There’s something about a marsh that invokes feelings of peace and wellbeing in me. Maybe it has to do with the expansive views, the cattails rustling in the breeze, the birds soaring overhead, or the subtle symphony of frogs and red-winged blackbirds that connects me to a quieter time in my life.
I admit I grew up rurally, surrounded by a marsh, and because I attended a small country school I went on frequent class trips to nearby wetlands to discover insects and plant life. But I think marshes have a calming affect on other people too. At least the McLaren Marsh at Ken Reid Conservation Area lulled my two children, aged six and nine, into a quiet awe. It was early morning, the grass was still covered in dew, and we had the place to ourselves, but for once my kids didn’t tear off to be first across the boardwalk. Instead, they stopped to peer over the railings and point things out to me, their grandmother and each other, whispering so they wouldn’t scare any wildlife away. And what did they see, besides a sea of swaying cattails? A lot!
The Ken Reid Conservation Area provided the whole family with a wonderful outdoor experience, as well as a satisfying opportunity for me to throw around a few educational facts. I mean, it’s not every day you get to show your children a Yellow Water Lily rhizome - the thick underground root structure that when floating near the surface of the water somewhat resembles the body of a large python.
The Boardwalk, the Marsh Trail Lookout and the Rail Trail Bridge were definitely highlights of our visit because of the fantastic views, as well as the diversity of plant life we saw from them. Just along the boardwalk alone we were able to identify several wildflowers: Lady’s Slippers, Water Lilies (white and yellow) and purple Iris. Enthusiasts will be thrilled with the variety of wildflowers along the trails and even those who can’t name them will appreciate their many shapes and colours. My only regret from the day is that we didn’t have a wildflower guidebook with us.
In terms of seeing wildlife, which is always a big hit for children and adults alike, we saw the back of one turtle slipping into the water upon our approach, several leopard frogs jumping to safety, a majestic heron flying overhead and two ospreys huddling above the marsh in their magnificent nests. We also saw robins, red-winged blackbirds and a blue jay.
Ken Reid Conservation Area is a great day trip destination for families who want an outdoor experience that won’t have young kids whining about sore feet and asking, “how much farther?” The 12 looping and interconnecting trails are short enough to be kid-friendly, but varied enough to engage adults. They offer a variety of combinations and scenery and wind through forests, meadows and wetlands. We found the dark, mysterious Cedar Forest Trail particularly enchanting.
Owned and operated by Kawartha Conservation Authority, Ken Reid Conservation Area is just north of Lindsay and bordering Sturgeon Lake. With three large picnic shelters, it also offers a unique opportunity for large groups to gather for the day and even camp over-night. While some people hold down the fort at ‘base camp’, others can be out exploring the trails of their choice. Then everyone can meet back up for a rest and a bite to eat before heading out again.
Ken Reid Conservation Area has change rooms, washroom facilities, a playground structure to get the kids moving again if they do start to lag, and more than a day’s worth of hiking, cycling and even cross-country skiing in the winter.
For more information on the Ken Reid Conservation Area go to www.kawarthaconservation.com or contact the Kawartha Conservation Authority at (705- 328-2271).
There are more than 250 conservation areas across Ontario offering a range of outdoor experiences. Many are close towns and cities and easy to access. To find a conservation area near you, go to www.ontarioconservationareas.ca
Christina Kilbourne is an avid outdoor enthusiast and writer. She is the author of four novels, including Dear Jo, winner of the 2009 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award , the 2010 Saskatchewan Snow Willow Award in 2010 and the 2010 British Columbia Red Cedar Award. She lives in Bracebridge with her family and various four-legged creatures.
Looking for frogs on the boardwalk
Hiking the Cedar Forest Trail
Wild flowers abound