Haldimand has an abundance of old growth Carolinian forest, lush marshy wetlands, and streams, creeks and rivers making it a premiere destination to find a quiet spot to observe nature undisturbed.
It is common to come upon wild turkeys perched in trees at Ruigrok Tract or hear the distinct call of red-winged blackbirds among the reeds at Wheeler’s Walk in Selkirk Provincial Park or spot a giant Blue Heron in the skies over the Dunnville marsh as they look for their next meal of frogs along the Grand River.
Each season brings with it a new species to see and hear. Trails and driving routes offer up close encounters and great photo ops. Learn about the landscape and eco-systems of the area and the key points of interest in your next birding adventure.
Haldimand is fortunate to have a Registered Bird Banding Station at Ruthven Park National Historic Site in Cayuga.
Some of the most notable species that have been seen here include:
- Prothonotary Warbler,
- Cerulean Warbler,
- Yellow-breasted Chat,
- Golden-winged Warbler,
- Louisiana Waterthrush,
- Hooded Warbler,
- and Acadian Flycatcher.
Ruthven Park also hosts the “Ruthven’s For The Birds” Annual Fall Migration Festival. Read the Ruthven Nature Blog for more information about birding events and activities.
Additional Birding Resources:
Birding Driving Route
Lagoon Loop—25 Km Driving Route
Take advantage of the Townsend and Jarvis lagoons. Habitat is mostly farmland but watch for overhead birds as they circle the lagoons.
Nearby points of interest:
- Townsend walking trails
- Haldimand Conservation Area
- Selkirk Provincial Park (Please note: Lagoons are a fenced and gated compound with no public access.)
Lake Erie Shoreline—70 km Driving Route
Travel along Ontario’s South Coast and stop at some of the identified public access points along the Lake Erie shoreline. Shorebirds are plentiful in the area and photographers can capture spectacular sunsets after their birding day is done.
Lowbanks Feeder Canal—44 km Driving Route
Watch for birds along the Feeder Canal and the shore of Lake Erie.
Visit popular points of interest:
- Dunnville Conservation Area
- East Port Maitland Park
- Rock Point Provincial Park
- Explore lake access points along North Shore Drive
Watch for Bufflehead, Wood Duck, Red-Breasted Merganser, Double-Crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Red-Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Black Billed Cuckoo, Greater Yellow Legs, Great Egret Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin, Winter Wren, Cray Catbird, Orange-crowned Warbler.
Lower Grand River Route—51 km Driving Route
Start your drive in Cayuga and travel south towards Lake Erie along the Grand River. Pass through different habitats such as Carolinian Forests, farmland, and marshes. Nearby points of interest:
- Ruthven Park and Bird Banding Station
- Taquanyah Conservation Area
- Dry Lake
- Port Maitland Pier
- Dunnville Conservation Area
Birding Walking Route
Rotary Riverside Trail—6 km Walking Trail
This 6 km linear trail runs parallel to the Grand River just downstream of Caledonia. Developed and managed by the Rotary Club of Caledonia, most of the trail is on land owned by Haldimand County, with the rest of the trail on private land. The trail is open all year, but not maintained in winter. It begins at the Seneca Park parking lot, on the east side of the Grand immediately below Caledonia, and ends at the town of York. There are several opportunities to exit the trail onto roadways, including Highway 54 at River Road, Abbey Road and Stoney Creek Road. The trail user may also opt to simply reverse to the beginning. Access to the Grand River in several locations.
This 335 acre natural area was initially set aside in 1967 to protect the hydrologic functions of the wetlands, which are the headwaters of Mill Creek, which flows into the Grand River south of York. The other two main objectives are to conserve wildlife habitat and provide outdoor education opportunities. The site was once used by the Canadian Wildlife Service to raise juvenile Bald Eagles, which were successfully reintroduced into southern Ontario after the species exhibited a sharp decline to near extinction. The wetlands on this site provide suitable breeding and foraging habitat for a variety of wetland-dependent bird species, including Northern Harrier, Wilson’s Snipe, Marsh Wren, and Great Blue Heron. Two hundred and eighteen bird species have been recorded in the day use conservation area. Species such as Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Mockingbird, and Short-eared Owl can be seen over-wintering here. Various species of Waterfowl, such as Wood Duck, Mallard, and Black Duck, and Raptors, including provincial rarities such as Longeared Owl and Peregrine Falcon, have been seen here during spring and fall migration. Habitats include open pond, cattail marsh, thicket swamp, treed swamp, hardwood forest, wet meadows, and a cold water stream. This scenic property and its abundant wildlife can be enjoyed by taking a leisurely hike through one of the maintained walking trails. The trails and parking areas are not maintained in winter. Parking area with access to walking trails is located on Decewsville Rd.
