Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2021
Earl Rowe Provincial Park is a recreational park located near Toronto in Alliston. It provides plenty of camping opportunities and features two sandy beaches, a reservoir, a large outdoor swimming pool, picnic facilities and several hiking trails.
Earl Rowe is typically open from mid-May to mid-October. While the main road leading into the park is closed during the off-season, visitors can park in either parking lot near the main gate. There is also a self-serve machine here to pay for a day-use permit. After going for a quick hike at Beattie Pinery Provincial Nature Reserve, we decided to visit Earl Rowe since it’s less than a 10 minute drive away. We rolled into the park just after 11a.m and were surprised to see that one of the parking lots was already full.
From the parking lot we walked down to the water at East Beach. There were a few signs here that provided some history of the lake. Earl Rowe Lake is a man-made lake that was created in 1964 when a dam was built on the Boyne River. There is minimal water flow and since it is surrounded by agricultural fields, the water usually has high levels of bacteria. During the summer the water is tested on a regular basis, but nowadays it’s typically closed for swimming. Instead Earl Rowe offers a large outdoor wading pool that is safe for swimming.
A fishway was built at the dam site to ensure that Rainbow Trout could continue their annual migration up the river to spawn. The trout ascend the ladder by jumping the small falls in each chamber or by swimming through the drainage holes. Before leaving the fishway, the fish enter a trap which can be raised out of the fishway for tagging.
There are four short trails scattered throughout the park and one larger trail, the Rainbow Run Trail (11km loop, rated easy) that encompasses the entire trail system. We hiked the Rainbow Run Trail last summer, so for this visit we decided to just hike a smaller loop along the Lookout Trail (4km loop), which was our favourite section. From East Beach we found a trail marker for Fletcher’s Mill Pond Trail, which overlaps with the longer Rainbow Run Trail.
We walked north along the trail and turned east to hike counterclockwise along the Rainbow Run Trail. The trail first passes the outskirts of the Fletcher Field and Boyne Meadow Campgrounds before leading through a red pine forest. There were a few signs here that provided more information about the history and landscape of the area.
Earl Rowe was once a dense forest of tall pines. However from the 1840s to the end of the 19th century loggers cleared the land to supply materials for buildings, furniture and shipbuilding. Farmers then settled in to use the open fields. Red pines were planted during the mid-1960s to provide a windbreak for the open field habitat of the park.
The trail intersects with the Lookout Trail. We followed the path up a hill and out onto an open field. There’ve even a small wooden lookout platform that provides sweeping views of Earl Rowe and the surrounding area.
The trail winds back down through the forest and connects up with the Rainbow Run Trail again. We were a bit confused where to proceed, but we knew the path passes through the Trillium Woods Campground and amphitheatre, so we headed in that general direction. We passed a number of geese along the way. We then ditched the trail and walked along the road to get back to the main gate and parking lot.
Even though both parking lots were nearly full by the time we wrapped up our hike, we didn’t encounter a single person while on the trail. I guess most people were down by the water fishing or hanging out by the beach. The timing worked out perfectly. Dark clouds were rolling in and 15 minutes into our drive back to Toronto it started to pour.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here