The Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area is one that I first visited many years ago. Accompanied by my large extended family, we would pile into our canoes and spend the day on the Saugeen River. One time, when I was quite young we were visiting the Saugeen Bluffs for a hike and we brought along Cody, our large, curious and spontaneous standard poodle. We stopped many times for water breaks, but Cody wasn’t satisfied with the water we had to offer and decided to explore for a better source of his own. The Saugeen River below looked appealing and he started making his way down the high steep bank. We kept calling him and tried to get him to come back up but it appeared he was determined to reach the water. As he worked his way down he started to slip and began panicking. He tried to come back up but it was too steep and slippery and eventually he made his way down, but not by choice. I remember to my young eyes, the bank (known as the till of the Moraine) seemed terrifyingly steep. It looked as if Cody was falling down a mountain side.
After Cody reached his destination and had his drink, the new challenge was how to get him back up. My Dad found an area that wasn't quite so steep and carefully made his way down to reach Cody. We were relieved but now the real challenge came; how to get back up. They walked along the Saugeen Shore and luckily found an area that wasn't as steep and made their way up (Cody needing a push now and then) to rejoin us. Needless to say the Saugeen Bluffs left a lasting impression on me and I thought it was time that I revisit the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area. I couldn’t wait to see if the boulder till was truly as high as I remembered it being or if its height was just a figment of my extravagant childhood imagination.
When we arrived at the Conservation Area we drove through the main road of the campground to reach the trail and day-use parking lot. As we were driving along, four beautiful Blue Jays flew across the road and from tree to tree. We stopped and got out to get a better look when we noticed two more in the tree they had just come from. Six Blue Jays already and our day was just beginning! Thrown off by the spectacle, we forgot to get out the cameras and by the time we realized, it was too late. Our journey continued as we drove through the campground enjoying the peaceful scenery. The Maples and Campbell campgrounds are perfect places to get away and step into nature for either a short or long-term visit. I was amazed by the accommodating facilities such as laundry, picnic, and washrooms, as well as rental services for all sorts of different activities. Our stay however was only for the day, so we decided to just stick to the hiking trails.
The first trail we tackled was the Lookout Trail. The hike was a decently short and easy climb to the lookout where there was a magnificent view of the natural flood plain across the river, surrounded by the 30 metre high boulder till of the moraine. It was exactly as I had remembered it, except with even more trees and greenery. The view was captivating and we stood there for quite a while just staring out and taking in the beauty the Bluffs had to offer. We explored along this section of the trail getting many different views and angles of the Bluffs. The most abundant animal during our visit were the Turkey Vultures. At one point alone there was at least ten flying within the Bluffs area. They are much larger and even creepier looking up close.
When we finally pried ourselves away from the beautiful view of the landscape we attempted to continue along the Lookout Trail path. Now, my mom blames our poor navigating skills but I would like to believe it was the distraction of the killer flies circulating our heads…regardless of the reason, we got lost. We couldn`t figure out where the trail continued and after numerous attempts we thought it best just to head back the same way we came. But needn`t fear, our adventure wasn`t cut short then, we still had the Maple Hallows Trail to explore!
As we walked along the pathway leading into the trail, we were immediately submerged into a vibrant sea of green. Christopher even said “It feels like the trees are eating us,” -never had I heard a more accurate description coming from an 11-year-old. This trail was flatter with many small bridges along the way to travel over the Bluff`s stream. However the day we visited the stream was barely there! Due to the still water we were constantly being stalked by those irritating flies (which we later identified as deerflies) circling our heads. As our trail ended we came to a clearing on the Campbell Campground that had many picnic tables located throughout. We had been so busy exploring we had forgotten all about our lunch. So we settled down and enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon picnic. Afterwards, we retraced our steps back through the trail and decided it was time to head home. We had a day full of adventure, so much so that Christopher slept the entire car ride home. There are so many opportunities for exploration and adventure within the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area. I can’t wait to return again and explore from a different point of view, maybe one a little closer to the river from a canoe or kayak.
Just as a side note, I have found my visits this summer to the conservation areas have been disrupted by irritating deerflies. Deer flies are mostly yellow or black with darker stripes on the abdomen and dark markings or patterns on the wings. They have brilliant green or golden eyes with zigzag stripes. Deer flies frequently attack humans in woodland areas with streams. If anyone has any suggestions for next time on how to deter these pesky flies, I would love to hear them!
There are more than 270 conservation areas across Ontario, many which offer heritage sites, hiking and water activities. Most conservation areas are close towns and cities and easy to access. To find a conservation area near you, go to www.ontarioconservationareas.ca
Kaitlyn MacEachern is a summer student at Conservation Ontario going into her second year of studies at Dalhousie University in the fall. She is passionate about learning about the environment, leading a healthy active lifestyle, and exploring the great outdoors.