Dunnville Marsh (Foot Access)
Travel to the south end of the river to the best marsh system along the lower Grand River. The Grand River Marshes are classified as a provincially significant wetland by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The marsh is accessible by foot but there is very limited parking, and is best viewed from the water using a canoe or kayak. Other habitats on the property include wet and dry meadows, treed hedgerows, and swamp areas. Although these areas may be easily accessed on foot, proper footwear is recommended, especially during spring. Commonly seen marsh species include Red-winged Black Bird, Marsh Wren, Tree Swallow, Great Blue Heron, Swamp Sparrow, Virginia Rail, and Common Yellowthroat. Bald Eagles, Great Egrets, and Caspian Terns are occasionally seen along the river corridor. Woodpeckers, owls, and songbirds, including a diverse mix of warblers and vireos, may be seen or heard in other sections of the property. Care must be taken as the Least Bittern, a species listed as threatened both provincially and nationally, has been confirmed to be breeding in the marsh area. Please note: this property is owned and managed by the Grand River Conservation Authority and is being actively restored to enhance local biodiveristy. Please use caution as the trails are not maintained and the property is also classified by the GRCA as a controlled sport hunting area (September to May).
Lake Erie Access
Watch for waterfowl and migrating birds from this remote Lake Erie access point. PLEASE NOTE: surrounding area is private property, please be respectful when exploring.
This Conservation Area is just under 57 hectares of public recreation and conservation property bordering Lake Erie. Nestled along the shores of Lake Erie, Haldimand Conservation Area provides campers and day visitors with a quiet place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Enjoy the park’s shore with a stretch of pebble and sand beach or watch for waterfowl and migrating birds. Hiking trails and camping available.
A healthy wetland ecosystem for a diversity of species. The wetland is extremely good for migrants, nesting and wintering birds. PLEASE NOTE: This is private property, birds viewable from the road and also with the use of binoculars.
Explore the 17 hectare forest with a diverse habitat of soft and hard maple (red, silver and sugar), white oak, red oak, and white ash. Watch for Red Tailed Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Bob White, Gray Partridge, Red Headed Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Veery, House Sparrow, Red Winged Blackbird, Eastern Kingbird, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Catbird, Ovenbird, Field sparrow, American Woodcock, American Goldfinch, Common Crow, Robin, House sparrow. This day use conservation area has a parking area and has no fee for use.
This 75 hectare conservation area protects the large tract and interior forest of the area. The forest floor boasts a diversity of tree species such as white ash, white oak, red oak, swamp oak, white ash, and hard maple occupy most of the forest floor. This day-use conservation area has a parking area and has no fee for use. Common species include Yellow Breasted Chat, Wild turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and Partridge.
Port Maitland East Park
Visit one of the Port Maitland parks to access the mouth of the Grand River where it meets Lake Erie and watch for shorebirds and other waterfowl. The lower Grand River Marshes is an ideal environment for birds!
Mohawk Island-National Wildlife Area
Mohawk (Gull) Island is an important nesting site for colonial birds and provides protection from predators for young nestlings. Gulls, terns and cormorants use the island to nest and also to rest between migrating seasons. Waterfowl and shorebirds use the island as they pass through during spring and autumn migration. Bring your binoculars or a canoe/kayak as access to the island is restricted and protected as a National Wildlife Area. Absolutely no visits are permitted during nesting season (April 1 to July 31) however the island can be viewed from shore from Rock Point Provincial Park and the Highbanks area.
