Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: December 2022
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is located on the stunningly sandy shores of Lake Huron. The park is open year round, but boasts of having the biggest waves during the off-season in the fall and winter. The park offers several hiking trails and other activities depending on the season, like fishing and swimming in the summer and cross-country skiing and skating in the winter.
Day 1: Lighthouses and Strong Winds
One of the downsides to visiting the Great Lakes in the off-season is that it can get quite windy, which creates amazing waves, but can be tough to be outside for a prolonged period of time. And today there was a warning for strong winds in the wake of a strong cold front. And it was raining. According to the weather forecast, the rain was supposed to subside before lunch, but not so much for the wind.
We took our time getting ready and opted to take the scenic drive to MacGregor Point, which involved stopping at a couple of lighthouses along the way. We started with the Point Clark Lighthouse, which was built between 1855 and 1859 and is still in use today. It is one of six nearly identical towers, which are known as the Imperial Towers, built on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It was later designated a national historic site of Canada.
We then drove to the Kincardine Lighthouse, a charming lighthouse built on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. The octagonal tower was built above a two-story keeper’s house and supports a twelve-sided lantern where the light can be seen from a distance of up to 30 kilometres. It is still functional and is used to guide boaters into the safety of the harbour.
It looked like the clouds were starting to clear and we even enjoyed a bit of the sun, but that was short-lived. We arrived at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in the early afternoon and it was back to being overcast and gloomy. And it was still super windy outside. This meant the park was pretty much deserted, which is just how we like it.
After eating our lunch in the car, we hiked the Lake Ridge Trail (4km loop, rated moderate). The trail loops through the forest, wetlands and abandoned fields. It features a series of storyboards along the way that provide more information of the history and geology of the area, and about early settlement.
The trail was named after the shoreline ridge of glacier Lake Nipissing, which existed here thousands of years ago. Evidence of this lake can be seen throughout the trail. When Lake Nipissing began to recede some 4,000 years ago, it left behind an exposed and barren lake bottom with poorly drained soil. This had a significant impact on the types of vegetation that can grow here.
Early settlers had a hard time farming in this area because of the stoniness of the soil and high water table. The farms were soon abandoned and the fields were left to revert to their natural state, which explains why some areas of the forest are not as mature as others. While all the buildings from the early settlers have been removed, there are other clues from the past that were left behind, like lilacs and apple trees.
For the most part the trail is easy to navigate as it is signed with a combination of light brown diamond shaped markers with a snowshoeing symbol and some yellow or orange blazes on the trees. There were a few spots through the dense cedar lowlands that were a bit tricky though. The real obstacle, however, was dealing with all the puddles (more like small ponds) on the trail, especially through the swamp forest section.
The terrain along the trail was also very rocky in some sections. As the glaciers retreated through this area, they deposited stones and pebbles in a mixture of clay and sand. Over time, the waves of glacial Lake Nipissing washed away the small debris, leaving behind a boulder pavement of various sized rocks resting on the remains of the till plain.
We then drove to the beach area. From the parking lot there’s a short boardwalk through the forest that leads to the sandy shores of Lake Huron. The beach is located in a small bay, which provided some protection from the wind so the waves here weren’t nearly as fierce.
We decided to save the remaining trails in MacGregor Point for tomorrow as the wind was getting a bit too much for us. We hopped back in the car and hit up another set of lighthouses nearby. We went to McNab Point Lighthouse, but that was a bit of a bust as it’s located on private property. While we could partially see it from the road, we didn’t feel comfortable walking across someone’s lawn to get a closer look.
We had better luck at Southampton where there’s two lighthouses that were built in 1903. We started with the Southampton Front Range Light, which is located at the end of a narrow pier near the mouth of the Saugeen River.
The second lighthouse, the Saugeen River Light, is located on the north side of the Saugeen River and acts as a back range light. It is nearly identical to the front range light located a few hundred metres away.
We called it quits after that and headed towards Owen Sound to visit with some family that live nearby.
Day 2: Boardwalks and Sand
We stayed overnight in a hotel in Port Elgin, which is a few minutes away from MacGregor Point. We had another late start to the day as we were waiting for the sun to rise before hitting the trails. We first hiked the Tower Trail (3.5km loop, rated easy). The trail starts off along a short boardwalk, winds through the forest and passes a few small ponds. The sun was still low in the sky and casted a soft golden glow across the landscape.
Along the trail there’s a series of storyboards that provide more information about the geology of the area and importance of the wetland environment. The trail passes a larger wetland and features an observation tower that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.
The path follows the shore of the wetland before dipping back through the forest. There is one other point of interest along the trail, a bird blind, which is a shelter with a few openings to better observe the wildlife in their natural environment. We didn’t see much.
Once we looped back to the trailhead, we headed to the Huron Fringe Trail (1.2km loop, rated easy), located by the Visitor Centre. The path follows a boardwalk through the forest, which is part of an old sand beach, and wetlands. It also passes the sandy shore of Lake Huron. Similar to the other trails in the park, there’s a series of storyboards that provide more information about the landscape and the many different habitats that this area provides.
Wetlands and beach ridges are common features of MacGregor Point. The gravel beach ridges were created thousands of years ago when the lake level was much higher. The depression between these ridges trap and collect rain and melt water, which created many of the wetlands found in the park.
Once we circled back to the parking lot, it was then time for us to head home. Until next time.