Distance hiked: 12km
Location: Island Lake Conservation Area, Ontario
Date: July 25, 2020
Island Lake marks the headwaters, or source, of the Credit River, which flows all the way to Port Credit and into Lake Ontario. It is the largest artificial lake in the Credit River Watershed and is considered a provincially significant wetland.
Island Lake is named after one of the original settlers, Michael Island, who arrived here around 1830. He purchased a deed to 100 acres of land around the area where the original pond was located. In 1967, the local landscape changed dramatically when two dams were constructed to control the amount of water flowing into the river and improve the quality of the water. The Island Lake Conservation Area opened to the public in 1970 after the completion of these dams. Today, it is a popular recreational area for hiking, fishing, kayaking and birdwatching.
There are a variety of trails that weave through the different habitats of the conservation area, including lakes, wetlands, forests and meadows.
We first hiked clockwise along the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail (8.2km round trip), which follows along the shore of the lake. The trail is wide, relatively flat and well marked with orange squares on posts.
The trail itself consists of a mix between a gravel path and series of boardwalks, so there isn’t much to be had in terms of shade.
Along the path are a series of interpretive signs which provide more details about things like: the history of the area, the importance of certain plants to the wetlands, invasive species, and why Island Lake is considered a provincially significant wetland.
At the North Dam, the path reaches a junction. We made a short detour to hike along the Island Lake Family Trail (700m), which is marked by yellow squares.
The trail leads to an overfill parking lot, but also connects with the Hockley Trail (1.5km) to form a loop back to the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. The Hockley Trail is marked by purple squares.
After the detour, we continued walking along the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail. Here the trail meanders through an open meadow (with very little shade). There’s an interpretive sign that provides more detail of how the land was shaped almost 13,000 years ago by glaciers. The trails at Island Lake Conservation Area are on a moraine deposit, a large formation of rocks and gravel that are released by a glacier when it melts. Before Island Lake was flooded, there was a smaller kettle lake here, which was made by a large chunk of ice that was left behind by the glacier.
The trail leads to a scenic lookout of the portion of the lake that is a wildlife sanctuary and provides a nice view of the path onwards, which is a boardwalk that crosses the lake.
On the way back to the parking lot, we made a detour to hike along the Sugar Bush Trail (2.3km round trip) to hide from the sun and dodge the crowds of people. The trail weaves through a Maple-Beech forest where maple syrup production is still practiced.
The trail connects with the Memorial Forest Trail (1.9km round trip), which we hiked part-way along to extend this hike into a longer loop. The path weaves through the forest and passes by a memorial that was built in 2011 by dry stone waller Eric Landman who built a beautiful memorial tree wall in memory of his late wife, Kerry.
We finished up our hike around lunch o’clock. Overall it took us 2.5 hours to complete most of the trails in the Island Lake Conservation Area. We were eager to head out to eat some lunch and get away from the crowds.
My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here