Areas of natural significance within a 100 km radius that are accessible to the public.
St. Clair National Wildlife Area, Rondeau Provincial Park, Pinery Provincial Park, Kettle Point, Sinclair’s Bush, Bickford Oak Woods, Clear Creek Forest, McKeough Dam C. A., Point Pelee National Park, Reid C. A., Skunk’s Misery, Walpole Island, Saint Clair River, Wawanosh Wetlands, Wallaceburg Sycamore Woods, Wallaceburg Paw Paw Woods, Dennis Rupert Prairie Reserve.
NATURAL AREAS AROUND WALLACEBURG
By Blake A. Mann
Updated January 2023
For the naturalist, ample opportunities abound for observing nature within a short distance of Wallaceburg. A 100 km radius will serve as a convenient boundary for this paper. Excellent spots exist for: viewing migratory birds in both spring and fall, viewing nesting birds, observing rare trees and plants, and for seeing any wildlife.
Highlights include abundant and varied bird-life, and the rare plants that grow nearby. Some of these plants are found nowhere else in Canada except in a specified location near Wallaceburg.
For the birder, limitless possibilities exist. One can see at least 250 species of birds in the general area in one year with some effort. Wallaceburg is situated near Lake St. Clair. Some of the best marshland available for waterfowl in Canada is located here. Lake St. Clair is also the main staging area for migratory waterfowl in Ontario. In 2000, the eastern Lake St. Clair area was designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Not surprising, many species may be seen flying overhead. Swans are a good example in the spring. They may be seen in large flocks during the month of March. Resting flocks may be observed in fields around Wallaceburg.
This paper is designed to point out a few of the key natural areas not only to local residents, but also visiting naturalists. It will show what this area has to offer, and therefore serve as an invitation for potential visitors.
I have outlined in the following pages some of the more significant natural areas accessible to the public, within a 100 km radius of Wallaceburg.
ST. CLAIR NATIONAL WILDLIFE AREA
[approx. 30 km SSW of Wallaceburg on Towline Rd at end of Heron Line.] MAP
This wildlife sanctuary managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) on the eastern shore of Lake St. Clair is a unique place to observe both nesting and migratory waterfowl.
It is largely a manmade marsh, which was originally a pasture prior to WW II. In 1940, it was acquired by a hunt club and converted into a wetland for hunting. In the middle 1970’s it was converted into a wildlife sanctuary.
A wide variety of birds, fish, snakes, turtles and frogs live there. These can best be observed on the trail (5 km return) that runs atop the dyke, extending through the centre of the marsh.
Wildlife “spectacles” tend to be concentrated in the spring and fall. For birders, over 180 species can be observed in one year. During migration, up to 20,000 ducks may use the sanctuary at one time. Rarities in the past have included a Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis, Tricolored Heron and Vermilion Flycatcher. A White-winged Dove was seen nearby in July 2002. Yellow-headed Blackbirds used to breed here, but they are found farther north in the marshes of the end of Angler Line south of Mitchell Bay. The trail is open daily, year-round.
Also managed by the CWS is Bear Creek Marsh/Pigeon Marsh located at the very north end of Bear Line SW of Wallaceburg. Currently access is limited, but it is a significant area for marsh wildlife and may be open in the future.
For more information, contact:
Marsh Manager, St. Clair National Wildlife Area,
R. R. #1, Pain Court, Ontario
phone: (519) 354-1418
RONDEAU PROVINCIAL PARK
[approx. 60 km SE of Wallaceburg at south end of Kent Bridge Rd.] MAP
Rondeau is a 4816 ha park in southern Kent County, extending out into Lake Erie. It is comprised of a large stand of hardwood Carolinian type forest. Five nature trails suitable for hiking and some cycling allow the naturalist to observe the wide spectrum of flora and fauna.
Rare reptiles and amphibians abound, as well as plants, birds and animals. Uncommon trees include the sassafras and tulip. Twelve percent of the herbaceous plants at Rondeau are considered rare in Ontario or Canada. Examples include the wild yam root, yellow mandarin, tall bellflower, false mermaid.
