After visiting most of the conservation areas that are overseen by South Nation Conservation, I decided to focus on another area in Eastern Ontario: the Raisin River watershed, where conservation areas are overseen by the Raisin River Conservation Authority (RRCA). I visited a conservation area there last year, that of Cooper Marsh. This time I went to explore the nearby conservation area, Charlottenburgh Park, near the village of Summerstown.
Like Cooper Marsh, Charlottenburgh Park Conservation Area protects a provincially significant wetland located on the shores of Lake Saint Francis. And as is also the case at Cooper Marsh, there are several boardwalks and some observation platforms.
But Charlottenburgh Park is more than just a marsh. The park includes different types of ecosystems, including a pine plantation, a birch forest, a meadow, and ponds. Because ecosystems are diverse, so are wildlife. When I was there, in addition to the usual squirrels, I saw a pack of wild turkeys, a family of Canadian geese, a few ducks and a great blue heron.
The star of the park, however, is the beautiful Lake Saint Francis. This large lake, which is bordered by Ontario, Quebec and New York State, is part of the St. Lawrence River waterway. It is therefore normal to see both boaters and big ships on the water. In addition to an observation deck that offers a superb view of the lake, Charlottenburgh Park also has a beach, a dock, and a boat ramp.
In fact, this is perhaps the greatest peculiarity of this conservation area (and its greatest difference from Cooper Marsh). Charlottenburgh Park is also, and above all, a campsite with several infrastructures. The campsite was rather empty when I visited (the summer season is not quite started yet), but I imagine that in summer, the place (and its trails) may be a little bit more crowded (and less quiet).
Still, my hike was highly enjoyable. The trail is flat, grassy and in very good condition. It includes several wooden boardwalks. It has three looped trails, which end to end allow a hike of about six kilometres. There are also several interpretative signs, in English and French (from which I learned, among other things, the distinction between white birch and gray birch … but that will be for another story!).
Charlottenburgh Park is located a few kilometres from the Quebec border and about 20 kilometres east of Cornwall. Entrance to the site is free during the off-season (well, this is what I’m assuming), but once the summer season has started, you have to pay an entry fee for the day (or rent a campsite for the night).