Located in the park was once the site of the Selkirk Bird Banding station; part of the Haldimand Bird Observatory from 1996 to 2006. The station was located in a White Pine plantation area located on the west side of the park and recorded 233 species. Visit the park and explore the “Wheeler’s Walk” trail which crosses the wetland that goes through the centre of the park and circles through the area on the west side of the park were the banding station was operated. The trail is approximately two kilometres in length. Be sure to keep your camera and binoculars close-by, the park is a corridor and staging area from birds migrating across Long Point Bay to Long Point and beyond to the US.
Banding is completed during spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) migrations; please call to inquire about specific days. (Please note that banding is not completed during heavy rains.) Here you will have the opportunity to see birds being extracted from the nets and banded. You may also have a chance to handle and release a bird under the guidance of a licensed bander. This is a unique and fun experience for both children and adults and can provide a great fall field trip as well! Please wear appropriate footwear (rubber boots are recommended as the trails can be muddy).
Townsend Recreational Trails
Thirteen kilometres of paved and lit walkways winding through beautiful Townsend over the Nanticoke Creek. Available for walking, biking and rollerblading. Parking throughout the community.
Take in the best sunset views at Cayuga Grand Vista, a rail bridge crossing the Grand River, rollerblade on the lit paved walkway of Townsend Recreational Trail, or hike the 2 kilometer Woodlot Trail at Rock Point Provincial Park with viewing platform build on top of the park’s sand dunes overlooking Lake Erie. A trail to challenge all skill levels can be found in Haldimand.
A natural trail to walk/run/cycle from Haldibrook Rd., south to Unity Rd. where it crosses and proceeds further south to Haldimand Rd. #66. Roadside parking. Details: Distance: 2.7km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 1-2%
Gypsum Mine Tract
Connects in Caledonia to the Chippewa trail in the west. The Tract runs off-road east to Haldimand Road #9 then on-road south on #9 to Highway 54 in York. Users can then join the off-road Rotary Riverside Trail to head west back to Caledonia or travel over the Grand River to link up with the Green Cycling Route to Caledonia to the northwest and Cayuga to the southeast. Details: Distance: 12.2km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 1-2%
Rotary Riverside Trail
Designated as part of the Trans Canada Trail System, this trail is approximately 6 km of scenic Grand River country, suitable for nature walks, hiking and cycling. Parking at Seneca Park. Details: Distance: 6km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 1-2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 2-3%; 10-15%
Ruigrok Tract is comprised of a large tract of interior forest, and is home to a diversity of tree species including, White Ash, White Oak, Red Oak, Swamp Oak, and Hard Maple. Visitors are welcome to come experience the wildlife and forest management area. Operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservationa Authority but located in the picturesque countryside of Haldimand.
Hedley Forest is a diverse 17-hectare deciduous and coniferous forest. The Red, Silver and Sugar Maples, White and Red Oak and White Ash provide a sheltered habitat for local wildlife including songbirds and White-tailed deer. Operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, but located in Haldimand, the forest is perfect for a short hike.
Cayuga Grand Vista
The Cayuga Grand Vista is a looped route. Park at the Courthouse at 55 Munsee St. in Cayuga. Users can walk down the off-road route to the bridge and take in the beautiful views of the Grand River. The loop continues over the bridge to a second parking lot off King George St. Users can head east on King George into Cayuga through town and back to the Courthouse or west to the on-road route to River Road. Here cyclists join the Green Route to either Caledonia or east/southeast on the route. Details: Distance: 3.2km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 1%; 12-15%
Ruthven Park Trails
The trails at Ruthven are easy terrain and each are identified with a sign describing the path and the length.
- The Riverside Trail (1.4 km) begins and ends in the picturesque landscape, a feature of the history of the site. View the river from various lookouts and get a glimpse of the Greek Revival mansion. The trail ends at the Thompson family cemetery but also leads to the Fox Den Trail.
- The Fox Den Trail (0.5 km) takes you closer to the river and at one point has a small beach area where you will have a good view of Slink Island (part of the Ruthven estate).
- The Carolinian Woodland Trail (1.51 km) takes you through the forest and along a fresh water stream which flows to the Grand River.
- The Butterfly Trail (0.22 km) takes you through the meadow filled with native plants which attract birds and butterflies.
- A flat trail called the Indiana Trail (0.42 km) is good for an easy walk.
There is free parking available as well as accessible public washrooms. Access to the trails and grounds is by pay-what-you-can donation.