Regarding the birds, Rondeau has attracted about 80% of the bird species found in Canada. At least 367 species have been officially recorded (in the Rondeau circle), with about 148 breeding records. Some of the most recent additions are Black-throated Gray Warbler (November 2008), White-winged Dove (January 2013), Gyrfalcon (February 2014). The rare Prothonotary Warbler has its largest breeding ground in Canada within Rondeau. Many southern bird species regularly overshoot their migration and end up in Rondeau. Examples include the Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Swainson’s Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Summer Tanager.
The park is open daily, year-round, and has campsites spring through autumn.
For more information, contact:
Superintendent, Rondeau Provincial Park
R. R. #1
Morpeth Ontario.N0P 1X0
Phone (519) 674-5404
PINERY PROVINCIAL PARK
[approx. 110 km drive NNE, on Highway 21] MAP
Pinery Park in northern Lambton County has its place in natural history. It was naturally formed by sand dune succession, and supports one of the largest hardwood forests left in southern Ontario. Oak savannah is particularly dominant. It has about 10 km of beach along Lake Huron. There are over two-dozen mammals including the flying squirrel, and meadow-jumping mouse.
Over 200 species of birds have been observed. In the fall, thousands of waterfowl and loons congregate offshore. One of the uncommon birds that nested there in the past was the Prairie Warbler.
Near the Pinery the only viable population in Canada of the rare Karner Blue Butterfly used to be found. A section of land next to the Pinery has been protected in order to provide a habitat for this beautiful insect in the hopes that it may return someday. There are ten nature trails within the park. Fishing, canoeing, and camping are available too. The park is open year-round to include winter activities also.
For more information, contact:
Superintendent, Pinery Provincial Park,
R. R. #2
Grand Bend, Ontario. N0M 1T0
Phone. (519) 243-2220
PORT FRANKS FORESTED DUNES AND LAMBTON COUNTY FOREST
Located a bit south of Pinery and adjacent to the village of Port Franks, this is a unique natural area. It is host to uncommon plants and birds. Some bird, endangered, and ones that are usually found farther north have nested here. In the County Forest, several Hooded Warblers have been found. As well, the endangered Acadian Flycatcher has a significant breeding population here. Other birds usually found nesting farther north include, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Blue-headed Vireo.
Look for signs along Outer Drive and Port Franks Road to access the county forest. Some areas are not accessible though. The trail head is located at the Port Franks Community Centre.
Along Outer Drive is the L-Lake trail and Nature Conservancy of Canada trail where the above-mentioned birds can be found regularly.
KETTLE POINT and IPPERWASH
[approx. 100 km NNE, off Highway 21 at Ravenswood]
Kettle Point is a First Nation’s Territory south of the Pinery in which one can observe waterfowl along Lake Huron’s shore. The late fall is the best time when cold northwest winds bring down northern birds. Fall lakewatches can be productive at Kettle Point or Ipperwash Beach depending the on the winds. Gulls, jaegers and ducks are the focal point.
The point is a good spot to see concentrations of Snowy Owls in the late fall. One can also see the unique rock formations called concretions (nicknamed kettles). These are large rounded crystalline stones.
There are some areas, although not readily accessible, that contain some uncommon plants.
The big parking lot area at beach access #1 is the best place to find the rare Dusted Skipper in abundance in the dunes.
The Ipperwash Forested Dunes and Swales trail system is an excellent place to look for birds. Owned by the NCC, there are several trails to explore. The trail head is at the end of Richardson Drive.
AUSABLE RIVER CUT CA
[near Northville and south of Pinery P.P.]
This little conservation area along the Ausable River cut is a nice 2km walk good for birds in the fall. Also, it is an excellent place to look for river mussels along the river bank and odonates.
[approx. 50 km SE, follow Rd. 3 SE of Blenheim to Centre Line and turn right on Harwich Road. Follow south to curve]
This is a small, but excellent example of Carolinian forest. A portion of it has been set-aside by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Other parts are privately owned. The tulip tree, Pawpaw tree and Kentucky coffee tree grow within. There are also some uncommon wildflowers within the woodlot. It is very good for observing several types of flora and fauna.
BICKFORD OAK WOODS
[North of Wallaceburg, corner of Bickford Line and Hwy 40, Lambton Co.]
