In the past few weeks, I have visited several conservation areas in Eastern Ontario. I focused on visiting those that are managed by the South Nation Conservation, because they are located near where I live.
The South Nation Conservation (SNC) is the conservation authority responsible for protecting and restoring lands in the South Nation River watershed in Eastern Ontario. As I have visited the majority of the conservation areas where it is possible to hike (those that are currently open, because some are still closed due to the current pandemic), I focused this time on the smallest ones, located mostly along the South Nation River.
Ah, the South Nation River! This 175-kilometre-long river, which flows through much of Eastern Ontario before emptying into the Ottawa River, has shaped the region’s landscape and history. These short visits along the river also reminded me of its tranquil beauty.
High Falls Conservation Area
I had to start with this conservation area, because it is located only a few minutes away from my home. This is a place where I spent a lot of time when I was younger. I really enjoyed daydreaming on the shore of the South Nation River. Ironically, I haven’t been there since I moved back to Casselman eight years ago.
The name “High Falls” can be a bit misleading. There are no “high falls” at this location. On the contrary, the river is rather calm there, as its course is diverted by a weir. The place remains interesting, as there are the ruins of an old dam dating from 1910, a dam that allowed the community of Casselman to thrive. The conservation area has a boat ramp, pavilion, picnic tables and beautiful tall trees under which I used to love to sit and enjoy the view.
Jessup’s Falls Conservation Area
As with High Falls, there are no falls at Jessup’s Falls near Plantagenet. The name comes from a series of rapids that used to be found on the river before. But the construction of the Carillon Dam on the Ottawa River in the 1950s also increased the water level on the South Nation River, and the rapids disappeared.
The Jessup’s Falls Conservation Area is quite large, compared to the other “smaller” ones. In fact, it used to be a provincial park (South Nation Provincial Park) until 1980, when it was deregulated. The SNC bought it out and turned it into a conservation area. The place is particularly popular with fishermen (there must have been more than twenty when I went there).
St. Albert Conservation Area
The St. Albert conservation area is very small. There is only one parking lot, a dock and a boat ramp. Apparently, it’s also supposed to be a good place to fish. And if the fishing is not very successful, it is always possible to console yourself by going to buy cheese at the famous cheese factory not far away.
Cass Brige Conservation Area
Like the previous conservation areas, the Cass Bridge Conservation Area also provides access to the South Nation River. There is a pavilion, picnic tables and a play structure. The place takes its name from the Cass Bridge, which spans the South Nation River right next to it. The river is actually quite photogenic there.
McIntosh Park Conservation Area
McIntosh Park is not located near the river. Rather, it is a small park in the center of the village of Berwick, just a few kilometres from Warwick Forest, another conservation area. There is a monument to the pioneers and founding families of the area. The park was closed at the time I went there, so I couldn’t explore it. I will need to come back at another time!
ADDED – Oak Valley Pioneer Park
UPDATED JULY 2020 – I’m adding to this list the Oak Valley Pioneer Park, which I finally had the opportunity to visit (the park was one of the last conservation areas in the region to reopen during the pandemic). Oak Valley Pioneer Park is a small 10-acre park located on the banks of the South Nation River, west of Winchester Springs.
In addition to honouring pioneer families in the region, the park is also home to several varieties of nut trees and shrubs. A short path (less than a kilometre) winds under the trees and along the river.
And now that I have visited most of the conservation areas managed by the South Nation Conservation, it makes me even more interested in discovering those managed by other conservation organizations!
Other South Nation conservation areas: