Carden Alvar Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
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

57 thoughts on “Carden Alvar Provincial Park

  1. Ab says:

    Thanks for covering this park for us. I learned a new word today: Alvar! 😊

    The park did a look in a bit of a disarray with the worn down fence, etc. But it is always nice to get some time out in nature and fresh air. One more park off the Challenge!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I had no idea what the term alvar meant either until we visited Carden Alvar. We weren’t sure what to expect on our visit given that it’s a relatively new park, but were surprised to find signs at the trailhead. It did seem a bit weird to walk along the edge of the fence, but it makes sense given that the landscape is extremely sensitive. There are a few other trails in the park that we would have liked to hike, but I’m not that dedicated to hike in the rain. And yes, another one crossed off the list for our parks challenge!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are a few trails throughout the park. We initially planned to hike them all given that they’re relatively short, but it was cold, windy and rainy. Instead we hiked this one and called it quits. For being one of the newest provincial parks in Ontario I was surprised at how well signed the park and trailhead were. I like the plaques and storyboards that can be found along the trail too. It’s a great way to add some education to our exercise.

  2. kagould17 says:

    An interesting place to preserve, for sure. A bit barren for a park, but once it greens up a bit, it should be nice. Thank goodness for the Nature Conservancy groups. I love going to the bird santuaries and seeing who flies in. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s too bad we didn’t visit later in the spring as I imagine the meadow gets lots of wildflowers. It’s amazing to hear about how so many green spaces in Ontario have been converted into a park or nature reserve based on the conservation efforts of people in the community and nature conservancy groups. Since starting this challenge I’ve developed a newfound appreciation of the Nature Conservancy of Canada as their name has come up quite a bit when learning about the history of some of the parks we’ve visited and how they were created. Have a wonderful weekend as well. Take care.

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    It’s great that the old ranch didn’t get turned into a housing development or something like that. It looks like it’s being left to return to its original state with the deteriorating fences. Yes, that weather looks cold!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      So true. Seems like new housing developments are going up left, right and centre here in Ontario. Glad this area has been preserved and protected for all to enjoy. It’ll be neat to visit in a few years to see the effect of what nature can do when left to regenerate.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I didn’t realize how many parks and nature reserves there are in Ontario until this pandemic forced me to explore more of my own backyard. It’s been fun trying to explore as many of them as I can. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of the area and see some of the nearby towns and cities that I otherwise would have never have visited.

  4. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Thanks for explaining to me what an alivar is, as I’d not come across it before. Sorry to hear that the temperatures have plummeted again. It’s just rainy here but like you, we continue regardless! Have a good weekend. Marion.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same. That’s part of why I enjoy visiting new parks is that I get to learn more about the natural landscape, including new terms like alvar. I’m hoping that all those April showers will bring May flowers. Enjoy your weekend as well. We’re supposed to have decent weather tomorrow, so hoping to explore another new park. Take care.

  5. Lookoom says:

    I didn’t know what an alvar was, thanks for the explanation. When you think of the adaptability of birds to survive human-induced changes in the landscape, it is only fair to give them back some of their authentic terrain.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s amazing how resilient nature is and how with time (and protection), it can heal itself. It’ll be neat to return in a few years to see how much the area has rejuvenated itself.

  6. travelling_han says:

    Well alvar is a new word for my vocab – we have lots of flat alvars here in England that look just like that 🙂 Like you, we are cold and it’s raining here again – I feel like I’ve been inside for too long to care though and have decided ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing’….or something like that! 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Good call. We usually force ourselves to get outside and explore a new park at least once a week. This type of landscape is quite unique in Ontario and we don’t see too many places with such stunted vegetation. I would love to see more of the countryside in the UK, even with the rain. Fingers crossed travel opens up again towards the end of the year.

  7. leightontravels says:

    Never heard of alvars before. Sorry to hear about the bad weather. We’ve had nearly two months of rain, and recently some cold and windy days. Seems to be getting gradually better, though.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same, this was a term I had never heard before prior to visiting this park. Even when I was writing a draft of this post, the word alvar kept being flagged as a typo, so I had to double check a few times that this was indeed a real word. Hopefully April showers really do bring May flowers. The weather has cleared up here and has gone from cold and rainy to hot and humid. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Seat warmers are a game changer. It’s a nice way to warm-up after being outside in the cold. I’ve grown so accustomed to them that once our car breaks down, it’ll be a requirement for the next one that we own.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Prior to visiting this park I had no idea what an alvar was either. It’s always nice to learn something new when visiting a provincial park or nature reserve. It’s amazing to hear about how the people in the community and conservation groups came together to acquire this area in an effort to protect the unique landscape.