This 308 ha woodlot was the largest privately owned wooded land in Lambton Co. In 2002, it was purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and turned over to the Ministry of Natural Resources to operate as a conservation reserve. It has hosted uncommon birds such as Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and possibly Hooded Warbler. Beaver also live there. A Great Blue heronry is situated there also. A stand of Swamp Cottonwood trees exists in the woods, and is the only record of this species for Canada. It was found in the summer of 2002. No ATV activity is allowed now. Trails and access points may be developed in the future for hiking and educational purposes.
McKEOUGH DAM and DIVERSION CONSERVATION AREA
[approx. 10 km north. On Holt Line, between Hwy 40 and Kimball Rd.]
The dam and diversion are a flood protection system for the town of Wallaceburg. It follows the 10th concession to the St. Clair River, and occupies about 220 ha of land. Near the dam are woodlots providing nesting and feeding sites for a wide variety of birds.
Some nesting birds include chickadees, thrashers, hawks, owls and woodpeckers.
Throughout the dam area are ungroomed trails that wind through a variety of habitat. Some uncommon trees such as Blue Ash are found within.
This site is maintained by the Saint Clair Region Conservation Authority. The SCRCA has several conservation parks along the Sydenham River that provide recreation, nature study, land management, and flood control.
For more information contact:
St. Clair Region Conservation Authority
205 Mill Pond Cr.
Strathroy, Ontario, N7G 3P9
Phone (519) 245-3710
REID CONSERVATION AREA
[north of Wallaceburg along Duthill Road just north of Kerr Line and west of Kimball Rd.]
This property is one of the newer additions to St. Clair Region’s conservation areas. It is a 170 acre property that was donated to the SCRCA and has almost 4 km of Sydenham River shoreline. It consists of deciduous forest with dominance of several species of oak. An ancient oxbow valley provides a wetland that harbours lots of wildlife. In the summer of 2008, a colony of Southern (Northern) Oak Hairstreaks was discovered here—this being the first such colony in Canada! The rare for Ontario Dukes’ Skipper has also been recorded here. At least 55 species of butterflies have been recorded on the property.
POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK
[approx. 100 km drive SSW of Wallaceburg, south of Leamington]
This famous park has the distinction of being the southernmost point of mainland Canada. It is an excellent example of Carolinian forest. Reptiles and amphibians abound, as well as rare birds, plants and trees.
Point Pelee is best known as Canada’s finest bird watching spot. It is located on the crossroads of two major flyways. Over 390 species of birds have been recorded in the park area as of 2023. For example, all species of gulls (with the exception of one) recorded in Ontario have been seen in the Pelee birding area.
A long boardwalk gives access to the extensive marshland. The park is open year-round for day-use, and has an excellent visitor centre.
Nearby is Hillman Marsh Conservation Area, just west of Wheatley. It is good for viewing waterfowl, and shorebirds in times of low water. A trail follows part of the dyke. Also adjacent to the marsh on the west side off Hillman Road is a shorebird habitat that was developed in 2002-03. It is controlled to attract shorebirds during times of migration in the spring (to the end of May). The rest of the season, it will be used for farming.
SKUNK’S MISERY and Crown Lands
[approx. 50 km east of Wallaceburg near Bothwell]
Skunk’s Misery is crown land located on road 21 along the Lambton/Chatham-Kent/Middlesex county border. It is over 40 ha in size and is excellent for observing uncommon warblers (Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Hooded and Cerulean) and wildflowers in the spring. There are various properties.
Other crown land (Middlesex County Agreement Forest) in the area is located at the east end of road 3031 of Euphemia Township in Middlesex County. It is excellent for observing uncommon birds also.
[approx. 5 km west of Wallaceburg]
Walpole Island (inc. surrounding islands) is a First Nation’s Territory near Wallaceburg in the St. Clair River delta. The island has examples of Carolinian forest, tall-grass prairie, oak savannah and prime marshland.
Very rare plants exist there, some of which are found nowhere else in Canada. It contains over 700 species of plants, 90 of which are provincially rare. Rare birds are also found on the island and in its surrounding marshes.
Many birds such as grebe, coot, duck (inc. Redhead and Canvasback) nest in the marshes. It hosted the last stronghold of Northern Bobwhite in Canada, but the species is probably extirpated at this point.
The island can be toured by special arrangements through the Band Council. The land is privately owned, so permission must be obtained.
