Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2021
Rondeau Provincial Park is the second oldest provincial park in Ontario. It is located on a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie and protects one of the largest and last remaining stands of old growth Carolinian forest in Ontario. The Rondeau peninsula is also an important stopover for migrating passerines and waterfowl in the spring and fall. Rondeau offers a variety of recreational activities on and near the water including fishing, canoeing, swimming, birdwatching and hiking.
Rondeau is also not your average operating provincial park. There are lots of private cottages intertwined with park land, which creates a different type of experience. Rondeau is actually one of only two Ontario provincial parks with private cottage leases on publicly owned land.
We arrived at Rondeau around 11:30a.m. We drove to the Park Store, but they were unfortunately out of park crests as well. We instead decided to try our luck on the trails. Rondeau offers a few trails that wind through the different habitats in the park, including sandy beaches, dunes, prairie, oak savannah, Carolinian forests and wetlands.
We first hiked along the Spicebush Trail (1.5km loop, rated easy). The trail winds through a southern hardwood forest of old growth tulip trees, American beech and maple trees and highlights the transition between Carolinian forest and marsh. The terrain is relatively flat and even features a few wooden boardwalks.
Afterwards we hiked along the Black Oak Trail (1.7km loop, rated easy), which winds through the forest and a narrow strip of Pine-Oak Savanna. Besides providing good shade coverage, it was a rather uneventful hike. We’re guessing that we were probably the first people of the day to hike this trail as there were lots of spider webs that we walked through. Needless to say, we’re glad it was a short trail.
We then drove to the Visitor’s Centre, which was actually open. These have usually been closed since the start of the pandemic. After browsing around inside and learning more about the natural history of the park, we hiked along the Tulip Tree Trail (1.6km, rated easy), which is located in the parking lot for the Visitor’s Centre.
The trail winds through a mature Carolinian forest and highlights a variety of the parks unique habitats including beach, dune, deciduous forests and wetlands. From the trail we could see the types of trees that are usually rare in Ontario, such as tulip trees (for which the trail is named after) and sassafras. The trail is relatively flat, marked with numbered posts and includes a few boardwalk sections.
After wrapping up our hikes, we drove to the beach. There are actually 11 beach access points that span across 11km of the sandy shore along the Lake Erie side of the Rondeau peninsula. We visited the last access point, which is the only one that allows pets.
Rondeau is located on a sandspit and its shape continues to change as sand is continuously moving along the shores around Lake Erie. Typically it is eroded and brought back onto the shore by waves, where it is then moved inland by wind.
We found a spot in the shade with a picnic table to eat a late lunch before heading out. On our way out of the park we drove down some of the streets to check out the various private cottages. In some ways these cottages take away from the wilderness experience of the park, but it sure must be nice to live in one of them.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here