BALL'S FALLS CONSERVATION AREA
Before I visited Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, owned and operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), I would have guessed not a single drop of water would stay on a penny. But because all trails at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area lead out from the Centre for Conservation, we had a chance to find out.
The Ball’s Falls Centre for Conservation invites visitors to delve deeper into a variety of topics relating to nature, conservation, and culture. Visitors will leave with a greater understanding of land and water conservation, human impact on the natural ecosystem and the connection between natural history and cultural history.
In the end, I was able to fit 35 drops of water on my penny and my daughter managed 32. Apparently, the record is 45. The water’s ‘skin’ allows it to stay on the penny and grow fatter. This was just one of many interesting facts we learned about water and water conservation at NPCA’s Centre for Conservation. We also saw the different stages a tadpole goes through before becoming a frog, found out that the water we drink today has been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and saw how the centre uses its roof to collect and then store rainwater to flush the toilets.
I didn’t know my seven-year-old son was such a fact junky until I tried to drag him away from the interactive displays. In the end, I had to promise we’d stop on the way back to participate in the scavenger hunt.
When I finally got him out of the building he was spouting an impressive array of water-related facts. He talked all the way down the hill, across a bridge and into the heritage village, where we met a guide and were treated to a tour of the historic buildings, including the Glen Elgin Mill, the Fairchild log cabin and the Ball Homestead. As much as my son is a fact-junky, I adore heritage villages. I love to imagine living in the small cabins, cooking over an open fire, and to see rooms displayed with artifacts, as if someone has just gone out to the garden to pick herbs for dinner. And there was a traditional garden in the heritage village too – surrounded by a rough, handmade fence and bursting with ripe raspberries, which we were invited to eat, a variety of herbs, flowers and even cabbages.
Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is steeped in history. It comprises over 200 acres of the original 1,200 acres purchased by John and George Ball in 1807. The family constructed a gristmill, saw mill and woolen mill, which led to the establishment of one of the first communities along the lower reaches of Twenty Mile Creek.
But Ball’s Falls isn’t just about history and education. There are wonderful natural features as well, including two spectacular waterfalls, limestone outcrops characteristic of the Niagara Escarpment, and of course, the Twenty Mile Creek which stitches the entire conservation area together. When we left the heritage village we took Cataract Trail to the Upper Falls. Although not as breath-taking as the Lower Falls, which are 27 metres high, the Upper Falls are well worth the walk. The trails are well maintained and very picturesque and on our walk, the kids enjoyed running ahead to see what was around the next bend, and then the next. You can imagine their delight when they discovered the overgrown ruins of the Woollen Mill, a stump covered in snails, and a slab of limestone so large even the Incredible Hulk couldn’t have left it there.
Ball’s Falls is a great day trip that offers something for all ages. My mother, who was also along for the outing, soaked up the beautiful hues of green in the forest canopy, the moss-covered limestone and the lush undergrowth that flanked the sides of the trail.
“Don’t forget the scavenger hunt,” my son reminded me as we emerged from the forest and headed back up toward the Centre for Conservation.
“Let’s do that now,” I said and we went inside to discover even more facts for my nature-loving son.
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.