Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: March 2021
Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve protects one of the few remaining remnant patches of tallgrass prairie in Ontario. It is located in the Town of East Gwillimbury, just south of Lake Simcoe and is situated on deep sand and silt deposits of the prehistoric Lake Algonquin that existed at the time of the last ice age. Holland Landing Prairie is a non-operating park, so there are no visitor facilities or services provided, but it does have a small network of trails through the forest for hiking or cross-country skiing.
We were a bit tired from our hike through Short (more like mud) Hills Provincial Park the day before, so today we decided to take it easy and go for a short hike. We drove Holland Landing Prairie, which is about 40 minutes north of Toronto. The boundary of the park is fenced, but there are a few access points which allow entry. When we plugged the address into Google Maps, it took us to an access point on Maple Street, however, there was a sign here to indicate that visitors should park along Cedar Street instead.
We turned around, and drove to Cedar Street to park the car. There are a couple of access points along this street. We parked behind one other car that was here and bundled up. While the temperature was slightly above freezing, it was quite blustery outside.
Near the access point, there was a sign that provided more detail about the sensitive ecosystem. The nature reserve consists of 34 hectares and protects rare tallgrass prairie and endangered butternut trees. Tallgrass prairie was once common from Ontario to Manitoba, but today less than 1% of it remains. It needs sun and regular fires to survive. While much of Holland Landing Prairie contains red pine, there are plans to restore the native prairie ecosystem. Planted trees are now being thinned and small controlled burns are conducted annually.
There is no map of the trail system either in the nature reserve or online and the trails themselves aren’t marked. So navigation was a bit tricky, but it’s a relatively small park so it was kind of hard to get lost.
While there is no longer any snow in Toronto, we were surprised to find snow here. The trails themselves were quite icy, something we weren’t prepared for. But luckily it’s a small network of trails and the ground is relatively flat. Besides, the snow and ice did help get rid of some of the mud that was caked on our boots from the day before.
The trail winds through the forest and crosses an open sand pit. Some of the snow had melted here exposing the sandy soil underneath. We continued to wander through the forest, slipping and sliding along the icy trails. In no time we were back at the access point on Cedar Street.
While Holland Landing Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve is a relatively small park (with a long name), it was nice to visit and learn more about its prairie ecosystem.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here