SAINT CLAIR RIVER
This 50 km long waterway is the main connecting water route between the upper and lower Great Lakes. Along it on the Canadian side are numerous parks for picnicking or camping. One such park is Brander, which contains a woodlot with a trail through it. It has a good variety of trees, and is especially good for watching warblers during migration times. Not too far behind the woodlot are the Port Lambton sewage lagoons (access permit required) that are good for observing waterfowl and other water-related birds. White-winged Tern (Ontario’s first record, 1991) has been recorded there in the past. Over 190 species of birds have been recorded in or around Brander Park.
The river is perfect for viewing ducks and gulls, and other migratory waterfowl. In the winter, thousands of ducks (especially canvasback, redhead and goldeneye) use it to feed. Many other species are also seen during the winter. In December of 1995, the rare Ivory Gull made an appearance north of Sombra for a few days.
In 2002 the St. Clair River Trail was completed along the road and riverbank. It essentially runs from Sarnia to Port Lambton and is good for walking and cycling.
CHENAL ECARTE (SNYE RIVER)
This distributary of the St. Clair River is known by many names (Snye Carte, Snye Channel), but it loosely translates into the “Lost Channel”. It forms the eastern boundary of Walpole and St. Anne’s Island First Nation’s Territory, and empties into Lake St Clair.
Herons, terns, bitterns, ducks, coots and grebes nest in the marshes. In the winter, Pied-billed Grebes are sometimes seen, as well as great blue herons. Wild ponies once roamed St. Anne’s Island after the War of 1812, but were finally rounded up in the late 1960’s. St. Anne’s Island is also the alleged burial site of the great Chief Tecumseh.
NICHOLL’S MEMORIAL FOREST (AND WETLAND)
This restored area is north of Wallaceburg on Kimball Rd. (west side) just south of Wilkesport and north of Bentpath Line. There are planted trees, a prairie area, and a wetland area all of which have been created for wildlife habitat. Wood Duck boxes are located here, and as well, the Hooded Merganser has nested. There are pine trees along the riverbank that can host a variety of birds. Owls have roosted in those trees in the winter. It is a good place to watch for locally-nesting birds. Green Heron is recorded here annually.
ROBERTA STEWART WETLAND
[near the end of Langstaff Line NW of Wallaceburg on the Snye River]
A small wetland was created by Ducks Unlimited adjacent to MacDonald Park along the Chenal Ecarte in 2004. It was naturally a marsh before being drained in the mid 1900’s for farm use. Over 120 species of birds have been recorded in or from this wetland. Rarities include the Ruff, Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret.
WALLACEBURG SYCAMORE WOODS
[SW corner of Wallaceburg, access through VLA Subdivision]
This unique “old growth” woodlot was purchased by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and managed by the Sydenham Field Naturalists. There are a large number of Sycamore Trees, hence its name. Large Oaks such s Shumard are also within. It is maintained as a nature reserve, and access is limited. Tours are held in the spring in fall by the SFN.
WALLACEBURG PAW-PAW WOODS
[East side of Wallaceburg near the cemetery bordering King Street and Baxter Subdivision]
This small woodlot within town limits, owned by the municipality, was confirmed to contain a number of Paw Paw trees. Ongoing management is done by the Sydenham Field Naturalists.
This small, converted wetland (a former gravel pit) area east of Sarnia is located off the Blackwell Sideroad just north of Highway 402. It is good for observing waterfowl, especially during migration times. Grebes and Coots nest here in good numbers. Rare birds have included American Avocets and Snowy Egrets. In the nearby fields and pastures, one must watch for uncommon geese and shorebirds. In 2002 the area was extended to the west (Suncor Nature Way) along a drainage creek to Modeland Road.
HOWARD WATSON NATURE TRAIL
This trail follows an abandoned railroad along the eastern portion of the city of Sarnia. It parallels Lakeshore Road. One may find a wide variety of plants along its 11 km length, some of these being rare. It is also good for bird watching. A good access point is at Modeland Road.
DENNIS RUPERT PRAIRIE RESERVE
This 21 plot of land is located on the west side of Brigden road just north of Highway 402. It contains a fine example of prairie type plants. Good for observing butterflies. A short trail runs through it. It was established in the fall of 1998, after several years of negotiation. It is named in memory of naturalist Dennis F. Rupert who recognized its importance many years before.