Taquanyah Conservation Area
The Taquanyah Conservation Area encompasses 136 hectares of old pasture fringed by mature forests. A rehabilitation project has created new ponds, trails, wetlands, and other natural areas. These developing areas, and the trails that wind through the mature forests, provide great locations for learning about the natural environment. Taquanyah welcomes visitors to use the trails. Taquanyah Nature Centre is open seasonally and welcomes school programs.
Byng Island Park
A two kilometre nature trail on the west side of the park offers an opportunity to discover a Carolinian forest. The 190-hectare park encompasses Carolinian forests, the river, wetlands and creeks. Byng Island has the largest outdoor swimming pool in Canada, which can hold up to 1,000 people and has a diving board.
Blue Heron Way
Blue Heron Way is approximately 1.1 kms of off road trails connecting Dunnville to the Niagara Region. This trail links up to the Gord Harry Trail to Niagara. Details: Distance: 1.6km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 1-2%
Dunnville Walking Path
2 km of paved walkway from Centennial Park in Dunnville through Lions Park, on the sidewalk to Wingfield Park and along the Grand River to the Farmers Market. Details: Distance: 2km, Surface: Paved, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 2-3%
- Woodlot Trail (2 km) – Explore a variety of forest and wetland communities including Carolinian, Oak Savanna and old farm fields that are slowly being reclaimed by the forest. The trail will lead you to a viewing platform built on top of the park’s sand dunes overlooking Lake Erie.
- Pet Exercise Trail (.5 km) – linear trail
Rail Park Pathway
A short scenic pathway between Cedar Street and George Street. Details: Distance: 1.6km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 1-2%, Width: 2-3m, Running Slope: 2-3%
Jarvis Lions Walking Trail
1.2 km of paved walkway, fully accessible with solar lighting, mature trees and benches. Details: Distance: 1.2km, Surface: Paved, Cross Slope: 1%, Width: 2m, Running Slope: 1%
Short trail with walking bridge, Parkette located 200 metres South at Lake Erie contains scenic lookout and parking. Details: Distance: 2km, Surface: Granular, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 3m, Running Slope: 5-10%
Selkirk Provincial Park
Wheeler’s Walk Trail (1.5 km, 30-40 minutes, easy)
This trail takes hikers from the campground side of the park across a marsh wetland via a boardwalk, to the west side of the park. You will travel through remnants of the forest that pre-date the park and through a White Pine plantation that was planted in the early 1970s.
Townsend Recreation Trail
4 Kms of paved and lit walkway winding through beautiful Townsend over the Nanticoke Creek. Available for walking, biking, and roller-blading. Details: Distance: 4km, Surface: Paved, Cross Slope: 2%, Width: 1.65m, Running Slope: 1-5%
Grab your clubs and head out on the links with friends or colleagues. We have a course to suit every skill level and budget. If you are looking for a family adventure, try seasonal outdoor mini putt.
Horseback Riding & Equestrian Services
Create an unspoken bond between horse and rider while you head out on the trails. Consider purchasing or boarding a horse of your own, join a Saddle Club and make new friends or volunteer at a horse rescue and make a difference in the life of these beautiful animals.
LaFortune Park is home to Haldimand’s first disc golf course and it is considered one of the best courses in Ontario. Disc golf is a variation of regular golf and uses a disc rather than a ball. It has 18 holes and fairways and players throw the disc into metal baskets on poles. It’s easy to learn and play. The park is free to use, so come out and have some fun!
- # of Holes – 18
- Course Type – Permanent
- Target Type – DISCatcher
- Tee Type – Rubber
- Elevation: 50/50 Flat/Hills
- Foliage – Mixed – Trees/Open
- Cart Friendly – Very
- Course Length – 6,388 ft
- Alternate Length – 4,848 ft
- Hole Length – Under 300 ft (4), 300-400 Ft (8), Over 400 ft (6)
Summer parking is on the south side of Hwy 54 in the LaFortune Park riverside. Park near the underpass through Hwy 54 and pass under it to the course map and the 1st tee.
Winter parking is at 30 Onondaga Townline Rd. When entering the park from this location, the first basket encountered is hole #11. Continue along the fairway for hole 11, and then past hole 18 along the path to reach the course map and introductory sign near the 1st tee.