Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2021
Carden Alvar Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s newest provincial parks and was established in 2014. The park protects an alvar, a sensitive grassland habitat which is characterized by thin or no soil, which is only found in a few areas in Ontario. The importance of this sensitive habitat is that it supports a variety of rare plants and species. Carden Alvar is a non-operating park so there are no services or facilities. Despite that, it has become a popular spot for birdwatching. The park also features a few hiking trails.
The weather was less than ideal today: windy, cold, and rainy. But we forced ourselves to get out of the house and visit a couple of provincial parks. We first stopped at Duclos Point Provincial Nature Reserve on the drive to Carden Alvar since it was along the way. Spoiler alert: this park is aptly classified as a nature reserve and there isn’t much here for us human visitors. We had better luck with Carden Alvar.
We parked at the small parking lot off of Kirkfield Rd, which marks the trailhead for the Cameron Ranch Walking Trail (3km). The Cameron Ranch was once used for cattle ranching. When the owners put it up for sale in 2001, it was purchased by a group of non-government nature and conservancy organizations. It was then converted into a non-operating park so the provincial government could help managing and protecting the land. Remnants from when this field was used for cattle ranching are still visible from the trailhead and along the path.
The path follows the perimeter of a fenced off field which aims to protect the sensitive alvar. Since the soil is thin and occurs on a flat limestone bedrock, the landscape looks barren and vegetation appears stunted. The trail itself is relatively flat. There are even a few boardwalks to help cross some of the wet and soggy areas.
There are a couple of interpretive panels along the path that provide more information about the importance of rotational grazing (which can help an area rest between grazing rotations) and wetlands (which can improve the water quality and maintain stream levels). Since the area is extremely sensitive, the park continues to manage grazing pressure to provide optimum habitat conditions for the grassland species.
The path continues through the open field, following the edge of the fence. The path then turns into a large boardwalk that ends a bit prematurely. While the path continues on for a few hundred metres, we decided to turn around as the ground was quite soggy. We walked back the way that we came.
On the drive out, we stopped at another sign to read about how Carden Alvar is an important area for many species of birds. It is home to over 30 designated species of at risk birds, including the endangered Loggerhead Shrike, Bobolinks, and Eastern Meadowlarks. The sign also indicated that there is bird blind located 2km north on Wylie Road.
There are a few other short trails through the park, but it was cold and it had started to rain. Instead we climbed into the car, turned our seat warmers on max, and drove back home to Toronto.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here