John E. Pearce Provincial Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2021

John E. Pearce Provincial Park is a day-use park located along Lake Erie that is known for its colourful display of spring wildflowers and bird watching. The park contains two hiking trails and a few historic buildings that provide more information about the natural heritage and history of this area and the importance of wetland and meadow habitats.

We arrived at John E. Pearce late in the afternoon. There’s a narrow gravel road that loops through the forest and leads to a small parking lot with restrooms and a single picnic table. There used to be an overlook here of Lake Erie from atop a 33-metre high cliff, but it has since been fenced off with signs saying no hiking and that the area was closed.

By the parking lot there’s a circular monument for John E. Pearce to recognize his contributions in donating this land to the province and in dedication to the memory of his ancestors who settled in this area in 1809 and who were mainly responsible for the founding of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in 1827.

We then drove out of the park to access the two trails. We first hiked along the Spicer Trail (1.5km, rated easy), which is located across the road from the park entrance. The trail is named after Lorne Spicer, a local naturalist who helped create this trail.

The trail consists of two connecting loops, a red trail (for a shorter hike) and blue trail (for a longer hike). We first started off along the red trail. After crossing the bridge, the trail splits off with the red trail to the left and blue trail to the right. We followed the blue markers to complete the longer loop through the forest.

The trail leads through an old hardwood forest and includes a variety of trees that can be found within the Carolinian zone, such as tulip trees and sassafrass. Some of the trees even contain a plaque to help with identification.

The trail then passes an open field and connects with the Wetland Storey Trail. The trailhead at this junction isn’t marked. If it wasn’t for me going out into the field to take a picture and finding an interpretive sign, we would have missed it all together. I guess this junction also marks the end of the Spicer Trail as there’s a map and more information about the trail located here.

The Wetland Storey Trail (1.5km, rated easy) is a self-guided interpretive trail that weaves through three new wetlands surrounded by tall grass prairie and offers 15 informative interpretive panels along the way. These storyboards provide more information about the park, the early settlers and the importance of the wetlands.

The trail is named after Mary (Patterson) Storey who arrived in Dunwich Township with her son and daughters, her brother Leslie Patterson and wife Lydia Backus and her sister Frances with her husband John Pearce. Mary and her son were granted some land that is now part of John E. Pearce Provincial Park. She also donated 10 acres of her land for St. Peter’s Anglican Church, rectory and cemetery.

The trail meanders through a significant wetland restoration area and also passes through a pine plantation of white pine stands. This is the first stage of restoring the field into forest. Pine trees are fast growing and resistant to browsing by small animals and deer. The shade from the trees helps control the weeds. These pines will eventually be thinned out to allow more sunlight into the understory and allow hardwood trees, shrubs and wildflowers to grow.

The trail ends (or starts) at the Backus-Page House Museum. The house was built in the 1850s for Andrew and Mary Jane Backus and was the first all-brick structure in the area. Andrew inherited the lot from his grandmother, Mary (Patterson) Storey. When Andrew died in 1884, he left the farm to his son, Andrew Storey Backus. He then sold the south half of the land to John E. Pearce, the person the park is named after. John E. Pearce then donated his portion of the land to the Ontario government in 1957 and it officially became a provincial park. The owners of the northern portion of the land later sold their property to the province to help expand the park.

The house has been restored and transformed into a museum, but it was unfortunately closed when we visited. We instead walked around the house and tried to peek inside some of the windows.

We then walked down the road to St. Peter’s Church, which is located close to the park entrance and where we parked. The initial nave was constructed in 1827 and was later expanded to include the belfry and tower. The nearby burying grounds contains the graves of some of the area’s early settlers.

We walked backed to our car and from here it’s about an hour and a half drive to Wheatley Provincial Park where we planned to spend the night.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

44 thoughts on “John E. Pearce Provincial Park

  1. kagould17 says:

    What a great park. A good mix of forests and meadows, as well as history. So glad the families donated the land for all to enjoy. Too bad about the overlook and the closed house. Next time. Have a great Sunday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always neat to learn more about how a park was created and named. Lake Erie has had a lot of erosion over the years. It’s too bad that the overlook was closed, but hopefully they can build a more stable viewing platform in the future. Both trails in the park were great and while the historic buildings were closed, we could at least peek inside the windows. Thanks for reading. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This is such a nice park. It’s too bad that it doesn’t have access to the beach, but it makes up for it with its hiking trails and historic buildings. The small church is very adorable and reminds me of New England.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Even though the house and church were closed, we still had a fabulous time exploring the grounds. The best part was that we had the entire park all to ourselves.

  2. Ab says:

    I’m enjoying this post on this snowy Sunday and what a stark contrast the weather and all that green!

    Looks like a beautiful park and very well maintained! The trails look scenic and love the museum and that small church you encountered along the way.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how the landscape can look so different depending on the season. I bet this park looks beautiful even in the winter too. We’re supposed to return to Canada later this evening and I’m looking forward to seeing all the snow! I guess this means it’s time to start busting out the Christmas music!

  3. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    What a beautiful park! It’s great that the area is being re-forested and there are explanatory boards. Must have been an interesting hike. Too bad that the house was closed but so many things continue to be right now.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always fun to learn more about the history and flora and fauna of the area. The interpretive panels are a great way to educate visitors and to help them understand the steps to rehabilitate the land to either a wetland or forest. It’s too bad the house and church were closed, but at least we could peek inside the windows.

