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Exploring the outdoors: Where to go!

"If you are thinking one year ahead, sow seeds. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking 100 years ahead, educate your children."

– Chinese proverb.

Whether your inclinations lean toward photography, bird watching, hiking or leisurely walks, the conservation authorities of our regions have trails and activities mapped out to suit every member of your family, age and physical ability.

Exploring waterfalls in Hamilton Region

In Hamilton it’s been said, that “If the Escarpment is the city’s crown, then its waterfalls are the sparkling jewels in that tiara.”

The geological conditions of the Escarpment make it a perfect place for waterfalls to occur. This local section of the Escarpment is not a mountain, despite what we may call it, or a rock fault, or rift. Instead it is the tilted outer rim of an ancient exposed seabed.

The hard layers of dolestone cap rocks have been exposed by erosion of the softer shale below and smoothed in some areas by ice age glacial deposits. Sedimentary layers of sand, silt, clay and the aquatic life that thrived in a warm inland sea were compressed into limestone and shale rock during those millions of years.

Therefore the Escarpment in the Hamilton Region is also an excellent spot for rock hounds and collectors of fossils. Identifying and indexing the many waterfalls is an ongoing process. The current report lists over 120 waterfalls.

The three types of waterfalls or cascades are: Ribbon (such as the Devil’s Punch Bowl, Tews Falls and Felker’s Falls), Classical (like Webster’s Falls and Albion Falls), and Curtain (as Darnley Cascade). Within those categories, a Cascade is a waterfall which flows over a series of steps (like stairs) and can be classified under all three of the above categories.

Of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Greater Hamilton Region, Webster’s Falls, is spectacular in view and history. The Webster family purchased the waterfalls and surrounding land in 1819, and although their Manor still stands, it’s accessible only by foot. Family gravestones have been preserved in a small area just off the Bruce Trail by the edge of the woods.

Devil’s Punchbowl, with a height of 37 metres, is the only area where you can view a large vertical display of Ordovician and Silurian stratified rock, plus bask in a spectacular view of Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour from its lookout.

At 41 metres high, Tews Falls is slightly shorter than Niagara Falls in height. There are two platforms just off the Bruce Trail that allow visitors to catch a breathtaking view of the falls and gorge below. Side trails in the area also offer access to Dundas Peak and the historical Crooks Hollow Conservation area.

Wake up your senses at Rattlesnake Point

The Halton Region of the Niagara Escarpment abounds with a myriad of trails throughout its many conservation areas. You do not have to be an expert hiker to enjoy the beauty of the natural landscapes preserved by Conservation Halton. Enjoy the journey, take in the fresh air, listen to the birds, be awestruck by the grandeur of ancient giant trees; admire the tiny moss clinging to the rotten tree stump or the lichens who manage to squeeze life from stone. It’s all right here in our backyard…

With its majestic wilderness, sheer cliffs and crevice caves, Rattlesnake Point beckons to be explored. A series of four looped trails, ranging in length from 1 to 3 km, begin at the head of trails. Lookouts with spectacular views of the countryside, such as Trafalgar with a view of Lake Ontario and city of Toronto, and Nelson with a great look at the Lowville valley and Mount Nemo, are situated at five cliff-edge points along the trails. The trails can be completed as loops or you can take a longer hike on the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail, which connects Rattlesnake Point with Crawford Lake. This is a great place to watch soaring Turkey Vultures looking for carrion and cliff-edge nesting sites. The birds use the thermal updrafts caused by air moving up the Escarpment cliffs to remain airborne for hours.

Niagara Region’s diversity

The Niagara Peninsula is one of the most unique and complex watersheds in Ontario. Bordered on three sides by water, and with the beautiful Niagara Escarpment cutting across its length, the peninsula’s diverse climactic and biotic zones are unlike anywhere else in North America.

The NPCA is caretaker to over 2,870 hectares (7,091 acres) of some of the most unique and sensitive natural areas on the peninsula. The conservation areas marry nature, culture and adventure to create limitless opportunities for discovery.

Outdoor adventures can include a day at Ball’s Falls and it is majestic scenery, where facilities include the lovingly restored historical church, barn and centre, where the annual Thanksgiving Festival takes place.

The Two Mile Creek Conservation Area is a forested floodplain, conserved for its significant ecological features. Here, a trail provides access to Colonel Butler’s Burial Ground where commemorative plaques describe his instrumental work during the late 1700’s, in developing a British stronghold in Niagara.

With sweeping vistas of Lake Ontario and the escarpment slopes below, Woodend is considered to have been an observation point during the War of 1812 for both armies. This area is a perfect venue for passerine bird watching, and a historic limestone kiln which reminds of this historic site’s link to the past.

If a day at the beach is more your outing of choice, spend the day or weekend at Long Beach Conservation Area on Lake Erie. With 225 serviced and un-serviced campsites and a beautiful sandy beach, the abundant shoreline is a main attraction. Organized events include the Brad Shaw Memorial Horseshoe Tournament, or make your own family-organized picnic event and spend the day outdoors!

Whichever destination you choose, take the time to discover, connect and understand!

Hamilton Conservation Authority 1-888-319-4722; Conservation Halton (905) 336-1158

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (905) 788-3135

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