenges of trail development. We hope to bring many other people back to the Grand River in the coming years as we develop the Grand Watershed Trails Network.