  4. Book Club Mom says:

    Thanks for sharing these pictures from your hike – I would definitely have looked in the windows too! Even though it’s now a museum, I would have liked to imagine the people who lived in it before that. Also, that path through the flat land looks so inviting – I hope it wasn’t too hot out there!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. We visited late in the afternoon, so it wasn’t too bad outside. There was no protection from the sun while we were winding through the wetlands though. It’s always nice to catch a glimpse into what life must have been like in the past. I guess this just gives us a reason to return someday to see what the house museum is like when it’s open.

  5. Little Miss Traveller says:

    The woodland and meadows looked so nice in the bright sunshine, it was a shame that the museum was closed but the church was very pretty. So interesting to learn of the families who donated land for future generations to enjoy,

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It seems like that’s how a lot of our parks were created a few decades ago. It’s too bad that doesn’t happen very often anymore. Even though the house museum, church and overlook of Lake Erie were closed, we still had a nice time hiking the trails and exploring the park. As an added bonus, we had the entire place all to ourselves.

  6. Lookoom says:

    I imagine you trying to peek through the windows, I would have done the same and so would most visitors. It’s a pity that the interior is not set up to be seen from the outside, there’s no need for staff and the visitors would be happy.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Agreed, that would make it easier for everyone. But hey, maybe someday they’ll get to that stage. Either way, it was still a nice park to visit and explore the trails, even if the historic buildings were closed.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the benefits of this pandemic is that it’s given us a good excuse to explore more of what’s in our own backyard. It’s incredible how many provincial parks and green spaces we have in Ontario. I’ve never thought about ranking them, I guess a lot of it depends on what you’re after, whether it’s a nice sandy beach, private campsites, great scenery, hiking, or other activities. I’ll have to give that some thought.

  7. ourcrossings says:

    Hi, Linda 🙂 What a lovely place especially the blooming meadows resting under the spills of sunlight. Pitty the museum was closed. I would pretty much do the same as you did – walk around the building and peek inside some of the windows. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The open fields were especially scenic with all the wildflowers. It was neat to learn about how part of this area has been rehabilitated into wetlands. It’s a shame that the historic buildings were closed, but at least we were able to explore the trails and enjoy the nice weather. We just couldn’t help ourselves but had to peek inside the windows. Our curiosity gets the best of us at times. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Small churches are always so much fun to photograph. There’s just something about them that give me those small town vibes that I love so much. The trails themselves were quite scenic and educational. It was a lovely way to spend our afternoon.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was such a lovely day to spend walking through the open wetlands and meadows. The wildflowers were very pretty and made the air smell divine. It was nice to learn more about this area and how it’s been restored.

  8. leightontravels says:

    Thanks for bringing me a slice of summer on this chilly Serbian evening. Love the unusual circular monument at the start of the trail. The historic structures add a lot to this hike, appreciated getting some of the associated history. Do you think you’ll ever go back and maybe try to get inside the museum?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s been fun reliving our adventures from the summer still. We actually had a snow storm last night and woke up to a thick layer of wet snow outside. I’d like to think that someday we’ll return. It’ll be neat to see what’s changed since we last visited.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Hopefully they’ll construct some viewing platforms so that visitors can still enjoy the views. I’ve heard they are lovely. Glad to hear that we’re not the only curious people who peeked inside the windows too! We just couldn’t help ourselves.

  9. wetanddustyroads says:

    Great, it looks like such nice (and easy walking) trails! Very interesting to read about the pine plantation that are used to restore the forest again. And what a pretty little church – there’s always something to discover on your trails!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The terrain in southern Ontario is mostly all flat, which means that many of the trails are easy peasy. It was nice to meander through the wetlands and open meadows and learn about how the area has been restored. It’s a great way to add some education with our exercise. The historic buildings afterwards were an unexpected surprise. I love that there’s usually always something new to discover whenever we travel.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s always nice to get out and hike after several days of being cooped up indoors. It’s good to get some fresh air and just enjoy nature. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve come to enjoy parks and trails that provide storyboards or interpretive panels that provide more information about the park and history of the area. The small church was very adorable and it’s great that it’s been so well maintained after all these years.

  10. carolinehelbig says:

    I love a hike that also contains an educational component. Fascinating to learn about the early settlers and the folks responsible for building the trail. It’s good to see an interpretative sign that explains the importance of wetlands.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Same, it’s a nice way to learn more about the history of the area and about the early settlers and how the park was created. This park has done a wonderful job with all the interpretive panels and maintaining their trails.

  11. usfman says:

    The name Spicer Trail reminds me to thinking of using my sense of smell to detect spices and other pleasing odors along the path I choose. How might this thought apply to,you?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The first thing to come to mind when I heard the word Spicer is something similar. I figured we’d find certain spices that were used back in the day along the trail. Turns out it’s named after one of the early settlers. The path was pleasant enough and some of the uncommon trees were labeled.

  12. Janet says:

    The pines were such a contrast to the vibrant green of your other photos. St. Peter’s church looks like the church I attend, both built around the same time, although that one is older. Mine was built in 1865.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was interesting to learn about how pine trees are typically the first step to restoring an open field into forest. The pine stand was definitely an unexpected surprise as we were hiking through the wetlands and provided some nice relief from the sun. The church was very charming and that’s neat that it reminded you of one you used to attend. I imagine that you must have lived in a small town.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That sounds very charming. It’s nice to belong to a small community where everyone knows each other and there aren’t any issues with traffic or line-ups. That’s actually one of the main reasons that we moved out of the city last year.

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