MARTHAVILLE HABITAT MANAGEMENT AREA
This is a conservation area located 1 km north of the village of Marthaville on the west side of Marthaville Rd. (Or travel 3.7 km north on Marthaville Rd. from Petrolia Line just west of Petrolia)
This is a former gravel pit area near Petrolia converted into a wetland. There is a trail around the perimeter that goes through some wooded area on the south, and has good views of the wetland. Prairie plantings have been established here. It is an excellent spot to observe odonates.
MOORE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
On the Bickford Line is a conservation area (SCRCA) about 1 km east of the Kimball Road. A creek runs through its valley, with old oxbows evident. There are a significant number of uncommon trees (eg. Hackberry). It is home to a number of birds including Tufted Titmouse, Chickadees, and Pileated Woodpecker. Most winters, at least one Yellow-rumped Warbler resides in the woods feeding on poison ivy berries. Sometimes 8 or 9 can be seen with some effort.
It is also a good place to find butterflies, especially in the prairie areas. During low water times in early summer, it is a good spot to search for river mussels.
There are many trails throughout the area.
[located a few kilometres east of Moore Wildlife Area on Bickford Line]
This natural area was donated to the Province by the McKellar family. It has been enhanced by Ducks Unlimited to contain wetland areas, good for amphibians and odonates. There are woodlot areas, as well as a pine plantation. A small viewing stand is located a short distance from the road.
CLEAR CREEK FOREST
Clear Creek is a very large forested area (over 300 hectares) south east of Highgate in southeast Chatham-Kent (north of Clearville on Rd. 3). It was purchased for preservation by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and turned over to Ontario Parks. A campaign was initiated in the summer of 1999 to acquire the property. Additional property was acquired south of Rd. 3 more recently bringing the total protected area to over 1000 ha. It contains many uncommon trees, flora and fauna. The most significant feature aside from size, are some “old-growth” trees. A trail runs through the main part of the forest. The trail can be accessed off Cochrane Line, just west from Duart Rd.
An old quarry is part of this complex on the north side of Cochrane Line. It is a prime spot to look for butterflies and dragonflies. The Comet Darner resides here (the only known spot in Chatham-Kent). In 2022, the rare Marine Blue (butterfly) was found here.
CONSERVATION AREAS [SCRCA]
(see contact info. above)
There are numerous woodlots and conservation areas on flood plains of the Sydenham River owned by the SCRCA. These are open to the public for daily use and nature study. Some have nature trails. Camping is available at certain areas also.
Also of note is the fact that the Sydenham River has the most diverse selection of freshwater mussels in North America. Up to 34 species have been recorded in the river. The endangered Eastern Spiny Softshell turtle has a significant population along the river also, especially in the east branch.
KEITH McLEAN CONSERVATION LANDS
[located at the south end of C-k Road 15 just outside Rondeau Provincial Park]
This property was opened in 2013 as a gift from resident Keith McLean. It is a 130 ha site with several ponds, wetlands, prairie plantings, farmland, and forest.
It is excellent for viewing migratory, as well as resident waterbirds and shorebirds. In the autumn, it is famous for the uncommon and elusive fall migrant, Nelson’s Sparrow, that lurks in the grasses and cattails. King Rail has nested here in the past. Several rare birds have been recorded here.
The ponds are known for Sacred Lotus, an Asian species.
[located just west of the village of Wardsville along highway 2]
This property was acquired by the Thames Talbot Land Trust. It was a former, “more natural” golf course. It has mature forest, prairie plantings, and a pond. It is best known for butterflies and dragonflies. Particularly, some rare odonates have been found here, such as Arrowhead Spiketail, Twin-spotted Spiketail, Cobra Clubtail, Riverine Clubtail and Double-striped Bluet among others. It is the only known site in Middlesex County for the spiketails and clubtails mentioned above. A footpath winds through the property.
On highway 40, just north of the Whitebread Line (west side), the Sydenham Field Naturalists (SFN) has set up a small plot of prairie wildflowers/grasses. This can be best observed in mid to late summer. It is identified by a large sign.
**For more information of nature in the area, contact the SYDENHAM FIELD NATURALISTS (SFN) in Wallaceburg at
Box 22008, Dufferin Ave Postal Outlet,
Wallaceburg, Ontario, N8A 5G4.**