      • winteroseca says:

        Oh definitely! Stories of preservation warm my heart! Btw, I wanted to ask you if you can see my blog posts on Reader? A couple of my followers told me they couldn’t and tech support told me data on my site was out of sync. They also told me that my followers will have to refollow me. One of my followers already tried it, so we’ll see how it goes

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The most recent post you wrote on your eclipse chasing adventure showed up on my Reader, but previously they didn’t. Instead I relied on email to notify me of when you wrote a new post. Glad to hear that the issue has been addressed. I too had to refollow at some point. I think I did that a few months ago. Oh technology.

      • winteroseca says:

        Thanks for letting me know. I am still keeping an eye on things to be sure it really is fixed! And yeah, you think tech would eliminate problems. Nope

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Haha yah right. If only. Fingers crossed the issue has been addressed. I am the worst with technology and having to troubleshoot. I got a new laptop from work a few months ago but continue to use my old junker because I can’t be bothered to transfer everything over, set the new one up and then learn how to use a new system.

  8. ourcrossings says:

    As the weather in Ireland is windy, cold, and rainy for most of the year, we’ve learned to embrace it and go for daily walks anyway. We’ve had lots of rain lately – more than usual, but still managed to escape to nearby woods for a short jog. It helps clear my head and helps me think creatively. I am glad you decided to go for a walk despite the unfavourable weather conditions; there’s no better way to boost immune function. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day. Aiva 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s a great approach. With the right clothing, you can stay warm and dry even in the cold and rain. Good for you for getting some fresh air regardless of the weather. It sure beats the alternative of staying indoors for days at a time. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ugh, sorry to hear that you had to work over the weekend. We had a holiday on Monday so we enjoyed an extra long weekend. The weather was pretty decent and we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors. Perhaps too much time outdoors as I’m now a bit sunburnt. Take care.

      • Island Traveler says:

        I’m off for a few days & will do more hike and outdoors. My doctor said yesterday to do more cardio and walking because of too much weight gain. Reality check for sure. Take care.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I hear yah. We’ve definitely packed on some extra pounds during the pandemic. Going for a hike every weekend has been a good way to try to stay in shape and get some exercise. Enjoy your time off.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That just means you have a great excuse to spend more time in nature by going for a walk or hike! As with anything, there’s usually a bit of an adjustment period but eventually it’ll become part of your regular routine.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I love it! I already feel like an unofficial ambassador for Ontario Parks as most of the shirts and sweaters that I wear these days are from the various parks that I’ve visited!!

  9. carol hopkins says:

    Hopefully you will be able to hike this park again when the weather is less inclement. I am so glad the park is there for endangered species. I love the board walks, helpful when hiking over soggy grounds.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. There are a few other trails we would have liked to hike, but this gives us a good excuse to come back. It’ll be neat to return in a few years (ideally later in the Spring when the ground isn’t as soggy) to see how much of the landscape has changed now that this area is protected. And yes, having those boardwalks is always much appreciated!!

      • carol hopkins says:

        It’s cool to think about what it will look like in a few years. Yes, boardwalks are awesome, especially in swampy areas, and they save the area from careless or thoughtless humans.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. Or even to visit in a different season. I find wetlands so scenic and fascinating. We try to avoid them later in the spring or early summer as they are the breeding grounds for mosquitoes and all the various flies.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! As you can tell, we are very dedicated to our hiking and Ontario Parks challenge. We try to get out at least once a week to explore a new park, rain or shine. We would have liked to explore this park more fully, but it just gives us an excuse to return someday (when the weather is nicer).

  10. Meg says:

    How wonderful that the park is a safe space for endangered birds too – that would be interesting to get to observe some of those birds!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. This park is reputed to be a great place for birdwatching. Unfortunately when we visited it was cold, windy and rainy, so we didn’t see many birds. We’ll just have to return (with some bird seed) on a nicer day to get the full experience. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape at this park is quite unique in Ontario. It was interesting to learn more about the alvar and the variety of plants and birds that rely on this sensitive ecosystem. The fact that it was flat made for some easy hiking.

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