Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2021
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is situated along Lake Ontario just west of Prince Edward County. Presqu’ile in French means “almost island” as it is joined to the mainland by an extremely narrow piece of land. It is open year-round, features a long sandy beach and has a variety of trails that wind through the various habitats in the park, including forests, wetlands and sand dunes.
After spending the Easter long weekend up at the cabin, it was time to return home. But not before making a detour along the drive back to Toronto at Presqu’ile. We rolled into the park around 11:30a.m. The Park Office was open so I picked up a park crest and sweater (nearly half my wardrobe is filled with Ontario parks shirts, no regrets).
We initially planned to hike along the Marsh Trail (1.2km loop, rated easy), which mostly follows along a boardwalk and features two viewing towers overlooking a marsh. However, the trailhead was blocked off and there was a sign to indicate that the trail was closed. Due to record high water levels in the Spring of 2019, the boardwalk was heavily damaged and therefore became closed off to the public. The boardwalk is supposed to re-open this year, but I guess the work is still underway.
Instead we drove along Lighthouse Lane to hike along the Newcastle Trail. The trailhead marks the start for both the Newcastle Trail (4.3km, rated easy, signed with orange markers) and the Pioneer Trail (3.8km, rated easy, signed with yellow markers). The trails form two interconnected loops for those that want a longer hike.
In the early 1800s some of the forest here was cleared for the development of the proposed town of Newcastle. When plans for the town were abandoned, settlers built homes and farms on the peninsula. They were later abandoned. Some of the old fields were reforested with conifer plantations while in others succession is occurring.
The trail weaves through the forest and luckily contains some boardwalks as the ground was quite muddy and wet in certain sections.
Midway through the trail leads out to the road. From here we made a brief detour to walk to the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse. There are a few signs that provide more details about the lighthouse and its history. It is the second oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It is also the only natural harbour between Toronto and Prince Edward County, but the channel is very narrow and nearly impossible to sail upwind into. In the last half of the 1880s, at least eight vessels were claimed by autumn storms within sight of this point.
From here we walked back to the Newcastle Trail to continue our hike. The second half was more challenging than the first in that there were more puddles to dodge over and around. No wonder we didn’t encounter too many other hikers on this portion of the trail. But we made it back to the trailhead and our shoes managed to (mostly) stay dry.
After wrapping up our hike we drove to Calf Pasture Point, which features a viewing platform that overlooks Presqu’ile Bay. The marsh here is the largest protected wetland on the north shore of Lake Ontario and is an important area for many bird species. In recent years there’s been a decline in some marsh species likely due to a suite of unfavourable conditions, including low water levels, pollution of wintering grounds in the Gulf of Panama and disturbance by humans.
We then drove to the trailhead for the Jobes’ Woods Trail (1km, rated easy) to embark on one last hike. The trail winds through the forest and contains a few sections along a wooden boardwalk. This area was once part of a farm settled by Thomas and Ezekiel Jobes in 1835. The part of their farm in this area remained relatively undisturbed by settlement activity and today contains one of the oldest deciduous woodlots at Presqu’ile.
The trail is well signed by blue markers and contains a series of numbered posts from #1 to #6. Apparently there is an interpretive guide that contains more information about the ecology of the Jobes’ forest that is usually available at the trailhead. But of course that was before COVID-19.
On our drive out of the park we stopped at the beach area. We visited Presqu’ile a couple of years ago when the water levels were really high and much of the beach area was underwater. It was nice to return to see what the beach is normally like, which is quite sandy and expansive.
And with that we finished up at Presqu’ile. From here we continued our drive back to Toronto.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here