The camping and provincial parks season has officially begun in Ontario! We decided to take advantage of a long weekend to go camping in a park we had never been to before: Ferris Provincial Park, near Campbellford, in Eastern Ontario.
In fact, I must admit that since we were a little last minute to book our camp sites, we ended up choosing Ferris Provincial Park since it was one of the only parks in Eastern Ontario where there were still some sites available for camping. In the end, it ended up being the perfect opportunity to explore a park and a region of which we didn’t know much about!
A bit of history
Ferris Provincial Park is located on the shore of the Trent River in Northumberland County, Ontario (about three hours from Ottawa, and two hours from Toronto). The lands of the park have been used by early settlers, first owned by brothers Robert and David Campbell (hence the name of the nearby town, “Campbellford”). The property near the river was used for farming, but also served as woodlots and a gathering place for locals who wanted to picnic and hike.
The Ferris family inherited the land in 1920, and when James Marshall Ferris II died in 1960, as he wanted the property to remain in its natural state and be available to the public, the local community and the Ferris family lobbied the government for the creation of a provincial park, and that’s how Ferris Provincial Park was created.
Throughout the provincial park, it is possible to see signs of its history. The park is known for its network of old stone walls (there are nearly seven kilometres of them scattered throughout the park), some of which have been restored to preserve that part of the history of Ferris Provincial Park.
In addition to its numerous camp sites, the provincial park also has a few hiking trails, of which here is an overview.
River Gorge Trail
A 3.5-kilometre loop. As its name suggests, this trail showcases the Trent River and Ranney Gorge, and offers several viewpoints over them. We started from the “sheep wash”, a place that was used to wash sheep in the river, and which has now been converted into a picnic area. From there, we headed north, towards the gorge.
The trail along the river had a few muddy sections, and a few steeper sections, but nothing too complicated. After a few metres, we arrived at what is arguably one of the highlights of Ferris Provincial Park: the famous suspension bridge over the Trent River. With a length of 90 metres, the bridge offers a superb view of the river and its gorge, and is part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Then the trail took us back to our starting point, this time passing through the forest. South of the “sheep wash”, the trail makes another short loop, which also follows the river before returning through a clearing. The trail here is a little less steep than in its northern portion, but I liked the views it offers of the river and its lilac-lined sections.
Ranney Falls Trail
A 1-kilometre loop. This trail apparently follows the route of an old railway line and offers a view of Ranney Falls. These falls are not very high so not particularly impressive, but the panorama offered on the river (with the suspension bridge that can be seen in the distance) is still very pretty.
Since the loop is short, it pairs well with the River Gorge Trail.
Drumlin Trail System
7.2 kilometres of trails. The Drumlin Trail System is actually a network of three interconnected trails (the blue, white and red trails), which allow you to explore the ecosystems of two drumlins up close. Drumlins are small, elongated hills of sediment created by the glaciers. Drumlins are common in southern Ontario, and particularly in Northumberland County.
The trails go through the mature forest that covers the drumlins, as well as through some wetlands. There are also traces of the past of the place along the trails, such as old stone walls. We combined some of the trails to do a loop of about 3.5 kilometres, which we completed in just under an hour.
Ferris Provincial Park has over 150 campsites, divided into two campgrounds. I must admit that our arrival at the provincial park did not go exactly as planned. There had been heavy rain all day and the campsite we had booked was completely covered in water and mud. In fact, when we tried to get our van onto the site, we got stuck in the mud and it took us some time before we were able to be able to get out.
We were a little discouraged when we returned to the Park Office (we knew that since it was a long weekend, finding another site could be hard), but there, miraculously, we were told that there were a few other sites available, and we were even told that we could choose the one that suited us best, and they could switch our booking for us. We therefore chose a beautiful open site and were able to enjoy our camping weekend and keep our feet dry! We really appreciated the patience and understanding of the park staff.
And I really liked about this provincial park, in addition to its pretty hiking trails, was the abundance of lilacs. The lilacs were originally part of the old farms, but they are growing wild today, and they give the park and its campsites a unique look (and smell)! It was really the perfect spring camping trip!