Luther Marsh is in the headwaters of the Grand River. The Grand River Conservation Authority maintains a dam that has created a lake, which helps control water flows in the river. The marsh is a birder’s paradise, especially during the spring and fall migration season, as 263 species have been identified. Watch out for the endangered spotted turtle and Butler’s garter snake, which have been found here.
We took advantage of an hot, sunny day in August to go for a paddle on the lake. There were half a dozen other cars in the parking lot and a couple of other pairs of paddlers heading out onto the lake. However, once we were on the lake no-one else was visible. It was a windy day and a bit choppy, but we paddled hard into the wind, passing a beaver lodge and a flock of ring billed gulls feeding on a raft of floating vegetation. Returning to the access point, we coasted, letting the wind push us back.
A few ancient willow trees, reminded us that the Mohawk name for the Grand River was O:se Kenhionhata:tie or Willow River.
A Guelph family have been paddling from their home in Guelph, on the Speed River, to the Atlantic Ocean, following in the footsteps of the iconic Canadian film, “Paddle to the Sea”, by Bill Mason (based on a book by HC Holling). Jeremy Shute, his wife Leslie Howarth, and sons Kofi and Nigel started their adventure 3 years ago and are devoting 2 weeks every year to completing their trip. An article about their progress is feature in today’s Waterloo Region Record.
Owen Sound to Chatsworth (21 km each way by bicycle on a multi-use rail trail)
The Grey County/Dufferin County CP Rail Trail runs between Owen Sound and Orangeville. Between Owen Sound and Holland Centre the trail is stone dust, which is comfortable for most bikes. From Holland Centre to Orangeville it is rough gravel, best used for hiking. The trail is used by snowmobiles in the winter. ATVs are permitted outside the city of Owen Sound.
Because the Grand Trail meets the CP Rail Trail in Dundalk, it provides an additional link between the Grand Trail and the Waterfront Trail. Upgrading the entire trail to stone dust would create a multi-day round trip cycling adventure.
We spent the week of the July long weekend at a cottage in Owen Sound and took the opportunity to explore the first section of the CP Rail Trail between Owen Sound and the village of Chatsworth.
Chatsworth is at the top of the Niagara Escarpment from Lake Huron. However, rail companies always choose a route that minimizes the grade to reduce fuel consumption. The CP Rail Trail is no exception, taking a circuitous route that climbs gently almost all the way. The stone dust surface is in good condition. The trail wends its way through small forested areas and farmland. The meadows beside the track bed were blooming with summer flowers.
After an hour and a half riding uphill in the heat, we were happy to find Chatsworth Honey, right at the intersection of the trail with Highway 10. There was a choice of several varieties of honey, depending on the location of the beehives: spring flower, autumn flower and basswood. We bought some honeycomb for the grandchildren, some jars of different honey to taste test later and a jar of local maple syrup. From there we cruised back downhill into Owen Sound.
We have been instructed not to travel far from home. Fortunately, in the Grand River Watershed there are many trails that are open and easily accessible. We need only to look a little more closely to see the natural world all around us. Instead of running around to a different activity every weekend, when we walk the same trail repeatedly we can see the succession of spring flowers unfolding over time in the same location.
Trout lilies are common in the forests of Southern Ontario. However, the woods beside the Health Valley Trail were carpeted in unfamiliar white trout lilies. I thought that perhaps they were an unusual variety of the yellow species, but they are actually a separate species, Erythronium albidum. A few days later, Ontario’s provincial flower, Trillium grandiflorum, was in full bloom.
Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, are less conspicuous but no less interesting (see if you can spot one hiding with the trilliums above). Although they look like the carnivorous pitcher plant, they don’t consume the insects that are attracted to their flower, but merely use them as pollinators.
Marsh marigolds, Caltha palustris, are another common woodland plant tha tis blooming prolifically in local wetlands.
Of course, with spring come insects. The first mosquitos have appeared in the last few days and given our wet spring they are likely to be plentiful. Staying even closer to home, this native common eastern bumble bee, Bombus impatiens, was busy visiting all the blossoms on a non-native azalea in our suburban garden.